Avenue House is a large Victorian house (Grade II listed) situated on East End Road in Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet. It is licensed for weddings and is regularly used for receptions, parties, meetings and fund-raising quizzes, while first-floor rooms are available for rent and are used by local organisations and charities as meeting rooms and offices.
Built in 1859 on land formerly known as Temple Croft Field, it was acquired in 1874 by ink magnate and philanthropist Henry Charles Stephens who later enlarged and improved the house and grounds with advice from well-known landscape gardener Robert Marnock (1800-1889). On his death in 1918 Stephens bequeathed the estate in his will "to the people of Finchley" and ownership passed to Finchley Urban District Council; it is now owned by the London Borough of Barnet.
The house and ten acres of grounds are held in trust for the people of Finchley and have been run by Avenue House Estate Management since 2002. It is also home to the Finchley Society and their archive. In July a major fund-raising event called Party in the Park attracts large numbers of supporters and benefits local charities.
The Stephens Collection
Avenue House is home to The Stephens Collection, a small display and archive of material relating to the Stephens Ink company and Stephens family and relevant local history. It is open 2pm - 4.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, is wheelchair-accessible and admission is free. Its first curator was the late Norman Burgess. The current chairman is Peter Marsh.
The Bothy was built as a large walled garden in the shape of a castle sometime in the late 1870s. It is one of the earliest non-Roman concrete structures in England.
A project to restore the Bothy structure and turn it into an arts centre and garden began in 1997 by the Finchley Arts Centre Trust (FACT). This was funded by local people, with money raised matched by the Heritage Lottery Fund and totalling £418,000.
The project was allegedly within weeks of completion in 2007 when an acrimonious dispute between Finchley Arts Centre Trust and Avenue House Estate Trust (AHET) broke out which prevented the building being opened to public use. It has remained closed ever since. FACT was evicted and subsequently disbanded. AHET has now negotiated a new lease which should see the building converted as a training centre for psychotherapy charity Terapia http://www.terapiacentre.org/.
The Bothy's walled garden is maintained by volunteers and has remained open to visitors every Friday and on the first Sunday of the month. In summer there are occasional arts events and play readings.
The grounds of the estate, variously called Avenue House Estate, Avenue House Park or Avenue House Grounds, have been developed as a public park during the 20th century. They include a collection of unusual trees and shrubs.
History of the House
The first house on the site was built in 1859 by the Rev. Edward Cooper, a relative of the Allen family (Lords of the manor of Finchley) who had owned the land since the 1730s. The house takes its name from The Avenue which runs behind the house, and was originally the route between Bibbesworth manor and the church of St Mary’s Finchley. In 1874 the house was bought by the famous ink manufacturer Henry Charles Stephens. During Stephens' time in the house he purchased the adjoining ten-acre Temple Croft Field and the gardens were laid out, to designs by Robert Marnock. Stephens added a collection of rare trees which were included in the planting and form the basis of today's arboretum.
The house and grounds were left to "the people of Finchley" by Stephens in his will in 1918. It was used between 1919 and 1925 by the RAF as a military hospital before the grounds were opened to the public on 3 May 1928. The house was used for many years as a public library and as the offices of Finchley Borough Council after Council Offices in nearby Hendon Lane were destroyed by enemy action in the Second World War.
In 1989 the east wing of the house was gutted by fire, but has been restored to its former condition. The house is now a meetings and events venue, while the gardens and arboretum remain open to the public free of charge. The house and gardens are now managed by an independent charitable body, the Avenue House Estate Trust that took over responsibility from London Borough of Barnet in 2002.
Hertford Lodge, also a Grade II listed building and adjacent to Avenue House, was built in the 1860s. It was a girls' school for many years before becoming Finchley council offices. In 2001 the owners (London Borough of Barnet) decided to sell the building. Late in 2004 it was damaged by fire but was refurbished and redeveloped (2006-7) into private luxury flats and apartments.
- Bothy dispute: Bill Tyler speaks By Daphne Chamberlain, The Archer , August 2007, Accessed Jan 2012