Mrs Angry took a trip to Church End, Hendon today, to take another look at the grounds of the Church Farmhouse, which our Tory council wants to sell off for development, along with the Grade 2* listed house, our former museum.
Sneaking round the right hand side of the Farmhouse, rather than the more public approach, it becomes immediately apparent that there is a very intimate relationship between the house, St Mary's church, and even the Greyhound pub, sitting at an angled position to both buildings. The reason for this, as Mrs Angry discovered later, on reading a local history of old Hendon, is that the Greyhound was once known as Church House, and was a parochial building. But the proximity of the tower, the oldest part of the Church, to the Farmhouse is quite astonishing, a matter of a few yards, and the sparsely planted hedge between the two plots is a negligable affair, encouraging the thought that there is no natural division between the farm and the church sites. And all the more reason to protect these grounds from development.
The grounds, or gardens, as we should remember to call them, were still covered in snow, and extraordinarily beautiful and still in the chill early afternoon light. The only noise was from the birds flitting about from tree to tree, and the place was a delightful place to be, even on such a cold winter's day.
The Farmhouse is at the top of the hill, sloping quite quickly away, down to the gate which leads through to another vista across Sunny Hill Park, once a field belonging to the farm. Where the gate is there is another boundary, an old boundary of yew trees, which seems to continue sporadically along the edge of the old churchyard next door. There is also what looks like an old coppiced yew in the grounds, near to the church boundary: of course yews are associated with old churchyards, and even with the pre Christian sites that are often lying under later places of worship.
St Mary's Church, seen from the grounds
It is impossible to stand in the grounds of the Farmhouse, in short, and not realise that this is all part of a very old site, dating back certainly a thousand years, and probably much much further. Small scale archaeological digs by local societies suggest that there may have been a Roman settlement here: in one of the more recent local history guides there is even speculation that there may have been a Romano-celtic temple.
If, like Mrs Angry, you rather enjoy the gloomy pleasures of wandering about churchyards, St Mary's is somewhere you should visit. There are some fabulous tombs and graves, some half open, mouldering away. This is the place, it has been said, that Bram Stoker took as his inspirations for the scene in Dracula ,where Van Helsing cuts off poor Lucy's head. And mindful as we are of Charles Dickens, at the moment, it is interesting to remember that he used to like this spot, and wander about here admiring the view 'northwards and westwards': you can see Harrow on the Hill and other high points in what was once the open countryside of Middlesex.
The churchyard that inspired Stoker ... and the same boundary line
Another literary association is with the Farmhouse itself, where Mark Lemon, the first editor of Punch, used to stay with his grandparents. It is tempting to speculate what satirical view Mr Lemon - or indeed his good friend Dickens - might have formed of the latterday aldermen who are trying to sell this corner of old Hendon off for property development.
That the museum was closed is a disgraceful thing, and will cast an eternal shame on the idiotic Tory councillors of our borough, who, as Labour's Jim Tierney remarked at a recent meeting, know the price of nothing, and the value of nothing.
To try and package up the historical grounds and offer them up for property speculators, or maybe at best, to be tarmaced over for a car park: this is just impossible to understand. But then this is Broken Barnet, where the past has no meaning, nor the future, and the only thing that matters is profit at the expense of everyone else.
Wandering about a churchyard gives a sense of the longer perspective of our time here, though: a thousand years, two thousand years - here today, gone tomorrow. What we leave behind is the only thing people will remember. What will our philistine Tory councillors be remembered for? Shutting museums and a destructive legacy of selling our heritage to the highest bidder.
If you object to the shameless sell off of the Farmhouse gardens, please do so before the end of today, Friday 10th February: email:
The Assistant Director of Estates - quoting ref VAL/SE/313.
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