Community Focus Trail: East End Road And East Finchley Cemetery

By Community Focus

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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.

East End Road is an ancient route that once connected the district of East End (now known as East Finchley) and Church End (now known as Central Finchley).

The district of East End grew up near the northern exit from the Bishop of London's Great Park and in the 18th century many blacksmiths, farriers and publicans serviced the stagecoaches that stopped at East End on their journey north.

It also had an ancient drovers’ pig market up until the 1850s and the district itself was largely a community of small cottages, with a few larger, more spacious houses built by landowners or wealthy businessmen - and a mixed economy of carpenters, boot makers, timber merchants, builders, coal merchants and brick makers.

When the railways came to the district, they brought with them a decline in the coach trade and the pig market — although the building of two large cemeteries then brought with it a new economy with publicans catering for mourners and stonemasons providing headstones and memorial statues.

The East End Road Trail begins at the eastern end with the Bald Faced Stag Public House. The original public house was called the Jolly Blacksmiths and was established by two such tradesmen in 1736. In 1781 a new owner gave it its current name and the belief is that in public deer hunts, participants were allowed to take hair from the face of a dead stag and the house may have been a meeting place for those engaged in such sport. It may also have been used as a training venue for bare fist boxers.

Bald Faced Stag Public House

A few yards away stands what was once the Holy Trinity School, built in 1847 as an industrial training school intended to provide local children with a trade. The building still has an educational role, working with and providing for the needs of children with cerebral palsy.

The Bobath School

Continuing along East End Road one passes by a site where, in the 1890s, stood what was then described as a Primitive Methodist Chapel. That has since gone but there is now a more contemporary building there — still providing for religious needs. Most of the larger houses and small cottages have also been demolished and replaced since the turn of the century with a more uniform suburban development

Soon one comes to the Five Bells Public House. It is known that a smaller house of the same name — described as being two cottages joined with a single brick chimney — was here in the 15th century and that its then owner, a Thomas Sanny, was once fined four pence for 'watering' his ale.

A larger beer house was built on the site in the 18th century but later caught fire and was rebuilt in its present form in 1868. During the 19th century the Five Bells was often used as a training venue for bare fist boxers and boxing matches, as well as horse racing, took place on land in front of the pub.

The Five Bells

Continue along East End Road and one reaches the East Finchley Cemetery. In common with most City of London parishes in the 19th century, there was a pressing need to provide new burial space.

The existing provision in London churchyards was fast becoming inadequate and the newly emerging private burial grounds were themselves often overcrowded and run by unscrupulous entrepreneurs. It was recognised that land for burial must be purchased beyond the boundaries of the parish and so it was that the St. Marylebone Burial Board purchased 47 acres of farmland adjacent to East End Road in 1854 — it then being described as being a 'retired and rural spot'.

Architects were invited to submit designs for a cemetery in January of that year, with a total cost of £15,000 being imposed upon the project. A winning entry was chosen – work began in May and the cemetery grounds were consecrated 10 months later, with the first internment taking place on March 14 1855.

A decorated gothic chapel stands in the central part of the main entrance drive. It is described as being a ragstone chapel with an elaborate buttressed belfry and an exit (now blocked) behind the altar to allow for coffins to pass through into the cemetery grounds. This chapel was built at a cost of £1,400.

The chapel

The cemetery initially catered mainly for the more affluent upper and middle class of Marylebone, with a high proportion being in professional or military occupation — this being evidenced by the number of larger monuments which can be found there.

Immediately to the left of the chapel is a granite monument to the engineer Sir Peter Russell. This is the work of Sir Edgar MacKennal, who later designed the effigies of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra which rest upon their tomb in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. The monument incorporates a bronze bust of Sir Peter and a life size sculpture of a young engineer in company with an angel.

Monument to Sir Peter Russell

Continuing further to the left, there are several column shaped examples of carved headstone symbolism — in this case, those of knotted forms and intertwined snakes which serve to represent the concept of eternity.

Symbols of Eternity

Returning to the chapel, continue along East Avenue and to a headstone erected to Sir George Hayter (1792 - 1871). When he was 16 years of age he enrolled within the Royal Academy Schools to study painting and at the age of 23 he was appointed Painter of Miniatures and Portraits to Princess Charlotte, a daughter of Queen Victoria.

It was said that he displayed a pomposity that irritated his fellow artists, but he mixed freely with many aristocratic families. His unconventional domestic life (he separated from his wife but lived openly with his mistress) set him apart from many and although be became Queen Victoria's Principal Painter in Ordinary, he was never elected to the Royal Academy - although he acquired several other honorary titles - among which were that of 'Knight of the Lion' and 'Sun of Persia'.

Sir George Hayter

Turning to the right and looking to the left brings one to the headstone of Sir Henry Bishop (1786 - 1855). His first operatic work was performed when he was 18 years of age and this was the beginning of an enormous output of musical work - both of his own creation and also as contribution to the work of others.

At one stage in his career he was composer and director at Covent Garden and then held professorships at London, Edinburgh and Oxford - becoming the first musician ever to be knighted. It is he who is credited with composing the popular song 'Home, Sweet Home'.

Sir Henry Bishop

Crossing Central Avenue one comes to the large grouping of the Barham family headstones. Sir George Barham (1836 - 1913) was the son of a London dairyman who founded the Express Country Milk Supply Company.

He had become concerned about the quality of the milk that he sold and believed that the providers — London cows — were living in too cramped and unhygienic conditions. His solution was to bring fresh milk into London by rail and he adopted, as a trademark, the image of an express train — hence the name of his company.

In 1865 there was a plague among London cows. Most were slaughtered and George Barham then became the sole provider of fresh milk. He invented the milk churn, developed systems for chilling milk and by 1885 was distributing 30,000 gallons of milk throughout London each night.

The Barham family headstones

Crossing into West Avenue, on one's right is a monument to Henry Walter Bates (1825 - 1892). Henry Bates developed his interest in entomology at an early age - collecting insects at the age of 13 and having his first short article published in the 'Zoologist' when he was 18.

He left Liverpool when he was 23 and travelled to South America where he spent 11 years collecting insects around the River Amazon and its tributaries. By the time he returned to England he had discovered 550 new species of butterfly and several thousand insects as yet unkown to science. His last 28 years were spent working for the Royal Geographical Society and the Entomological Society.

Henry Bates

A few yards further brings one to an imposing monument erected to Thomas Skarrat Hall and his family. This grey and pink granite sarcophagus was erected upon its own small island site and it is said to be modelled upon Napoleons tomb in Paris.

Thomas Hall found his fortune in the Australian gold mines and when his tomb was first erected it included 4 bronze angels — one in each corner — but all have since been stolen!

Thomas Skarrat Hall

Continue back along West Avenue, turn right into Cypress Avenue and on one's right is the tomb of Thomas Tate, erected in 1909. This was sculpted by F. Lynn Jenkins who was well known at that time for his Renaissance style, large scale decorative work.

Thomas Tate

Continue along Cypress Avenue and turn right into Yew Avenue and then left into Remembrance Avenue, bringing one to the headstone of Dame Fanny Houston (1857 - 1936).

Fanny Houston was described as an eccentric and militant aristocrat who was a supporter of women’s suffrage and the founder, during the First World War, of a Rest Home for Tired Nurses.

She inherited a £6,000,000 fortune from her shipping and munitions magnate husband when he died in the 1920s. She visited Germany in the late 20s and early 30s and was alarmed by the military build up then in progress. She urged the Government to invest in developing aircraft and when they refused — because of the existing economic crisis — to finance an entry in the Schneider Seaplane Race Trophy, she gave £100,000 of her own money to support a British entry.

In 1933 she funded the first bi-plane flight over Mount Everest and also helped support the early development of the Spitfire aeroplane. She was one of the first 5 women to be given the title of Dame.

Dame Fanny Houston

East Finchley Cemetery contains many memorials which are of special interest - including those of newspaper publishers, artists, scientists, musicians, entertainers and also a few of those boxers who were associated with the days of bare fist fighting and may well have had local links with the Five Bells and Bald Faced Stag Public Houses.

One man, Tom Paddock, became heavyweight champion of England in 1856 — following a bout that lasted for 51 rounds — but he had to give up his title when he gambled away his money and could not find any backers to support him in a defending match against a challenger.

He died from heart disease in 1863, but as he was penniless the Pugilistic Benevolent Society donated £5 towards his funeral and tried to raise money for a memorial. However, he was finally buried in an unmarked grave.

Another such boxer was William Springall, said to have the appearance of a 'barn door in boots' and who fought as a champion here and in the United States. He then retired to become a boxing 'professor' and pub landlord but died at the age of 46 in 1898. His small headstone displays the text 'Gone but not forgotten'.

Among the most common symbols used by masons when sculpting headstones are: the anchor; the book; the dove; the lamp; the shell; the snake; the torch; the urn; the lily; the cross; the lamb; the heart; and the clasped hands.

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.

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