North London’s Woodside Park extends both sides of Dollis Brook and northwards into Totteridge but this report mainly concentrates on the area of the Garden Suburb to the west of Dollis Brook. We acknowledge the input from Nick Gardner who wrote the original history from which this has been plagiarized.
By the door of a certain house in Cissbury Ring North there is a plaque which reads
“On this spot, in 1832, nothing happened”.
And so, encapsulated into one small plaque, is the pre-20th century history of an area we now know as the Woodside Park Garden Suburb!
Poor heavy clay soil limited farming activities in the area which remained fairly remote until the Great North Road was planned. By the eighteenth century, however, hay was being produced to feed the burgeoning horse population in London and later, as the city grew in population, increased prosperity brought new roads. Suburbs were created from the outlying villages.
But it was not until well after the arrival of the railway in 1872 that any substantial development materialised in the vicinity of Woodside Park.
UP TO THE 14th CENTURY
Tother Ridge (Totteridge) was first noted in 1005. King Ethelred the Unready was enjoying his first of two stints on the throne. It is thought that tother means “the other” which poses the question about where another ridge might be – Arkley?
The Great North Road was first set out in the 11th/12th centuries and then re-routed along Ballards Lane in the 13th/14th century. It was just a basic tree-lined track. All around were farms and woodland.
The Frith Estate is first mentioned in the 13th century. In the 14th century the land was held by Thomas atte Frythe. Fryth is said to an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “sparse woodland”.
In 1315, Grass Farm was rented from the Bishop of Westminster. Grass Farm (later called Grotes Farm), is located near Church End and formed part of the larger and even later Furzby Farm which gives its name to Fursby Avenue.
In 1321 Button Hole Farm is recorded as being owned by Farmer John Driver. Button Hole was to later become Burtonhole Farm which can be found, along with Burtonhole Lane, just north-west of Woodside Park.
In 1365 Ballards Lane and Nether Street are referred to as “two old streets” (previously Overstreet and Neather Street). If they were “old” at that time, they are truly ancient now.
Not much seems to have happened in Woodside Park in the 15th century. It was all happening a little further north.
The Battle of Barnet was fought on the morning of Easter Day 14 April 1471. It was an important battle in the Wars of the Roses between Edward VI and the Earl of Warwick (sometimes called the “king maker”).
The Wars of the Roses was a series of civil wars fought between two aristocratic families, the House of York and the House of Lancaster. King Edward IV and the Earl of Warwick (Richard Neville) had been allies during the wars. Their success had led to the overthrow of Henry VI (of Lancaster) and the crowning of Edward IV (of York) as king. Warwick had expected that his friends and favourites would be rewarded with prestigious positions in Edward IV’s new court but, to Warwick’s chagrin, Edward decided to favour the friends and relatives of his commoner wife, Elizabeth Woodville (the Queen consort of England).
In retribution and after much subsequent conflict, Warwick drove Edward into exile and placed the Lancastrian Henry VI back on the throne. This was to last for about a year. Edward returned in March 1471 with an army of mercenaries from Burgundy. He marched from the north towards London and, on his way, descended upon Barnet and its environs.
In fact, the armies of Edward and Warwick met for the last time at Barnet at a place called Gladmore Heath. No one is certain about the location of Gladmore Heath as the name has long ceased to be used. Many believe that the battle was in and around Hadley but it could have been as far south as Totteridge and even Woodside Park.
Early in the morning of the battle there was a thick fog. The armies engaged and one of Warwick’s commanders succeeded in routing one of the flanks of Edward’s army whom he then pursued back towards Barnet. Whilst away, the dynamics of the battle rotated the armies and, upon returning, they mistook the badge of another of Warwick’s commanders (a star with streams of light) for the badge of their enemy Edward (a sun with rays). They attacked their own side, which panicked and fled. Warwick then lost the battle and was killed. Henry was eventually taken prisoner. Edward IV returned to the throne.
A map published in 1593 shows a place called Fryth which was purchased by the Peacock family. Frith Manor House was built in 1790 and rebuilt again in the 18th century. It was eventually destroyed by fire in 1936.
In 1688, it is recorded that Paddingale Manor lay in the ownership of William Marsh de Paddingale. The Manor House has subsequently been substantially rebuilt and now more resembles architecture from the nineteenth century. It is now known as Partingdale Manor. The building is Grade II listed and situated on the north side of Partingdale Lane behind some high timber fencing. The house is stuccoed with various patterned windows, some with Gothic tracery and pointed heads and mostly with plain timber sashes. There is a Doric porch with radiating fanlight. The roofs form different patterns, mostly hipped and pitched and covered with slates.
By the 17th century, Finchley Common had been formed from woodland which had been generally cut down. This comprised some 1200 acres of land extending from Muswell Hill in the east to Ballards Lane in the west and from Church End in the south to Friern Barnet in the north.
On the western edge of Finchley Common there were four houses.
At Nether Street was Moss Hall, which was owned by the Mosse family. Moss Hall was demolished in 1927. The name survives in the names of streets such as Moss Hall Grove and the Moss Hall Tavern. The pub changed its name in the 1990s and is now called the Elephant Inn.
Court House which was built in 1664 was owned by the Peacock Family who also owned Frith Manor and quite a large chunk of Totteridge. Prior to building the house at Frith in 1790, the Court House was the main house of the Fryth Estate and it seems likely that manorial courts were held at the premises. In 1906, sixty-one housing plots fronting Avondale Avenue, Argyle Road and Nether Street were sold as the Court House Estate and Court House Road which runs from Nether Street down to Argyle Road has retained the name. The house was eventually demolished and the remnants of the estate sold in 1936.
Finchley Lodge (from which Lodge Lane takes its name) may have existed by 1564 and was certainly there by 1667.
Further north in Whetstone was Woodside House which was known to be in existence in 1699. This eventually made way for B&Q and the adjacent Barnet House, the office block which housed Barnet Council for a while.
1740 Mary Slight is recorded as the licensee of The Orange Tree Totteridge (it was rebuilt in 1824)
1750 The stone IX milestone was erected on Bittacy Hill.
1754 John Rocque’s map of this year shows the area south of Totteridge and to the west of Neather Street as divided into hedged fields with some buildings named Frith Green on the site of the present equestrian centre, and some others to their north named Button Hole.
1822 The first ordnance survey map was issued. It shows Frith Manor estate as a small cluster of buildings linked at one end to Mill Hill by Frith Lane and Pattingale (later Partingdale Lane). The other end was linked to Nether Street near Moss Hall by a footpath which crossed Dollis Brook by means of a primitive bridge (shown on the map as “Frith Bridge”). Ballards Lane was still little more than a track through woodland, linking communities in Church End and Fryern Barnet. The infamous Finchley Common lay to the east side, notorious for its highwaymen. However from 1820, the Finchley Road was being established and it was to run from Marylebone through to Tally Ho Corner to include Ballards Lane.
1826 Tally Ho Corner and the Tally Ho coach stables were established which more or less signalled the completion of the Finchley Road. Horse drawn omnibuses were used from 1827 for wealthy people to commute to London.
1863 Construction of the railway from Highgate through to Barnet commenced. In particular the foundations for the Dollis Viaduct over Dollis Brook were laid. The viaduct consists of thirteen arches each of 30ft (9.1 metres) span and 80ft (24 m) high. This is still the highest point of the present Underground system. The viaduct was designed by Sir John Fowler and Walter Marr Brydone and was completed in 1867.
1872 On 1st April, the new railway was opened. It was run by the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway. Woodside Park station was then known as Torrington Park. West Finchley Station did not open until 1933.
1877 The ordnance survey map for this date shows that the arrival of the railway made very little immediate impact. Some development took place around Finchley Central. No roads are shown to the west of Dollis Brook where Woodside Park Garden Suburb is located. Woodside House is shown on the site that is now occupied by B&Q and Barnet House in Whetstone. It was bought by Joseph Baxendale in 1824. When Baxendale died in 1872 the house became a retirement home for ladies under a charitable trust. To fund the Trust, some 45 acres of the land in the south-western part of the estate (known as Torrington Park) was sold to various developers. Eventually Henry Holden began building houses in new roads near to the railway line.
1881 The census shows Frith Manor as being unoccupied and a total of about fourty occupants in nearby buildings. No other dwellings are shown between Frith Manor and Dollis Brook. The Frith Manor estate was leased to Jersey Farm Dairies in the late 1880s, forming part of a 200-acre farm.
1883 Nether Court, the large house which now forms the clubhouse to Finchley Golf Club was completed. This was owned by Henry Thomas Tubbs JP.
1885 St Barnabas Church in Holden Road is established as a corrugated iron chapel.
1886 Argyle Road appears on the ordnance survey map for this year and extends from Nether Street to the railway. The area west of Dollis Brook remains as fields.
1890 Finchley Golf Club formed its first nine holes.
1904 The ordnance survey map for this year shows further roads extending east of the railway including Nether Court, Holden Road and Laurel Farm. Inglis Barracks, the home of the Middlesex Regiment, had been constructed off Frith Lane.
1912 On 12th October the foundation stone for the new St Barnabas church in Holden Road was laid by Princess Marie-Louise of Schelswig-Holstein (grand-daughter of Queen Victoria). The Church took two years to build and was consecrated by the Bishop of Willesden on 14th March 1914. It has since moved and been turned into residential accommodation.
1913 Extensive housing had been constructed between Dollis Brook and the High Road (extending between Tally Ho and Whetstone). This area was known as Woodside Park. A railway bridge had been built allowing Argyle Road to extend as far as the wooden bridge over Dollis Brook, and there were houses on both sides of Holden Road and Westbury Road.
1920 Brookside Walk was established by Finchley Council in the early 1920s and eventually completed in 1931. It is now known as the Riverside Walk and runs along the bank of Dollis Brook.
In the late 1920s, Mr FCJ (“Fred”) Ingram conceived the creation of a new housing estate served by its own cluster of shops and near to the railway station. He began buying land on the western side of the Dollis Brook and as far north as the confluence of Folly Brook with Dollis Brook. He promoted the proposed development as a 100-acre “garden suburb” with a maximum of eight houses to the acre. He named the new roads after rural areas of Sussex which he frequented in his youth. The three-bedroom semi-detached houses were to be of consistent but not uniform design. The roads were to be laid out with ornamental trees and grass verges and the built-up area was to be surrounded by parkland and open fields, with footpath access to the beautiful Totteridge Valley.
1931 The first houses on the estate were sold for around £800. The attraction to buyers included a peaceful rural atmosphere combined with fast and easy transport to the City and the West End.
On 18th October 1931 Finchley Golf Club opened with eighteen holes. The new Finchley golf course together with several tennis courts adjoined the suburb to the south and was an added attraction for buyers.
1932 The London and North Eastern Railway was running 100 trains a day to and from Finsbury Park, where one could change for the underground. The journey to King’s Cross via Finsbury Park took about twenty minutes and a weekly season ticket (third class) cost five shillings and ten pence (that is about 29p). The Northern Line did not come into existence until 1937 and its tube trains did not go as far as High Barnet until 1940.
1933 The nucleus of Woodside Park Garden Suburb had become a compact and virtually self-sufficient community. Since there were no buses and very few cars, the residents did most of their shopping at the cluster of shops at Sussex Ring, located at the junction of Lullington Garth and Walmington Fold.
Such shops included a grocer, butcher, greengrocer, tobacconist/newsagent, baker, chemist/optician, hairdresser, off-license, ironmonger, and the “Little Shop” which sold wool and haberdashery.
The suburb then comprised a cluster of roads in a semicircle to the west of the shops. Most of Cissbury Ring was still open fields although some work had started on Cissbury Ring South. Walmington Fold did not extend further south than number 48.
Open fields used for grazing by the Express Dairy lay to the west (towards Frith Lane) and it was possible to walk across the fields to The Orange Tree public house in the north. Frith Lane remained a track and the only road access to the suburb was from Nether Street down Argyle Road into Lullington Garth. Access to the railway station was along a path which led across the bridge in the park and through a locked gate into Holden Road. Residents were given keys.
It seems that the suburb was a friendly, close-knit community. Until recently, many of the original residents stayed in touch. Many of those who were brought up in the Garden Suburb during the first twenty years of its existence look back on those years with great pleasure. They recall a haven of freedom, where children could safely cycle in the streets, paddle in the brook and help with the haymaking without parental supervision. One resident of the time recalls having a dog that used to sleep in the middle of Lullington Garth.
1934 During this period the suburb’s founder, Fred Ingram, built more and more roads and houses, retaining the character of the earlier developments. Walmington Fold, Lullington Garth and Chanctonbury Way grew outwards from the original nucleus and Poynings Way, Steynings Way, Saddlescombe Way, Cissbury Ring, Pyecombe Corner, Folkington Corner, Wolstonbury, Offham Slope and Rodmell Slope also materialised.
With Fred Ingram’s support, the Woodside Park Club was initially founded. Tennis courts and a pavilion were built in the area enclosed by Lullington Garth and Cissbury Ring North, but an application for a liquor licence was refused by the Middlesex magistrates because of the nearby existence of Charrington’s off-license in Sussex Ring or “The Shops” as it was then known.
In order to obtain a licence, the clubhouse was built in its present location on the Hertfordshire side of Folly Brook. This placed the clubhouse outside the jurisdiction of the court. It opened in 1934 with a membership of 400. Facilities included a football field, three grass tennis courts, pitch-and-putt golf course, billiards room and a ballroom with a sprung floor.
Activities in the Woodside Park Club included amateur dramatics, annual sports days and fireworks displays.
A Woodside Park Horticultural Society was formed with at least one flower show held in the club house every year and a prize for the best kept front garden.
1935 The Woodside Park Ratepayers’ Association (later the Woodside Park Garden Suburb Residents’ Association) was founded. By 1937 it had a membership of 150 households, each paying an annual subscription of two shillings (10p in modern money).
1936 The Leyland Construction Co. Ltd. commenced building the remainder of the suburb to include Linkside and the south part of Walmington Fold, Fursby Avenue and other roads towards West Finchley. Leyland also built the lower end of Chanctonbury Way together with houses to the north in Southover, Michleham Down, Shortgate, Arlington and Northiam although many of these were not completed until after World War II.
1939 Frith Manor School was opened. It was built on land that had been owned by Sir Titus Barham, the owner of Express Dairies.
With the outbreak of World War II, allotments and air-raid shelters appeared in the park. Soldiers were billeted at Frith Manor School. The school was variously used as a welfare clinic, emergency feeding centre and fire-watching headquarters. It was also used to store ammunition until early 1940. Finchley Golf Club was used for tank exercises and barracks. There were long periods of nightly air raids. Bombs fell in Cissbury Ring South, Wolstonbury and Walmington Fold destroying a number of houses. A flying bomb fell and exploded at the southern end of Walmington Fold.
POST WORLD WAR II
Post-war developments included the housing developments in and around Southover and on the northern side of what was to become known as Sussex Ring. The planned extension of Chanctonbury Way into the Totteridge Valley was prevented by the green belt legislation of 1947.
The Woodside Park Ratepayers’ Association, which had stopped collecting subscriptions during the war, started again at the reduced rate of one shilling per household in 1945. Membership had increased to cover a substantial proportion of households by 1955 when it became know as the Woodside Park Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association. By 1960 the Association was regularly augmenting its funds by selling advertising space in a printed newsletter, circulated to residents.
By 1960, the tradition of setting up an illuminated Christmas tree and holding an annual carol concert had been well established. There was an occasional social function and election meetings were held from time to time.
The London Borough of Barnet was formed in 1965 along with the Greater London Council. Previous to this Woodside Park Garden Suburb was governed by Hendon Borough Council in the County of Middlesex. Both became defunct. The Garden Suburb now became part of the Totteridge ward in the Chipping Barnet constituency of the London Borough of Barnet.
In the course of the following years, the intimate self-contained atmosphere that had characterised the suburb’s early decades gradually gave way to that of a dormitory suburb. With rising car ownership and the introduction of bus services, shoppers moved to the High Road or further afield.
The 60s and 70s saw the departure of the butcher’s shop in Sussex Ring together with the grocer, the greengrocer and the ironmonger. They were replaced with – among others – an estate agent, a cleaner and a caterer. Garners, the family-owned newsagent, was sold to a retail combine which kept the shop in operation at a much reduced level. But, local teenagers were still able to earn pocket money by delivering newspapers. As walking ceased to be the principal mode of travel, social contacts between neighbours became less frequent and it eventually became possible to live for years in the suburb without even knowing the next-door-neighbours’ name.
In 1978, the Suburb’s founder, Mr Fred Ingram died.
As the social character of the suburb changed, so did attitudes to security. By the 1980s it no longer seemed safe to allow children to play or walk to school unaccompanied, as they had done as recently as the 1960s – although, in that respect the suburb was only following a national trend.
Crime rates remained low in comparison with other parts of the borough, but there was an upsurge of amenity crime such as graffiti and minor vandalism.
Traffic densities soared and Sussex Ring became something of an accident blackspot until a roundabout was installed there in 1994. Uncongested suburban roads developed into main thoroughfares. Rush-hour traffic congestion emerged.
Like most of London, the suburb gradually acquired a cosmopolitan character. Owner -occupier properties became rented with the resultant lack of deference for the area rendered by short-term residents and remote landlords.
Initially 861 properties were constructed in the Suburb and since those early years, tgheree additional new houses have been built. Nevertheless, new extensions and roof-conversions have enabled the suburb’s population to increase.
The 326 bus-route came into operation in 1991. In 1995, following pressure from the Residents’ Association, a children’s playground was installed in the park.
After a long period of decline, the 1990s saw a revival of activity by the Suburb’s Residents’ Association; with restoration of its membership to over three-quarters of its households.
Despite all of the changes that have taken place since the 1930s and despite the roof extensions and paved-over front gardens, the Garden Suburb’s quiet residential character envisaged by its founder, Mr Fred Ingram, has been largely preserved.
updated March 2023