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History of East Finchley

  • council: Barnet
  • phone code: 020
  • postcode area: N2
  • county: Greater London

East Finchley lies to the east of the borough. It has a strong village atmosphere with a mixture of specialist shops, cafes as well as the Phoenix cinema and the Finchley Youth Theatre.

Eighteenth century East Finchley's famed hog market, remembered in the district called the Market Place, is the traditional village centre. Pigs, some driven from Wales, were fattened up on the grain left over from London's infamous gin trade. Even up until 1955 twenty-five pigs were kept by one die-hard in Prospect Place. Kelly's Directory in 1845 remarked that the market was in decline, frequented by West End butchers, with most transactions done outside the George Inn (recently demolished). In the mid 19th century the population of the area began to grow, and the Market Place by the 1860s, as well as Church Lane, could boast a number of different retail businesses. There were hairdressers, dressmakers, drapers, tailors and boot makers, as well as grocers, butchers, fishmongers and bakers. There was even a florist. Opposite the post office a new pub known from the 1870s as the Duke of Cambridge was opened by Peter Coulson. Bombing during the war, combined with redevelopment of the Market Place area, finally finished the market place as the centre of East Finchley, with the last shops (Coopers Off-licence & E B Stores) closed by 1973.

In 1867 the Great Northern Railway Company opened East End Finchley Station, enabling limited commuting to London via Finsbury Park, but some distance from the village. From that time on the shopping district shifted away from the market district to the High Road. Quite the most impressive building in the High Road was the Congregational church built in the 1870s, 130 feet from the ground to the tip of the spire; it was demolished in 1965 and replaced by Budgens Supermarket. With the arrival of the trams in 1905 the High Road really took off. Some of the businesses in East Finchley have been around since the end of the 19th century. Benjamin Joyce, timber merchant, appears at an address in 1886, near the railway station; a pharmacy, which opened in 1884, has been trading under the name of Andrews since 1904. By World War One, two doors down from what is now a Youth Hall, was the Home and Colonial Stores. Pulham's and Son, a well-established butchers, had two shops in East Finchley, one in the High Road and the other in Church Lane. At the junction of Hertford Road and the High Road was the Black Bess temperance tavern, next to which was the Finchley Athenaeum, East Finchley's first cinema. The East Finchley Picturedrome, opened 1912, later became the Rex in the 1930s, and more recently the Phoenix Cinema.

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