N12: Tally ho!

North Finchley is centred on Tally Ho Corner, the junction of the roads to East Finchley, Finchley Central, Friern Barnet and Whetstone. and numerous local businesses have taken their name from this including a gym!

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The phrase tally-ho! originated from hunting with hounds. It comes from an old French phrase and is shouted when a rider or follower sees the fox (or other quarry). The term has evolved to have other meanings. Apparently, it is sometimes used as slang in air traffic control to verify a radar contact has been visually confirmed. And it was also the name of a stage coach company as we shall see.

We start our walk at North Finchley Post Office which is situated at  751 High Road.

Turn right out of the Post Office and cross the road. Our first stop is just ahead.

Stop 1: artsdepot/ Aldi Supermarket
This monster of a building looks so out of place as it is much larger than anything around it. It houses an Aldi supermarket and an Arts Centre called the artsdepot (all lower case on the publicity material, how arty!) as amongst things. There is a car park underneath and a large apartment block above.
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But this was the site of the massive Gaumont North Finchley which was located on the large island site of Tally Ho Corner. Tally Ho Corner was a terminus for the trams in this part of north London and in later years became a terminus for trolley buses. So it was an ideal place for a cinema.

The site was created in the 1930s for a road widening scheme and in July 1934, the land was purchased by Gaumont British Theatres. The cinema opened in July 1937 with seating for 1,390 in the stalls and 725 in the balcony . It had a brick exterior with a semi-circular tower on the left-hand side. Half-way up the tower was an elaborate bas-relief carving in Portland stone, created by artist and designer Newbury A Trent and depicting the shooting of a film, with lights, camera, director and actors. There was a restaurant with a large window which stretched across the main facade, just above the canopy level.

The Gaumont closed in October 1980 and lay unused for some years until it was demolished in February 1987. There seems to have been some effort to preserve the bas-relief panels but sadly they do not seem to have survived.

There were grand plans for a new building which would include a banquet hall, twin cinemas and offices. But it turned out that the Rank Organisation (who by that time owned the cinema) had put a restrictive covenant on the sale of the site, stipulating that it could not contain cinema use. The site then stood empty for the next 15 years with just some temporary use as an outdoor market and for car parking.

Finally in 2004, a new arts centre named artsdepot was opened on the site.

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The artsdepot has a 395 seat theatre, 148 seat studio theatre, gallery, and a cafe and bar, but interestingly not a cinema, so maybe that restrictive covenant still had effect.

Just by the entrance to the artsdepot in a pedestrianised street to the left of Aldi is this strange step arrangement

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But go round the other side and you see this is actually a model of the old Gaumont cinema.

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Follow the building round in front of Aldi and on the side street you come to the pedestrian entrance to the Bus Station.

Stop 2: North Finchley Bus Station

This is possibly the worst modern bus station I have seen. It looks like a loading bay in a shopping centre and only seems to have one stop.

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The bus station opened in 2004, but later had to be closed because a person was killed after they walked into the bus station through the wrong entrance and was hit by a bus. The bus station was reopened in March 2007 after safety improvements were implemented. They included the addition of a barrier at the exit and a public address system.

One curious thing about this bus station is that most of the bus routes which serve North Finchley do not actually go into the covered area of the bus station.

It is one thing to get public facilities as part of new developments, but they have to be done sensibly, which this one clearly was not.

Now head down the High Road away from Tally Ho corner (south). Our next stop is a few minutes walk on the left hand side.

Stop 3: Great North Leisure Park

You cannot really miss the Great North Leisure Park – which looks like a little bit of America dropped into N12.

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Now often these kind of sites are built on old industrial land, but this one was not. It actually was the site of a 1930s Lido. The main heated pool opened in September 1931 and stayed open until 11 November. But the officially opening was the following spring. On 22 April 1932 the Duke of York (later King George VI) unveiled a ceremonial wall tablet made of Staffordshire marble. Apparently this tablet is on display behind the counter of Nando’s restaurant, which was built around the original site. However when I went in, I was greeted with blank stares when I asked about this.

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It seems there was also a cinema on the site, although strangely I can find no reference to this on the bible of cinema building:  http://cinematreasures.org/theaters?q=finchley&status=all

The original Lido with its main pool and children’s pool was closed in 1992. The present multi screen cinema opened in July 1996 as the Warner North Finchley and it became the Vue cinema in 2004.

Now return along the High Road and turn right down Churchfield Avenue. At the end turn right into Woodhouse Road. Our next stop is just along on the left.

Stop 4: Woodhouse College

Today this is a sixth form college but it was once the home of Woodhouse Grammar School.

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According to Wikipedia,

“After the First World War, the former residence of ornamental plasterer Thomas Collins (1735–1830) in the Woodhouse area of Finchley was reconstructed; the house became The Woodhouse School in 1923. A blue plaque commemorating Thomas Collins is on the wall outside the present college office. The school coat of arms with the motto ‘Cheerfulness with Industry’ is still displayed above the stage in the college hall. A pink chestnut tree was planted behind the main school building to mark the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. This tree had been presented by the Third Reich authorities to a member of the British team who attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and subsequently became known as ‘the Hitler tree'”.

The latter point is marked “citation needed” so maybe that is just a local urban myth. And being a school behind security gates, I could not get to see the plaque or the tree, or indeed the coat of arms.

Return along Woodhouse Road. At the end you will see the big building which houses the artsdepot, the bus station and Aldi supermarket. Turn right at this junction.

As you head up the main road note the Bathstore on the ground floor of the  This was apparently the location of the entrance to the former Gaumont which we heard about earlier.

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Keep walking along the main road. Our next stop is just on the left.

Stop 5: Grand Arcade

Now here is another little bit of the 1930s, but unlike the Gaumont and the Lido is still standing.

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Even though the shops are a little sad, it does look nice – especially with this wonderful floor, which has echoes of the new floor in the rotunda at Tate Britain

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Turn right at the end at the end of the Arcade. Our next stop is just a little way along.

Stop 6: The Tally Ho pub

This pub is a Wetherspoon’s. According to Wetherspoon’s website, the junction here became known as Tally Ho Corner in the 1830s, when a coaching company of the same name established a staging post here. So the name is not because of a hunting connection but because of a stage coach company.

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Just at the corner at the apex of the junction is a little public seating area (outside of the pub’s garden) and there are some interesting information panels giving some of the local history.

Keep walking along the High Road and soon on your right you will see a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Stop 7: Sainsbury’s supermarket

Nothing too remarkable about that, but in front it has a couple of interesting things. First a milepost. This apparently is the smallest listed building in Barnet. (well that is what it said on one of the information panels by the Tally Ho!)

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And then to the left is a little model of a building, which is actually just around the corner as we shall see.

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Take the right immediately after the supermarket. This is Ravendale Avenue. Our next stop is just a little way along.

Stop 8: North Finchley Library

This is the local library, which appeared as a model outside Sainsbury’s.

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Return to the High Road and turn right. Our next stop is a little further on the right hand side of the main road.

Stop 9: site of Odeon cinema (894 High Road)

Today this site is being redeveloped but once this was the site of the Odeon Cinema and a parade of 1930s shops.

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The Odeon cinema was one of the original Odeons built for Oscar Deutsch. It opened in October 1935. It had a 270 feet long facade, taking the entire block between Friern Watch Avenue and Mayfield Avenue. There were two wings with shops and two floors of flats above and the cinema had its auditorium behind parallel to the High Road with an entrance at the centre of the parade.

The Odeon was closed in December 1964 and the building was taken over by Halls (Finchley) Ltd. as a garage and car showroom. The company had operated out of one of the shop units since it was built in 1935.

From the pictures on the cinema treasures website, it looks like the central section which contained the cinema entrance was rebuilt after the cinema closed. In the early 1980s, it became as a furniture store named Furnitureland. This seems to have lasted until around 2006. The whole block was then demolished in Spring 2013 and redevelopment is now taking place.

Continue along the High Road and turn left down Woodside Lane. Our next stop is a little way along as the road bends.

Stop 10: Finchley Catholic High School

Today this is Finchley Catholic High School, but the current school site is centred on an old house called Woodside Grange, which you can just see through the fence.

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This castellated folly was built by a local doctor Dr James Turle as a home and consultancy. It was later owned by Sir Arthur Douglas Derry, some time owner of Derry and Toms Store in Kensington. In 1928 it was purchased as the home of Finchley Catholic Grammar School and which today is known as Finchley Catholic High School.

Again as this is a school site, we cannot get any nearer.

Continue walking along Woodside Lane. You will cross the railway and the road becomes Holden Road. Our next stop is quite a walk along this road on the right.

Stop 11: site of Number 127 Holden Road

Just about opposite a building called Barchester Lodge, you will a modern development and at the end of the terrace going away from Holden Road you will see a blue plaque.

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This was the location of a house (numbered 127 Holden road) which was for a time the home of comedian Spike Milligan. As we heard in N3 he was one of the founders and a strong supporter of the Finchley Society. His old house here in Holden Road is now demolished but a blue plaque was placed at the site in 2004.

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Continue walking along Holden Road and take the turning on the left called Station Approach. At the end is a station (as one would expect).

Stop 12: Woodside Park station

We are now at Woodside Park station, one of the lesser known stations on the Underground.

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Like West Finchley, this just does not feel like an Underground station. And of course as we heard in N3, this line was originally not part of the Underground but was actually built as a suburban route going into King’s Cross.

It opened in 1872 as Torrington Park station. There does not seem to be an actual park called Torrington Park, but there is a road of this name which comes into the High Road just south of Sainsbury’s. In other words nowhere near this station. Presumably as the name was a bit misleading, it was renamed Woodside Park in 1882. It finally became part of the Underground in 1940, as part of the Northern Heights project.

You are approaching the station from the west side which has the northbound platform and there is a public bridge across to the east side with the southbound platform.

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The main station building is on the east side.

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Unusually for an Underground station, there are no shops whatsoever on either side of the tracks. You could almost be in the country.

Whilst we are here in Woodside Park, I should just mention one other famous former resident. Woodside Park is the area where ex-Spice Girl Emma Bunton grew up. Not sure where though.

So we reach the end of our N12 walk. As so often happens when I started it looked like there was not that much of interest and yet I have found the sites of two 1930s cinemas and a Lido, plus a couple of old houses now schools, and a Spike Milligan connection.

We are at an Underground station for onward travel, so that makes life easier!

 

N3: Two and sixpence from Golders Green

N3 is Finchley Church End according to the Post Office but I think most people would call this area Finchley Central.

When I hear the words Finchley Central I immediately think of that novelty song from 1967 called “Finchley Central”. And then I have to go on and sing “two and sixpence from Golders Green on the Northern Line. It is a kind of an odd song about an odd journey with someone making a date and then being stood up at Finchley Central.

It is by a group called the New Vaudeville Band. This was their follow up to “Winchester Cathedral” which is much in the same vein. Apparently they did not really exist as a performing group initially and only came together properly when Winchester Cathedral became a hit.

I cannot seem to find any vintage footage of the band actually playing, so here is the song with some pictures, old and new, which someone has kindly posted to go with the music on YouTube.

Now we are actually going to start our walk at West Finchley, and the reason is all to do with another tube connection as we shall see.

We start at the Lovesay newsagents at 219 Nether Street which although not a Post Office as such is part of something called “Local Post Office Solution”.

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If this is the solution, not sure what the problem is. I guess it provides a few of the sub Post Office services but not the full set.

Turn right out of the shop and almost immediately you will see West Finchley Station

Stop 1: West Finchley Station

Now this is rather like a little country station, especially when you get on to the platforms. Seems wrong to see Northern line trains here.

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This station is on the branch line that was built from Finchley Central to High Barnet in 1872. But the station itself although it looks quite old was only opened in March 1933.

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According to Architectural Historian Pevsner, the fittings for this station came old stations in Northern England – the footbridge for example was from Wintersett and Ryhill, near Barnsley. So maybe this explains why it does not look its age.

The station was there to serve new housing developments and was always just a modest little station. Initially the line was operated by the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) who presumably had a few bits of spare station up north which they could recycle here. The section of line from East Finchley to High Barnet was incorporated into the London Underground network through the “Northern Heights” project begun in the late 1930s. West Finchley station was first served by Northern line trains on 14 April 1940. LNER service stopped in 1941 and so the station became a station served only by the Underground.

Amazingly this station still has toilets!

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Turn left out of the station, go along Nether Street and take the first right which is Courthouse Gardens. Keep to the right hand pavement. You will notice the house numbers go up to the low 30s and then suddenly jump to 64. If you look carefully you will see a street sign which shows we have moved from Courthouse Gardens to Courthouse Road. We have also strayed over the border into N12, but I thought we should come here as we will not able to fit this particular place into our N12 walk and there is an interesting N3 connection. We are looking for Number 60 which is just on the right.

Stop 2: Number 60 Courthouse Road

This house was the home of Harry Beck from 1936 to 1960. He of course is famously credited with creating the iconic tube map in 1933.

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And there is even a blue plaque from the Finchley Society.

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Now here’s a puzzle. When we get to Finchley Central Station, we will see a replica of his map and a plaque saying that Harry Beck used Finchley Central for many years to get to work. Now this does seem strange, given he lived much closer to West Finchley station. Well yes, but for the first few years he lived here, the trains from the relatively new West Finchley station were not Underground trains. They were steam trains which went off to Finsbury Park, so perhaps he just stuck to walking to Finchley Central after the Underground took over.

Return along Courthouse Road/Gardens. Turn right at Nether Street and then take a right into Eversleigh Road. Go to the end and ahead is our next stop.

Stop 3: Former drive to Nether Court

Immediately opposite Eversleigh Road is a gateway and a pathway leading into parkland. This leads on the Finchley Golf Course.

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This was once the grand entrance drive to the 15 bedroom home of a wealthy Victorian businessman, Henry Thomas Tubbs. The house, called Nether Court, was built in the early 1880s. He had made his money from knicker elastic.

After his death the house and grounds lay unused for a time but eventually became Finchley Golf Club in 1929, with the house as its clubhouse. Lots of interesting info on the Golf Club website.

http://www.finchleygolfclub.com/club/history/

Now go along Gordon Road as if you had taken a left turn out of Eversleigh Road. As you walk along Gordon Road you will see across the allotments a railway viaduct (our next stop). At the end turn right into Dollis Road and find a place to view the viaduct.

Stop 4: Dollis Brook Viaduct

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If you time it right you will see a train go across. And perhaps you will do a double take because it is a Northern line Underground train high up there on that viaduct. It all seems so wrong, but this is another bit of the Northern Line which was built as a “normal” railway. In fact this is the branch line that runs between Finchley Central and Mill Hill East, which is an odd hangover from the Northern Heights project of the 1930s, as we heard in NW7.

Apparently the greatest elevation above the ground level is here on the Northern line at Dollis Brook viaduct over Dollis Road – some 18 metres (60ft) above the ground. But this is not the highest place above sea level. The Underground station highest above sea level is Amersham, at 147 metres (482ft), but I guess there may be a bit of line that is slightly higher

Now retrace your steps along Dollis Road. At the end, do a right into Nether Street. Go over the railway bridge (you will have to cross to the left hand pavement) and continue to the end. At the cross roads, go straight across into Chaville Way, which leads down to Finchley Central  station.

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Stop 5: Finchley Central Station

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I should just mention in passing that this dull looking road is named after one of Barnet’s twin towns (Chaville is in France). Apparently this road never used to have a name so when they were looking for a name they chose one of the twin towns. Is this the best road, Barnet Council could come up with – not much of a compliment to your twin town is it?

So go down to the station and go onto the nearest platform (the platform for central London) where there are a couple of things to see. First is this board put up by the local amenity society, the Finchley Society. One the left it is advertising the Stephens Collection Museum (we are headed that way soon) and on the right there is a little bit about the first train here in 1867. Very nicely done.

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But go along the platform towards the toilets and there is a little plaque to Harry Beck and a copy of his original schematic map of the Underground network.

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Now leave the station by the footbridge. Turn left into Station Road, right into Wootton Grove and left into Lichfield Grove. Our next stop is just on the left.

Stop 6: Number 53 Lichfield Grove

This was where the comedian and character actor Terry-Thomas (1911 – 1990) was born. He is best remembered for playing disreputable upper class characters – what were termed “cads” or “bounders”.

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His real name was Thomas Terry Hoar Stevens. When he started off as an actor he he billed himself as Thomas (or Thos) Stevens, then he spelt it backwards (Mot Snevets) and moved on to Thomas Terry. He inverted these names when it became apparent that people were mistaking him as a relative of the famous actress Dame Ellen Terry.

Quirkily he added the hyphen in 1947. He is said to have explained that it was “not for snob reasons but to tie the two names together. They didn’t mean much apart; together they made a trade name”.

Continue along Lichfield Grove. Turn right into Sylvan Avenue and at the end go right and soon on the left you will see a gateway into a park. Go in there.

Stop 7: Avenue House and Gardens

You are now in the grounds of Avenue House.

This was the home of Henry Charles Stephens (1841 – 1918). He was known as Inky Stephens. However it was his father Dr Henry Stephens (1796–1864) who invented in 1832 an indelible “blue-black writing fluid” which would become famous as Stephens’ Ink and form the foundation of a successful worldwide company which lasted for over 150 years.

He left the house and grounds to be opened to the public and today they are run by a charitable trust. There is a nice little inky museum in the house. Open three days a week

More info at: http://www.stephenshouseandgardens.com/

Now once in the park, go straight ahead and then after the building called “the Bothy” turn right just before the exit gate. This leads towards the house.

But before we get to the house you will come across a sculpture on the left as you approach the main house. It is of a man sitting on a bench. Not any old man, but it is none other than Spike Milligan.

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You may ask what he is doing sitting in a public gardens in Finchley.

Well Spike lived in Finchley from 1955 to 1974. When local amenity group, The Finchley Society, was set up in 1971, he was one of the first to join. He became its President and later its Patron.

In 2004, a group of his friends and family combined with The Finchley Society to raise funds for the creation of a bronze statue and here it is.

More info at: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/sep/04/spike-milligan-statue-unveiled-north-london-finchley

Ahead is the house.

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Note it has the Finchley motto we heard about in N2 (Regnant Qui Serviunt – He who rules serves)

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Now leave the house and grounds and turn right into the street (East End Road). Than turn right into Regents Park Road and continue to the junction with Arcadia Avenue.

Stop 8: Site of New Bohemia Cinema

This very sad looking building is on the site of an old cinema – with the unusual name of the New Bohemia.

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The cinema was built in 1920. There had been a cinema called the Bohemia just up the road (in Ballards Lane) but this seems to have lasted only a short time around 1914. So I guess that is why this was the New Bohemia. Curious name for respectable suburban Finchley.

In March 1928, it became part of Gaumont chain and carried on as a cinema for just over 30 years until it was closed in April 1959. Not sure if this ever got renamed. The usually informative Cinema Treasures site is rather light on both these Finchley cinemas and does not even run to an old photograph of either building.

The cinema was replaced by this office block known as Gateway House. Although the ground floor shops are empty now, there is a sign to suggest that Waitrose are opening a small store here.

Now cross the main road and take the road which runs off at an angle to the right (Hendon Lane). Our next stop is just a little way on the right.

Stop 9: St Mary’s Church

This is I guess the Church that gave its name to Church End before the area became better known as Finchley Central.

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It seems to be the only really old building round here, some of it dating from 15th century, although altered in both the 19th and 20th centuries.

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And here tucked away at the side – and looking half forgotten is a seat for the Mayor of Finchley dating from 1933.

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Perhaps a reminder of how different things used to be in local government. I cannot imagine a church installing a special seat for the Mayor these days.

On leaving the church, turn right and then take the second right (Hendon Avenue) and follow this round as it veers to the left. Our next stop is way down the end of this road where you turn left into Village Road.

Stop: 10 Finchley Garden Village

This single street forms Finchley Garden Village, a lovely garden suburb built between 1909 and 1914.

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It was designed by a man called Frank Stratton who is commemorated by this memorial. It also serves as a war memorial.

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You leave the suburb and the road becomes Cyprus Avenue. Go to the end of this. Then at the main road, turn right, cross over and take the first left (Cyprus Road). Then take the first right (Salisbury Avenue). Go to the end and our next stop is ahead.

Stop 11: College Farm

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First you see the entrance, but as you now turn left along Fitzalan Road, you will see a large open space, with a fenced driveway running parallel to you.

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This is all College Farm. The website for the farm itself is “being redesigned” but there is quite a lot of info about the shop which seems to be extensive and claims to be North London’s largest equestrian and pet store. Apparently the farm was developed by Express Dairies in the 1880s as what was called a “Model Dairy”. I wonder how it survived the encroaching suburban development.

At the end of Fitzalan Road turn right. 

You can look back along the drive of the farm.

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Continue to the big road junction ahead of you.

Stop 12: Henlys Corner

This is Henlys Corner, another of those places which is named after some long vanished building – in this case Henlys Garage.

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Although the road we have used to approach Henlys Corner is important, it is not as important as the road it crosses here. This road is for a short distance both the A1 (one of the main roads north out of the capital) and the A406 North Circular Road, which is the main orbital route within suburban North London. No wonder it is a so busy.

Just before the  junction, though there is an interesting looking sculpture on the green to the right of Regents Park Road as you come to Henlys Corner.

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This is called “La Délivrance” by Émile Guillaume and dates from 1920. The statue was created as a celebration of the First Battle of the Marne when the German army was stopped from capturing Paris in August 1914. There were supposed to be 11 copies which were to be offered to cities in France and Belgium. But that does not explain why one is here in Finchley.

In 1920 Guillaume exhibited the statue at the Paris Salon, where it was bought by newspaper magnate Lord Rothermere. Lord Rothermere presented the statue to the Urban District of Finchley. Finchley Council intended that this would serve as a war memorial and be placed at the main entrance of  Victoria Park, which is just off Ballards Lane. Lord Rothermere did not like this and told the Council that it could only have it if was placed at its present location. This was so that he might see it when driving to visit his mother, who lived at Totteridge.

And that is why there is a French statue sitting on a green by Henlys Corner.

That brings us to the end of N3, which proved quite a mix. I have to say that I was a little disappointed to discover that there was not much of a centre to Finchley Central. But there were some interesting connections what with Harry Beck and Inky Stephens.

You are now between Finchley Central and Golders Green, slightly nearer the former. Probably easiest to get a bus to either station for onward travel. Indeed if the hapless singer of the song “Finchley Central” had researched his travel options properly, he would not have gone 10 long station on the Northern line via Camden Town. He would probably have found it quicker to hop on a bus which goes a more direct route, but then we would not have this wonderful mad song!