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  Reed Warbler - Brad Charteris
By the late 10th Century, Hendon was the third largest parish in Middlesex; its boundries remain largely unaltered even today. The western front followed the line of Roman Watling Street (now the Edgware Road) except where it turned west to encompass the Brent bridge over the river (now Cool Oak Lane). In 1932, the Urban District was formed. This subsequently became incorporated in the London Borough of Barnet in 1965. The main river is the Brent which cuts across the parish from west to east. Originally it was formed by the confluence of two brooks, the Brent and Silk Stream, which were dammed in the mid 1830s to form the Brent reservoir (or Welsh Harp) to supply the Grand Union Canal. Most of the construction work was presumably completed by 1835 as evidenced by the tablet in Old St. Andrews Church which records the death there of the four Sidebottom brothers while bathing. The most notable event involving the reservoir at this time occurred in 1841 when a seven-day period of non-stop rain led to a collapse of the dam head, killing many people and livestock and wrecking thirteen barges. The reservoir was subsequently enlarged in 1851 by an Act of Parliament which enforced raising the levels of the embankments and of the Edgware Road. From that time on, the reservoir (still known to many as the Kingsbury reservoir) and the surrounding area became very fashionable, helped along materially by the proprietor of the Old Welsh harp Inn, William Warner, who bought the exclusive fishing rights, making it one of Englands top angling resorts. Naturalists also abounded in order to view the rare birds, details of which are recorded in "The Zoologist" (which was founded by among others, a local inhabitant, Frederick Bond). The material for the "Birds of Middlesex" written by James Harting and published in 1866 was mainly gleaned from the Kingsbury area. Unfortunately , from this time on, increasing urbanisation and factory development began to have a significant effect upon the numbers and variety of species recorded. In 1870 The Midland Railway opened up the Welsh Harp Station so that thousands of East Enders flocked to enjoy the boating and other facilities. The Kingsbury races were also very popular and the Prince of Wales and other famous visitors were among the very many attracted by the pigeon shooting and the opulence of the local inn. The escape of a bear from the Welsh Harp menagerie is recorded as occurring in 1871 to the horror of local residents. After 1900, urbanisation rapidly progressed in the parish. Factories were built along the Silk Stream and controlled tipping started to decrease the reservoir size. In 1965 the "Welsh Harp Open Space" was designated after Willesden Borough Council unsuccessfully tried to build a large cemetery on the West side. All of the reservoir is now listed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest by the Nature Conservancy Council. Although many species of birds nest here, the listing is because of the diversity of water fowl and large breeding colony of Great Crested Grebes, one of the most significant in the country. The ownership of the reservoir now lies in the hands of the British Waterways Board, but other statutory bodies have an interest in the site, including both the London Boroughs of Barnet and Brent, whose boundary runs through the reservoir.
(Rosemary Alexander)

© Brad Charteris - UpdatedApril 2002

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