Tag Archives: Barnet

Barnet revisited

Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Barnet was first recorded in c. 1070 as Barneto, from the Old English baernet, meaning land cleared by burning.  The church of St John  was originally built here in c. 1250,   subsequently substantially rebuilt in c. 1400, and restored in the nineteenth century, and twice in the twentieth.

Tudor Hall, Barnet (1573).jpg

Queen Elizabeth’s School was built here in c. 1577, four years after the granting of a charter for that purpose.  It was originally a free grammar school, and subsequently became a boarding establishment (with specially constructed dormitories accessed by way of a staircase in the east turret).  The  old school moved to a new location in 1932.  The recently restored former school building on the original site is now owned by Hertfordshire County Council, and known  as Tudor Hall.

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The Battle of Barnet was fought a short distance to the north in 1471, in the Wars of the Roses.

Arrows

Cannonballs

Spurs

Artefacts from the site may be viewed in the Barnet Museum (on Wood Street).

The Battle of Barnet, and the Wars of the Roses

Site of Battle of Barnet

Monument

On this day in 1471 took place, in “The Wars of the Roses”, the Battle of Barnet, between Yorkists under Edward IV and Lancastrians under Henry VI, with the Yorkists winning.

During “The Wars of the Roses”, between 1455-85, London was an important centre of political machination, and the Tower, at least according to legend, the scene of a series of chilling politically motivated murders, in forgotten dreadful cubicles behind great locked doors. There was some actual action in the City as well: in 1460, when the Lancastrian garrison under Lord Scales used a primitive – and unreliable – type of chemical weapon called “wildfire” in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the Yorkist army from entering; and again in 1471, when the by then Yorkist garrison was bombarded by the Lancastrian navy and army under the Bastard Fauconberg. And there were pitched battles on the outskirts, at St Alban’s in 1455 and 1461, as well as at Barnet in 1471.

Many of the barons killed in the Battle of Barnet were buried in Austin Friars Priory, which was originally built in around 1253. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, most of the priory precinct came into the possession of Sir William Paulet, the First Marquess of Winchester, who built himself a substantial town-house there, which survived the Great Fire of 1666, but was demolished in 1839.  (Thomas Cromwell’s former house on the site came into the possession of the Drapers’ Company, and was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666). In 1550, under Edward VI, part of the priory church was given over to the local Dutch Protestant community to serve as their church, “notwithstanding that they do not conform with the rites and ceremonies used in our Kingdom” (and the remaining part reverted to being the parish church of St Peter-le-Poer). The Dutch Church survived the Great Fire, but was destroyed in another fire in 1862, rebuilt in 1863, destroyed again in an air raid in 1940, and rebuilt again in 1950-56.  Ancient buried bodies discovered in the church during the rebuilding after the Second World War were cremated, and the ashes interred in a new crypt.