|The Sternberg Centre for Judaism||Barnet|
The Sternberg Centre is on the former site of Finchley Manor House, which once belonged to the Bishops of London and comprised a sizeable estate. A moated manor house is known to have existed by 1253, but there may have been an earlier house on the site. It was occupied by a succession of influential people and underwent numerous name changes over the years. All that remains of the once extensive moat is a dry L-shaped ditch at the far end of the grounds. The current building dates from 1723, built for Sir Thomas Allen on a new site outside the moat, who also had gardens laid out. The estate began to be broken up for development from 1849 and the house was leased as a school in both the C19th and C20th. In 1984 the Manor House Centre for Judaism was opened, later renamed the Sternberg Centre for Judaism.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2008
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The Sternberg Centre is on the former site of Finchley Manor House, which belonged to the Bishops of London from the early middle ages until the mid C19th when ownership transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. An early reference is made to the 'Manor of Finchesle' in a charter dated 16 June 1199 granted by King John to William de Sainte Marie Eglise, then Bishop of London. This charter exempted the inhabitants of 'Finchesle' from paying taxes to the king, as tenants of the Bishop. The Bishops did not built a residence for themselves at Finchley as it was a 'detached portion' of their Manor at Fulham, so it was essentially a sub-manor. However, the estate effectively became a freehold and had a succession of wealthy and influential tenants, and as a result the property underwent numerous name changes reflecting its occupants.
One of the first recorded owners was Mayor of London Sir Michael Tovey who appears to have acquired the manor in c.1244. Within a few years he had sold it to Adam de Basing, Chief Financier to Henry III, the King's Tailor, and Lord Mayor of London in 1251-3. His descendants remained here for a century and it became known as Basings Manor. A moated house here is known to have existed by 1253, but there may have been an earlier house on the site. Before his death in 1262 Adam de Basing considerably enlarged his estate through the purchase of new lands, much of which he used for sheep farming. It became known as Marshe's Manor in the C14th after Sir William Marshe, and from c.1420 Bibbsworth Manor, following the purchase of the property by Sir Edmund Bibbsworth, who enlarged the house and lived here until his death in 1443. It continued to be so-called even after Bibbsworth's son sold it in 1448/9. Other eminent occupiers in ensuing years included Lord William Hastings, Sir Thomas Frowick, Sir William Compton, Sir William Brereton and Alexander Kinge, all of whom had connections to the monarchs of their day.
The date when the first moat here was dug is not known but it is likely to be C13th. A plan of the manor made in 1870 indicates that the moat to the east of the house was some 40 yards long and 25 feet wide and until 1928 it contained water. The plan shows another section in the shape of a half-horseshoe extending to what is now Windermere Avenue. All that is visible now is a dry L-shaped ditch at the far end of the grounds, once the southern arm and half the eastern arm of the moat. The remains of an earthen causeway leading across to the manor house is visible halfway along the southern arm. It is not known how far to the north east the moat extended but it must have enclosed a large area since in 1502 'the Great Place of Bibbsworth' is described as comprising a large house, orchard and building on the island, with a great barn and stable outside the moat.
Following the death of Alexander Kinge's widow in 1622 Edward Allen purchased the estate and it remained in this family until the early C20th. By 1664 the house had been described as having '19 hearths' thus representing a sizeable property. The current building dates from 1723, built for Sir Thomas Allen on a new site outside the moat, who also had gardens laid out, probably infilling part of the moat for the purpose. Garden features included statues, a grotto and an Italianate garden temple built c.1732 and known as The Folly. This was later removed in 1965 when St Theresa's Primary School was built over this part of the site. In the 1830s the property was listed as follows: 'The Manor of Finchley with the appurtenances and 6 messuages, 12 barns, 12 stables, 10 dovehouses, 10 gardens, 10 orchards, 300 acres of land, 250 acres of meadow, 200 acres of pasture, 80 acres of waste land and common of pasture for cattle and common of Turbary [right to cut turf for fuel]'.
The Allen family moved from Finchley in the C19th and from 1819 - 1861 leased out the house for use as a school. From 1849 onwards parts of the estate were sold off for building and in 1909 the majority was sold, apart from the house and a small portion of the grounds. Between 1918 - 1981 the house was owned by a Roman Catholic order, the Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice, who opened Manor House School here in 1921. St Theresa's Primary School was opened on part of the convent land in 1967 and in 1969 the secondary school merged with Bishop Douglass School on a new site. The property passed to Manor House Trustees in 1981 and on 29 June 1984 the Manor House Centre for Judaism was opened by Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher. It was later renamed the Sternberg Centre for Judaism and is the largest Jewish religious, educational and cultural centre in Europe.
Fred Davis, 'Finchley Manor: influential families', Barnet Libraries Local History Publications, 1982; leaflets produced by The Sternberg Centre/Manor House Trust.