Finchley residents show support for Avenue House at Open Day
Mostly by David Baker with a small contribution by Andrew Taylor and photographs by Andrew Taylor
The two children in the front are Angelina Sparksman and Chloe Reed (both from St Mary’s Primary School)
In the main row are Claire Sparksman (slightly to the rear), Sandra Rebak, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter and Jack Ellis
We are awaiting confirmation of the people in the back row.
In a strong show of support, just over 400 people attended “Trees, Tours and Teas”, the Open Day at Avenue House on Sunday 20 March and raised over £4,000. This was the first event staged by the recently formed New Friends of Avenue House, a group of local residents working to help save the House and Grounds from the threat of closure.
Visitors to the Open Day took part in tours of the house, Bothy Gardens and main gardens, with its wonderful collection of rare trees. They also enjoyed tea and cakes provided by local supporters, (including Parkway Patisserie of Regents Park Road, who were especially generous). The Open Day was organized to raise awareness of the problems facing Avenue House, and during the afternoon many visitors signed up to support the work of the New Friends of Avenue House.
Among the many people who attended the event were some famous faces. Actors Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter tour joined the tours of the house and gardens. Ms Staunton, whose childhood family home was in Vines Avenue, Finchley, said the Avenue House Estate was a hugely important part of the area, and deserved everyone’s support. ‘The house and gardens are so wonderfully maintained, and are clearly enjoyed by so many people. It would be very sad indeed if they were not kept as a resource for local people.’ Actor Jack Ellis, who is a Finchley resident and an active member and supporter of the new Friends of Avenue House added, “This is an extraordinarily beautiful place, full of hidden treasures. It would be an absolute tragedy if people couldn’t continue to enjoy it in the way Henry Stephens intended when he left it to the people of Finchley.”
The small intimate museum for Stephens Inks was also open and attracted a lot of visits.It is housed in the conservatory of Avenue House and shows the aspects of Dr Charles Stephens (1796-1864) life – he was the inventor of the famous blue-black writing fluid. It also covers the life of his son and the development of the Stephens Ink Company and the story of writing materials from ancient times. Finally it shows the history of Avenue House from 1859 to the present day.
Sandra Rebak, chair of the Friends said, “The support that local people have shown has been wonderful. We are so grateful to the many people who came to find out more about the Avenue House Estate. We are especially pleased to see so many children here; we know that – thanks in part to the the children’s playground – Avenue House is every bit as important to children as it is to adults.
“Our committee was only re-formed two weeks ago, and this has been a great opportunity to launch the New Friends of Avenue House. We are delighted to make contact with so many people and to receive so many suggstions and offers of support for our fundraising work.’
“Although the main aim of the day was to increase awareness of the problems facing Avenue House, people attending the Open Day were extremely generous, and we also managed to raise over £4000 on the day, with further pledges of support. This is an important first step in our immediate objective of raising £25,000 by the end of April, to cover short-term needs and help ensure the Estate’s survival. The recession has reduced commercial bookings, especially over the past six to eight months. Also, Avenue House’s charity tenants have suffered cutbacks which mean they can no longer afford to rent offices. Because of this, we have to find a way to plug the gap.
“There is cause for optimism. Bookings for spring and summer are better, so if we can get through the short-term crisis, the situation should improve. In the longer term, we aim to to continue to support the financial sustainability of Avenue House through increased community support and involvement.”
The New Friends of Avenue House are working hard to keep people informed of developments. We are developing an improved website and a Facebook page, and will soon be announcing a number of events and initiatives. In the meantime, people can join us or find out more about our activities by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
In a recent letter to the Editor, Stewart Wild came up with an idea for the council to move the public Library into Avenue House, the Council could then sell the library building in Hendon Lane. The council could then pay rent which would be cheaper than the upkeep of the old library building.
Note: The Avenue House Estate was left in perpetuity to the people of Finchley by “Inky Stephens”. In 2002 Barnet Council leased the Estate to the Avenue House Estate Trust, a registered charity which now administers and runs it. The Friends are aiming to raise at least £10,000 this month to help with the ongoing running of the Estate and about £3,000 to £4,000 a month afterwards when the savings which have been introduced cut in.