The Clitter part of Clitterhouse is thought to originate from the word ‘clite’ or clay, and has been roughly translated to mean ‘clay house’*. The Farm was originally a woodland sub-manor held by John de Langton in 1321 and by his younger son Robert in 1335. With evidence of a moat and orchards around the original buildings, the area is officially recognised by the London Borough of Barnet as one of “special archaeological significance.”
From 1439 it was in the possession of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, and continued to be in their possession up to its sale in 1921, when it was sold to the War Department; it was later split up among private developers. In 1584 the estate was managed as one farm, called Clitterhouse, consisting of 118 acres of arable and pasture and 80 acres of wood. From the 1550’s local farming had switched from wood to hay to supply London’s increasing horse population. By the 1770’s the farmhouse was a large timber-framed building of two storeys, with three gables and a jettied first storey. It occupied one side of a courtyard, on the other sides of which were weatherboarded barns of the standard Middlesex type, with steeply pitched roofs, and stables. Alterations were carried out after 1794 and by 1838 another farmhouse had been built on the site.
[*According to a history of the surname ‘Clitter’, the word is thought to have originated from an old Celtic word of the Brythonic language meaning ‘craggy’. You can read more here. ]
The estate was diminished by the encroachments of the Midland Railway’s Cricklewood carriage-sidings in 1868. From 1876 – 1915 the Brent Gas Works (1900) was built on Clitterhouse land. Clitterhouse became a dairy farm and was rebuilt around this time. Land was sold for a sewage works, and Hendon fever hospital (1890-1929).
Between 1884 and 1913, the influential suffragette Gladice Georgina Keevil lived at Clitterhouse Farm. In February 1908 she was one of those arrested with Emmeline Pankhurst in taking part in a demonstration outside the House of Commons. Read this article in the Barnet Press about Gladice and the Farm.
During World War I, part of the farm was taken over by Handley Page, to build Britain’s first bombers the 401 and 404. Between 1919 and 1926 the Handley Page’s Cricklewood Aerodrome was an international airport with flights to Paris, Brussels, Berlin, and Bournemouth.In 1929 the Aerodrome was closed and the land became the Golders Green Estate. Hendon UDC converted the rest of Clitterhouse farm into a public park and Hendon Football Club (then Hampstead Town FC) moved to Claremont Road, the stadium having been erected by 1936. The farm survived the Blitz in World War II even though Handley Page was an important target for the Luftwaffe. After the war, the local community grew food in emergency allotments on the playing fields. The buildings were last used as changing rooms, public toilets and provided a park keeper’s cottage.
Check out our page on Cricklewood Aerodrome here.
HADAS (Hendon and District Archaeological Society) have carried out two archaeological digs at Clitterhouse Farm during the summers of 2015 and 2016. They have now published the first and second part of their report on the history of the Farm.
“The pre-14th century history of Clitterhouse Farm is vague, clouded in mystery and tied up in disputed Charters with great potential for historical myth making. Earthen banks around the Manor, identified by aerial photography, are suggested to form a moated enclosure and defence line against Viking invasion across to Oxgate lying on the western side of Watling Street. Hitchin-Kemp speculated that the Saxon Bleccenham may have been a Viking-raided homestead, blackened by fire, but then restored as ‘A house of clay … of such thickness of wall that even a modern bullet would scarcely penetrate. From the ashes, Clitterhouse, the clay house probably arose.” (Roger Chapman, HADAS, Feb 2016).
They are both fascinating reports. You can read Part One in full in the February 2016 issue of the HADAS newsletter HERE. Read part two HERE. The team are hoping to return to carry out further explorations in 2017.
THE FARM TODAY
The farm yard & outbuildings lie within the boundaries of the Brent Cross Cricklewood Regeneration (BXC)*, which has been in the pipeline since the 1990’s. Despite receiving outline planning permission in 2010 this major regeneration project has yet to break ground. The local area has suffered as a result of this uncertainty. Despite the Clitterhouse area having many long term residents and a rich history, the sense of local identity and belonging that remains is, at best, fragile. A focus for positive and immediate action is much needed.
Clitterhouse Playing Fields are classified as ‘Metropolitan open land’ and currently lack facilities, are underused and prone to anti-social behaviour. The adjacent Hendon Football club site has been sold to Fairview Homes and new houses and apartments are currently being built on the site.
Clitterhouse Farm’s period residential house which faces out onto Claremont Road was sold into private ownership. This is a totally separate property from the remaining extensive Victorian outbuildings which have been left unused for many years and have fallen into disrepair. These outbuildings were squatted for an extended period of time.
Barnet council have leased the outbuildings to ‘Local Tool Hire’ until Oct 2016. They primarily use the yard space and a portion of the buildings for their business. We are working with Local Tool Hire, Barnet Council, the BXC development partners and other stake holders to prevent this valuable community asset from being damaged further and to secure the long-term future of the buildings.
In October 2014 we were informed through our meetings with Barnet Council and The Brent Cross Cricklewood Development Partners that our campaign efforts had been successful and that the Farm will no longer be demolished under the BXC regeneration Master Plan. We are very proud and happy that with your help we have secured the future of the farm for our community and for future generations.
* “The Mayor of London’s 2020 vision identifies Brent Cross Cricklewood as one of largest regeneration projects in the country with the potential to deliver between 7,500 and 10,000 new homes, up to 20,000 new jobs and around £4.5bn of economic investment in an area ripe for redevelopment.” Quote from Mayor of London Website