In 1800, Brent was a quiet country area. People travelled on foot, by horse-drawn coach, or on barges on the Grand Junction Canal that cut through Alperton and Kensal Green to Paddington.
From the 1830s onwards, things began to change. Railways criss-crossed Brent connecting central London with Harrow, St John’s Wood and the Midlands. New stations sprang up and soon after houses and shops appeared. The population of Cricklewood, Kilburn and Neasden increased rapidly and by the 1890s, Willesden was the fastest-growing district in London.
The Metropolitan Railway Company built houses in the middle of the countryside to house its workers building the railways. Some of the houses used by railway workers in the 1880s can still be seen in Brent such as Quainton Street and Verney Street.
Railway workers cottages would have been quite simple but during Victorian times hundreds of larger houses were built in Brent for the growing population who were attracted by the close railway links with the city. In Willesden many of these new larger Victorian homes were designed and built by local engineer George Furness. Furness ran the Willesden Brick and Tile Company from the 1870s and had completed successful building projects all over the world including part of the Thames Embankment.