February 27, 2010

History of East Finchley

East Finchley History

East Finchley was originally East End, and the dwelling was not built near the center now, the settlement being further up East End Road with connections to Hackney & Harringey as well as central London. It was very small in size and known for its pig markets or hog farms. The tube station opened and the development followed around the High Road especially after the old marketplace was extensively bombed in November 1940 during WWII.

• The first train station East End station was first opened in 1868 as part of the Great Northern Railway. The town of East End was renamed with the station that stood there before in 1886. The name East End in London has become associated with the poor and so was not popular. The railway is not linked to East Finchley’s expansion more the electric tramline.

East Finchley Tube station was rebuilt and opened in 1939 in the contemporary London Transport style along the Northern Line. Together with the tramline that opened along the road in 1914 it moved the concentration of shops and businesses in the area to the High Road (Photo 2/ Photo 3). Originally Park House Manor stood opposite the station, an elegant building with cast grounds destroyed in 1960’s to make way for modern buildings.

• Many of the local pubs stem from the 1700’s; The White Lion 1716, The Bald Faced Stag 1738 (which in 1812 was still surrounded by fields and originally called Jolly Blacksmiths, changing its name to attract the hunting trade), and the Five Bells pub mentioned as far back as 1484 (the current building has been there since 1868 after a fire and moved from its original position on Stanley Road to the current one in 1804).

• Five Bells was known for bare-knuckle boxing. In the 1840’s heavy weight champion Gem Mace trained there. In the 1840’s the East End area had quite a reputation for drunkenness and steeple chases (much to the disgust of the few middleclass in the area). Opposite the Five Bells lived the son of Oliver Cromwell, Richard in what is now Cromwell Close.

• Stanley Road Playing Fields remains in a small piece of overgrown grassland behind a primary school away from the main road. It was originally three fields left to the people of Finchley in 1506, and became part of the land owned b the Finchley Charities and was used as Five Bells FC Training ground until they moved to Highgate Woods.

• Opposite the Bald Faced Stag where Budgens sits today was an Old Congregationalist Church, built in 1870’s (on site of an old stonemasons and field) with a 130ft spire and clock with dominated the local skyline. It was demolished in 1960’s and made way for retail. In 1965 a new church was built next to the old site and sold on to an Islamic Muslim community and it reopened in 1996 as the North London Jamatkhana.

• The Great North Road cut through the Bishops land, when the Bishop opened a northerly route in approx 1350. Finchley passing the 6.7 & 8 milestones on the road in and out of London. The toll gate at the top of the hill became known as Highgate, and the road was an alternative hard surfaced route in comparison with the muddy Colney Hatch one and improved the areas ability to trade.

Highway men were synonymous with Finchley Common along the Great North Road. The uninhabited areas were known for their danger after dark. Between 1670’s and 1790’s the junction where Bedford Road meets the High Road were Gibbets. This was where corpses of caught, charged and hung highway men were put on gibbets to deter other Highway men. The famous Highwaymen associated are of course including Jack Shephard and Dick Turpin. Legend has it that Dick Turpin would operate on Finchley common, hiding behind the oak trees, and then stay low in the Spaniards Inn on the borders of Hampstead.

• A Toll gate was situated at the White Lion Pub along the Great North Road, which was not ended until 1901. It was originally called the Dirt House, opposite Dirt Woods (now known as Cherry Tree Woods) as all the returning carts carried soot and manure.

Cherry Tree Wood Park is a remnant of Finchley Wood, and the old hunting ground for the Bishop of London. It was first known as Dirt Wood due to it being the clearance place for manure form London which provided the area with excellent Hay (the modern day equivalent is petrol).

• The Phoenix cinema opened in 1912, (at the time there was a film studios on the road) and is the oldest purpose built cinema in England. It was originally known as The East Finchley Picturedrome, changed to Rex and finally The Phoenix in 1975. The cinema has been used in many films such as Interview with the Vampire, Black Books and The End of Affair.

The St Pancras & Islington Cemetery on the High Road was established in 1854, the oldest mixed cemetery in London. St Pancras Burial Board purchased 88 acres of Horseshoe Farm on Finchley Common. Coldfall Wood behind is open space from the old wood, now N10 in Muswell Hill. The Victorian painter Ford Madox Brown is buried there, as is Mond Ludwig (Mond Mausoleum) the famous German industrial chemist, the first mayor of Islington William Crump and more recently was the place Baby P ashes were scattered. It also has a mass war grave from both World Wars, including unidentified bodies.

• The art deco Library, near the cemetery, has been granted listed status, and behind it sits the award winning allotments (The Allotment Act 1882 stipulated that ‘fuel’ land areas become dedicated to allotments.

East End Road was originally known as Piryton Lane (1423), possible Bishops Causeway and manor Waie, was the main access route to Church End and the Great North Road. The Carpet Warehouse on the road was once a car manufacturer in 1909. Middlesex Cricket Club and LA Fitness sit on the site of what was once Manor Farm (painted in Found by Dante Gabriel Rossetti). Fairacres opposite Church Lane is the only remains of a once grand manor estate called Knightons.

Avenue House, built 1859, on East End Road, with its avenue of (some unusual) trees in its grounds was left to the people of Finchley by Henry Stephens (son of the blue-black ink inventor) in 1918, opening to the public in 1928.

The Steinberg Centre is the largest Jewish Culture centre in Europe, half way along East End Road and is on the site of the old Bibbesworth Estate, manor of the Finchley Family. This manor was Finchley’s principal manor and had its own moat (dried but still visible). It is on land once known as Temple Croft Fields, granted to the Knights Templar in the C13th, only to be seized under King Henry VIII’s reformation. The Steinberg Centre has a museum displaying the migration of the Jewish community into London’s East End of London.

• The Cemetery on East End Road (opened 1855) was once new market Pig Farm (which by the C18th was famous for its hay set by John Odell and was opened in 1680) was purchased by St Marylebone Parish and used as a cemetery. It was voted cemetery of the year in 2007 and got a Green Flag award in 2009/10. Buried here are the conductor Leopold Stokowski, who shook Mickey’s Hand in Disney film Fantasia, the Barham family, who founded the Express Country Milk Supply, and Lord Northcloffe and his family (founder of the Daily Mail).Unmarked graves are buried here, including members of Ken snakechips Johnsons Band (killed in a bomb during WWII Blitz that hit Café de Paris in 1941).

• The C18th Hogmarket that helped develop the area is remembered in street names, especially in the areas of Market Place. Even as late as 1955 someone kept 25 pigs at Prospect Place.

• The Convent of Good Shephard Housed a reformation house for females (either prisoners or struggling) and burnt down only in the 1970’s. It was replaced by Bishop Douglas School and the Thomas Moor Estate. (The Elmhurst estate, also on East End Road) sits on the site of the old House of Elms).

Squires Lane was the traditional connection between Church End (Finchley Central) and East End. The eastern portion of the road was first known as Short Lane. It was an area known for Claigmar Vineyards which started in 1874 and is currently occupied by Pentland Group.

Long Lane, named in 1719 was known in medieval times as Ferrairs Lane ran from the Bibbesworth manor to East End. The cottages along Long Lane, Trinity Lane and Manor Park Road were built at the same time, so were the first developments from the railway. The Victorian cottages on Log Lane, and House on King Street were probably named after the charter that abolished through fare toll gates.

Church Lane was forced as a name on locals in the 1860’s, and was originally known as Bull Lane & provided access to Finchley common. Most of the ‘pig’ trade was conducted outside George’s Inn here. George Michael was born above a café along this road.

Fortis Green Road was an old road connecting the manor in Finchley, to the main road out of London, Colney Hatch. On Fortis Green Road there were larger estates, evident today in the street names.

• The Fortis Green area had some grand estates of East End, built mainly at the start of the C19th, now only evident by street name. Fairlawn’s was a large manor opposite the Bald Faced Stag towards Muswell Hill, nest to another estate Cranleigh, which was next to Park Hall, which was next to Summer Lee. Somelees House was a manor house. It was used as a Convalescent Home for Soldiers during WWI.

• The Clissfold Arms, on Fortis Green Road is famous for being the first place the 1960’s band The Kinks performed, having being raised at 6 Denmark Terrace.

• In 1903 Annie Waiters & Amelia Sach were the ‘Finchley Baby Farmers’, and the first women to be hanged at London’s New Holloway Prison. They set up a legal nursing home in Claymore House, Hertford Road East Finchley for expectant mothers with unwanted babies. Abortion was still illegal and orphanages, foster homes rare. The mother would pay the nurses a fee to find the baby a new home, and in other cases this was the case. However Baby Farmers saw more profit in killing the babies off, the mother had paid the adoption fee (often in this case in the Archway Tavern) so they no longer carried the worry and the ladies would dispose of the body.

• Jerry Springer, US chat show host was born in East Finchley underground, during WWII when his family was escaping the holocaust.

• Michelle Collins, the two extraordinary leagues of gentlemen all live in Finchley, as did Rod Stewart (working in the picture framers), Mick Jaeger (above the wine shop on the High Road) and Tom Jones in the 1960’s. Peter Sellers also lived at 122b High Road with his mother.


History of North Finchley

History of Finchley Central

House Clearance Finchley, London


  1. Hello LondonLife ~
    I notice that your history of Finchley includes mention of the baby farming murderess Amelia Sach. Do you have any information about the fate of her husband (Jeffrey Sach) and young daughter (Lilian Clowie Sach) after Amelia's 1903 execution ~ or can you suggest anyone who may have such information?
    Thank you
    Frank Harvey ~ Ballina NSW Australia.

  2. Hi, I myself am unsure. A great resourse is the convent in East End Road, East Finchley, the local library and if you can find them the east finchley rotary club would be able to help find sources I think. The ancestry website should provide census's etc.
    Sorry for late reply. A great resource library also for all of Barnet is in Colindale. Hope this helps - wish I knew more so please share anything you find out Thanks