South Mimms: Public services

Pages 296-298

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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Until the introduction of a piped supply in the late 19th century water was derived almost wholly from shallow wells. (fn. 1) There was a parish pump at the upper end of the village in 1828 but none at the lower end in 1859, when the vestry accepted the offer of a leading resident to convey water from a spring or pond, apparently free of charge. (fn. 2) Contamination of the drinking water was blamed for outbreaks of cholera in 1854 and diphtheria in 1884-5 and, as the rural sanitary authority had done nothing about the water supply 'beyond the preparation of a report', special vestry meetings were held in 1885. It was finally agreed that the Barnet Water Co., which served Barnet Side, should extend its mains to South Mimms. The laying-on of water in 1888 was unpopular with some parishioners, however, for it had resulted in one local farmer raising the rents of his cottages. (fn. 3) The company derived its water from wells sunk in the chalk at Barnet and Potters Bar (fn. 4) until 1904, when other wells were sunk outside the parish. Pumping from the Potters Bar well had ceased by c. 1948. The Barnet Water Co. was absorbed into the Lee Valley Water Co. in 1960. (fn. 5)

The absence of a proper sewerage system contributed to the frequent attacks of diphtheria in the 19th century. In 1877 the local medical officer of health reported that sewage from Potters Bar overflowed from cesspools into ditches. Following a second report in 1884 a special committee was appointed, only to clash with property owners who feared unnecessary expense. The South Mimms drainage district was created in 1887 but did not include Potters Bar, which escaped contributing to the special rate. (fn. 6) In 1891 Barnet rural sanitary authority built a sewage disposal works and constructed sewers on c. 11 a. adjoining St. Albans Road which it had purchased from the Brewers' Company of London. A sewage farm was established on c. 22 a. at the northern end of Cranborne Road in 1899 and most of the houses near by had been connected by 1907. Sewers were laid in Mutton Lane in 1925 and Grimsdyke was joined up with Potters Bar sewage farm in 1929-30, thereby ending differential rates in the parish for the cost of sewerage. With the increase in population in the 1930s the two disposal works became inadequate, whereupon Potters Bar joined the Colne Valley sewerage board (renamed the West Hertfordshire main drainage authority in 1959), to whose new central sewage disposal works the Potters Bar sewers were connected in 1957. The authority, however, took only a limited amount of soil sewage, leaving Potters Bar U.D.C. to dispose of any excess as well as surface water. (fn. 7)

The vestry resolved in 1850 to levy a 6d. rate in order to bring gas lighting to Barnet Side. (fn. 8) The Potters Bar Gas and Coke Co. was incorporated in 1869 and the Barnet Consumers' Gas Co. in 1871; the combined undertaking was amalgamated with the East Barnet Gas and Coke Co. in 1872 to form the Barnet District Gas and Water Co. In 1896 the council refused to provide street lighting in South Mimms village. In 1925 the North Metropolitan Electric Power Supply Co. opened a transformer station in Hatfield Road, Potters Bar. Some private houses and the church of St. Giles were supplied with electricity, several gas street-lamps were adapted for electricity in Potters Bar, and two electric lamps were placed in South Mimms village. Gas for domestic purposes was supplied from 1930. (fn. 9)

The parish of South Mimms was added to the Metropolitan Police District in 1840. (fn. 10) South Mimms police station was built in Blackhorse Lane in 1847 and married quarters were added in 1908. Potters Bar police station in the Causeway dates from 1891 and has replaced the Potters Bar or Southgate station which existed in 1883. (fn. 11)

Chipping Barnet had a fire engine which in 1859 could be used by South Mimms. From 1925 South Mimms, Barnet, and Enfield jointly paid for the engine. In 1939 Potters Bar built its own fire and ambulance station on land in Mutton Lane, given by Mr. H. W. Tilbury. Control of the station passed to Middlesex in 1948, Potters Bar being grouped in a division with Southgate and Wood Green. By 1969 it had been joined with Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City in the eastern division of Hertfordshire. (fn. 12)

A cottage hospital with a dispensary, supported by voluntary subscriptions, was established in Richmond Road, Potters Bar, in 1884. (fn. 13) In 1939 it moved to new buildings alongside Mutton Lane, erected and equipped by means of a loan from the Charity Commissioners. Known as the Potters Bar and District hospital, it is a general practitioners' hospital with 56 beds, controlled by the Barnet group hospital management committee. (fn. 14)

The private smallpox hospital (fn. 15) that opened at Clare Hall in 1896 was first established in 1746 at Clerkenwell, transferring to King's Cross in 1793 and to Highgate Hill in 1850, before moving to South Mimms. The hospital, a brick building for 33 patients, was erected north of the mansion, on the corner of Blanche and Cross Oaks lanes. The villagers protested at its siting and thought that contagion was carried from the hospital to the village. (fn. 16) With the increased incidence of smallpox in Middlesex c. 1901, temporary accommodation of wood and iron, consisting of 16 large and 16 small wards, was added. In 1905 management passed to the Middlesex Districts joint smallpox hospital board but by 1911, as smallpox had declined, the hospital began to receive tuberculous patients. By 1929, when it passed into the control of the county council, there were c. 184 beds, to which an X-ray department and small operating theatre were added in 1937. During the Second World War Clare Hall became an emergency hospital, with huts of brick and asbestos to provide extra accommodation, but by 1942 all 540 beds had to be reserved for tuberculous patients. In 1948 it was transferred to the North West Metropolitan regional hospital board and became a thoracic hospital. In 1972 it was scheduled to close. (fn. 17)

In 1908 there was a convalescent home in connexion with the British Lying-in hospital for poor married women, but it had only one resident in 1911 and was no longer recorded by 1914. (fn. 18) Another convalescent home at no. 7 Alston Road, probably run by nonconformists, (fn. 19) had 6 residents in 1891. In 1894-5 it was known as the West Barnet convalescent home, but it was not mentioned after that date. (fn. 20) The Children's Home hospital at Hadley Highstone was built in 1911 and a year later had beds for 20 children. By 1933 it appears to have closed. (fn. 21) The building has since been used as a private old peoples' home.

In 1912 a voluntary library was established at St. John's, Potters Bar. Cranborne library opened in 1939 and another branch of the Hertfordshire county library was established at the Elms, High Street, in 1965. (fn. 22)

There is a cemetery in Mutton Lane, at the entrance to which stands a wooden porch dated 1909. In 1972 (fn. 23) almost four-fifths of the area of the parish constituted open space. Between 1934 and 1937 Potters Bar U.D.C. acquired 114 a.; Parkfield (24 a.) was purchased in 1934 with the help of Middlesex C.C. and a school was built on part of it. In 1935 40 a. were acquired at Furzefield, stretching from Mutton Lane to Cranborne Road sewage farm; 18 a. have been developed as a sports centre, which includes a covered swimming pool. In the following year a further 25 a. north of the sewage farm were acquired. In 1937 25 a. at Oakmere Park were bought but later that year and in 1949 part of the land was sold for housing and in 1957 more was sold for a car park. Potters Bar U.D.C. also contributed to the purchase of Dyrham Park and of Old Fold Manor golf course and land near Southgate Road and the Ridgeway.


  • 1. Story of Potters Bar, 110; O.S. Map 6", Mdx. I. SE. (1864 edn.).
  • 2. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/C1/2, /4.
  • 3. Brittain, South Mymms, 106-7, 114, 135.
  • 4. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908).
  • 5. Story of Potters Bar, 119.
  • 6. Ibid. 110; Brittain, South Mymms, 114-15.
  • 7. Story of Potters Bar, 111.
  • 8. M.R.O., D.R.O. 5/C1/4.
  • 9. Story of Potters Bar, 119; Brittain, South Mymms, 146.
  • 10. Lond. Gaz. 13 Oct. 1840, 2250.
  • 11. Story of Potters Bar, 109.
  • 12. Ibid. 117.
  • 13. Ibid. 116.
  • 14. Char. Com. file; ex inf. the hosp. sec.
  • 15. Except where otherwise stated, the para. is based on F. A. M. Simmonds, 'Hist. of Clare Hall Hosp.' [pamphlet (1962) penes Barnet Mus.].
  • 16. Clare Hall, sales parts. 1851 penes Barnet Mus.
  • 17. Ex inf. the hosp. sec.
  • 18. Kelly's Dirs. Mdx. (1908, 1910, 1912, 1914); Census, 1911.
  • 19. The house was registered for undenominational worship in 1893: see p. 303.
  • 20. Kelly's Dirs. Barnet (1892-3, 1894-5); Census, 1891.
  • 21. Kelly's Dirs. Mdx. (1912, 1933); Census, 1911.
  • 22. Story of Potters Bar, 130.
  • 23. The foll. para. is based on Story of Potters Bar, 48, 115; Potters Bar, Official Guide [1972].