Friern Barnet
Local government


Victoria County History



T F T Baker, C R Elrington (Editors), A P Baggs, Diane K Bolton, M A Hicks, R B Pugh

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'Friern Barnet: Local government', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 6: Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey with Highgate (1980), pp. 25-27. URL: Date accessed: 23 November 2014.


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Friern Barnet Road divided the medieval parish between the manors of Whetstone and Halliwick. (fn. 93) There are no court rolls for Halliwick before 1810, by which date copyhold tenure had long been extinct. In 1488 a chief pledge for Colney Hatch as well as two for Whetstone was appointed annually in the Whetstone manorial court. (fn. 94) Tenants were to display distinguishing marks in the form of double crosses over their doorways (fn. 95) and in 1515, by long established custom, were to maintain the double crosses marking the boundaries of the manor with Finchley and Hertfordshire. (fn. 96) A cross at Betstile was mentioned in 1504 (fn. 97) and one at Muswell Hill in 1399. (fn. 98) The court, which met on the Friday in Whitsuntide, consisted of a view of frankpledge and a court, known after 1557 as a court baron. (fn. 99)

A constable, three chief pledges or headboroughs, and an ale-taster were appointed for Whetstone in 1488. (fn. 1) After experiments with 4 or 5 headboroughs between 1497 and 1499 (fn. 2) only one constable and one headborough were appointed until 1773, (fn. 3) when responsibility for their appointment passed to the vestry. There was a single ale-taster until 1550, when there were three, (fn. 4) and thereafter one until 1721. (fn. 5) In 1584 oaths of office were to be sworn in court. (fn. 6)

The court regulated the assize of ale and in 1598 ordered that the ale-taster should have a book of measures according to statute. (fn. 7) In 1616 a scold was ducked on the stool (fn. 8) ordained by the court in 1593 (fn. 9) and in 1752 it was decided to provide stocks. (fn. 10) In 1577 anyone harbouring paupers was to promise to exonerate the vill from all expense. (fn. 11) Until 1612 householders were fined for keeping inmates contrary to the Cottagers Act. (fn. 12)

Churchwardens held office in 1541-2 (fn. 13) and overseers of the poor in 1598. (fn. 14) There was a salaried vestry clerk by 1761. (fn. 15) The constable and headborough, who were paid from 1786, (fn. 16) continued to be appointed by the vestry (fn. 17) until 1862, although the parish was included in the Metropolitan Police District in 1840. (fn. 18) Four surveyors of the highways were appointed annually from 1765 (fn. 19) and ten after 1779, (fn. 20) when there was a northern or Whetstone division and a southern or Colney Hatch division. (fn. 21) By 1870 there was one surveyor for the whole parish. (fn. 22) The office of aleconner was revived in 1812 (fn. 23) and a sexton was employed from 1822. (fn. 24) The offices of vestry clerk and assistant overseer were first combined in 1831 (fn. 25) and were later held by the clerk to the local board and U.D. (fn. 26)

Between 1762 and 1766 an average of three vestries met annually in a public house or the church. Attendance fluctuated from 4 to 11, occasionally including the rector. (fn. 27) In 1778 it was expected that there would be only four annual vestries (fn. 28) but next year it was resolved to hold them at the alms-houses on the first Monday of every month. (fn. 29) Between 1780 and 1818 there was a normal attendance of 4 to 8, including the rector, (fn. 30) who presided by 1870. (fn. 31) There were seven vestries a year in 1818-19 (fn. 32) compared with two in the 1870s, when there were several sub-committees. (fn. 33) Meetings were usually in the vestry-room after its construction at the church in 1807. (fn. 34)

A church house was rented by the churchwardens in 1541-2. (fn. 35) The overseers kept livestock for the poor in 1598, (fn. 36) when 40s. was left to augment it. (fn. 37) The poor had customary grazing rights on Finchley common and were awarded 1 a. at its inclosure in 1814. (fn. 38) The number of overseers was increased from two to four in 1781 (fn. 39) and to six in 1909, (fn. 40) and there was an assistant overseer by 1831. (fn. 41) In 1781 the vestry decided to review the almshouses four times a year (fn. 42) and by 1828 parish officers had long accommodated the poor there. (fn. 43) A doctor was retained for the poor in 1786 (fn. 44) but in 1809 he was not to visit them without permission. (fn. 45) There was no workhouse: in 1779 the parish farmed the poor to the keeper of Enfield workhouse (fn. 46) and after joining Barnet union in 1835 was entitled to use Barnet workhouse. (fn. 47) The poor-rate was 1s. 2d. in the £ in 1776-7, when it brought in £82, (fn. 48) 9d. to 1s. in 1778-80, when it produced £153, and increased to 3s. in 1811, when it realized £596. (fn. 49) The yield varied around £400 between 1816 and 1841. (fn. 50)

Under the Sanitary Act of 1866 the vestry appointed a sanitary committee in 1866, to which in 1870 it gave all the powers that it could delegate except over finance. (fn. 51) The parish successfully resisted partial inclusion in the East Barnet and Edmonton local board areas between 1873 and 1875 (fn. 52) and in 1874 was incorporated in Barnet rural sanitary authority, (fn. 53) which decided to enforce a sanitary scheme in 1883. (fn. 54) Friern Barnet's ratepayers then petitioned for a local board, (fn. 55) which was established in 1884. (fn. 56)

The clerk and nine members of the vestry, alleged to be Conservatives, supported one another in the first election, (fn. 57) which was contested by some 20 others. (fn. 58) John Miles (d. 1886), chairman of the vestry, became chairman of the local board, which was dominated by the vestry's candidates. (fn. 59) The board undertook an expensive scheme, which necessitated the sewering of private roads. With doubtful legality, instead of compensating landowners and charging them the costs of laying sewers, compensation was waived and sewers were laid free of charge. (fn. 60) Rates rose to 3s. in 1886 (fn. 61) and in 1887 the 7s. rate was an election issue. (fn. 62) From 1886 the ratepayers' association opposed the free sewering of private roads and the board was evenly divided. (fn. 63) Certain members refused to sign cheques (fn. 64) and an appeal, later withdrawn, was made against the rate. (fn. 65) Elections in 1887 did not resolve the deadlock (fn. 66) and at an inquiry over the refusal of the Local Government Board to sanction loans for sewering private roads, the board could not agree on its attitude. (fn. 67) Accounts were also challenged at the district audit. (fn. 68) Meanwhile the Freehold ratepayers' association claimed that private roads were neglected in the most populous but least represented area. (fn. 69) The problems apparently declined with the completion of the sewage works and the creation of wards. (fn. 70) In 1907 it was said that the election was more vigorously contested than any since the early days of the local board. (fn. 71)

Friern Barnet local board became a U.D.C. in 1895 (fn. 72) and had nine members, elected by the whole parish rather than by wards as the ratepayers had wished. (fn. 73) In 1888 three wards, each with three members, were created: (fn. 74) the south ward consisted of the area east of the railway and south of Friern Barnet Road, the north ward stretched north of Friary Road and Holly Park, and the central ward covered the remainder. (fn. 75) The division gave greater weight to the Freehold, which tried unsuccessfully to partition the south ward in 1895 (fn. 76) and to secure relatively more members in 1909, (fn. 77) when the number of councillors was increased to four for each ward. (fn. 78) In 1945 there were five wards, each returning three members, and five aldermen. (fn. 79) A third of the board was elected annually until 1895, when all members were to be elected triennially. (fn. 80) Meetings were twice a month in 1885 (fn. 81) and monthly in 1909. (fn. 82) There were four committees in 1884, (fn. 83) seven in 1909, (fn. 84) nine by 1935, (fn. 85) and ten in 1953. (fn. 86) In 1888 the board had a clerk and a medical officer, and the functions of surveyor, engineer, collector, and assistant overseer were combined. (fn. 87) Friern Barnet escaped inclusion in Finchley M.B. in 1935 (fn. 88) and failed to secure incorporation in 1953. (fn. 89) In 1965, under the London Government Act of 1963, it was included in Barnet L.B. (fn. 90)

The local board first met in St. James's schoolroom, (fn. 91) before leasing temporary offices at Parkhurst House, Friern Barnet Road, in 1884. (fn. 92) It moved to Tudor House, no. 18 Beaconsfield Road, in 1887, (fn. 93) and acquired the 200-year-old Priory, on the corner of Friern Barnet Road and Friern Barnet Lane, in 1906. (fn. 94) It remained there until 1939, when work began on a new building on the same site. Designed by Sir John Brown and Henson and opened in 1941, (fn. 95) the town hall was red-brick and of two storeys, with a central cupola and a concave front towards the road. (fn. 96) In 1975 it housed Barnet L.B.'s education and children's departments.

Urban District of Friern Barnet

Urban District of Friern Barnet
Vert, a pale argent, on a chief dancette or three fleurs-de-lys azure [Granted 1938]


93 M.R.O., Acc. 262/5A/1; 5B.
94 St. Paul's MSS., box B 17, m. 1.
95 Ibid. m. 8d.
96 Ibid. m. 12d.
97 Ibid.
98 Pub. Works in Med. Law, ii (Selden Soc. xl), p. 38.
99 St. Paul's MSS., box B 17, mm. 23-4. At St. Paul's cath. libr. there are ct. rolls for 1488-1672, except for 1524-44 and 1642-60: St. Paul's MSS., boxes B 15-18, 98. Ct. rolls for 1528-32 are in M.R.O., Acc. 528. There are ct. bks. for 1668-1933: Guildhall MSS. 14717/2; 14223/1-9.
1 St. Paul's MSS., box B 17, m. 1.
2 Ibid. m. 4d.
3 Guildhall MS. 14223/3, p. 185.
4 St. Paul's MSS., box B 15, m. 23.
5 Guildhall MS. 14223/1, p. 110.
6 St. Paul's MSS., box B 15, m. 17.
7 Ibid. m. 29d.
8 Mdx. Sess. Rec. iii. 126.
9 St. Paul's MSS., box B 15, m. 24.
10 Guildhall MS. 14223/3, p. 8.
11 St. Paul's MSS., box B 15, m. 23d.
12 St. Paul's MSS., box B 18, m. 43; box B 15, m. 27, quoting 31 Eliz. I, c. 7.
13 S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/2402 m. 7.
14 St. Paul's MSS., F (Reg. Wills) C, f. 48v.
15 M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/C/1. There are churchwardens' accts. for 1819-1919, ibid. B1/1, and vestry min. bks. for 1743-1954, ibid. C1/1-4.
16 Ibid. C1/1.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid. 4; Lond. Gaz. 13 Oct. 1840, p. 2250.
19 M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/C1/1.
20 Ibid.
21 Ibid. Highway rate bks. for 1795-6 and acct. bks. for 1783-7 and 1793-5 are in B.L.H.L., Acc. 9888.
22 M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/C1/3.
23 Ibid. C1/1.
24 Ibid. C1/2.
25 Ibid.
26 Barnet Press, 16 Apr. 1887.
27 M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/C1/1.
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid.
30 Ibid.
31 Ibid. C1/3.
32 Ibid. C1/1.
33 Ibid. C1/3.
34 Ibid. C1/1-3.
35 S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/2402 m. 7.
36 M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/C1/1-2.
37 St. Paul's MSS., F (Reg. Wills) C, f. 48v. There are overseers' acct. bks. for 1743-1819, 1818, and 1836-70, an assessment for 1673, and rate bks. for 1792-4, 1786-7, and 1792: M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/D1/1; Acc. 1027; B.L.H.L., Acc. 9888; St. Paul's MSS., box A 58.
38 M.R.O., EA/FIN.
39 M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/C1/1.
40 Ibid.
41 Ibid. C1/2.
42 M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/C1/1.
43 18th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 62, p. 382 (1828), xx.
44 M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/C1/1.
45 Ibid.
46 Ibid.
47 1st Ann. Rep. of Poor Law Com. H.C. 500, p. 250 (1835), App. D.
48 M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/D1/1.
49 Ibid. C1/1.
50 Rep. from Sel. Cttee. on Poor Law Returns, H.C. 334, p. 357 (1825), iv; Poor Law Com. 1st Rep. 250; Poor Law Returns, H.C. 63, p. 98 (1844), xl.
51 M.R.O., D.R.O. 12/I/C1/3, 4.
52 Barnet Press, 14 July 1883.
53 Lond. Gaz. 22 Sept. 1874, p. 4465.
54 Barnet Press, 28 Apr. 1883.
55 Ibid. 6 Oct. 1883.
56 B.L.H.L., Friern Barnet loc. bd., min. bk. (1884-6), p. 1. All min. bks. of the loc. bd. and U.D. 1884-1965 are in the colln.
57 Barnet Press, 13 Oct., 20 Oct. 1883.
58 Ibid. 27 Oct. 1883 et seq.
59 B.L.H.L., Friern Barnet loc. bd., min. bk. (1884-6), p. 1.
60 Barnet Press, 15 Jan., 19 Mar., 21 May 1887.
61 Ibid. 1 Jan. 1887.
62 Ibid. 9 Apr. 1887.
63 Ibid. 1 Jan., 15 Jan. 1887.
64 Ibid. 21 May 1887.
65 Ibid. 1 Jan. 1887.
66 Ibid. 9 Apr. 1887.
67 Ibid. 15 Jan. 1887.
68 Ibid. 21 May 1887.
69 Ibid. 15 June, 19 Mar., 2 Apr. 1887.
70 See below.
71 Barnet Press, 2 Mar., 30 Mar. 1907.
72 M.R.O., Reps. of Local Inqs. (1889-1912).
73 Ibid.; Barnet Press, 6 Oct. 1883.
74 Ibid. 10 Dec. 1887; M.R.O., Reps. of Local Inqs. (1889-1912).
75 Friern Barnet U.D. Ann. Rep. of M.O.H. (1920).
76 Barnet Press, 1 June, 15 June 1895.
77 Ibid. 19 June 1909.
78 M.R.O., Reps. of Local Inqs. (1889-1912).
79 Barnet Mus. 2163: copy of Friern Barnet U.D. Petit. for Incorp. as Municip. Boro. (1953), 9.
80 Barnet Press, 19 Jan. 1895; M.R.O., Reps. of Local Inqs. (1889-1912).
81 P.O. Dir. N. Suburbs (1888).
82 M.R.O., Reps. of Local Inqs. (1889-1912).
83 B.L.H.L., Friern Barnet U.D., min. bk. (1894-6), p. 2.
84 M.R.O., Reps. of Local Inqs. (1889-1912).
85 B.L.H.L., Friern Barnet U.D., min. bk. (1935), p. 254.
86 Friern Barnet U.D. Petit. for Incorp. (1953), 9.
87 P.O. Dir. N. Suburbs (1888).
88 B.L.H.L., Friern Barnet U.D., min. bk. (1935), p. 103; Briggs, Mdx. Old and New, 120; The Times, 3 Jan. 1936.
89 Friern Barnet U.D. Petit. for Incorp. (1953); but see Royal Com. on Govt. of Gtr. Lond. Mins. of Evidence (1959), 21.
90 Barnet L.B. Official Guide [1967].
91 B.L.H.L., Friern Barnet loc. bd., min. bk. (1884-6), p. 1.
92 Ibid. p. 20.
93 Ibid. (1886-9), pp. 16-17.
94 M.L.R. 1906/13/523; M.R.O., Acc. 410 (newspaper cutting).
95 Friern Barnet U.D. Official Guide [c. 1947], 12.
96 Pevsner, Mdx. 57; Robbins, Mdx. 203.