For over 1,000 years a church has stood at Church End, for it was in the year A.D. 675 that the first church was built there in the midst of a thick oak forest, so that the foresters—cutting oak for another church, St. Paul's Cathedral—could worship between their labours.
Since then, the Parish Church of St. Mary-at-Finchley, rebuilt in A.D. 1100, bombed in 1940 and largely rebuilt again in post-war years, has been a corner-stone of the town that developed from the linking-up of three old villages, Church End, East End and North End.
On Saturday, a grey, sombre afternoon wet and cold, there took place at the Parish Church a ceremony that will be written large in the history of the parish. The foundation stone was laid of the church's first Parish Hall, a costly project in which members of the church and organisations are shoulder to shoulder in their determination to complete. The stone was laid by Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, Member of Parliament for the constituency, and because of the weather the ceremony was largely conducted inside the church. It began with the hymn “Christ is our corner-stone” , then followed prayers by the Rector (the Rev. R. W. Matthews).
A fitting Lesson was read by the secretary of the Hall Committee, Mr. Derek Hiorns, from I Corinthians 3, v.v. 9–17 that begin: “Brethren, we are labourers together with God; ye are God's husbandry; ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me as a wise master-builder. I have laid the foundation and another buildeth theron …”
The Blessing Of The Stone followed when the Rector said: “Dearly beloved in the Lord, we have met together to lay the Foundation Stone of our parish hall, in faith and hope that our Heavenly Father will accept this building at our hands as a place of fellowship for our congregation.”
Mrs. Thatcher told the congregation that she was honoured to be present at the ceremony. She was doubly grateful, as their representative for Finchley, for being allowed to lay the cornerstone of the new parish hall. It should be a centre of the social and spiritual life of the Borough.
After reviewing the history of the church, Mrs. Thatcher said she understood that they had suffered from not having had a proper hall. So had Finchley.
When she looked at the specifications of their building she wondered why a Town Hall for Finchley was needed. It was such an excellent hall.
It was, of course, necessary for a church of their order and size to have a parish hall of suitable size.
There were only some ten or twelve days to go, and £200 was needed to bring the Parish Hall Fund to £9,000, which was needed at the end of the year.
A further £10,000 was being borrowed, which the congregation had agreed to pay back at the rate of £1000 a year.
Of course she did not wish to frighten them with the figures but rather to use them as the measure of her admiration for the work they had so far achieved” .
She understood that first of all a large hall for 300 people would be built; then a small hall for a 100 people. A great deal more money would be needed for a dressing room and stage.
Mrs. Thatcher then said the Laying Of The Stone prayer. The choir sang an anthem. The Rector said a final prayer. Mrs. Thatcher was presented with a silver trowel and a bouquet.
The Church members then went in procession to the site where the stone was laid by Mrs. Thatcher. Both she and the Rector said a further prayer.