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A quick visit to see some oddities

Probably the most interesting place to see in this area is the Tube station itself. It was opened just before WW2 and is a Charles Holden Art Deco design with a pair of large glass stairway towers which to this day seem ‘modern’. The street frontage is not particularly wonderful, except for the interesting large window and unusual roundel lettering, but the classic 1930's cream and green décor on the platforms is a joy. 

The station’s most famous feature is the large, scarey, brutalist statue of an archer which stands on the end of the platform for trains going south. Powerful it is, beautiful it is not. The arrow has clearly been launched towards the entrance of the Underground tunnel which runs right across London to Morden* in Surrey - until the Channel Tunnel was built it was the longest tunnel in Europe. The statue symbolizes two things, the first being the speed and directness of Tube travel, the second a reference to the hunting that took place in the once nearby forest of Enfield. 

Coming out of the station (turn left) there are a couple of buildings to see within five minutes’ walk. First, on the other side of the High Road is the Phoenix Cinema. This plain white building is an independent cinema which was opened in 1910 as the ‘East Finchley Picturedrome’. It has a claim to be the oldest continuously operating cinema in the UK, though it has had a few changes of name. The latest (and hopefully last) dates from 1985 when a group of local residents, led by actress Maureen Lipman, rescued it from being converted to offices.The curiously named Bald Faced Stag pub is a little further on at the corner of East End Road. This handsome tavern is a late Victorian rebuild of an eighteenth century inn. Nobody is sure how it got its name, but it is Georgian slang for a bald man. When the East Finchley Cemetery (see entry for Finchley Central) opened at the bottom of East End Road in 1855 the inn advertised itself as providing suitable accommodation for mourners who were referred to in the business as ‘the black trade’.

On returning to the station, you might like to go a few yards past it to glance at The Old White Lion (the present building is in fact comparatively young). This was established in the eighteenth century and shown on old maps as The Dirt House. It is thought that this odd name may refer to the fact that ‘street manure’ (you don’t want to know, but we’re not just talking horses) was brought from London to be spread on the hayfields of Finchley. Just along the road a toll house had been built, so carters would have been able to avoid paying extra by selling to farmers at the inn. 

*In spite of reports that it was stolen, it is unlikely that an arrow was ever actually put up at Morden, as there don't seem to be any photographs. I go for the theory that the trains themselves were the symbolic arrows.

This is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings to be found in the area covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to click on the link above and see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!

© DR