St. Mary-at-Finchley’s Give me shelter! Church and Churchyard Project is finally happening, following the award of a £250,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund
The project will transform access to St. Mary’s heritage and environment by making it available locally, nationally and internationally. The project will cost a total of £930,320 with St. Mary’s contributing £296,000, and the London Borough of Barnet contributing a further £145,250. The church will be fundraising for the remaining funds.
St Mary’s will be working in partnership with the London Borough of Barnet and neighbour Barnet Mencap to revitalise Grade II* St Mary’s, the heart of Finchley Church End Conservation Area, to maximise use of the site and improve physical, cultural and digital access for the community.
Subject to raising the further funds needed, the completion date for the project will be September 2025 and involve:
St. Mary-at- Finchley is the oldest building in Finchley. Some people believe that this was a sacred site in Saxon times. Certainly a church was in existence by the 13th century, when it was known as “The Church of Our Ladye at Fynchesley”.
Throughout its life the church has been affected by historical events – ornaments and furnishings were destroyed during the Civil War in the 17th century, and in 1940 a bomb devastated the east end. The oldest visible parts are the tower and north wall. These are predominantly of 15th century date, but include some even older stonework. In the churchyard by the porch are early 18th century tombstones decorated with skulls and cherubs.
The churchyard was extended in 1722, and in 1812 there were major roof repairs after the lead covering was stolen. With the arrival of the railway in 1867, Finchley’s population increased rapidly. A new south aisle was built in 1872, and hot water heating and gas lighting were installed. Further extensions were made in 1932. The last major restoration took place in 1953, after the wartime bombing.
The church is listed Grade II* and the churchyard contains seven Grade II listed tombs and monuments, including an obelisk monument to Major John Cartwright (“Father of Reform”) and a Georgian sundial which features in a 1793 watercolour of St. Mary’s by JMW Turner.
Reverend Philip Davison, Rector of St Mary-at-Finchley said: “We are thrilled to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players, our parish community and the London Borough of Barnet. We are confident this project will transform access to St. Mary’s heritage and environment locally, nationally and internationally”
Stuart McLeod, Director of England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re delighted to award St. Mary-at-Finchley a grant to restore this important Grade II* listed church and open up its history to a wider audience. The project will engage the community with the building in new ways through the creation of new interpretation and working with local schools and groups. It’s important that heritage resonates with its community and this project is a great example of this.”