Finchley: Roman catholicism

Pages 86-87

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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Mary Talbot, countess of Shrewsbury, and Catherine Ewers, both widows of Finchley, were indicted as recusants in 1625. (fn. 1) In 1692 Elizabeth, widow of James Allen, denied that she had ever been a recusant (fn. 2) and in 1706 the curate reported that he could find no papists in the parish. (fn. 3)

In 1893 priests from St. Andrew's institute, High Barnet, opened a mission in St. Gabriel's, a greenhouse belonging to a nursery on the Great North Road near Tally Ho Corner. In 1896 the mission moved to a laundry at Albert Villa, Fallow Corner, and in 1900 to a loft over a stable at no. 4 Percy Road, (fn. 4) which on one Sunday in 1903 was attended by 127 in the morning and 46 in the evening. (fn. 5) There was a permanent priest from 1903, when a room at the presbytery in Nether Street was registered. (fn. 6) A mission hall dedicated to St. Alban was opened in Nether Street in the same year and used for worship until St. Alban's church was opened in 1909. (fn. 7) Built of brick with stone dressings, the church is a simple basilica, with a tower at the west end.

At East End the former Congregational chapel in High Road was opened in 1898 as St. Mary's Roman Catholic church. (fn. 8) It had congregations of 188 and 56 at the morning and evening services on one Sunday in 1903. (fn. 9) The church was destroyed in 1940 and services were held from 1941 at no. 279 High Road, (fn. 10) where a church seating 400 was built in 1953. One of the earliest European churches to contain pre-cast concrete, it is a simple brick building with stone dressings, next to a hall built in 1959. (fn. 11)

At Church End the chapel of Manor House convent was used for public worship from 1919 until 1925, when the ground floor of Derwent House in Gravel Hill was converted into a chapel dedicated to St. Philip the Apostle. (fn. 12) St. Philip's hall, designed by T. H. B. Scott and built on the site by 1930, had by 1933 been transformed into the sacristies of a new church. (fn. 13) The church, of yellow brick in a simple basilican style, was enlarged in 1960. A parish centre was opened in 1968. (fn. 14)

Finchley, with its large houses and proximity to Hendon, where there were several Roman Catholic institutions, (fn. 15) attracted many religious orders from London or its inner suburbs. In 1864 the Sisters of the Good Shepherd bought East End House on the north side of East End Road, where until 1948 they maintained a refuge for distressed Roman Catholic women, including former prisoners. In 1900 they aided 180 'poor penitents' and 130 younger girls. New buildings on the site included a church in 1875 and a wing for the novitiate in 1886, when East End House became the provincial house for the order. After a fire in 1972 land was sold for housing and most of the buildings were demolished, although the original house remained. (fn. 16)

Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus established themselves in 1908 at the Grange in Nether Street, North Finchley, which they renamed St. Michael's convent and where they opened a school. (fn. 17) The French Society of Marie Auxiliatrice in 1919 turned the former billiards room at Bibbesworth manor-house into a chapel to serve Church End until the foundation of St. Philip's church and also opened a school. (fn. 18) Poor Sisters of Nazareth moved in 1921 from Chiswick to a large house on the south side of East End Road, where they cared for children and the aged. Extensions were built in 1928 and 1936, a new nursery was added in 1963, and the last children left Nazareth House in 1974. Mass, which is often attended by outsiders, has been celebrated in the convent chapel since 1921. (fn. 19) Other religious orders in 1976 included the Xaverian Missionary Fathers in Nether Street and the Sisters of Our Lady of the Cenacle, who had moved to Cyprus Road in 1974 from Whetstone, where they had opened a convent or retreat house in 1972. (fn. 20)


  • 1. Mdx. Cnty. Rec. iii. 5.
  • 2. C 8/436/1.
  • 3. Guildhall MS. 9800/2.
  • 4. Finchley Cath. Rec. July 1928, p. 13; Apr. 1932, p. 14; Cath. Dir. (1900).
  • 5. Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 413.
  • 6. Finchley Cath. Rec. July 1928, p. 13; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 39906.
  • 7. G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 40108, 44241; The Times, 12 Oct. 1908, 17 May 1909.
  • 8. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 36804. For the chapel's previous history, see p. 88.
  • 9. Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 413.
  • 10. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 59851.
  • 11. Ex inf. the par. priest; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 63922.
  • 12. Cath. Dir. (1920); Finchley Cath. Rec. May 1926, p. 8; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 49807.
  • 13. Finchley Cath. Rec. Aug. 1930; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 54622.
  • 14. 'Ex inf. the par. priest.
  • 15. V.C.H. Mdx. v. 38.
  • 16. Ex inf. the Good Shepherd Provincialate, Cath. Dir. (1900). And see p. 97.
  • 17. Finchley Cath. Rec. May 1926, p. 10; ex inf. the headmistress, St. Mic.'s grammar sch. See below, p. 97.
  • 18. Ex inf. former headmistress, Manor Ho. sch., for which see below, p. 97.
  • 19. Ex inf. the mother superior.
  • 20. Cath. Dir. (1976); ex inf. the provincial superior.