The station opened in 1873 as Kensal Green, replacing Kensal Green & Harlesden railway station which opened in 1861 at the crossing of Green Lane (later Wrottesley Road), lying in between the present station and Willesden Junction. The present station was renamed Kensal Rise in 1890. It is close to the newer Kensal Green station built on the Watford DC Line in 1916. Both stations are now served by London Overground (since late 2007), though Kensal Green is managed by London Underground, being additionally served by the Bakerloo line. Originally part of one of the ten manors within the district of Willesden, Kensal Green is first mentioned in 1253, translating from old English meaning the King’s Holt (King’s Wood). In the 15th century the then Archbishop of Canterbury Henry Chichele (1414–1443), acquired lands in Willesden and Kingsbury. In 1443 he found All Souls' College, Oxford and endowed it with the same lands in his will. As a resultant, most of Willesden and Kensal Green remained largely agricultural until the mid-1800s, well into the Victorian era. In 1805, the construction of the Grand Junction Canal passed through the district to join the Regent's Canal at Paddington. As the combined Grand Union Canal, this allowed passage of commercial freight traffic from the Midlands to London Docks, and hence onwards to the River Thames. There were two dairy farms in Kensal Green by the early 1800s, which expanded greatly after the 1864 Act of Parliament which made it illegal to keep cattle within the City of London.
The developments of the streets around Kensal Rise railway station date from the last ten years of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th. Although opened in April 1873 as Kensal Green at Chamberlayne Wood, then a remote dead end road; it was renamed Kensal Rise on 24 May 1890. Just north of the station the National Athletic Ground (one of the many early grounds of Queen's Park Rangers) opened in 1890. The ground which was later renamed the Kensal Rise Athletic Stadium also hosted cycling and athletics competitions before being turned over to housing in the 1920s. For a brief period before 1914 the Aeroplane Building and Flying Society had its headquarters at Kensal Rise and flew test gliders from the site. Kensal Rise also boasted the Electric Pavilion Cinema which opened in November 1914 and was located on the corner of Chamberlayne Road and Bannister Road. The site is now fashionable flats. The area was also in the news for the wrong reasons in 1904 as a result of the notorious Crossman trunk murders. Given the widespread publicity local residents campaigned for the existing name of the road, Ladysmith Road, to be changed to Wrentham Avenue. The station has wi-fi, boarding ramps, payphones and a waiting room, but no toilets.
Connections: London Buses routes 6, 28, 52, 187, 302 and 452 serve the station.