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History of North Finchley

  • council: Barnet
  • phone code: 020
  • postcode area: N12
  • county: Greater London

North Finchley is one of the largest town centres in the borough. It has developed around Tally Ho corner, and the Tally Ho public house, a landmark building at the junction of the two main roads. North Finchley has a large number of multiples as well as a number of independent fashion and electrical goods retailers.

North Finchley was known from at least the late 15th century until the 1880s as "North End", or simply as Finchley Common (enclosed 1816). In the mid 18th century there were no houses between Moss Hall and Cold Harbour (north of the Swan and Pyramids) and reports in "The Times" of highway robbery could hardly have encouraged settlement. The army used the common as an occasional camp. In 1780 The Royal Irish, the South Hants, and the Queen's Regiment, were encamped on the land between what is now Lodge Lane and Swan Lane, in readiness against the mob during the Gordon Riots.

In 1825 the junction of the new Regents Park - Finchley turnpike (Ballards Lane) and the older Great North Road became known as Tally Ho Corner after, it is said, a stage coach company who had stables close by. In the 1830s there were few houses but there was a new pub, the Torrington, and a new chapel, "Cottagers Chapel", converted from the stables of Orchard Cottage in 1837. These two institutions were the foundation of the North End as a settlement. In 1839 North Finchley had at least five retailing outlets (including a female blacksmith, Elizabeth Humphreys), centred around Lodge Lane rather than on the High Road.

By 1851 there was a regular 'bus service running from the Torrington to Charing Cross, and railway connections had been established with London, first at New Southgate in 1851, and then at Woodside Park in 1872. From 1851 to 1905 the area went through a second stage of development. By the 1890s, shops lined parts of the High Road from Tally Ho Corner to Avenue Road, with residential streets such as Friern Park leading off. The Anglican church (Christ Church) was built by J Norton in 1870. By the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 there were 7,392 people living in what was then becoming called North Finchley.

By the end of the 1900s North Finchley had motor buses, running from the Swan and Pyramid and a new tram service. Both provided cheap daily transport for the humbler classes into London, but also attracted people to North Finchley to do their shopping. In 1931 the population was around 19,639 and rising, and much of the retail district that we know today, with some fine Art Deco buildings, such as Priors department store on the High Road, was built. Landmarks include the 1927 Tally Ho pub built to replace the 1860s Park Hotel. There were a number of shops and businesses, some open today, including Woolworths and C F Day, but many others sadly gone. The old chapel was demolished by 1935 when the new Kingsway was put through, and replaced by the Gaumont cinema. The cinema closed in the 1970s and after it was demolished in the 1980s it became the popular Finchley market, now relocated to Lodge Lane. Currently the "artsdepot" Arts Centre is under construction on the site.

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