Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …
Willesden was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Wellesdone, from the Old English “wiell-es”, meaning “spring”, and “dun”, “hill”. It was essentially rural in character throughout the Medieval and post-Medieval periods, and only began to become densely built up after the arrival of the Metropolitan Railway in 1879. It is now part of the London Borough of Brent.
Church of St Mary
The church of St Mary was originally built during the reign of Athelstan in the tenth century, possibly on the site of an even older Saxon church. It was subsequently rebuilt in the thirteenth century, and again in the nineteenth.
The oldest parts of the structure that still survive are the nave, chancel, chapel and tower, all of which date to the thirteenth-century rebuild, and the south porch and door, which date to the early fourteenth, c. 1315 (*).
The font dates to the Norman period, the altar tables to the Henrician and Elizabethan. The interior also contains a number of brass memorials dating back to the late fifteenth century, and stone ones dating back to the early seventeenth.
Up until the time of the Reformation at the beginning of the post-Medieval period, the church was the home of the Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden, and an important pilgrimage site.
(*) The door has recently been found to have two Civil War-era musket balls embedded in it!