Finchley: Avenue House needs community support

This first appeared in February 2010

The trustees of Avenue House are working hard planning fund-raising events for 2010, and they need your support to make them a success. The team is planning quiz nights, race nights, summer concerts, barbecues and children’s puppet shows, and all proceeds will go to the upkeep of the grounds.

Avenue House and Garden on East End Road have been open to the public since 1928. The ten-acre grounds provide an attractive backdrop to the Grade II Listed Victorian mansion and are enjoyed by thousands of local people each year.

Yet the beautiful gardens are expensive to maintain. Last year the grounds cost Avenue House Trust £81,000, but this year they do not have that amount of money to spend. Janett Durrant, the Trust Estate Manager, spoke to The Arrow and regretfully told us, “We will see standards drop.”

Without enough money coming in there have already been staff cuts. Three years ago Avenue House employed 17 staff; there are now just seven working full-time. Fewer staff working in the grounds means that bins will not be emptied so frequently, the grass will not be cut as regularly, paths will not be swept, plants will not be replaced, and the pond and playground equipment will not be maintained.

Ultimately a lack of cash might lead to a need to charge entrance fees to the ground or to closures for part of the year. These actions would be a last resort and are something the trustees are keen to prevent.

All revenue for the house and grounds comes from hiring out seven function rooms. Bookings have been affected for a couple of years; the corporate organisations were the first to drop out but, as the recession has bitten deeper, the last six months have seen fewer weddings and birthday parties.

The Trust is eager to ensure that the gardens look as good as ever this year, so as well as the fundraising events coming up it is encouraging local people to become Friends of Avenue House. The idea is to get Friends to donate a small amount of money – £2 – each month, and when the scheme is up and running the Trust hopes to be able to offer Friends some discounts at garden events.

In order to raise enough money for ground maintenance they need just 4,000 people to sign up, which is a small proportion of the Finchley population. All of this money will be spent on the gardens.

“We’re doing everything we can. I understand money is tight for everyone at the moment and I can’t condemn people for cutting back, but we’re really struggling and we need the public to help,” Janett told The Arrow.

The antiques valuing dinner planned for January was the second event in the last six months to be cancelled owing to lack of interest. Arranging these events still costs the trustees time and money, so it is a pity that public support is not forthcoming.

“We can’t lose this place, it’s too important and too beautiful,” Janett emphasised.

If you’d like to get involved, support the Avenue House quiz night on 22 March at 7:30pm – tickets cost £8.

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