History of Church End, Barnet

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History of Church End describes the development of Church End, a district of Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet in London, England.

Hendon Lane and the Church[edit]

West ward of Finchley Urban District in the 1930s.
The entrance to St Mary's church

Finchley’s oldest church was established sometime in the 12th century, early documents mention it from the 1270s, and by 1356 it was dedicated to St Mary. The building has been altered many times since its foundation and the oldest parts, the north wall and the tower (which seems to have had a steeple during the 16th and 17th century), date from the reign of Henry VII. In 1872 the church was enlarged. Bombing in 1940 led to the substantial rebuilding of the church in 1953. The oldest monument is a brass plate to Richard Prate (d1487), and there is a marble effigy of Alexander King (d. 1618) and his wife. In the churchyard are the graves of Thomas Payne, the radical and bookseller, and Major John Cartwright the political reformer.

Next to the church in Hendon Lane stood the Old Queen’s Head, which took its name from Queen Anne, and was owned by the Finchley Charities. In 1833 the original inn burned down and was rebuilt, surviving until the lease on the house came up in 1857. The rector of Finchley, Thomas Reader White, refused to renew the lease on the house and the inn did not move to its present location as the New Queen’s Head, in East End Road until the 1860s. White renamed the buildings Finchley Hall and used it to house Christ's College Finchley. In 1902 Finchley Council took over the hall for offices but bomb damage (1940) made the building unsafe and they were demolished shortly after. Church End Library (1960) now occupies the site.

From 1787 to 1880 a cage for criminals stood between the Church and the Old Queen’s Head. The Anglican community established a National school in 1813 which was rebuilt as St Mary’s School in 1852. In 1990 the school was re-established near to the brook at Dollis Park and now only the infants' section, built in 1902, remains on the original location. The site of the main school building is now occupied by Barnet Civil and Family Courts Centre, which opened in 1993. It was announced in 2014 that the adjacent former infants' section building, having survived a threat of demolition, would enjoy a change of use and become a synagogue.

In 1888 Finchley Council established a voluntary fire brigade in Hendon Lane near the top of Gravel Hill which remained at this location until 1933 (see Long Lane). In 1904 Finchley obtained the first motorised fire engine in Great Britain (see picture and article). Gravel Hill gets its name from the gravel pits which dotted the area in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. At the top of Gravel Hill a house, now converted into apartments, stands on the site of the old village pond, which was filled in around 1900.

Close by is Finchley Garden Village which was developed around a green in 1910 as a small garden suburb. At the bottom of Hendon Lane is a lane curiously named Crooked Usage. Originally a part of Hendon Lane, its picturesque name dates from the straightening of Hendon Lane in 1911-12.

Regents Park Road and Ballards Lane[edit]

Until the 1820s the only route from Temple Fortune to Finchley was along a road called Ducksetters Lane (known as such by 1475). This ran parallel to the present Regents Park Road, to the west, and terminated where Gravel Hill is today. The road then passed along the very top part of Hendon Lane, before continuing north as Ballards Lane (known as such since 1424). There had been a number of larger houses in Ballards Lane since the 15th century of which only the 18th-century Cornwall House in Cornwall Avenue, now remains. The King of Prussia public house was a licensed property by the middle of the 18th century and may have originally been the King’s Head. It was substantially rebuilt in the 1960s and is currently called The Dignity.

In 1826 an Act of Parliament meant the construction of a new turnpike road between Marylebone and North Finchley which, in Church End, is now called Regents Park Road and replaced Ducksetters Lane. The people of Finchley continued to use the old lane as the tollgate, situated in Ballards Lane at the junction of Nether Street, meant that parishioners had to pay to use their main thoroughfare. After much protest the gate was moved to just south of the junction of East End Road and was shortly afterwards removed. It is now commemorated with a blue plaque put up at the Queen’s Head by the Finchley Society, although the pub closed in 2012 and the plaque has disappeared.

By 1845 Peter Kay had established a garden nursery on Ballards Lane, which was closed by 1895 (see also Long Lane), and in 1874 William Clements started a nursery at the junction of Regents Park Road and Hendon Lane. Ford Madox Brown lived at 1 Grove Villas on Regents Park Road between 1853 and 1855 where he painted a number of agricultural scenes and, most notably, " The Last of England".

In 1867 Finchley and Hendon station was opened by the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway which became later Finchley Station and finally, in 1940, Finchley Central Station. The establishment of a railway and the removal of the tollgates enabled the development of residential streets and a row of shops, Albert Terrace and The Railway Hotel(demolished in 1962 and replaced with The Minstrel, which became The Central and is now a wine bar). The area was still a village until news of a possible tramline between Golders Green and North Finchley encouraged suburban development. From the railway station north as far as Long Lane parades of shops were built from 1899 onwards, and were well established when in 1909 the trams were introduced. In 1911 King Edward's Hall replaced Clement’s nursery and was used as a VAD hospital during World War I). The Alcazar Cinema (1913) between Princes Avenue and Redbourne Avenue was renamed the Bohemia in 1915 and during the 1920s relocated to where Gateway House is today.

At the northern end of the shopping area is Finchley Police Station, currently closed (2012). There had been a police station in Finchley from 1873 but the present location dates from 1886 when Wentworth Lodge in Ballards Lane was bought. The old police station continued from 1889 until 1965 when it was rebuilt. Across the road from the police station is Victoria Park. Opened in 1902 it was intended to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and was Finchley’s first public park. From 1905 it was the location of Finchley Carnival.

Finchley Manor and surrounding district[edit]

Wards of Finchley Municipal Borough in the 1950s.

Running west to east from Church End to East Finchley is East End Road. This was possibly Piryton Lane (known in 1423). Midway along this road is the manor house for the Bibbesworth estate, Finchley’s principal manor house. Bibbesworth was a sub-manor which had been born from an earlier estate owned by a family styling itself the Finchleys during the 13th century (although whether the area takes its name from the family or the other way round has never been entirely clear). By 1319 it was being called a manor. Richard Rook had a court in 1364 and these court leets and baron continued until the last was held in 1936. There was certainly a manor house by 1253 but this burnt down and was replaced during the 15th and 16th centuries. Of the original building only a ditch, possibly a moat, remains. The only Lord of note is William Hastings, Lord Hastings (d. 1483), whose family held the manor until 1527. From 1622 until 1830 the manor was controlled by the descendants of Edward Allen, a London merchant.

The last to hold the manor was Edward Cooper Arden and the last court was held in 1936. The manor house seen today, now the Sternberg Centre, was built in 1723 by the Allens. The house was used as a boys’ school between 1819 and 1857. Between 1863 and 1882 it was the residence of George Plucknett, a magistrate, who used the main hall to hear cases. Between 1921 and 1981 the order of Ste Marie Auxiliatrice used the building as a girls' school.

Until the beginning of the 20th century a curious oblong pond with a central island existed opposite the manor and was known locally as the “moat”; however these are more likely to have been fish ponds or openings created by the extraction of clay for making bricks for the building of the 16th-century building. The lane known as The Avenue, which runs behind Avenue House, is derived from a line of trees planted by Elizabeth King whose husband was lord of the manor in the 1600s. Built in 1859, Avenue House and ten acres of grounds were bought in 1874 by the ink manufacturer, philanthropist and later MP Henry 'Inky' Stephens and left on his death to the people of Finchley in 1918, the grounds later becoming a public park. The estate is now (2014) known as Stephens House and Gardens.

East of the manor house was Manor Farm where details of the calf and the cart in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting "Found" was painted. Finchley Cricket Club and an LA Fitness now occupy the site.

Long Lane[edit]

Another road running from Church End to East Finchley is Long Lane (known as such by 1719) which may have been known in medieval times as Ferrours Lane. Roughly halfway along its route at a crossroads is Squires Lane which runs from the manor house to the High Road, the traditional division between East Finchley and Church End. Behind the large houses which fronted the west side of Ballards Lane, Squires Lane and Long Lane, was Claigmar Vineyards, started in 1874 by Peter Edmund Kay. By the 1890s the vinery’s 161 greenhouses were producing “100 tons each of grapes and tomatoes and 240,000 cucumbers a year”.

In 1903 Finchley Electric Light Company opened a generating station on the vineyard site which was purchased by the Finchley Council two years later and later still, in 1955, by the Eastern Electricity Board. Sir Charles Redvers Westlake, who was engineer at the works between 1935–1948, was later responsible for the building of the Owen Falls dam, Uganda. The site is now the headquarters of the Pentland Group of companies.

Also on Squires Lane, Finchley Urban District Council opened its first swimming pool in 1915, which was closed in the 1990s. The swimming baths were demolished and replaced by terraced housing. Further along the road Squires Lane School was built in 1906; this became Manor School in 1932 and Manorside School in 1936.

Nether Street and West Finchley[edit]

Nether Street was recognised by the mid-14th century as an old street, sometimes called “Lower Street” in later periods. Essentially an access road to properties and land, the most important of which were Moss Hall (see North Finchley) and Brent Lodge. Brent Lodge was built on land which had been part of “Warren’s Gift”, a charitable estate, sometime between 1817 and 1824. It was a substantial property whose grounds were considerably reduced during the 1920s. The house was demolished in 1962 despite efforts by the comedian Spike Milligan and the Finchley Society.

West Finchley station on the LNER railway opened on 1 March 1933 and became part of the London Underground upon electrification on 14 April 1940. Nether Street has one claim to fame as the childhood home of the actor Terry-Thomas who received some of his early education at Fernbank School in Hendon Lane.

West of Nether Street is Dollis Brook, a tributary of the River Brent which forms the western boundary between the ancient parishes of Finchley and Hendon. The viaduct carrying the Mill Hill East branch of the Northern line at the bottom of Dollis Road was built between 1863 to 1867 to designs by Sir John Fowler. It has thirteen arches and is, at 80 feet high, the highest point above sea level on the London Underground system (picture).

Beyond is a very large house called Nether Court. This estate was originally in the Mill Hill district of Hendon, but was brought into Finchley during boundary changes made in 1933. The house was built by local architect Henry Tubbs in 1883; he allowed Finchley Golf Club to use the grounds in 1892. The club ceased after 1914 but returned in 1930. A row of California redwood sequoia trees may be seen nearby.

At 60 Courthouse Gardens there is a plaque placed by the Finchley Society to Harry Beck, designer of the London Underground tube map, who lived here in the 1920s and used Finchley Central tube station where a replica map and commemorative plaque may be seen on the southbound platform.

Local landmarks[edit]

Population[edit]

Church End (West Ward)

  • 1901 6,277
  • 1911 13,986
  • 1921 16,432
  • 1931 21,845

Further online resources for the history of Finchley[edit]