A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 6, Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey With Highgate. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980.
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The parish remained undivided until 1873, when the district chapelry of St. Paul, New Southgate, was assigned that portion of Friern Barnet east of the G.N.R. line. (fn. 1) In 1882 the northern part of the parish was assigned to the new district chapelry of All Saints, Oakleigh Park, whose boundary ran parallel to Oakleigh Road and c. 300 yd. to the south-west. (fn. 2) The district chapelry of St. Peter-le-Poer, Muswell Hill, from 1911 covered most of the parish south of the North Circular Road. (fn. 3)
A church mentioned in 1187 (fn. 4) was probably the church of St. James, which was originally built in the later 12th century. The bishop of London gave it to the knights of St. John together with Whetstone manor, (fn. 5) of which it was an appendage. Although not mentioned by name the advowson was included in the Crown's grant of the manor to the chapter of St. Paul's in 1544 (fn. 6) and it was specifically excluded from leases of the demesne from the 16th century. (fn. 7) The chapter was still patron in 1976. (fn. 8) Until late in the 17th century the church was often described as a chapel. (fn. 9) In 1519 the prior of St. John's stated that Friern Barnet lay in Finchley parish, (fn. 10) yet the incumbent was entitled to tithes in 1535 (fn. 11) and probably as early as 1340. (fn. 12) No medieval institutions were recorded but there was a parish priest in 1486 (fn. 13) and his rights were safeguarded in 1496. (fn. 14) Before the Reformation the church was exempt from episcopal intervention and afterwards it was subject to the chapter of St. Paul's as ordinary. (fn. 15) The incumbent was described as a vicar in 1544 (fn. 16) and curate in 1545. (fn. 17) From 1549 the church has usually been regarded as a rectory. (fn. 18)
In 1772 the rector was entitled to both great and little tithes. (fn. 19) Tithes were valued at 13s. 4d. in 1340 (fn. 20) and at 12s. in 1535. (fn. 21) There were disputes over them in 1772 (fn. 22) and from 1698 to 1704, when they were farmed for £100 a year. (fn. 23) The rector customarily took a composition of 1s. 6d. or 2s. per acre in 1806, (fn. 24) when John Bacon ceased paying tithes for the Whetstone demesne, having discovered that it had belonged to an exempt order before the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). (fn. 25) In 1846 tithes were commuted for a rent-charge of £271. (fn. 26) The glebe, which lay east of the almshouses in Friern Barnet Lane, consisted in 1650 of 2 a. worth 30s. annually, which had been assigned by the committee for plundered ministers. (fn. 27) It was farmed for £9 between 1794 and 1815. (fn. 28) It was still being exploited in 1911, (fn. 29) was used as playing fields for the grammar school between the two World Wars, (fn. 30) then as allotments, (fn. 31) and became the site of Queenswell school c. 1957. (fn. 32) The priest's grove, 1 a. of copyhold land in Whetstone, (fn. 33) was occupied by successive incumbents from at least 1507. (fn. 34) At the inclosure of Finchley common in 1814 (fn. 35) the rector was allotted 45 a., which were sold in 1888. (fn. 36) The living was exempt from royal taxation in 1428 (fn. 37) and was worth £78 in 1650. (fn. 38) The rector received c. £310 between 1794 and 1805 and c. £240 after Bacon's retraction of tithes in 1808. (fn. 39) The income of £255 in 1849 (fn. 40) increased to £360 in 1882 (fn. 41) but had fallen to c. £200 in 1904. (fn. 42)
Both before and after 1574 rectors occupied the Priest's House or Bell House in Whetstone High Road. Worth 40s. in 1650, it was burnt down c. 1662 and rebuilt as a public house. (fn. 43) A copyhold tenement in Friern Barnet Lane, acquired in 1682, (fn. 44) was used as a parsonage until 1772. (fn. 45) In 1851, 1871, and 1888 the rectors resided in private houses in Friern Park, Colney Hatch, and North Finchley, but a new rectory next to St. John's church was occupied from 1890. (fn. 46) Called Church-house, in 1975 it was the residence of assistant clergy and was used for parochial functions. A rectory at no. 147 Friern Barnet Lane was acquired in 1960-1. (fn. 47)
A lamp in the church was endowed with four cattle in perpetuity before 1544. (fn. 48) In 1495 John Copwood had built a chapel on common land adjoining the king's highway by Stockwell weir. (fn. 49) In 1498 he was licensed to keep the chapel, then dedicated to St. Catherine, together with a small plot, for a fixed annual rent and entry fine. (fn. 50) In 1530 the hermit was paid to say mass at the chapel, which was intended for the poor, (fn. 51) but by 1548-9 it was little used. (fn. 52) The site, often called the Hermitage in the 16th century, (fn. 53) eventually supported only a dwelling-house. It was probably the Hermitage house, from 1887 a school and by 1912 the London Female Preventive and Reformatory Institution, which survived in 1939. (fn. 54)
The benefice was held by three generations of the North family in the 16th century, by John and Edmund Duncon from 1663 to 1673, and by Frederick and Edward Gage Hall between 1882 and 1940. (fn. 55) George Smith, rector 1689-1724, was also vicar of Sarratt (Herts.), where he lived, (fn. 56) Thomas Roberts, rector 1795-8, was vicar of Tottenham, (fn. 57) and Samuel Brook, rector 1772-1794, was non-resident. (fn. 58) A. J. Trillo, rector 1950-5, was appointed bishop of Chelmsford in 1971. (fn. 59) An assistant curate was licensed from 1814 (fn. 60) and from the 1860s there were normally at least two. (fn. 61)
Morning and evening service was attended by a total of 345 worshippers in 1851. (fn. 62) Communion was held on the first Sunday in the month. (fn. 63) The average Sunday attendance had fallen to 134 in 1903, (fn. 64) by which date there were four other Anglican places of worship in the parish. There were still private pews in 1892. (fn. 65) Robert Morris, rector 1850-82, introduced an annual report in 1850 (fn. 66) and from 1883 a parish magazine was published. (fn. 67)
The church of ST. JAMES THE GREAT is on the corner of Friern Barnet Lane and Friary Road. It is built of flint with stone dressings and consists of a nave, chancel, south aisle and porch, north vestry, and south-west tower with shingled spire. The original structure consisted of a diminutive Norman nave and chancel, a wooden tower at the west end, and a south porch. (fn. 68) A vestry was added north of the nave in 1807 (fn. 69) and the tower was rebuilt on a smaller scale in 1812. (fn. 70) West and south galleries had been added by 1705 (fn. 71) and in 1819 a further west gallery was added for the charity children. (fn. 72) In 1819, 1828, and 1848 attempts were made to increase the seating, (fn. 73) but in 1853 there were pews for only 200. To provide 300 extra seats, (fn. 74) the church was enlarged by W. G. and E. Habershon in 1853. (fn. 75) Although materials may have been re-used, only the extensively restored Norman south doorway of the original structure was preserved. (fn. 76) The new church was built in the Early English style, and was considered to be in the 'very best taste'. (fn. 77) The spire fell in 1930 and was rebuilt to the same plan. (fn. 78) An octagonal parish room adjoining the north side of the church was under construction in 1977.
The church contains a relief of the children of Richard Down (1804) by John Bacon the younger (d. 1859), (fn. 79) and a classical wall monument to John Cleeve (d. 1725) and family. Other monuments, dating from 1668, are in the church and churchyard, which was enlarged several times in the 18th and 19th centuries. (fn. 80) The mature trees that made the setting attractive to visitors (fn. 81) were felled in 1974. In 1530 12d. a year was left for repairs to the bells. (fn. 82) A single bell by Thomas Mears, 1811, (fn. 83) replaced three bells in 1812. (fn. 84) The silver plate includes a flagon date-marked 1655, a cup and paten date-marked 1691, and a cup inscribed as having been the gift of John Nicholl in 1709. (fn. 85) There are registers of births from 1674, of marriages from 1812, and of burials from 1742. (fn. 86)
To meet a growing population, a church seating 360 was erected in Ely Place, Oakleigh Road South, in 1860. The land was given by George Knights Smith, who was the leading subscriber. The rector also subscribed and the London Diocesan Church Building Society contributed towards both the building and its fittings. Intended for adaptation as a school, it was known as the school-church. In spite of pew-rents attendance was so satisfactory (fn. 87) that a curate was appointed in 1864. (fn. 88) The schoolchurch was entrusted to the vicar of Southgate in 1871 (fn. 89) and became St. Paul's National school (fn. 90) when the church of St. Paul was erected in Edmonton parish in 1873 on land probably given by Smith. (fn. 91) After 1893 it became the Liberal and Radical Club. (fn. 92)
The church of ST. PETER-LE-POER originated in 1866 in a mission to serve Muswell Hill. (fn. 93) It operated from the Cromwell Road schoolroom (fn. 94) and then from an adjoining iron building, which was rebuilt or extended in 1886-7 (fn. 95) and still stood in 1908. (fn. 96) In 1884 the temporary iron church of St. Peter was erected on the corner of Sydney and Hampden roads. (fn. 97) Further land was acquired from the U.D.C. in 1895 (fn. 98) but a site given in 1884 for a permanent church later reverted to the donor. (fn. 99) In 1899 1 a. for a church, vicarage, and mission hall was acquired from the Albion Estates Co. on the corner of Colney Hatch Lane and Carnforth Road (later Albion Avenue), (fn. 100) where a temporary church was erected in 1904. The older building was retained as a hall until some date before the sale of the land in 1935. (fn. 101) In 1909 work started on a permanent church, built with money from the sale of the redundant church of St. Peter-le-Poer in the City of London. (fn. 102) The new church is in the gift of the chapter of St. Paul's and was assigned a district chapelry in 1911. (fn. 103) In 1976 presentations to the benefice were suspended. (fn. 104) The Revd. George Hennessy, the ecclesiastical historian and for 18 years member of Friern Barnet local board and U.D.C., was curate and priest-in-charge from 1884 to 1903. (fn. 105)
The church was designed by W. D. Caroe and Passmore (fn. 106) in a debased Gothic style. A large redbrick building, it comprises sanctuary, north vestry, south chapel, aisled nave with a west gallery for the choir, and a west tower which houses the organ. The site falls away sharply to the car park in the west. On the north-west side is the single-storeyed, prefabricated church hall, built in 1964 to replace the temporary church of 1904. (fn. 107) The vicarage and garden adjoin the church to the north. The church contains many furnishings from old St. Peter-lePoer, including the pulpit, bells, organ, stone mensa, font, server's seat, choir stalls, and duplicate sets of silver-gilt chalices, patens, flagons, and almsdishes of 1561-2, beautified in 1792. (fn. 108)
In 1882 a chapelry in the northern part of the parish was assigned to the church of ALL SAINTS, Oakleigh Park. (fn. 109) John Miles, who gave the site and paid for the church, (fn. 110) was first patron. His son Henry Stewart Miles, the first vicar, gave the patronage to the bishop of London in 1902 but reserved the next presentation, which he made in 1932 after an incumbency of 50 years. From the foundation there has normally been an assistant curate. (fn. 111) H. S. Miles was an ardent Tractarian, who made communion the centrepiece of worship. (fn. 112) In 1888, in addition to an early communion, there were services in the morning, afternoon, and evening. (fn. 113) The church was designed to seat 520 (fn. 114) and in 1903 its average Sunday congregation of 627 (fn. 115) was the largest in the parish.
All Saints' church stands at the corner of Myddelton Park and Oakleigh Road North. Designed in an Early English style by J. Clarke, (fn. 116) it was built of flint with stone dressings and comprised an apsidal chancel and south vestry, aisled and clerestoreyed nave entered from north-west tower and spire, and a south porch. The vestry was converted into a chapel in 1907, when a new vestry was added. (fn. 117) Inside the walls and roofs are decorated throughout.
After 1882 the old parish church no longer served the most populous areas. (fn. 118) In 1887 the church of ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, Colney Hatch, although only a chapel of ease, was viewed as the future centre of the parish. (fn. 119) By 1903, before its completion, congregations at the Sunday morning and evening services averaged 188 and 304, (fn. 120) exceeding those at the parish church. The chapel originated in 1883 as a temporary iron building on the north side of Friern Barnet Road, (fn. 121) known as the school-church of St. John. (fn. 122) In 1888-90 it was replaced by an iron nave on the opposite side of the road on land given by G. K. Smith, (fn. 123) who, with his son Charles William Smith, contributed substantially towards building costs. (fn. 124) Other plots were later added to it. The chancel was consecrated in 1892, (fn. 125) but building was delayed by lack of funds and the extension of the church schools, (fn. 126) the nave being built in two stages and consecrated in 1911. (fn. 127)
Constructed entirely of stone to an elaborate plan by J. L. Pearson, (fn. 128) the church is modelled on a Rhineland chapel. (fn. 129) It consists of an apsidal chancel with ambulatory and south chapel, two north vestries, an aisled and clerestoreyed nave, and a western narthex or baptistery of one bay. In an early Gothic style, it is vaulted throughout and seats 500 with ease. As a projected tower and spire (fn. 130) on the north were not built, the church is unimpressive from without. (fn. 131) The darkness inside at ground level was considered conducive to solemnity. (fn. 132)
The school-church of St. John was renamed the parish room after the erection of the iron nave (fn. 133) and was used for Sunday school and children's services until 1934. (fn. 134) It also served as a church hall and school for middle-class boys. (fn. 135) There were several other parish rooms and reading rooms (fn. 136) and most of the parochial schools were used for missions or Sunday schools. (fn. 137) It was not until 1921 that a permanent site was acquired at the foot of Friern Barnet Lane for a church hall, (fn. 138) which was erected in 1929. (fn. 139)