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Barnet in 1835

BARNET, commonly called CHIPPING BARNET, to distinguish it from East Barnet, is a market-town of Hertfordshire, in the hundred of Cashio. It is situated on the great north road, eleven miles N.N.W. of London, upon an elevated site, on which account it is sometimes called High Barnet. The parish of the same name, in which it stands, contains about 1,440 acres. In the time of the Saxons this site was occupied by a thick and large wood, which was granted to the church of St. Alban’s by the name of the woods of Southaw, Borham, and Huzehege. In subsequent grants confirming the former, the place is frequently named Bergnet, which signifies, in the Saxon language, ‘a small hill;’ and in still later times it received the adjunct of Chipping, in consequence of the market which the abbots of St. Alban obtained leave of Henry II to establish in the town, and which in time became a large cattle-market. Barnet is a small town, but in consequence of being a great thoroughfare, has a busy appearance. It has no buildings besides the church and grammar-school that require particular notice. The church, which is dedicated to John the Baptist, was built about the year 1400, at the expense of John Moot, abbot of St. Alban’s, as a chapel of ease to East Barnet. It consists of a chancel, nave, and two aisles, separated by clustered columns and painted arches. At the west end, the church has a square embattled tower. The church is served by a curate, appointed by the rector of East Barnet, who is himself nominated by the crown, and the living is valued in the king’s books at £22, 2 shillings and 8 pence. The free school was founded by Queen Elizabeth in 1573, who erected a brick building for the purpose with apartments for a master and usher, and endowed it with a house worth £7 a-year : other benefactors have since increased this endowment. The school is managed by twenty-four governors, who appoint the master and usher. The terms of the foundation require that nine children belonging to the parish should be educated gratis, and any others on payment of 5 shillings a quarter. Another school was endowed in 1725, under the will of Mrs. Elizabeth Allen who left lands for the purpose of providing a school-house, and paying a master to teach all the children of Barnet, of both sexes, ‘to read the Bible and cast accounts.’ The town possesses two endowed alms-houses ; one for six poor and aged widows or maidens, and the other for the same number of aged widows. The government of the town is administered by a magistrate, high constable, and subordinate officers ; and a court leet is held at Easter. The market is held on Monday ; and there are fairs on the 8th of April and 4th of September, the latter being principally for the sale of cattle. The number of houses in Barnet is 306, and the inhabitants were 2,369 in 1831, of whom 1185 were females. This statement exhibits an increase of 614 persons since the former census, which is attributed in the population returns to the inclosure of a common.

A spring of mineral water, of a mild purgative quality, was discovered upon Barnet Common in 1652 : it was time in much repute, but we cannot learn that it is much use at present. On Gladsmore Heath, in this neighbourhood, was fought, on April 14, 1471, the decisive battle between the Yorkists and Lancasterians, which is known as the battle of Barnet. The forces of York were headed by Edward IV, and those of Lancaster by Neville, Earl of Warwick (the ‘king-maker’), who with many of the nobility and a great number of men perished on the field. The event has been commemorated by an obelisk, erected in the year 1740, by Sir Jeremy Sambrook, on the spot where the road divides towards Hatfield and St. Alban’s.