Finchley: Social and cultural activities

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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A P Baggs, Diane K Bolton, M A Hicks, R B Pugh, 'Finchley: Social and cultural activities', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 6, Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey With Highgate, ed. T F T Baker, C R Elrington( London, 1980), British History Online [accessed 23 July 2024].

A P Baggs, Diane K Bolton, M A Hicks, R B Pugh, 'Finchley: Social and cultural activities', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 6, Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey With Highgate. Edited by T F T Baker, C R Elrington( London, 1980), British History Online, accessed July 23, 2024,

A P Baggs, Diane K Bolton, M A Hicks, R B Pugh. "Finchley: Social and cultural activities". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 6, Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey With Highgate. Ed. T F T Baker, C R Elrington(London, 1980), , British History Online. Web. 23 July 2024.


Hunting, fishing, and hawking were restricted to the bishop as lord of the manor and leased out from 1662. (fn. 2) Partridges were said to have been taken in the lord's warren in 1393 and a man was indicted for taking them in 1618. (fn. 3) In 1577 bowls had been played contrary to the statutes and in 1615 a Whetstone man was accused of 'cozenage at decoy at cards'. (fn. 4)

Sport often centred on the inns. There was a cock yard at the Five Bells in 1776, prize fights were held there in the 1840s, (fn. 5) and a man was killed at a boxing match at the Red Lion in 1825. (fn. 6) There was a skittle ground in the 1850s at the Queen's Head in Church End (fn. 7) and a bowling green c. 1860 at the Bald-faced Stag, which was advertised as possessing a restaurant suitable for visitors to the neighbouring cemeteries. (fn. 8) Finchley had seven friendly societies, which usually met at inns, between 1814 and 1868. (fn. 9)

In the 1840s East End was the scene of much drunkenness and of foot-races and steeplechases which alarmed the middle-class inhabitants. (fn. 10) Races were also held from 1869 until 1872, when they were abandoned as a public nuisance. (fn. 11)

Entertainment at middle-class homes during the 19th century included skating and firework parties, dances, and concerts. (fn. 12) The tenor John Braham (fn. 13) sang at a concert at a villa in Finchley in 1822 (fn. 14) and large houses were later used for garden parties, like those held at Hamilton House c. 1900, or for fêtes such as that opened by Queen Amélie of Portugal at Manor House in 1921. (fn. 15)

Finchley literary society of 1879 may have been the same as North Finchley literary society, which closed in 1892. (fn. 16) Finchley had a brass band by 1891, a choral society from 1903, and an orchestral society by 1907. (fn. 17) Finchley children's music group, founded c. 1959, by 1965 had attained a national reputation and commissioned an opera by Malcolm Williamson and Geoffrey Dunn. (fn. 18) Finchley society of arts was founded in 1960 and became Finchley arts council in 1963. (fn. 19) Finchley record society, founded by the local historian C. O. Banks, flourished from 1925 to 1939. (fn. 20) The Finchley society, founded in 1971, produces a monthly newsletter.

Finchley cricket club existed in 1832 and Finchley Amateurs and Whetstone or Woodside club, which had been founded by Joseph Baxendale in the grounds of his house, by 1869. The three clubs were merged in 1872 and had absorbed others, such as Torrington Park (1890), by 1894. (fn. 21) Said to be one of the best in north London by 1905, (fn. 22) Finchley cricket club played at Ballards Lane and Long Lane until it acquired its pitch at East End Road by 1908. (fn. 23) Other cricket clubs included East Finchley (1889), Thursday Club (1896), and West Finchley (1935), which had all disappeared by 1955. (fn. 24) Middlesex county cricket club acquired 20 a. in Finchley for playing fields in 1938 but was prevented from using them by the war. (fn. 25) In 1956 Middlesex county cricket school moved from the Alexandra Palace to a new building on the site of Manor Lodge, where it remained in 1977. (fn. 26)

Finchley football club was founded in 1874 and played on rented pitches in Long Lane, Whetstone, and Fallow Corner before acquiring part of the Glebeland sports field in 1932. (fn. 27) Finchley and District football league existed by 1935 and two other football clubs by 1955. (fn. 28) Nicholas Lane Jackson, known as 'Pa', who had founded the football club and revived the cricket club, started Finchley rugby club in 1875. It was re-formed in 1895 and 1925 and acquired a pitch at Glebeland in 1932, where a new club-house was opened in 1968. (fn. 29)

North Finchley tennis club in Nether Street existed by 1887 and there were still courts near by in 1936, although they were built over soon afterwards. (fn. 30) Finchley tennis club started c. 1928 and still existed in 1977. Other sports clubs included Finchley boxing club, founded by 'Pa' Jackson in 1879, (fn. 31) Finchley Harriers, also founded in 1879, which provided members of the Olympic team in 1908, (fn. 32) Shaftesbury Harriers, founded in 1890, and Victoria bowling club, which existed by 1935. (fn. 33)

The Finchley sports federation between 1925, when fifteen clubs were affiliated to it, and 1953 pressed the council to provide more grounds and, specifically, a running track. (fn. 34) The federation may have been alarmed because the many athletics grounds which were leased from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners near the Bishop's Avenue were taken for building. (fn. 35) By the mid 1930s, however, there were, in addition to the sports complex at Glebeland, grounds bordering Dollis brook and in East End Road, playing fields in Whetstone, three bowling greens, and five tennis courts. (fn. 36) A 'magnificent' skating rink was opened at High Road, North Finchley, in 1910 but it had been replaced by a motor works by 1935. (fn. 37)

Finchley golf club, one of the earliest in Middlesex, was founded in 1892 and opened a small course with a club-house across the Hendon boundary in 1903. (fn. 38) It was refounded in 1930 by the council, with the original course and adjoining land, which after 1933 lay within Finchley. (fn. 39) Hampstead golf club, which was founded in 1893, leased and in 1930 bought land within Finchley from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (fn. 40)

The churches supported many clubs. In the late 19th and 20th centuries Christ Church had a library and cricket club (fn. 41) and St. Mary's a temperance band of hope. (fn. 42) North Finchley Baptist church ran lawn tennis and bowling clubs (fn. 43) and Church End Congregational church ran tennis courts, a library, a literary and social union, and a music circle founded in 1917. (fn. 44) An acting group was founded at Ballards Lane Methodist church in 1946. (fn. 45)

Woodside hall and assembly rooms were built in 1885 by Henry Holden, the proprietor of Woodside Park estate. Of red brick with a slate roof in the 'Elizabethan' style and enlarged in 1898, the building housed the Woodside club from 1886 to 1951. Facilities included tennis and billiards, and members numbered 114 by 1906. The hall was licensed for plays and music, mostly performed by Woodside Park musical society, (fn. 46) and became a synagogue in 1950. (fn. 47)

A working men's institute, called Whetstone club in 1887, existed in Totteridge Lane by 1864, (fn. 48) had moved to Friern Barnet Lane by 1900, and survived in 1935. (fn. 49) There was an institute at East End by 1871, perhaps the working men's institute in Bull Lane in 1890. (fn. 50) In Church End, Hamilton hall opened in 1899 and a working men's club was founded by the vicar by 1900. (fn. 51) Finchley allotment holders' exhibition society was founded in 1892 to encourage thrift among the working class, (fn. 52) East Finchley constitutional club had its own premises in Market Place by 1908, (fn. 53) and Finchley boys' club met at St. Mary's school during the 1930s. (fn. 54)

There were assembly rooms in Church End in the 1880s. (fn. 55) Halls licensed for music and dancing included King Edward's and the Grand hall in North Finchley (fn. 56) in 1913, when the former Methodist chapel in Stanhope Road was converted from a theatre into a cinema. (fn. 57) Finchley Theatre Co. was wound up in 1932. (fn. 58) There were five cinemas by 1913: the Empire and the Picturedrome in Great North Road, East Finchley, the Rink and the Stanhope in North Finchley, and the Alcazar, later renamed the Bohemia. (fn. 59) The Stanhope, an iron hall, was put up for sale in 1916 as a lecture hall or factory. (fn. 60) The Bohemia, in Ballards Lane, became a factory and a second Bohemia later made way for the municipal Gateway House. (fn. 61) In 1919 there were protests against a proposed cinema in Church End, probably the one in Regent's Park Road, north of Arcadia Avenue. (fn. 62) The Grand Hall cinema, which was presumably the successor of the Rink, was replaced in 1939 by the Odeon, later the Gaumont, at the junction of Great North Road with Kingsway. (fn. 63) It survived in 1977, (fn. 64) when the only other cinema was the Phoenix, formerly the Rex, which had opened in Great North Road, East End, by 1935. (fn. 65)

The Barnet Press and General Advertiser was founded in 1859 as a weekly newspaper for a wide area, including Finchley and Whetstone, (fn. 66) and survived in 1978 as the Finchley Press, Friern Barnet Chronicle and Muswell Hill Press. (fn. 67) The Finchley Press, a member of the Barnet Press group, was founded in 1893, (fn. 68) and still published weekly in 1978. (fn. 69)


  • 1. For the part played by the common in social life, see p. 49.
  • 2. Guildhall MS. 12394.
  • 3. S.C. 2/188/66 m. 6d.; Mdx. Sess. Rec. iv. 317.
  • 4. Guildhall MS. 10312/92, m. 6; Mdx. Sess. Rec. ii. 295.
  • 5. Plan of char. estates in Finchley ch.; B.L.H.L., Acc. 6787/7.
  • 6. The Times, 13 July 1825.
  • 7. B.H.L.H., Acc. 6109/9-14.
  • 8. Potter Colln. 28/6.
  • 9. F.S. 2/7/1477; F.S. 2/7/1484; F.S. 2/7/3103; F.S. 2/7/3181; F.S. 2/7/4366; F.S. 2/7/4537; F.S. 2/7/4675.
  • 10. B.L.H.L., Acc. 6787/7.
  • 11. Walford, Gtr. Lond. i. 339.
  • 12. B.L.H.L., Acc. 6787/4.
  • 13. D.N.B.
  • 14. B.L.H.L. Print. Colln. 6625.
  • 15. Mdx. Pictorial, no. 3, May-June 1960, pp. 4-5; The Times, 28 June 1921.
  • 16. B.L.H.L., Banks Colln., Finchley common file; Barnet Press, 7 Oct. 1933.
  • 17. Barnet Press, 7 Oct. 1933; Finchley Festival of Arts Programme (1963) in B.L.H.L.; Finchley Press, 5 Sept. 1947.
  • 18. The Times, 6 Dec. 1965.
  • 19. Finchley Festival of Arts Programme (1963) in B.L.H.L.
  • 20. Barnet Press, 9 Mar. 1947. The Banks Colln. is in B.L.H.L.
  • 21. Whiddon, One Hundred Yrs. of Playing the Game, 230.
  • 22. Potter Colln. 28/66.
  • 23. Whiddon, Playing the Game, 230; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908).
  • 24. B.L.H.L., Prints Colln. 7170; B.L.H.L., Acc. 8689; Finchley Boro. Official Handbk. (1955).
  • 25. B.L.H.L., Acc. 8689.
  • 26. Ex inf. Mdx. Cnty. Cricket Sch.; Finchley Press, 29 Sept. 1956.
  • 27. Whiddon, Playing the Game, 9, 40, 54, 93.
  • 28. B.L.H.L., Acc. 8689; Finchley Boro. Official Handbk. (1955).
  • 29. Whiddon, Playing the Game, 9-10, 37, 119.
  • 30. B.L.H.L., Poor-rate bks. (1887, 1900); O.S. Map 1/2, 500, Mdx. XI. 4 (1936 edn.).
  • 31. Whiddon, Playing the Game, 10, 104.
  • 32. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 297, 302.
  • 33. B.L.H.L., Acc. 8689.
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. Guildhall MS. 12410; O.S. Map 6", Mdx. XI. SE. (1920 edn.); Church Com. file 55543.
  • 36. O.S. Maps 1/2,500, Mdx. VI. 12, 16; XI. 3, 4, 8 (1935, 1936 edns.).
  • 37. M.R.O., Acc. 410/85a; O.S. Maps 1/2,500, Mdx. VI. 16 (1913, 1935 edns.).
  • 38. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 278, 280.
  • 39. Ex inf. the sec.; V.C.H. Mdx. v. 29.
  • 40. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 278; see p. 63.
  • 41. Christ Ch. Centenary Celebrations, 1867-1967 (pamphlet), p. 14; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908).
  • 42. Finchley Press, 31 Oct. 1975.
  • 43. N. Finchley Baptist Ch. 1868-1968 (pamphlet).
  • 44. B.L.H.L., Acc. 9987/36.
  • 45. Finchley Festival of Arts Programme (1963) in B.L.H.L.
  • 46. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890, 1908); B.L.H.L., Acc. 9175; B.L.H.L., S/C (Woodside hall, 1905).
  • 47. See p. 91. A Woodside Park club existed in 1977 but lay outside Finchley and had no connexion with the earlier club: ex inf. the sec.
  • 48. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. VI. 12 (1864 edn.); B.L.H.L., Poor-rate bk. (1887).
  • 49. B.L.H.L., Poor-rate bk. (1900); O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. VI. 12 (1935 edn.).
  • 50. B.L.H.L., P.A.F. 3/3; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 51. Datestone on bldg.; B.L.H.L., Poor-rate bk. (1900); B.L.H.L., Banks Colln. xiv; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. XI. 3 (1936 edn.).
  • 52. Finchley Press, 5 Sept. 1947.
  • 53. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908).
  • 54. Char. Com. files.
  • 55. B.L.H.L., Acc. 9987/36; Crouch End & Hornsey Weekly News, 12 May 1888.
  • 56. M.R.O., M.C.C., M. & D. 6/38; M. & D. 8/95.
  • 57. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. VI. 16 (1913 edn.). See p. 89.
  • 58. The Times, 8 Nov. 1932.
  • 59. M.R.O., M.C.C., M. & D. 8/96-7, 100-1, 103; ex inf. Mr. G. H. Musgrove. The picture theatre shown in 1913 and 1935 as in Great North Rd., south of its junction with Castle Rd., was probably the Rink: O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. VI. 16 (1913, 1935 edns.).
  • 60. B.L.H.L., S/C (Stanhope Rd.).
  • 61. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. XI. 4 (1914 edn.); M.R.O., M.C.C., M. & D. 10/717-21; The Times, 29 Dec. 1925; B.L.H.L., Banks Colln. xiii. 5963; ex inf. Mr. G. H. Musgrove.
  • 62. The Times, 23 Sept. 1919; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. XI. 4 (1936 edn.).
  • 63. Finchley Press, 18 Feb. 1939.
  • 64. 'Public Services in Finchley' (leaflet, 1961) in B.L.H.L.
  • 65. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. XI. 8 (1935 edn.).
  • 66. B.L.H.L., Banks Colln. xiii. 5983.
  • 67. Willing's Press Guide (1978).
  • 68. Ex inf. Finchley Press (1977). For Finchley Mail, see V.C.H. Mdx. v. 28.
  • 69. Willing's Press Guide (1978).