This popular music venue was at 234 Kilburn High Road, on the corner of Messina Avenue. Many famous musicians including Johnny Cash and David Bowie played there. We look at the original building which was the Grange Cinema, and what happened when the National closed and was taken over by two different church groups.
The Grange was a large mansion standing in grounds of nine and a half acres and with a frontage to Kilburn High Road. It was the home of Ada Peters the widow of a wealthy coach builder who made coaches for Queen Victoria. Following Ada’s death in 1910, the property was sold. The new owner was Oswald Stoll, a major name in the entertainment world who had already built the London Coliseum in St Martin’s Lane, near Leicester Square. Stoll wanted to erect another Coliseum theatre in Kilburn. In fact, progress overtook him and instead of a theatre, the 2,028 seat Grange cinema opened on 30 July 1914. This remained the biggest cinema in Kilburn until the huge Gaumont State opened in December 1937 with over 4,000 seats making it the largest cinema in Europe. The Grange cinema finally closed on 14 June 1975.
Butty’s Club and Dance Hall
Michael ‘Butty’ Sugrue, who ran the Admiral Nelson pub in Carlton Vale Kilburn and the Wellington in Shepherd’s Bush, opened his club in the old Grange Cinema on 23 Feb 1976. As a Kerry man he particularly catered for the Irish community. He was a wrestler, circus performer and was known as ‘Ireland’s Strongest Man’, able to lift four 56lb weights attached to a cart axle and dragging a cart filled with ten men using a rope clenched between his teeth. Butty was also an entrepreneur and a great publicist, and he persuaded Muhammad Ali to go to Dublin to fight his sparring partner, Alvin ‘Blue’ Lewis in July 1972. Closer to home, he persuaded Mick Meaney a barman at the Admiral Nelson, to break the world record for being buried alive. In April 1968 journalists joined huge crowds to watch as Mick emerged after 61 days underground. There are video clips of Butty on YouTube:
Butty’s club ran until at least 1980 and so overlapped with the National Club.
Kilburn National Ballroom or the Kilburn National Club
The cinema became the Kilburn National Club which ran from 15 Dec 1976 until 1999. It was owned by the Wembley building firm of Patrick, John and Tom Carey. The Carey Brothers came from Tipperary. It was an ideal venue for bands and many important groups played there.
In July 1991 an application to demolish the Grange was turned down by Camden Council as earlier that year, English Heritage had protected the building by awarding it Grade 2 listed status. When the owners wanted to replace it with a new leisure complex in 1993, this was again refused.
The director Ian Softly, used the National for his film about the Beatles called ‘Backbeat’ (1994). The venue was used to show the Beatles in the Star Club in Hamburg.
The Kilburn National was closed in 1999 and the building remained empty for a few years.
Victory Christian Centre
The VCC, an evangelical group moved into the building in July 2001. They had previously been in 339 Finchley Road but needed larger premises as the congregation grew. The site in Finchley Road was the old International College building, which has since been demolished.
When Douglas Goodman and his wife Erica, took over VCC in 1996 it had fewer than 100 members. They started a new church in Wembley and increased the congregation to 3,000. Footballer John Fashanu and his family were among the worshipers. Members contributed 10% of their income and the annual income of the VCC was £3.5M. Pastor Goodman, who preached in an American evangelical style, was a former bus driver. He spent lavishly on Mercedes and Porsche cars and expensive holidays and had a large house in Collingtree Northants.
After a complaint, the Charity Commission carried out an investigation and closed the church for financial mismanagement in December 2002. In May 2004 Douglas Goodman appeared at the Old Bailey, charged with indecently assaulting young women members of the church. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG).
The building remained empty until a second evangelical group took over the site in 2003. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God began in Rio in 1977 and spread out across the world. Currently the old cinema is home to a UCKG Help Centre and the Church also has a large centre in the old Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park.
Some of the Bands who played at the Kilburn National
The Bothy Band, a ‘BBC Live in Concert’ recording
Dexys Midnight Runners
Echo and the Bunnymen
Sigue Sigue Spuknik
Big Audio Dynamite
The Smiths, recorded as the live album ‘Rank’
Jesus and Mary Chain
Spear of Destiny recorded for the ‘BBC In Concert’
Stiff Little Fingers
1988 and 1990
The Wolfe Tones, a very popular Irish band, regularly played at The National
Spear of Destiny
That Petrol Emotion
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
The Sugarcubes, with Bjork
John McCooke, now of the 'Good Ship' in Kilburn High Road, said he was there standing next to Sinead O'Connor
Pop Will Eat Itself
Tin Machine, formed in 1988 and fronted by David Bowie
The Jesus and Mary Chain
The House of Love
Nov 1 and Nov 20
The Wedding Present
May 12 and August 15
James Taylor Quartet
Carter and the Unstoppable Sex Machine
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana
The Young Gods
The Happy Mondays
Manic Street Preachers
The Lightning Seeds
Super Furry Animals
The National Club closed in the Spring of 1999.