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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Finchley common may have been a resort of nonconformists after the Conventicle Act of 1664 but no evidence supports the tradition that John Bunyan and Richard Baxter held meetings there, although Baxter lived in neighbouring Totteridge c. 1670. (fn. 1) In 1778 there were said to be a Methodist meetinghouse at Whetstone and two or three dissenters in Finchley parish. In 1790 there were 'four or five Presbyterians' and the Methodists were not numerous, but by 1810 there were Methodist meeting-houses at both Whetstone and Finchley and dissent was increasing. (fn. 2) One of the Methodist chapels was described in 1813 as very well attended. (fn. 3)
Whetstone was considered a nucleus of dissent c. 1832. (fn. 4) By the mid 1830s there were well-filled Wesleyan and Independent chapels in East End, supported by the Mason family and, after the building of Holy Trinity church in 1846, engaged in rivalry with the Anglicans. By 1851 Finchley had two Independent chapels, at East End and North Finchley, and two Wesleyan, at East End and Whetstone. Of the 857 nonconformist worshippers on census Sunday in 1851, 667 were Independents and 190 Methodists; 552 attended services in East End, 242 in North Finchley, and 63 in Whetstone. (fn. 5)
Expansion was most rapid during the late 19th century. Primitive Methodists became active in Whetstone and on Finchley common in the 1850s and opened a chapel in East End in 1872. Wesleyans opened a chapel in North Finchley in 1879 and a mission in 1886, Baptists appeared first in North Finchley in 1868, building their own chapel in 1878 and establishing congregations at East Finchley in 1877, Church End in 1892, and Whetstone in 1898. Meanwhile Quakers had appeared in North Finchley by 1882, the Salvation Army at North Finchley in 1886 and East Finchley in 1896, Brethren at North Finchley in 1893, and Presbyterians at Church End in 1894 and East Finchley in 1900.
In 1903 there were sixteen recorded nonconformist congregations and a total of 4,479 worshippers. (fn. 6) The Congregationalists were still the most numerous, with four groups (fn. 7) and 1,558 attendances. The Methodists had 1,267 attendances, the Baptists 794, the Presbyterians 550, the Salvation Army 254, and Brethren 56. (fn. 8) There were as many as 2,246 nonconformists in East Finchley, 1,260 in North Finchley, 924 in Church End, and 49 in Whetstone.
London traders supported the first Wesleyan and Independent chapels in East End (fn. 9) and wealthy individuals helped the Congregationalists of North Finchley and Church End. Established chapels quickly became centres of social life, maintaining not only missionary and temperance groups but many sporting and cultural activities. (fn. 10)
Growth continued in the early 20th century. A new Congregational church was founded at Church End in 1905 and a Strict Baptist chapel moved in 1916 from London to North Finchley, where Unitarians had appeared in 1911. Unspecified missions opened at Whetstone in 1904 and East End c. 1920, and Kensit Memorial Bible college at Church End in 1908.
Newcomers in the 1930s included the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance in 1934 and Christian Spiritualists in 1938. After the outbreak of the Second World War many chapels closed, although a Quaker group was founded in 1945 and a Swedenborgian church in 1952, besides some short-lived undenominational groups in the 1950s and 1970s. Closures were carried out between 1939 and 1949 by the Primitive Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Unitarians, and possibly the Salvation Army in North Finchley. Whetstone Baptist chapel had closed by 1954 and other denominations, like the East End Congregationalists, built smaller chapels. Contraction stimulated the ecumenical movement: there was co-operation between the rector of Finchley and Church End Congregationalists in 1924 and between the Congregational and Presbyterian churches at Church End in 1935. Finchley Council of Churches was formed in 1943, the merger of Church End Congregational (fn. 11) and Presbyterian churches in 1969 preceded the formation of the United Reformed Church in 1972, and the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance began to share East Finchley United Reformed church in 1974.
The Methodist meetinghouse at Whetstone in 1778 may have been Whetstone Congregational chapel for which registers exist from 1788. (fn. 12) James Mathews, the pastor, was described as a Methodist by his son, the actor Charles Mathews (1803-78), and registered a wooden building in Totteridge Lane for Independents in 1800. (fn. 13) It was probably the building once used as a poorhouse, which passed to Joseph Baxendale. (fn. 14) In 1827 the congregation moved to Totteridge Independent chapel, founded by Catherine Puget next to her school in Totteridge Lane. (fn. 15) Congregationalists met in 1830 at the house of Elizabeth Pride, described as in Colney Hatch, Finchley, (fn. 16) and J. H. Puget ran a mission at Whetstone, possibly in Sherwood Street. (fn. 17) Whetstone Congregationalists also attended Oakleigh Park church, Friern Barnet, from 1888, (fn. 18) and after 1908 there was a short-lived hall behind Whetstone Parade in High Road. (fn. 19)
East Finchley Congregational chapel originated with meetings of Independents, (fn. 20) encouraged by the Hoxton Itinerant Society, in various buildings in the Hogmarket, East End, from 1804. (fn. 21) They built a chapel on the edge of Finchley common, facing the Great North Road, in 1830 and enlarged it in 1846. On census Sunday 1851, when it was attended by 257 in the morning and 168 in the evening, it had 340 seats. (fn. 22) The building, further enlarged in 1861 and 1874, was restored as a lecture hall and Sunday school after a fire in 1875. An imposing stone chapel, designed in the Gothic style by J. Tarring & Son and accommodating 600, was opened at the junction of High Road and East End Road in 1878. (fn. 23) A new hall and Sunday school were built behind in 1895, whereupon the old chapel was sold. (fn. 24) There were 228 worshippers in the morning and 307 in the evening on one Sunday in 1903. (fn. 25) The chapel was extended in 1926 but demolished in 1965, when part of the site was sold. A smaller chapel and hall, each seating 150, were opened in 1970. (fn. 26)
North Finchley Congregational chapel (fn. 27) grew out of meetings held by Thomas Campion Newman in the 1830s at his schoolroom in Lodge Lane. In 1842 Newman, who lived at Orchard House near Tally Ho Corner, licensed a disused stable there as an Independent chapel. (fn. 28) Usually known as the 'cot tagers' chapel', it seated 80 and was attended on census Sunday 1851 by 78 in the morning, 87 in the afternoon, and 77 in the evening. (fn. 29) In 1864 J. H. Puget offered a site in Nether Street, (fn. 30) where an imposing stone building was designed in the Gothic style by Messrs. Searle and opened in 1865, (fn. 31) the 'cottagers' chapel' being sold by Newman's widow to the Baptists in 1868. (fn. 32) Accommodation was increased in 1875-6 and enlargements in 1894 included a hall. The church maintained a mission room in High Road from 1869 until 1884, when it built a hall at the corner of Avenue Road. On one Sunday in 1903 the church was attended by 272 in the morning and 356 in the afternoon. (fn. 33) An annexe was built in 1924 for the Sunday school and the mission hall was sold to pay for it in 1934. (fn. 34)
At Church End there was a brief attempt in 1799 to found an Independent church. (fn. 35) In 1882, when Elm Park estate was being built, land in Dollis Road was offered to the London Congregational Chapel Building Society (fn. 36) and from 1884 to 1886 services were held by the London Congregational Union in assembly rooms adjoining the Railway hotel. In 1905 the Dollis Road site, which had never been suitable, was sold and R. S. Griffin of Cyprus Hill Lodge bought a site in Victoria Avenue, near Ballards Lane. Until the church hall was opened there in 1907, (fn. 37) members worshipped at Hamilton hall in Hendon Lane. A memorial hall was built in 1919 and there was a very active social life during the first decade, although in 1923 some members resigned over the socialist views of the minister. In 1924 it was decided not to build the intended large church but to adapt the church hall, in 1929 the memorial hall was sold, and in 1970 a new hall was opened next to the church. From 1935 until 1955 and again in 1965 services were held jointly with St. Margaret's Presbyterian church and in 1969 the two bodies united as Union church, Finchley Central, from 1972 called St. Margaret's United Reformed church. Thereafter most services were at Victoria Avenue, although the halls of both former churches were used for other activities.
East Finchley Methodist church originated in a Wesleyan congregation established by 1817 and probably by 1810. (fn. 38) John Freeman held prayer meetings in Lincoln Lodge, a cottage in High Road at the corner of Strawberry Vale, in 1820. A small chapel, attended mostly by labourers, opened in 1829 in King's Corner or Street, (fn. 39) providing 110 sittings and attended on census Sunday 1851 by 45 in the morning, 52 in the afternoon, and 30 in the evening. (fn. 40) It was replaced in 1868 by a building to hold 300, (fn. 41) which in turn was replaced in 1897 by a red-brick chapel built in the Gothic style on the corner of High Road and Park Road with 650 sittings. (fn. 42) It was attended on one Sunday in 1903 by 462 in the morning and 372 in the afternoon. (fn. 43) The building was again registered in 1915 (fn. 44) and remained in use in 1977.
Primitive Methodists registered a building at Finchley common fron 1854 until 1866. (fn. 45) A Primitive Methodist chapel opened in East End Road in 1872, (fn. 46) moved to no. 142 High Road in 1905, (fn. 47) and closed between 1939 and 1949. (fn. 48)
Finchley Methodist church in Ballards Lane opened as Wentworth Park Wesleyan chapel in 1879. (fn. 49) Built of yellow brick with stone dressings to a design by Charles Bell, (fn. 50) it was attended by 169 in the morning and 211 in the afternoon on one Sunday in 1903. (fn. 51) A red-brick hall in a Gothic style was built in 1904 next to the church, (fn. 52) which survived in 1976.
North Finchley Baptist church (fn. 56) was founded in 1868 under the aegis of a student of J. A. Spurgeon. After a few weeks at a private house in the Great North Road, members moved into the former 'cottagers' chapel' near Ballards Lane, where there was room for 150. (fn. 57) After initial difficulties, numbers grew and in 1878 the foundation stone of the existing church was laid at the junction of Ballards Lane and Dale Grove. The church, opened in 1879 with seating for 400, was built in stone to a Gothic design by Morton M. Glover and registered by Calvinistic Baptists. (fn. 58) In 1903 it had the largest Baptist congregation in Finchley, with 147 on one Sunday morning and 187 in the evening, (fn. 59) and in 1908 transepts were added to accommodate another 260. The growth of the Sunday school and of church societies led to the acquisition of Dale Grove hall from the Congregationalists in 1894. Grenfall hall was built at the side of the church in 1922 and Carey hall behind Dale Grove hall in 1933.
East Finchley Baptist church was founded in 1877 in Long Lane as a New Connexion church by J. Batey. (fn. 60) A church was built at the corner of High Road and Hertford Road in 1889 and registered in 1894. (fn. 61) A new church, of flint with stone dressings in an elaborate Gothic style, was built in Creighton Avenue in 1902 (fn. 62) and attended on one Sunday in 1903 by 143 in the morning and 187 in the evening. (fn. 63) It became a hall when the existing church, of red brick with stone dressings in a Gothic style, was built in 1950. (fn. 64)
Church End or West Finchley Baptist church derives from services held in Queen's Terrace in 1892. An iron tabernacle was opened in Station Road in 1895, (fn. 65) although not registered until 1910, (fn. 66) and may have been the iron room attended on one Sunday in 1903 by 7 in the morning and 69 in the evening. (fn. 67) The existing church, a plain brick building with a hall and seating for 200, was opened in 1936 on the corner of East End Road and Stanhope Avenue. (fn. 68)
Whetstone Baptist church opened in Lyric House, High Road, in 1898 (fn. 69) and was attended on one Sunday in 1903 by 18 in the morning and 31 in the afternoon. (fn. 70) It moved to Oakleigh Road in 1906 (fn. 71) and back to High Road in 1945, where it closed before 1954. (fn. 72)
Soho Memorial chapel at the junction of High Road and Fallowcourt Avenue, North Finchley, originated in a group which met in Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1790. It moved several times and was reorganized at the Soho chapel in Oxford Street in 1818, later moving to Shaftesbury Avenue. In 1916 the church moved to North Finchley, opening a school chapel in 1918 and an adjacent chapel in 1925. (fn. 73) Both buildings, in yellow brick with red-brick dressings in a simple Gothic style, were still in use in 1976. The chapel benefited from the charities of Florence Alice Simpson (d. 1947) and Hannah Albertina Simpson (d. 1949). (fn. 74)
Society of Friends.
A Quaker meeting-house in Ballards Lane from c. 1882 until c. 1909 (fn. 75) was not registered. A constituent of the Hampstead monthly meeting met in Finchley from 1945 until 1950. Finchley particular meeting opened in 1952, (fn. 76) registering a room at no. 131 Nether Street in 1955, (fn. 77) and built a striking new meeting-house in 1967 at no. 58 Alexandra Grove. (fn. 78)
The Salvation Army.
A barracks was opened at no. 4 Lodge Lane, North Finchley, in 1886 and was attended by 20 in the morning and 31 in the evening on one Sunday in 1903. It had probably closed long before 1954. (fn. 79)
A hall was opened in High Road, East Finchley, in 1896 and superseded in 1903 (fn. 80) by a barracks, later designated a hall, in Hertford Road near High Road. (fn. 81) The small yellow- and red-brick hall, attended by 65 in the morning and 138 in the evening on one Sunday in 1903, (fn. 82) was still used in 1976.
Presbyterians. (fn. 85)
In 1891 the Presbyterian Church of England acquired land at the corner of Ballards Lane and Redbourne Avenue, where a hall was opened in 1893 and registered in 1894. (fn. 86) The church, of red brick with stone dressings in the Gothic style, was registered in 1895 (fn. 87) and attended by 224 in both the morning and the evening on one Sunday in 1903. (fn. 88) Called St. Margaret's from 1932, the church joined Church End Congregational church in 1969 to form Union church, Finchley Central; after the formation of the United Reformed church in 1972, it was known as St. Margaret's United Reformed church. The old Presbyterian church hall was still used by the united congregation in 1976 but was demolished in 1977.
A Presbyterian mission started in Hamilton Road in 1898, moved to an iron hall in Brackenbury Road, East Finchley, in 1899, (fn. 89) and closed between 1939 and 1949. (fn. 90) The former Wesleyan chapel in King Street was used as a Presbyterian hall from c. 1930 until c. 1939. (fn. 91)
Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance.
Elim hall in Christchurch Avenue, perhaps formerly used by the Christian Spiritualists, was registered by Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance from 1938 until 1954. (fn. 94) The alliance then used the former Wesleyan chapel in King Street (fn. 95) until 1974, when it began sharing East Finchley United Reformed church in East End Road. (fn. 96)
Other Denominations and unspecified missions.
The North Finchley Brotherhood met in Ballards Lane in the 1950s (fn. 101) and the Swedenborgian North Finchley New Christian church, founded at no. 71 Gainsborough Road in 1952, (fn. 102) survived in 1976. It was a beneficiary of several small charities regulated by a Scheme of 1957. (fn. 103)
The London City Mission ran an interdenominational mission at no. 8 St. John's Parade, Whetstone, from 1904 until 1925. (fn. 104)
Kensit Memorial college, originally for 'Evangelical Protestants' and later interdenominational, opened in Hendon Lane in 1908. Services took place in the college's conservatory until 1910, when an iron church was opened. New church and college buildings were opened in 1968. (fn. 105)
There was a gospel hall in East End Road, possibly the former Primitive Methodist chapel, from c. 1920 to c. 1939. (fn. 106) A group of 'Christians' met at no. 144 Ballards Lane in 1940, moving to no. 134 in 1941 and to no. 4 Granville Road in 1949. (fn. 107) It may have been the same group which registered no. 23a the Grove in 1954. (fn. 108) An undesignated congregation registered no. 197 East End Road in 1970 (fn. 109) and a similar group, which first used no. 214 East End Road in 1971, still existed in 1976. (fn. 110)