A Brief History of Chipping Barnet
Chipping Barnet began as a settlement around a fork in the road running north out of London (where the High Street meets Wood Street today).
Baernet is thought to mean a place cleared by burning. Arkley and Hadley, to the west and north, may have included settlements that predate Chipping Barnet as they appear in a rare boundary description from 1005.
Little is known of the town of Barnet before King John granted a Charter to the Lord of the
Manor on 23 August 1199 for a market to be held here once a week.
The Charter was one of the earliest recorded. The town grew up around the market place at the top of Barnet Hill (to the east of St John the Baptist Church), supplying food, drink and accommodation to the farmers, traders and merchants that gathered there.
This developed into a series of coaching inns with stable yards behind. The Mitre Inn in the High Street is the oldest remaining example.
By the early fourteenth century the town was called Chepyng Barnet, confirming that it had become known as a successful market town by then (chepyng, cieping or chippen meaning ‘of the market’).
In 1471 one of the final Wars of the Roses, known as the Battle of Barnet, was fought to the north of the town.
An obelisk at Hadley Highstone markes the spot where Warwick the Kingmaker was supposed to have fallen.
(It is now thought that the battle actually took place further to the north and further investigations are currently in preparation to establish this once and for all.)
A second market charter was issued by Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1588 and by the end of the sixteenth century Barnet was London’s main meat market (before the development of Smithfield).
At the same time, the Queen issued a charter for a twice-yearly Fair to be held here for the sale of livestock (mainly cattle and horses).
The Fair continues to this day every September in Mays Lane, although in a much-reduced form and the term Barnet (Fair) is still used to mean ‘hair’ in Cockney rhyming slang.
The Queen also founded a grammar school in 1573 for the education of Barnet boys.
The original building, Tudor Hall, can still be seen in Wood Street and now forms part of Barnet College (the school moved to a new site in Queens Road in 1930).
Chipping Barnet was also known as High Barnet by the seventeenth century and has continued to be known by both names ever since.
Chipping Barnet has a long history of philanthropy and a number of almshouses and schools for the poor of the parish were built around the town by James Ravenscroft, Eleanor Palmer, Elizabeth Allen and others.
Wilbraham’s Almshouses at the corner of Hadley Green and Dury Road were built in 1616 by Sir Roger Wilbraham for ‘six decayed housekeepers’.
In 1656 the first well-house was erected on Barnet Common (behind the hospital today) to enclose a spring that was thought to have curative properties.
Samuel Pepys recorded his first visit in his diary in 1664. The well chamber still exists beneath a rather decrepit mock Tudor well-house built in 1937, following development of the Wellhouse Estate.
To the north of Hadley is our very own stately home, Wrotham Park, a Palladian mansion designed by Isaac Ware in 1754 and built by Admiral John Byng, the fourth son of Admiral Sir George Byng.
It is a private house and is still owned by the Byng family. It is open to the public by appointment on Open House Weekend in September each year.
The town of New Barnet developed following the arrival of the Great Northern Railway in 1850. Building was slow and the first roads to be laid out were Lyonsdown Road and Station Road (originally called New Barnet Road).
High Barnet station was opened in 1872 (built on the site of Barnet Fair) but did not link into the underground system until the Northern Line was extended in 1940.
Monken Hadley includes some very fine examples of Georgian architecture, which are Grade 2 listed.
The Victorians developed new buildings in the centre of Chipping Barnet and at New Barnet and, between the First and Second World Wars, new housing was built along the southern and eastern slopes of Barnet Hill and along to New Barnet.
Since then the biggest single development was the building of the Dollis Valley Estate in the late sixties/early seventies on the former sewage works on the south side of Mays Lane.
The regeneration of this estate, involving the demolition of all the flats and maisonettes has been planned for some years.
The other large development was the 1980s' Spires Shopping Centre in the heart of the town.
This involved demolition of the former Methodist Church on the High Street (hence the name), building Wesley Hall and Chipping Barnet Library and extending Stapylton Road to meet St Albans Road.
The Green Belt was designated in 1945 and many of the older buildings of Chipping Barnet and Monken Hadley are now protected through statutory listing or by Conservation Area status.
There are two Conservation Areas: Wood Street and Monken Hadley.