Brief History of All Saints
The Revd Harry Lamb,
Assistant Curate 2016-
The district of Whetstone in North West London has seen a lot of changes over the past century and a half, and All Saints’ Church has been there through most of them. In fact, the building of the church itself was one of the most significant moments in the development of the area. Up to this point, the neighbourhood was mostly fields, with a few farms, some roads, the Whetstone itself and a pub (now The Griffin) next to it. The Whetstone may have been the base of an old cross but by this time it was a local landmark where people came to sharpen their scythes and it lay at the point where Oakleigh Road North (known then as Blackhorse Lane) ran eastwards from the High Road towards Southgate. One well-to-do resident of the district, Henry Miles, churchwarden of the old parish church of St James the Less, realised that this area would soon be engulfed by the inexorable growth of London and had the vision to build a new church, to provide a place for the new community to gather in worship of God, to be its centre and to serve its pastoral needs. He generously funded the construction of a new church building, together with a school and a vicarage next door. When the search started for a priest to minister in the new church, the answer turned out to be closer to home than first expected, and so it was on Dedication Sunday in the year 1882, that Rev. John Miles, Henry Miles’ son, was inducted as the first vicar of All Saints’ Church, Friern Barnet.
From that point on, the population of the new parish grew steadily, reaching 6,000 in 1926, transforming the area from open country to suburbia in a few generations. During this period of demographic change, All Saints’ quickly became one of the stable and enduring features of Whetstone, with a strong tradition of good liturgy in the Eucharist and an atmosphere of welcome, which it keeps to this day. Rev. Miles himself proved to be equally stable, remaining in post until 1932, having faithfully held before his people the steadfast love of The Saviour for fifty years. This pattern of stability in ministry has been a feature of All Saints’ which has had only five vicars since it was consecrated. When Rev. Miles retired, he could look back on the huge growth in population and the many social and technological revolutions of the early twentieth century, and above all the tumultuous and testing years of the First World War. In this conflict, 58 men from the parish gave their lives and they are commemorated in the wooden memorial in the North Porch under the tower.
The church was designed by the very active nineteenth century church architect, Joseph Clarke, who also designed the church of All Saints’ Reading, to which our church bears considerable resemblance and where Henry Miles had served as a curate. Clarke gave the church the basic plan which it retains to this day: a tall clerestoried nave with two side aisles, a five-bay apsidal chancel, south porch and north porch with tower and spire above. He also determined the exterior finish of knapped flint and Cotswold stone. There were some developments later, with the addition of the first organ in 1896, and conversion of the original single vestry on the south side of the chancel into the current Holy Spirit Chapel with choir and clergy vestries added onto it. When John Miles, the founder died in 1886, his family and the parish chose to remember him by adding many fine touches to the internal decoration of the church: the alabaster reredos, the stained-glass windows and the chancel frescoes. The design is the work of Sydney Gambier Parry, half-brother to Hubert Parry, composer of ‘Jerusalem’, and includes stylised formal patterns and images of saints, including Saints Peter, Paul, Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose, Augustine of Canterbury, Lucy, Catherine and Cecilia. The designs were not in fact completed until 1923, for the 25th anniversary of the consecration of the church, with Christ in Majesty painted over the chancel arch. An excellent guide to the windows and frescoes can be found in the booklet Stories in Stained Glass – a Guide to the Church of All Saints’ Friern Barnet, Adrian Benjamin, 1986.
The congregation of All Saints’ have continued to pray, worship, work and play amidst the community of the parish down the years, using both the church building itself and the hall built in…during this time, the church has continued its close relationship within the neighbouring All Saints’ Church of England Primary School. The fourth vicar, Adrian Benjamin developed the artistic offering to the parish by establishing the hall as an Arts Centre. In his time too, a major new organ was installed in 1984 by Church and Co. Significant refurbishment of the church has also taken place in 1982, for its centenary, and in 2018, with the spire being renovated with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The parish continues to look to the future, with whatever changes it my bring, with a confidence rooted in the faith that it is constantly held by the Holy Spirit in the presence of God through our saviour Jesus Christ.
Harry Lamb, Assistant Curate, 2018
Our buildings have closed but our church remains open: YOU CAN FOLLOW OUR LIVESTREAM ON FACEBOOK AT 10AM ON A SUNDAY, EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE AN ACCOUNT. CLICK HERE. Priest have been prohibited from using the church for these services by our Archbishops, so I shall do...