Saint Mary, Willesden was the parish church for the whole of Willesden until 1867 when the rapid growth of population in the area led to the creation of new parishes. In 1811 the population was 751, by 1901 this had expanded to 100,000.
The parish of Willesden has existed for over 1000 years. In 937 King Athelstan defeated the Danes at the battle of Brunanburh, and as a thank offering gave the Royal Manors of Willesden-cum-Neasden to the Dean and Chapter of Saint Paul's Cathedral. (Subsequently many of the vicars of Willesden have also been Canons of Saint Paul's). A church was built, possibly replacing an earlier wooden one. The earliest part of the church as it stands today dates from the thirteenth century with fifteenth and sixteenth century additions. The two Victorian restorations added a north aisle and a new south porch. Two notable fittings are the Purbeck marble font, dating from 1150 and the fourteenth century inner door to the south porch.
By the sixteenth century the parish was a focus for pilgrims attracted by the shrine containing the statue of Our Lady of Willesden, popularly known as the Black Virgin of Willesden, which was supposed to possess miraculous powers. At the time of the Reformation it was seen as idolatrous and was taken to Chelsea and burned in 1538. A modern Black Virgin by C. Stern was installed in the church in 1972.
During the period of the Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, puritanical influence was strong. The parish was dominated by the Parliamentarian Sir William Roberts, a friend of Oliver Cromwell and Lord of the Manor of Neasden. He conducted marriages at his house and took charge of the registers during the Interregnum.
This list also includes records of Saint Raphael's Mission Church (DRO/113/RAP), Saint Edward's Mission, Taylor's Lane (DRO/113/SEM) and Willesden General Hospital (DRO/113/WGH).
In 1899 Saint Mary's opened a mission in Dog Lane for railway employees. This was replaced in 1910 by Saint Raphael's, a London Diocesan Home Mission chapel for the Great Central Railway estate. Before a new church was built at Garden Way, Neasden in 1924, an iron church situated at the apex of Gresham and Woodheyes roads was used. Saint Raphael's church closed c.1972. It never became an independent parish church. For records of Saint Raphael's Mission see DRO/113/RAP.
Proposals were made in 1897 for a mission hall in Taylor's Lane for 200 people. It was built and in use by 1900. During and after the Second World War the hall fell into disuse. After two spells of commercial letting it was compulsorily acquired by the London Borough of Brent in 1974, for £8,900. Records relating specifically to this mission will be found under the reference DRO/113/SEM.