234 Kilburn High Road, Grange Cinema, Kilburn National Club by Dick Weindling

Kilburn National Club

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.

Grange Cinema

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.

Grange Cinema in 1930’s

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 at 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 grew to £3.5M. Pastor Goodman, who preached in an American evangelical style, was a former bus driver. He spent lavishly on Mercedes and Porsche cars, expensive holidays, and had a large house in Collingtree Northants. The Charity Commission carried out an investigation and in December 2002 closed the church for financial mismanagement.

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.

Now we show some of the bands who played at the Kilburn National (This is not a complete list)


Aug 24 Mungo Jerry


July 24 The Bothy Band, a ‘BBC Live in Concert’ recording


August 7 Dexys Midnight Runners


April 28 Killing Joke and Clock DVA


Feb 18 Inspiral Carpets

Feb unknown date Haircut 100

May 25 New Order, Send No Flowers, 52nd Street

August (unknown date) Feargal Sharkey

August 16 The Alarm

September The Undertones

Dec 22 The Sisters of Mercy


Dec 17 Echo and the Bunnymen


March 13 Psychic TV

March 19 Sigue Sigue Spuknik

March 20 The Redskins

May 8 Big Audio Dynamite

Oct 9 Housemartins

Oct 23 The Smiths, recorded as the live album ‘Rank’

November 18 Cocteau Twins

Nov 25 The Mission

Dec 4 The Pogues

The Pogues


Dec 15 and 16 Jesus and Mary Chain


April 1 and 2 Simply Red

April 29 Spear of Destiny recorded for the ‘BBC In Concert’

Flesh for Lulu

Sept 17 Stiff Little Fingers

May 3 Happy Mondays

May 13 The Alarm, Wire Train

Oct 6 That Petrol Emotion

Nov 12 Ghost Dance, Gene Loves Jezabel

1988 and 1990

The Wolfe Tones, a very popular Irish band, regularly played at The National


Feb 19 The Alarm

July 14 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Oct 2 The Alarm

Dec 14 The Sugarcubes, with Bjork

John McCooke, who ran the ‘Good Ship’ in Kilburn High Road, said he was there standing next to Sinead O’Connor

Kitchens of Distinctions

Dec 21 Sigue Sigue Sputnik


Feb 14 The Godfathers

Feb 20-22 The Waterboys

March 23 Sonic Youth

May 3 The Happy Mondays, The Shamen, The Band of Holy Joy, King of the Slums, Mega City Four, The Seers

May 6 The Pixies

May 9 Pop Will Eat Itself, John Moore and The Expressway

May 17 The Triffids, Kitchen of Distinction

May 18 Killing Joke

May 22 Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Ut

May 23 Sonic Youth, Mudhoney,Sperm Wails

May 30 Tanita Tikaram

June 14 Swans, The Band of Holy Joy, The Wolfgang Press

June 21 Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, S.O.B.

June 25 Fields of Nephilim

June 28 Throwing Muses

June 29 Tin Machine, formed in 1988 and fronted by David Bowie

Tin Machine with David Bowie


July 5 and 6 The Pixies

Oct 3 The The

Nov 1 The Wedding Present

Nov 2 The Wedding Present, CUD

Nov 9 The Beautiful South

Nov 16 Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, Carcass

Nov 23 Eddie Shit, The Macc Lads

Dec 20 The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream


Feb 20 The Mission

Feb 14 The Godfathers

March 21 and 22 The Fall

March 26 The House of Love

May 9 James

May 16 The Church, Concrete Blonde, Nuclear Valdez

May 17 Blur, Jesus Jones

June 19 The James band

June 30 Tackhead

September 19 Fugazi, Digjits

October 24 Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash


Nov 1 and Nov 20 The Wedding Present

Nov 7-8 The Charlatans

Nov 15 World Party, Concrete Blonde

Nov 20 and 21 The Wedding Present

Nov 27 Snuff

Dec 12 Del Amitri


March 6 Ride, Slowdive

March 13 The Farm

March 14 Birdland

April 4 Doughboys

May 3 Lush, broadcast as ‘Friday at the Dome’ on C4 with Dave Fanning and Craig Ferguson

May 12 Snuff

June 5 The Shamen

June 14 Level 42, broadcast as ‘Friday at the Dome’ on C4

August 6 Snuff

August 15 Snuff, Leatherface, Wat Tyler, Midway Stills, Senseless Things

Oct 3 Morrissey

Oct 4 The Orb

Oct 24 Blur

Oct 28 Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

Nov 1 James Taylor Quartet

Nov 7 Carter and the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Mega City Four

Dec 5 Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Shonen Knife,Captain America

Dec 12 Levellers

Dec 18 Paul Weller

Dec 28 Ned’s Atomic Dustbin


Feb 19 Inspiral Carpets

April 16 Senseless Things, Redd Kross

May 3 The Cure

The Cure


May 12 Kurt Cobain and Nirvana

May 20 Del Amitri

Sept 9 The Young Gods, Meat Beat Manifesto, Sheep on Drugs, The Young Gods

Oct 18 The Happy Mondays, Stereo MCs

Oct 22 Mudhoney, Leatherface,Love Battery

Oct 26 The Happy Mondays

Dec 11 Manic Street Preachers

Manic Street Preachers

Dec 13 Hawkwind, Moonflowers

Dec 17 Ozric Tentacles,Senser


April 5 Lemonheads


March 7 Baby Bird

March 7 and 8 The Lightning Seeds

May 16 Super Furry Animals, The Bluetones

July 10 Dodgy

Sept 12 Boo Radleys

Oct 9 Kula Shaker

Oct 11 Suede, Geneva

Nov 1 Reef

Nov 20 Broadcast, Sterolab

Dec 10 Beck

Dec 29 Del Amitri


March 2 Beck

April 26 Johnny Cash

April 25 Mansun

Oct 24 Bush

Nov 28 Black Grape

Dec 20 Paul Weller

Paul Weller


June 18 Beta Band

The National Club closed in the Spring of 1999.

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