East Finchley

A brief history of East Finchley


A Demo

The White Lion was originally called The Dirt House, possibly due to the practice of bringing “street manure” to Finchley

East Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet in London, England. Source: Wickipedia...

Around 1300 the Bishop of London created a new route for the main road north out of London to the northern counties of England through the eastern side of what is now Finchley. By 1444 there was a bridge, later called Hanson’s bridge, crossing the Mutton Brook, a tributary of the river Brent, which rises in what is now Cherry Tree Woods. The route followed the line of Market Place to King’s Street, the point at which the road ceased to be the responsibility of the Bishop and later simply opened out on to the common. The road was, by the end of the 17th century, so busy that it was eventually made into a toll road (in 1712) in order to pay for its upkeep. The tollgate was removed in 1901. It was at this time that the road first took the route that we see today, rising from “Hanson’s” Bridge and running in a straight line, called “New Gate Lane", to the crossroads of what is now East End Road and Fortis Green.

The White Lion was established shortly after near to the tollgate. Its original name, The Dirt House, may refer to the practice of bringing “street manure” (effluent from the streets and cess pits of London) to Finchley. The manure was used on the fields of Finchley to produce excellent hay; the extra cost of paying a toll stopped it being taken any further along the road, the inn being where farmers and carters conducted their transactions. Later, by the 1730s, a blacksmith had established a forge on the triangle of land on the common created by the line of the old road and the new one. Here he started, illicitly, selling beer. The house was first called the Jolly Blacksmiths and later the Bald Faced Stag. The numerous robberies on the road as it passed through Finchley Common led to the erection of a permanent gibbet (c1730) close to the six-mile stone (where Lincoln Road enters the High Road). By the 1830s improvements in coach travel and railways made the road less important and toll was removed in 1862.

In 1830 the Congregationalist community built a chapel (slightly along from Stanley Road) which burnt down in 1875 and was replaced in 1878 with a new church where Budgens is today. Its 130 foot spire and clock dominated the cross roads until the 1960s. In the 1850s there was a pottery and brick works where Baronsmere and Park Hall Road are today. The opening of the railway station in 1868 encourage some building but it was by no means immediate and only by the l880s do we see rows of shops, many of which still stand, including Cavendish Terrace, Camden Terrace and Park Hall Place. There was a temperance inn, The Black Bass Tavern (demolished 1965), and The Bald Faced Stag was rebuilt in the early 1890s, with its stag. A tramline (1905) promoted further developments and by 1914 not only had the High Road become East Finchley’s main shopping district it had two cinemas, the Athenaeum and the Picture Palace (later The Rex and the Phoenix Cinema) and a new Salvation Army Hall, (now the Youth Theatre).

 The George in the Market Place c1870, the pub was rebuilt in the 1890s and was demolished in March 2001
The George in the Market Place c1870, the pub was rebuilt in the 1890s and was demolished in March 2001

East End Road

East End Road is the main route from East Finchley to Church End Finchley. It may have originally been the route from the hamlet of Church End Finchley to the old Great North Road at Muswell Hill and may have continued as the route of the Great North Road until the 14th or 15th century. It is possible that this led to the first hamlet of East End (1365). The road has had various names such as Manor Lane (19th century) and Finchley Road (18th century). In the medieval period a triangle of waste, Hunts Green (1437), appeared where the road forked with a route going to Long Lane and the other along what is now East End Road. By 1751 there was an inn on one side which is still called the Five Bells. Established sometime between 1730 and 1751 the inn moved from its original location next to Stanley Road to its present situation in 1804. During the 19th century the inn had the reputation as a centre of boxing and a number of champions, includingGem Mace , trained there. South of the road, according to tradition, was the location of the home of Thomas Pengelly, whose lodger from 1683 until 1700 was variously known as Richard Clarke, Canterbury, Crandberry, Cranmore, Cranbourne or Cary but who was, in truth,Richard Cromwell, the son of Oliver Cromwell. Further along between the 1840s and 1860s lived Anthony Salvin, the architect, and his family (see also below). “Lord” George Sanger the circus owner had Park Farm (now Hampstead Heights and Park Farm Close) as winter quarters in the 1900s and it was here that he was murdered in 1911. Between Brackenbury Road and Hamilton Walter Dickinson founded Finchley’s first manufactory in 1909, the Hill View Works, making cars (now a carpet warehouse). TheOrder of the Good Shepherd moved to East End house in 1864, building a larger institution in the 1870s. Their reformatory work continued until the 1940s. Much of the convent was burned down in 1972, leading to the development of social housing around 1980, but they had already started to redevelop the land around the house as Bishop Douglass R C School (1963). A Victorian letterbox is to be found on the wall of the convent. Across the road is East Finchley Cemetery. Originally a part of Newmarket Farm 47 acres were purchased by StMarylebone Burial Board and opened as a cemetery in 1855. Heath Robinson, the illustrator, and Thomas Henry Huxley the Darwinist, are buried here. Christ's College Finchley moved to East End Road in the 1970s.

Church Lane

One of the lanes that links East End Road to the Great North Road is Church Lane. The name Church Lane was forced on the local population in the 1860s but it was originally called Bull Lane (since at least the 17th century), a name which remained popular until the 1900s. Originally the lane opened up on toFinchley Common at the junction of King Street and The Walks and large houses at the southern end of the road had been built by the early 19th century. Glencroft, built in the first half of the 19th century, had become Summers Brown Ltd cricket bat manufacturers by 1911. At the other end, after the enclosure of the common in 1816, a number of modest houses were built, a number of which still stand. Holy Trinity Church was built in 1846 to designs by the architectAnthony Salvin . It was felt necessary due to area's descent into a “godless” hamlet, particularly with the boxing at the Five Bells Public House. The church was extended in 1860 and 1866 and church hall (now a Hindu Temple) was built in 1913. East Finchley’s first streets after the railway, Trinity Road, and Manor Park Road, both of which appear in the 1871 census, started a process of suburbanisation of the area that was not completed until the 1930s.

Briar Close may have originally been called Philipe Lane, but it was generally known as Green Lane. Between 1808 and 1835 the lane was the location of a house rented as Finchley’s workhouse and was called Workhouse Lane as a consequence. A bridge over railway, built in the 1860s, was removed in the 1960s and the northern portion of the road is now much overgrown and disused.

The Bald Faced Stage in the 1880s, in the background is the old Congregationalist Church

Market Place

This may have originally been the hamlet of Park Gate of 1375, although the name appears in 1756 as being at the beginning of Fortis Green. Wherever the original location it certainly refers to exit of the new road out of the Bishop of London’s Hornsey park. The Market Place takes its name from a large unchartered pig market. Finchley Woods had always provided for the rearing of pigs but the clearance of the woods in the 16th century allowed for the bringing of large numbers of pigs from other parts of England to be kept. By the end of the 17th century the largest pig market in Middlesex had developed and was centred on inns such as the George, Hog Driver and the Sow and Pigs, with market days on Wednesday and Thursday (1717). Pig drovers would sell the pigs to London Butchers or to local farmers. Later it was said that the pigs were fed on the offal, or spent grain, from the gin industry. It was here that the highwayman Jack Shepherd was captured dressed as a butcher. In the 1840s the market was considered much reduced, being held only on Mondays, and even before the area had developed the market had ceased to be weekly. By the 1890s there were only auctions every few months. However the pig tradition continued and in 1955 25 pigs were kept around Prospect Place. Streets like Prospect Place were built during the 1820s and once the market had started to wind down further streets were added. Chapel Street took its name from the Congregational chapel on the main road. By the 1930s the area was considered in need of redevelopment and in part the Red Lion estate was constructed to take residents of Market Place. But it was enemy action during the Blitz, and one specific incident on the 15th of November, that made what was desirable necessary. The area was redeveloped in the early 1960s with three eleven storey flats, the first being opened in April 1960 by Margaret Thatcher, then MP for Finchley, the first occupant being a Mr Price. In 1927 Burton’s Bakeries built a large bakery on the walks which by the 1930s was the [Merry Miller] and Clarks Bakery during the 1960s. It closed after a fire in the early 1980s.

Red Lion Hill

Red Lion Hill takes its name from a public house, The Red Lion, from at least the 1780s; an older, and certainly more curious, name of Cuckolds Haven (known from at least 1678) survived into the middle of the 19th century as “Cockey Haven”. Here, and then on Finchley Common’s western edge, was Pointalls Fields, a charitable donation of land made in the early 16th century. Around 1612 almshouses, which were six in number by 1723, were erected on this land. These were by the 1830s in a very poor state but new houses were not constructed until 1895 (the modern blocks being built between 1957 and 1966). When the turnpike road was constructed around 1712 it passed a large oak tree which quickly became a landmark and was known as Turpin’s Oak during the 19th century (removed 195). About this time a new inn was opened called the Rabbit, but in 1786 it was renamed The Red Lion.

Grange Estate takes its name from a house built in 1863 (demolished 1994). Until the 1900s The Grange was a private residence when it became for a brief period a piano factory. In 1919 it was sold on to Simms Motor Ltd along with its 6 acres for £30,000. Because of a post war slump however production did not commence until 1926. By 1937 the factory was producing “Uniflow” injection pumps for Leyland Motors Ltd and by 1962 there were 2,500 employees (picture). In 1968 the factory was taken over by CAV (later CAV Lucas) who started a process of redundancies. By 1977 there were 1,960 and by 1991 the factory was closed. The site was purchased by Fairview Homes. In 1934 Finchley Urban District Council considered the possibility of a “housing scheme” in East Finchley, and in 1935 land was acquired for the purpose around Oak Lane. The intention was to provide houses for families who were living in overcrowded conditions in the Market Place district and Red Lion Hill itself. Most of the buildings were designed by Percival Harrison, the borough engineer, and the first two built, then block R now Craven House, were opened on the 8th October 1938 by A T Pike the Mayor of Finchley.

King John's House in King Street, and later King John's Cottages in Long Lane, possibly took derived their name from a charter that was granted to the Bishop of London allowing his tenants at Finchley to bring goods into London without paying tolls and other duties. The people of Finchley were still attempting to cite this charter when faced with the tolls on the Great North Road. Local myth has suggested that King John’s house (demolished 1904) was a royal hunting lodge, but this is unlikely.

Strawberry Vale

This area was originally called Brownswell, and was known as such from at least the 1590s. By the 18th century it was a small hamlet by which time it had an inn called The Green Man, the only Finchley inn mentioned by Charles Dickens. The original inn was rebuilt several times, the last time being in 1935 and it was demolished in the early 1990s. When Finchley Common was enclosed the Regents Canal Company intended to flood sections of it to produce a large reservoir but the company sold it in 1816 to James Frost who was a builder and pioneer cement manufacturer. Frost built the house Hawthorne Dene as a demonstration of the flexibility of various materials and the house, with its plaster and cast iron ceilings and banisters, is considered to be unique. It was listed in 1962 after a campaign led by the comedian Spike Milligan. Strawberry Vale remained the last real farm in Finchley during the 1960s. As such it was run by Evan Evans, a horse breeder whose horses had an international reputation. In the 1850s Octavia Hill spent part of her childhood at Brownswell Cottages. British and Colonial Films used Newstead House from 1911 until about 1916 as a film studio, here they made films like Robin Hood Outlawed. (Dir. Charles Raymond) in 1912 and a number of the Lieutenant Daring, series.

Population of East Finchley (East Ward)

  • 1901 8,392
  • 1911 13,499
  • 1921 16,169
  • 1931 17,483