A Short History of Mill Hill – a collection of snippets
Mill Hill was once buried in an ancient forest that covered the most of Middlesex, Herts & Essex. The local remains of that forest being Scratchwood, which was hunted up to the 1920’s and became an Open Space in 1932, and the woods at Moat Mount, where it is likely there was an Iron Age settlement c.500BC.
Up to 410AD the Romans had some presence in the area - scattered evidence has been found and at Copthall parts of a minor road and artefacts were unearthed. Two Anglo Saxon charters speak of a settlement in north Hendon called Lothersley - somewhere along the Ridgeway. In 959AD ‘Mill Hill’ was owned by the Abbott of Westminster, and at Lothersley some 6 families were living.
After the Norman Conquest (1066), the resulting Doomsday Book (1086) entry for this area shows only 2 major Anglo-Saxon landholders and 1 bishop and 2 abbots. By 1321 the Forest was being cut down and there were pockets of habitation. The windmill that gave the name to Mill Hill is thought to have been in the Mill Field. Before the 15th century ‘Mill Hill’ remained the rural part of Hendon. The village centre was probably around the Angel Pond at the top of Milespit Hill: with cottages, The Angel & Crown alehouse – and almshouses dating from 1696.
By the early 18th century estates had been formed and large houses built, many of which exist today, – Rosebank, Littleberries, Jeannettes, Highwood House, Hocomb House and others. The staffing of houses and estate management attracted additional workers to the area. There were many farms – Bittacy, Bunns, Burton Hole, Daw’s, Dollis, Goldbeater’s, Lawrence, Mote End, Uphill, and others. These almost all disappeared under housing or other developments.
The 19th century saw 3 important events. Firstly, many institutions acquired land along the Ridgeway which they managed to retain. A Nonconformist School (1807) – now Mill Hill School; The Wilberforce Anglican church (1833); Many Roman Catholic institutions and St Joseph’s college (1869+). Secondly, with road system improvements and the arrival of the railways (1867) there was a huge impact on the accessibility of Mill Hill. Thirdly, there was a house building explosion fuelled by this new easy access into London, initially in the Poet’s Corner and Mill Hill East areas. Subsequent growth is shown by population figures for Mill Hill: In 1880 it was 1,335: in 1921 it was 6,055: in 1931 it was 56,031.
After the 1st World War Mill Hill took on the form we recognise. The focal point moved away from the village to the low lands west of the Ridgeway. The construction of the Barnet Bypass (1926) - the A1/A41 - removed some shops and houses and more commercial activity sprung up at the lower end of Lawrence Street which was renamed The Broadway. Some estates built in this period were ‘Mill Hill Garden Village’ (Goodwyn & Newcombe Park) and Uphill Farm Estate.
The imposition of the Green Belt (1939) restricted continued
house building but after the 2nd World War building resumed. By 1949
local residents found the threatened loss of green space
unacceptable and the Mill Hill Preservation Society
was formed by the first Chairman of the Society - Mr Ivar Gunn.
The M1 Motorway (1967), made little difference to Mill Hill. By now much of Mill Hill had developed into an outer London Suburb typical of others on the fringes of London. It differs, however, in the retention of large properties in green space still in agricultural or institutional use, which makes it a most desirable place in which to live and work. Today with the departure of these institutions we are witnessing, another major change in the History of Mill Hill.