A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

18 14

Part II - Population Growth in Willesden

In common with the general population of the London area (apart from the L.C.C. area), until 1939 the Willesden population was rapidly increasing in size. Moreover, the Borough's position in the suburbs of the Metropolis has meant that (apart from the influence of the war) the population has not been moving outwards to so great an extent as it has begun to do from the Central London area. Thus, in the area covered by the City and the County of London, the population fell from some 4,540,000 in mid-1919 to 3,033,400 (estimated) in March 1946. In contrast, the population of the Outer London area, the area covered by the Greater London Plan, increased from about, 4,084,900 in mid-1919 to a peak at 6,261,200 in mid-1938, falling again to a total, still considerably above that of 1919, of 5,892,850 in June, 1943. (1) That is to say, while between the wars at least 1,883,000 more people came into, and remained in, the Greater London area than left it permanently, a reverse movement, took place in Central London, resulting in a population decrease of 626,000. (2)

“The number mainly depends,” comments Sir Patrick Abercrombie,” on the opportunities, which can only be provided through work, for obtaining a decent standard of living. An analysis of the evidence suggests that two main groups have taken part in this movement, representative of simultaneous but separate trends in the national life. One, precipitated by the dislocation of the national economic life in the heavy industries of South Wales, the North and North-west, is composed of skilled and unskilled workers. The other, to a smaller extent, is composed of the white-collar workers, clerks, assistants and scientific workers required to conduct the business of commerce and bureaucracy. This last group is increasing at a faster rate than the other.” (3)

In addition, however, to the reception of immigrants from this flow of population from the provinces, Willesden has also received many persons whose homes were, and whose work remains, in Central London. It is largely a combination of these two sources that has been responsible for the continuous increase in the Borough's population. Growth has resulted both from the development which naturally accompanies such industrial expansion as has taken place in Willesden, and from the decentralisation of population from the inner city. The Diagram which follows (4) shows how remarkable was this growth between the year 1861 and 1939:


[13] Abercrombie, Sir P., “Greater London Plan, 1944”, Appendix 1, p. 185.

[14] Ibid., p. 27. It should be noted that these figures are in some cases only estimates. Moreover, the fall in total population in the years after the out-break of the late war has been only temporary, and was due largely to the call-up and to the evacuation of families, workers and industries to less vulnerable areas. Population is now flowing back.

[15] Ibid., p. 28.

[16] Based opon figures derived from the Census of England and Wales for the years indicated.

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close