Barnet Post

Barnet Post

Cricklewood’s time travel platform

New murals tell local history at Cricklewood railway station

Hero for Cricklewood’s time travel platform
From left to right, Bernard Canavan, Freddie Needle, Angela Payne, Bee Dred, Elly Baker
By Mark Amies 23 November 2021

On a particularly cloudy and dark Monday afternoon early in October, I was invited along to the official opening of Cricklewood’s new public art installation. The fact that the artwork is inside the public shelter on a railway station platform came in very handy when it started to rain.

The new Cricklewood History Panel, which was created by artist Freddie Needle, assisted by Bee Dred, with contributions by historian and artist, Bernard Canavan is located on platform one at Cricklewood railway station. The artwork, which measures nine metres by six, highlights the impact of the arrival of the railways and the former industries in the area. There is also a remembrance of the famous aviator, Amy Johnson, who lived nearby at Vernon Court. The presentation makes clever use of QR codes to allow visitors to read up about the key items on the panels.

The work on the panels was overseen by the Cricklewood Town Team, lead by Angela Payne, and was made possible by Govia Thameslink’s Passenger Benefit Fund.

Once everyone was assembled the official red ribbon was cut by Elly Baker, Labour’s transport lead on the London Assembly, and overseen by Anne Clarke, the London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden.

Freddie Needle is a printmaker and painter with a strong interest in family and local his- tory, and with Bee Dred’s knowledge of Cricklewood, she was able to get an insight into the area’s rich industrial past. Freddie explains: “I took photographs of local landmarks and added a nostalgic atmosphere by using sepia to represent the past. In my paintings, bright colours were used with different paint mediums. I applied a subtle wash of watercolour paint to my black and white etchings and combined all of the imagery to create a visual narrative.”

The history panels are divided into three main sections, as Freddie goes on to describe:

“The first panel tells the story of Clitterhouse Farm, and the development of the railways, it also explains about the suffragette, Gladice Keevil who lived on the farm. The second panel focuses on the Crown Hotel, its links to the Irish community and the industries that were based in Cricklewood. The final panel concentrates on past resident and famous aviator Amy Johnson, and the regeneration of the area that continues to this day.”

The local historian and artist Bernard Canavan included his painting set in the early 1970s, which shows Irish labourers loading up goods into lorries, early in the morning, and delivery of Irish food from O’Kane’s distinctive red van. The work was originally a commission for O’Kane Irish Foods, and the owner of the painting, Eddie O’Kane kindly gave permission for its reproduction. Mr Cana- van, who was born in Ireland, and moved to London in the 1960s, is well known for his local talks and walks that highlight the migration of the Irish Community.

The Cricklewood Town Team lead for the panel project, Angela Payne said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Freddie and Bee to capture the rich history of Cricklewood and provide the opportunity to engage local communities in the history of their area.”

From my point of view, as someone with an interest in London’s industrial past, it is great to see Cricklewood’s contributions on display in such a clear and vibrant way. The aircraft maker, Handley Page had its base in the area from 1912 right through to 1964, making some of Britain’s iconic aeroplanes, from the heavy bombers of the two World Wars to civil airliners, and onto the Cold War Victor jet bomber. Smith’s Clocks and Instruments were based in Cricklewood from the early 1900s through until the late 1980s and made the town so famous across the world, that it was sometimes referred to as ‘Clocklewood’.

Another famous Smiths, in the form of the potato crisp and snack manufacturer, had its beginnings at the rear of the Crown Hotel in 1920. The final reference illustrated on the history panels is that of Stoll Studios, who took over a former aircraft factory in 1920, making it Britain’s largest film studio of the time.

Cricklewood and its people have truly earned their place in history, and the new art panels in the shelter on platform one represent a wonderful reminder to all those travelling to, or from the town, of its heritage.