A Community Focus participant.
Community Focus is a specialist arts organisation in the London Borough of Barnet. It exists to encourage disabled and older people to participate in the arts in pursuit of education, recreation, personal development and comradeship - cultivating creativity, equality and strength in an inclusive and caring environment.
This is the third trail devised by Community Focus to appear on the 24 Hour Museum London City Heritage Guide.
Church End was originally a small village within the ancient manor and parish of Hendon. It was on a hilltop site - chosen by early Saxon and Roman settlers as a position which would usually have better drainage and a sometimes lighter soil than the predominantly heavy clay soil of the district.
Its economy remained agricultural until the early 19th century with most of its fields being devoted to providing hay for London's ever expanding horse population. In 1703, Joseph Moxon recorded that “the dung produced by those 30,000 horses and 8,000 cows that inhabit London, is carted to Middlesex farmers, particularly in the parish of Hendon and its environs, where they manage their compost heaps the best in the Kingdom.”
The coming of the railways in the 1860s did not directly affect the district, but when the suburban railways and underground lines were introduced in the 1920s the area began to experience the slow introduction of suburbia. Many of the remaining farms then turned to dairy farming, producing milk for local consumption.
By the 1930s suburban development was widespread and most of the farming land was then given over to housing. Church End village was absorbed within this growth.
The Church End Trail begins at the junction of Church Road and Church End - with Daniel's Almshouses. Robert Daniel was a London merchant who left £2,000 in his will of 1681 - this was to be given towards building an almshouse which could maintain '6 old men and 4 old women, none to be under 50 years of age and each to receive 3 shillings a week, a coat or gown every second year of grey cloth, lined, faced and edged with orange and a shilling loaf at Christmas'.
The almshouses were built in 1729, rebuilt in the 1800s and modernised in the 1960s. The original stone tablet commemorating their endowment is above the central section of the building.
Chequers Public House
With one's back to the almshouses, entering Church End, on one's right is the Chequers Public House. This is one of the few original buildings left from what was, in the early 19th century, a community of around 100 cottages and houses grouped around three short streets and some alleyways.
Chequers may have opened in the 1850s when the original licensee, John Barnard Matthews, set up as a grocer and beer retailer. Oral records speak of a grocer’s shop as being a 'penny bank' for local people. This would not have been unusual in this period for a public house and would explain the name 'Chequer' - as that is the term given to a place where money is deposited (hence the origin of the word 'cheque'). The pub was rebuilt in the 1890s, although it is thought that the existing cellars are from the original building.
Headstone of Elizabeth Farren
Continue along Church End towards St. Mary's Parish Church and pass through the gated entrance - on one's right is a headstone dedicated to Elizabeth Farren.
The inscription reads: ‘Here lies the body of Elizabeth Farren, many years an inhabitant of this parish who died in the one hundred and second year of her age. She was a woman of very shrewd understanding and a remarkable instance of healthy longevity. In her hundred and first year she threaded her needle without spectacles and regularly walked a mile-and-a-half to church until a very short time before her death on the 29th day of February, 1832’.
St. Mary's Parish Church
St. Mary's Parish Church is probably Saxon in origin but the existing building has Norman foundations under its present floor and some stones from the Norman church are incorporated into the buttress of the west wall. The church has been enlarged at various points in time during the 13th and 15th centuries but the existing building represents a further enlargement and partial rebuilding carried out in 1915.
The interior includes a Norman font dating back to 1150 and a slate slab which marks the burial place of Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore and the London Zoo.
The bell tower was added to the body of the church in 1450 and the large blue-faced clock was placed in the tower in 1658. The mechanism was renewed in 1759 and requires that it be wound by hand twice a week.
The churchyard has a range of tombstones and sarcophagi — many of which date from the early 18th century and it is said that Charles Dickens often came here to stroll and admire the views.
It is also suggested that Bram Stoker — the author of Dracula — may have been inspired to use the churchyard as the setting for one part of his novel. This may have come from his reading the account of a 'real life' incident which took place here in 1828, when a local man called Holm, and two companions, were charged with breaking open a vault and severing the head from one of the bodies held there.
One mausoleum is erected to the memory of Philip Rundell. He was a goldsmith and jeweller working during the 18th and 19th centuries and his firm were jewellers to both King George III and George IV.
During his lifetime he acquired a reputation for meanness and it was said that his fortune, in part, was made by buying the jewellery of émigrés fleeing the French Revolution. It was said that he never spent anything and lived in wretched circumstances — but when he died he left a fortune of nearly £1.5m.
Greyhound Public House
Leaving the churchyard by the entrance gate — on the right is the Greyhound Public House. This was built in 1896 when the 17th century building which had preceded it was demolished.
There has been a building on this site for centuries, the first being recorded in the early 14th and originally described as the Church House. A licence to also serve as an inn was given in 1655, although this was where Parish Vestry meetings used to be held and these provided the main instrument for local government up until the 1800s.
Adjacent to the Greyhound Public House is Church Farmhouse Museum. This is a Grade II listed building dating from the mid-17th century and is all that remains of the original farm. Church Farm, like others in the district, once concentrated upon producing hay for the London market and at its peak held 200 acres of land devoted to this and some dairy farming.
By the end of the 19th century hay had ceased to be a profitable crop, as mechanised transport began to replace the main consumer, the horse. However, dairy farming continued at Church Farm until the late 1930s. Now the building serves as a museum which reflects its history as a Middlesex farmhouse and also provides exhibitions covering a wide range of subjects and themes.
Church End hayloft
Facing Church Farmhouse Museum is a surviving remnant of another once flourishing farm - Church End - and this was the model dairy and hayloft of that farm. It was farms such as these which helped to create a thriving village community — which in 1796 included 4 carpenters, 3 blacksmiths, a wheelwright, butcher, baker and plumber.
Community Focus hopes that you have enjoyed this trail. The 'My Life-Our Heritage' project has devised several trails within the London Borough of Barnet and the group hope that other individuals or groups may avail themselves of the Heritage experience that they can provide.
Community Focus can offer guided walks or slide shows related to these trails and if you would like any further information about this - then please contact us at: 020 8346 9789.
All photography and pictures courtesy and copyright of Community Focus.