~ 1 ~
A short history of East End Road Early Days Finchley’s terrain was formed about ½ million years ago when the last ice age pushed down from the north. As well as diverting the Thames to its present path it left a deposit of boulder clay, roughly triangular in shape, which would eventually become Finchley. Once the ice receded, the land became covered by dense forest. The patchy boulder clay was poorly drained and the area was impenetrable. The area was given by the King in Saxon times (Ca 800s) to the bishop of London as a resource for his diocese. Access came from the South West along what is now Hendon Lane and a small administrative settlement sprang up just above the flood plain. It included a church and later became known as Church End. Because of the patchy nature of the terrain, instead of a compact town developing, small groups of dwellings sprang up where the land was suitable for clearing and working. Many of these were along the southern edge of the triangle and a track developed to connect them, along the better-drained slopes above a brook, (the Mutton Brook). This track, from Church End to the East End was given many names, including Ducksetters Lane Road, Hunters Green and Finchley Road, and today we know it as East End Road. The less accessible part of the triangle remained relatively undeveloped and was known as Finchley Wood, or the common. Until the 1300s Finchley was a back-water as the main route to the north passed through Colney Hatch but then the Bishop allowed a new road to be built across his hunting park from Highgate to the East End of Finchley and, later, on across the Common to Whetstone. Servicing the travellers and traders gave a real boost to East End and it overtook Church End in population. Where the East End Road met the Causeway, a hamlet developed called Park Gate and was later known as Market Place. A string of small settlements also grew up along the edge of the common, including Cuckold’s Haven at Red Lion Hill. Thomas Sanny and Five Bells Another settlement arose by a triangular patch of common land known as Hunts or Hunters Green that stretched from the present-day Five Bells pub to Church Lane and Long Lane. There is mention of an ale house (by present-day Stanley Road) in 1484 when a Thomas Sanny was fined for not putting enough hops in his beer. Twenty years later, a Thomas Sanny donated a large piece of land with dwellings including the ale house to the church for the good of the poor in return for the singing for the soul of himself and those
~ 2 ~
of his parents, wife and children. The land stretched from Hunts Green all the way to the present-day passage known as The Walks. Originally known as Manypenyes, Stukefield and Foreryders it later became known as Homefield and Poor Toms. The organisation that owned and ran the property, along with many other gifts for the poor, became known as the Finchley Charities. The first recorded licensee of the Five Bells was in 1751. In 1803 the Vestry wished to convert the building for use as a house to accommodate the poor and it was rented out to them. However the Vestry was unwilling to keep the building in a proper state of repair and relinquished it. The building was demolished and replaced by cottages, a new pub being built in its present-day location to the west, outside the charity land. The Five Bells became known for bare-knuckle boxing in the 1840’s and heavyweight champion Gem Mace trained there. The present building dates from 1868 following a major fire. [Most of the charity land was used for grazing and haymaking, but in 1829 a parcel of it was leased for the construction of Homefield House. In 1865 the coming of the railway cut the land in two, and in 1891 land on the corner of Stanley Road was leased for building. In 1914, a large part of Homefield was let to the Finchley Presbyterian Lawn Tennis Club, and then the East Finchley Congregational Church Sports Association, before being taken over by the Borough Council as a sports ground then sold to Middlesex county Council as Stanley Road Playing Field. In the 1920s a plot on the Walks end was leased to Burton Bakeries. In 1964 land on Poor Toms was sold to Middlesex County Council for the building of Holy Trinity School. Homefield House evolved into Homefield Garage and was demolished in 1973, one year after Homefield Cottages. The town houses in Ashburnham Close date from 1976 and Homefield Gardens followed in 1979.] EF takes off Finchley remained a rural community with no more than 250 households overall until around 1820 several factors combined which were to change the face of Finchley beyond recognition. These were: the enclosure of the common in 1811-16, the improvements in road transport bringing booming London closer, the railway in 1867 and the decision of the Ecclesiastical authorities in 1875-9 when demand for homes rose, to release land in East Finchley on 99 year leases. A consequence of enclosure was the hiving off of verges along East End Road into private ownership and the construction of a new road, Prospect Place, in 1825 from East End Road to Market Place. A lot of terraced housing north-west of Church Lane resulted from the Ecclesiastical authorities actions, a strange location as it was mid way between the railway stations. Factories followed – a car manufactory on EER now a carpet warehouse, a cricket bat manufactory off Church Lane, Pianos at the Grange and the Lucas CAV factory by the Grange which only closed in 1991. South facing slopes
~ 3 ~
From the 1500s houses started to appear on the south facing slopes south of East End Road and by the 1800s the area was home to large elegant villas set in large grounds, quite a contrast to the dirt and poverty of the working class area around Market Place. The house that stood next to Fairacres (formerly The Old House) originated from the late 1500s and was called The Elms, then Elmhurst. It was occupied from 1833 to 1857 by Anthony Salvin, architect of Tudor and Gothic style country houses and restorer of castles, including work at Holy Island, Windsor, Newark, Carisbrook, Caernarvon and Alnwick Castles and the Tower of London. He was instrumental in getting the funds for a parish church which he designed and built on Bulls Lane in 1846 (Until then it meant walking to Church End). Bulls Lane became Church Lane soon after. Elmhurst was demolished in 1939  and Elmshurst Crescent and Pulham Avenue were built in the grounds after the war. A green space was left for the public, opposite the triangle of green created in ca 1960 by the demolition of Causeway Cottages for a projected road widening scheme. On the other side of Fairacres stood Knightons, first mentioned in 1598 and sold for development in 1921, now the site of the Sisters of Nazareth. Further west was Park Farm. A colourful occupant was ‘Lord’ George Sanger, circus owner, who wintered his animals at the farm. When on the road, his circus train was said to be 2 miles long and included 10 wild beast wagons full of lions, tigers, bears and others. In 1911 he was murdered in a brawl at the farm initiated by a disgruntled employee. The funeral route from Finchley to Holborn Viaduct was lined with people sheltering under black umbrellas from torrential rain. Cemeteries and Penitentiaries Opposite the farm was Sedgemere House, which had dog kennels and a cattery. Sold to developers in 1901, it was pulled down to make way for Sedgemere Avenue, a development of maisonettes for rent to gentle folk. Beyond Park farm was the cricket ground and Newmarket Farm. 47 acres of this were sold to St Marylebone Burial Board and the cemetery, designed by Barnett and Birch opened in 1855. The Crematorium was not built until 1937. Opposite the cemetery from 1864 was the Convent of the Good Shepherd. In 1873 it became either a reformatory for former female prisoners or a Magdalene asylum for fallen women. The women had to labour in silence 52 weeks of the year in a laundry, symbolically washing away their sins. They were forced to bind their breasts, had their heads shaved and were regularly humiliated and beaten. Census returns show that many of those locked away in East Finchley’s asylum were little more than children, some as young as 13. As the demand for laundries diminished the institution became less viable. Following a fire in the 1970s most of the buildings were demolished and replaced by Bishop Douglass School and the Thomas More estate.
~ 4 ~
Just before the North Circular Road (constructed as a job creation scheme in the 1920s) where Briar Close is now, was Philipe Lane, more often called Green Lane. It joined up East End Road with Long Lane until the railway bridge was demolished in the 1960s. For a while, between 1808 and 1835, it had been called Workhouse Lane as a building there was rented as Finchley’s workhouse. Cromwell Hall A further building of note on the southern slopes was Cromwell Hall. Not the first on the site, it was renamed Cromwell Hall by Edward Butler around 1827 after Richard Cromwell son of Oliver Cromwell and Lord Protector of England for about a year. Richard Cromwell in fact stayed next door incognito towards the end of his life in a house later named Belle Vue. Belle Vue was pulled down to make way for Cromwell Close in 1959/60. Meanwhile Cromwell Hall, a much larger estate in Gothic Revival style, was home to some colourful characters. In the late 1800s the Butler family led an extravagant lifestyle; a Miss Butler used to drive hectically around in a Brougham, paying her bills in sovereigns drawn from a bag. There was a large greenhouse – the highest and widest single span roof at the time – from which came bananas, oranges and lemons. The house passed to the Honri family. Percy Honri was a well-known musical entertainer in music hall fashion, married into a family that owned and ran theatres and with children that were entertainers too. There were concerts at home. When the recession came Honri turned the estate into a commercial concern, with a restaurant, shops and a putting green but to no avail. The estate was sold off and replaced by Abbots Gardens in 1932-35. Tony Roberts 2009