Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Church Farmhouse: closed by Tory councillors, ransacked, left to rot - now robbed and vandalised

Updated below: Barnet Council shuts the gate, after the horse has bolted ...

Apart from the election, Mrs Angry, is there anything much going on in Broken Barnet, this week? 

Well, yes: Finchley Literary Festival, which will run from the 24th May, to the 31st. 


Rather foolishly, Mrs Angry has agreed to take part, and is giving a talk, on the 28th, on what is supposed to be about Charles Dickens and his associations with the borough, but has got a bit sidetracked by related stories of bodysnatching, Dracula, slaveowning vicars, death in the workhouse,  demon postmen ... and an Irish bootmaker who asked Dickens for a loan of £1500 to buy the manor house, and - and  if you want to know more, you will have to come along.

So, doing some research in the British Library yesterday, by chance Mrs Angry found herself reading a biography of Mark Lemon, the first editor of Punch, very good friend of Dickens, and who spent what he considered to be an idyllic childhood living with his grandparents at Church Farmhouse, in Hendon. 

In later life Lemon often remembered Hendon with great fondness, and wrote about his memories of life in what was then a rural area, his grandfather farming 200 acres, and living next door to the old Greyhound inn, still there, of course, and the ancient church of St Mary's. 

Mark Lemon

Funnily enough, Tory leader Richard Cornelius has always struck Mrs Angry as bearing a notable facial resemblance to Mr Punch.  

But perhaps the satirical allusion is one which springs too easily to the eye, to those of us living here, in Broken Barnet.

 Totteridge, May 2010

The seventeenth century, Grade II* listed Farmhouse was bought by the local council in 1944, and became a museum in 1954.

In May 2014, the building stands empty, and decaying, having been closed three years ago, in order for our Tory councillors to flog it off for development. With great glee they ransacked the Museum's collection of local historical artefacts, threw some in a skip, gave others away, and auctioned the rest off in a church hall in the midlands.

Their enthusiasm for selling the Farmhouse, however, was misguided, and buyers for a delicate, protected building of this rarity have, unsurprisingly, proven too few. The joke is, of course, that our would be true blue entrepreneurs and property speculators have no business sense at all, which is why they allowed themselves to be so easily led by the nose over so many financial cock ups, especially the Capita contracts, swallowing such stories as the one about £16 million capital investment, and spending £80 million to make £160 million savings. In truth none of them could run a jellied eel stall and make a penny of profit, let alone an authority of this size. No wonder they wanted to delegate everything to the private sector.

The Museum now stands forlorn, abandoned, empty, and neglected, to such an extent that English Heritage have listed its status now as vulnerable. 

It was only the fear of occupation by squatters, as in the case of Friern Barnet Library, moved the council - eventually - to take on any security precautions to protect the building. A company ominously named 'Ad Hoc' supplied a 'live-in' guardian, for whom the council has just installed a shower room, with no regard for the sensitivity and integrity of the listed building's features.

It may be that the guardian in question is spending too much time in his new shower, sadly, as it has been reported that some time on Sunday night/Monday morning, around ten of the old yorkstone paving flags around the Farmhouse were dug up, and stolen. As local GLA member Andrew Dismore commented today:

"This is the inevitable consequence of the Conservative Council’s closure of the museum, and after over 3 years, their inability to find someone to take it on. Their so-called negotiations with Middlesex University are going nowhere, as it is clear they are not really interested in taking over this historic listed building because its uses are so limited. 

An empty unused building like this is an open invitation for thieves. 

The Council has been and is spending thousands on security at the former Museum, for little good it does; and Boris Johnson’s cuts in the police service haven’t helped either. 

The Council should be ashamed of themselves. they will have to replace the missing flags at no doubt considerable expense to the council taxpayers of Barnet, but it is difficult to see how new stones will be able to replicate the appearance of the stolen old ones. Conservative Barnet could not care less about our Borough’s history and historic buildings". 

Andrew Dismore, Labour candidate and former museum curator Gerrard Roots, and Labour councillor Arjun Mittra

During the course of the last four years, the Farmhouse has stood as a permanent indictment, a metaphor in stone, of the moral decay and incompetence of this ghastly, philistine, materialist Tory administration, where nothing is of value unless it can be sold in a market place, and heritage, history, and a sense of community is utterly redundant.

In this week, in which we go to vote for a new administration, it is with perfect timing that we witness the building robbed off part of the very fabric of its own history. It's no worse a crime, in the view of Mrs Angry, than being robbed of the museum, and an intrinsic part of the story of Hendon, and this borough, by councillors elected to protect our best interests, not sell our heritage to the highest bidder - or rather try to, but fail ingloriously even at their own intentions.

The plaque commemorating Mark Lemon's connection with Church Farmhouse is still there, on the empty building. It will mean nothing to the Tory councillors who closed it, and who won't have heard of Lemon, or care. 

But then again, after Thursday, some of the leading Tory councillors who were responsible for closing Church Farmhouse, standing in marginal wards, will themselves be history.


According to Mrs Angry's spies, Barnet Council, with a typical display of masterly timing, has now acted to secure the gate to the Farmhouse ...
At some point this afternoon Barnet council chained and padlocked shut the front gates to the Museum, because of the theft of Yorkstone flags from the Museum's paths last Sunday. This will not deter thieves- they'll just bring along a pair of bolt-cutters. However, it will needlessly inconvenience residents and visitors who rightly expect to be able to access a much-used public right of way through a public garden set in a designated conservation area.


Red Sonia said...

Transparency and outsourcing:


APML said...

I`d rather this purchased even if it`s made into a family home,it will just fall down otherwise as time goes on...

Iv`e just joined team Gerrard to help out in his worthy cause.

Mrs Angry said...

If it is purchased, it will be by a developer hoping to get his grubby mitts on not just the house, which has limited potential because of the listing, but the extensive grounds, which are theoretically public gardens but no doubt would end up trashed by planning permission, courtesy of this council.

Good luck to Gerrard,who is standing for election tomorrow as a Labour candidate in Hendon.

APML said...

Gerrard is a nice chap,i see him all the time.

Mrs Angry said...

He is indeed, and very interesting to talk to. Do ask him about the West Hendon nudist riots of 1930, next time you two are in the Greyhound ...