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Before we go to Paradise

by way of Kensal Green


Saint John’s Church stands on the busy crossroads of Harrow Road, Kilburn Lane and Ladbroke Grove and on the boundaries of the London Boroughs of Brent, Kensington and the City of Westminster, in which it stands. It has been described as either the first church or the last church in the City of Westminster depending on which way you are travelling. We at Saint John’s prefer to be known as the first Church in the City. The Regent Canal is a 4 minute walk away and a pleasant stroll can be taken along the tow path, giving a feeling of being in the country away from the busy streets. Not far from the Church is Kensal Green Cemetery, opened in 1832, where many famous and infamous persons have been buried.

To find out which area is covered by the Parish of St John's, click on the 'Our Parish' tab on the left side panel.

Saint John the Evangelist, to give the church its full name was built in 1844. In the mid 20th century a great deal of work was carried out on the inside of the building. One of the biggest tasks was to lower the ceiling and redecorate. In June of 2004 an arson attack took place in the church resulting in a large hole in the floor and blackened walls. The walls were repaired but have subsequently suffered damp due to much needed repairs to the church exterior.

During 2013 the church embarked upon a major restoration project addressing external repairs and this was completed in early 2014.


The name Kensal Green has been made famous for two reasons. Firstly it is the home to London's oldest public burial ground and is one of the most beautiful and ramshackle. The 79 acre site has an eclectic mix of architectural styles, separate chapels for Anglicans and Dissenters and more mausoleums than any other English Cemetery. The layout of the graves appears to have no discernible order. Among the famous buried in Kensal Green include writers Anthony Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray; Oscar Wilde's mother; engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Babbage and Niagara tightrope-walker Blondin. There are also several royals buried there including a son of King George III.

The Second reason for Kensal Green’s fame comes in the closing lines of a piece of poetry by G.K.Chesterton entitled The Rolling English Road.

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,

The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,

Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.








St John's Vicarage 

Kilburn Lane 


W10 4AA 

020 8969 2615