Reflecting the area’s growing importance, Finchley’s ‘Local Board’ became an Urban District Council in 1896. In 1932, on 22 April, the Duke of York – the future King George VI – honoured Finchley by visiting what was known as the Glebe Land, an area of some sixty acres alongside the Great North Road where a modern bowling and cinema complex now stands. The future king unveiled a tablet to record the Council’s acquisition and layout of the area for sports facilities, which included the splendid open-air swimming pool that had opened the previous summer.
The following year Finchley was incorporated as a Borough and on 5 October 1933 the Earl of Athlone, accompanied by Princess Alice, paid an official visit. On behalf of King George V, the Earl handed the Charter of Incorporation to the Charter Mayor, Councillor Vyvyan Wells, at a lavish ceremony in the grounds of Avenue House, the former home of Henry “Inky” Stephens who had been MP for Finchley forty years earlier and who had bequeathed his estate for public enjoyment on his death in 1918. Finchley celebrated its new status with a round of festivities lasting three days.
In 1948 the Olympic Games came to London and Finchley had a brief moment of glory on the international stage. Finchley’s open-air pool, known to some as the Lido – and still going strong today after much refurbishment – was the venue for the qualifying rounds of the Olympic water polo competition, the finals being held in Wembley’s Empire Pool. Unfortunately the Great Britain team was eliminated in the first round and the gold medal went to Italy. (to be continued)