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Kilburn, recorded as Cuneburna in 1121, takes its name from a stream which rose in Hampstead and flowed across West London, finally joining the River Thames near Chelsea Bridge. Only parts of the stream are in existence today and it has other names in different localities. Where it once turned south to Kilburn High Road it was known as the Kylbourne (1502). The name is derived from the Old English cyne-burna, 'royal stream' or 'cows' stream'. Although Cylla (a once local inhabitant of the area) has also been given as a possible derivation, the first definition seems correct.

The station was opened as KILBURN & BRONDESBURY on 24 November 1879; re-named KILBURN on 25 September 1950.

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