Monday, 14 September 2015

Mr Goebbels of South Kilburn

Joseph Goebbels joined the German Nazi Party in 1924. He was part of Hitler’s inner circle and was Minister of Propaganda from 1933 to 1945. When Hitler committed suicide in the Berlin bunker as the Russians were advancing, he named Goebbels as his successor. But he was only Chancellor of Germany for a day: he committed suicide with his wife and six children on 1 May 1945.

What was little known, until it appeared in the Daily Express in March 1938, is that Kilburn had its own Goebbels. The article said:

Pronouncements of Mr Goebbels of Cambridge Road Kilburn, have nothing to do with international affairs; they concern the price of prime pork and best English lamb. Sometimes customers in his butcher’s shop tease him about a recent speech of the German Minister of Propaganda, but Mr Goebbels of Kilburn, unperturbed, goes on slicing a nice piece of undercut. He has no interest in politics.

Newspaper picture of Cornelius Goebbels in 1938

Cornelius Goebbels, who was no relation of his more infamous namesake, came to England as a seventeen year old in 1901. He met Maria Leingruber at the German Catholic Church young people’s club and they were married in 1911 in Mile End. They moved to Holborn where Cornelius worked as a butcher before moving to south Kilburn in 1925, taking over an existing butcher’s shop at 94 Cambridge Road, near Carlton Vale.

In April 1936 he and his family became naturalized British citizens. He told the Daily Express reporter that as anti-German feeling had increased he considered changing his name. But as he was well-known in Smithfield and the meat trade as Mr Goebbels, he decided not to do it. However, a few years later as the pressure grew, he became Cornelius Bradley in 1940. He was still trading as a butcher in Cambridge Road when he died in Elstree in 1972. The shop has since gone.

1937 Map of South Kilburn. 
94 Cambridge Road was the second building down after Carlton Vale

South Kilburn
There has been a large amount of redevelopment in south Kilburn. In 1938, bug infested stables and houses in Percy Mews and Canterbury Road were burned to the ground by the Council, this drastic procedure was seen as the only way to get rid of the infestation prior to redevelopment. Around 60 costermongers (market traders with barrows), led a large protest march to Willesden Town Hall. Their livelihoods were at risk, as destroying the stables meant they had nowhere to keep their horses.

Pathe News has a short film of the houses being set on fire in 1938, watched by a large crowd of children, the commentator jokes; ‘you can’t beat a fire for a flea show’.

In 1961 Willesden Council conducted a survey of the streets bounded by Malvern Road, Kilburn Park Road and Carlton Vale. The two public health inspectors reported that many of the properties were unfit for human habitation. The Council decided to demolish the whole area and applied for the compulsory purchase of a 22 acre site including 450 houses, of which 260 were condemned. Not surprisingly, many owners objected. A government inquiry was set up and finally confirmed the purchase order on 9 December 1966. Willesden Council began the process of purchasing and demolishing the houses. Today’s streets cover the existing Victorian houses in the area.

There is a YouTube video showing pictures of this part of Kilburn before it was demolished in the late 1960s.

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