Barnet Post

The History of Barnet Museum

Survived a Nazi bomb, survived council cuts and now surviving the pandemic?

Hero for The History of Barnet Museum
Illustration of Barnet Museum (credit: Barnet Museum Archive)
By Mike Noronha  

Barnet Museum is the centre of history and heritage in the town of Chipping Barnet. “Chipping” means market and Barnet was a prominent market town (with a royal charter in 1199) and the only place in Greater London with a registered battlefield (The Battle of Barnet in the Wars of the Roses 1471). The Museum itself has a long and illustrious history.

In 1927, Bertram Ralph Leftwich, a Civil Servant, wrote to the local newspaper claiming that the town of Barnet was losing its identity and that traditions were changing for the worse. He proposed setting up the Barnet Records Society to collect documents to keep alive the history of the town. As the collection grew, the Society began keeping an ad hoc museum, housed in local buildings (schools, Council Offices etc.).

In 1938, Herford County Council and Barnet Urban District Council arranged for the Society to use 31/33 Wood Street premises near the High Street in High Barnet to exhibit the artefacts and, in March 1938, Barnet Museum was born.

In the years to come the museum operated under many strenuous circumstances. One of the most memorable moments was in 1940 when part of the building was completely destroyed by a German bomb. 

Over the next period, the Museum and History Society continued as a steady part of Barnet life.

But, in modern times, the Museum has had to contend with a new set of issues. Museums across the borough were closed by the council in 2009. However, public support meant the Council failed to close the Barnet Museum. Then, in March 2020 Covid-19 rules advised that the Museum should temporarily close to the public. The Museum is too small to ensure social distancing; the windows are nailed shut for security so there is inadequate ventilation, and most of the volunteers fall into “vulnerable” categories. 

In response to these restrictions, the Museum has enhanced its online offer on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the web. The Museum has also published a history of the Chipping Barnet War Memorial which is one hundred years old on 3rd April 2021.

On the 14th April 2021, we commemorate the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Barnet and there is much celebration being planned.

For updates on the events head to the Barnet Museum Facebook page.

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