Finchley Lodge – District Scout Headquarters
The Old Lodge
At the end of 1944 Finchley Lodge stood derelict and forlorn, apparently nearing the end of its usefulness as a building. For over 200 years it had stood on a site in Finchley having great historical interest that had been a noteworthy centre of Finchley life.
Originally the mansion, built in 1733, stood on Finchley Green which itself was situated on the fringe of the notorious Finchley Common, a haunt of robbers frequented by highwaymen and the site of many hangings.
There were many owners and until April 1944, when it was offered for sale, it served as the vicarage of St. Barnabas. The local Scout Association at that time was seeking a possible venue for a District Headquarters and, with just over £70 in the bank and a large slice of optimism, four of its members were deputed to enter into negotiations for the purchase of the property. With great enthusiasm a public appeal was launched resulting in the sum of £2,500 being raised, enabling the house and its grounds to become the property of the Local Association.
The historic name “Finchley Lodge” was revived and the building was opened on 5th May 1945, by the Right Hon. Sir Frank Alexander, Lord Mayor of London who was accompanied by the Lady Mayoress. Among the distinguished company supporting him were the Sheriff of London, the Mayor of Finchley (Councillor Mrs M. E. Legge, M.B.E., J.P.) and the County Commissioner for London, General Sir John Shea, G.C.B., K.C.M.G., D.S.O., and many other notable figures in Civic circles as well as representatives from all of the Finchley Scout Groups.
Over the following years many improvements were made and the building rendered free of debt. It provided a valuable, spacious and useful centre for the administration of Scouting in Finchley as well as providing accommodation for Sea Scouts, Air Scouts, and the 7th and 11th Finchley, who all made it their regular meeting place.
Subsequent years proved the wisdom of the venture, and perhaps its greatest use was in the facilities it provided for Training Courses. Numerous courses were successfully carried through by the County Training Team for Scouters and instructional classes for Scouts and Senior Scouts of the District. It also became a centre for periodical conferences of Scouters, Committee meetings and District gatherings of all kinds.
Many enjoyable social functions were held there, at which the District was able to entertain Civic leaders and other notable visitors. It also afforded accommodation and hospitality to many parties of Scouts from all parts of the country and from overseas whilst they visited London.
The New Lodge
As the years passed by it became increasingly difficult and costly to maintain the building in good condition and in the early 1960s it became necessary to carry out a thorough survey to determine what would be necessary to put everything in order. The survey disclosed that more than £1,000 was needed and various schemes of fund-raising were discussed until it was finally decided to think in terms of building an entirely new District Headquarters designed specifically for use as a District Administrative Centre.
Accordingly, the freehold site was offered for sale for development whilst retaining for the Association a portion of the site sufficiently large to accommodate the future Administrative Centre. Sturt and Tivendale produced the necessary catalogue and the public auction took place on 26th July 1960. It sold for £17,100.
A Headquarters Development Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. E. E. Maynard was appointed by the Executive Committee, and given the responsibility of ensuring that the Local Association was provided with a well-designed District Headquarters at a cost which would leave a reasonable sum for the endowment of the building.
Messrs. Sturt and Tivendale, with Mr. G. T. Bone A.R.I.B.A., their Consultant Architect, were appointed to design the building and prepare plans. Following the receipt of the necessary approvals from the various authorities, and consideration of tenders for the erection of the building, the contract was awarded to Messrs. Fairweather Ltd., whilst the sub-contractor appointed for the electrical work was A. E. Wilson of Whetstone.
Although actual work on the site commenced in April 1963, the project quickly ran into unexpected difficulties with long periods of disappointing but unavoidable delays. It was not until twelve months later – in April 1964 – that full-scale building operations were resumed with the building being opened by Frank G Kelsey, a stalwart worker and an honorary commissioner, with a simple ceremony in March 1965.
The facilities provided were a large Conference Room, capable of seating 100, a Committee Room, a Secretary’s Room and the Commissioners’ Room. In addition, a fully-equipped kitchen with a serving hatch opening to the Conference Room, full cloakroom accommodation and a spacious entrance were incorporated.
The building was electrically-heated throughout; of special interest was the system of thermostatically controlled underfloor heating in the Conference Room, which was additionally fitted with two fan heaters built into the walls so that in cold weather a comfortable temperature could be rapidly attained.
Outside the building there was a small car park, flood-lit at night, as also was the access road from Gainsborough Road. All the external lighting, as well as the internal heating, was capable of control by time switches.
The District were justly proud of the new Finchley Lodge and claimed that “It passes into the hands of present and future Scouters who will henceforth utilize unique facilities to the utmost of their ability for the great benefit of generations of Scouts come – the Men of Tomorrow”.
The new Finchley Lodge proved to be a very useful asset and was used extensively for meetings and activities. However, as Group numbers began to fall its role became less significant and in 1990 the decision to sell the property was made. Frith Grange then became the District Headquarters.