St Mary-at-Finchley Parish Church History Day

Photo of the journalist; Pam Taylorby Pam Taylor

(Photos by Andrew Taylor)

Finchley 6 March: There were many tables and stands for outside organisations, such as the Finchley Society with pictures of the church 100 years ago; the Stephens Collection where there were various books available; some beautiful tapestry hassocks with diagrams and explanations of the various symbols.

St Marys stalls - history day

Finchley Society stand

An old £5 reward notice for information on the damage done to the sun dial of for the capture of the “evil“ person concerned took our fancy; there were many wedding photographs from 1930s through to the 1990s and also many photographs of the interior and exterior of the church including views from the tower.

An interesting woman spent some time telling us all about how the beautiful framed Millenium Tapestry was created by lots of people which we found fascinating.


Vestments used at St Marys

There was a lovely water colour painting of the church by the artist HB Wimbush dated 1896. Joanna Yates, a retired curate, explained when the various vestments on show were worn – for instance, the pink one is used on Mothering Sunday, the gold for Christmas and a red and gold one depicts the Holy Spirit.

I spent a very interesting ten minutes watching “The Way We Were” between 1950 and 1980 which showed a maypole dance, confirmation service in 1981, a Youth Fellowship hike and the opening ceremony of the Parish Hall in 1960.

Bellringer instructing us

St Marys bellringer showing us the ropes

A corner of the "free" refreshment stand

After a delicious cream tea type scone and cup of tea we were well fortified to climb the 33 narrow steps up to the bell tower. When we visited the ringing chamber we learnt that there are 8 bells, of which the tenor bell weighs just over 8 cwt and one of the bell ringers gave us a demonstration whilst a man using a miniature wooden mockup explained exactly how the system worked.

Alison Fisher, the church music director, showed us various RSCM song books (they will be taking part in the RSCM London Area Festival Easter celebration in St Pauls on 14th May.) There were medals which were used and also pin badges which are currently used instead. She also pointed out the organ console which was dedicated in 1948 as a war memorial.

Our final tour was run by a landscape artist who told us that the first expansion of the church was in 1872 along the south front, then 60 years later it was extended again along the south front and the vestry rooms. There are 7 listed tombs (one of which is in memory of John Cartright) and inside the family tomb there are at least 8 coffins. The church yard was closed for burials in 1859, although people who were close relatives could be buried together up to 1912. Our guide also pointed out a very unusual tomb with a reclining woman (Elizabeth Morris) and showed us a watercolour by Turner of the church in 1793 which has since been sold in auction to a private collector. The guide also showed a photograph in Victorian times of the church with a holly hedge, ivy growing up the walls and 4 lime trees which were all removed in the 1980s. A photograph of the Queen’s Head Pub in 1853 which then became a school and was demolised in the early 20th century was also shown to us.

The exhibition was extremely popular and over the course of the afternoon, total visitors numbered in three figures.

General picture of the crowds

The people started flocking in


3 Responses to “St Mary-at-Finchley Parish Church History Day”

  1. Cygnet Says:

    I wish I had had time to attend. Hopefully, it could be an annual event. A lot of people were obviously attracted to attend.

  2. Alison Fisher Says:

    invites you to train as an interviewer for its Oral History Project. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of the St Mary-at-Finchley Organ Appeal, the Oral History Project aims to record people’s personal memories of St Mary’s, the building, the people and the music over the past decades. The Oral History Project has its final Training Day, for those who’d like to learn how to interview others, on Saturday 19th March from 10am till 4.45pm in the church hall of St Mary-at-Finchley, Hendon Lane, N3.
    There is no charge for the training.
    There are several spaces still available – please contact Alison Fisher ( or Tel 8349 0824) as soon as possible if you’d like a place. Please also contact Alison if you’d like to be interviewed about your memories.
    We look forward to hearing from you!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: