The Barnet Squeeze

The Barnet Squeeze
The Barnet Squeeze

Hopscotch, at 88 High Street, stands in the old Great North Road at a section once known as The Squeeze, which used to be longer when there were shops forming an island in the middle of the road in front of the college. These shops were called Middle Row and were the original location of the Barnet market which received it’s charter from King John in 1199. Middle Row was demolished after a fire in 1889.

Over the last 800 years this small medieval gap has witnessed a stunning parade of historical figures and events, from Kings and Queens to great armies .

14th April 1471 saw King Edward IV and his 11,000 strong army pass through to reclaim the throne, beating the Earl of Warwick’s army of 15,000 in the Battle of Barnet.

William Hale

In August 1555, during the catholic rule of Bloody Mary, Bishop Bonner had the martyr William Hale burnt at the stake as a heretic. The pyre was lit just over the road in Church Passage.

Three years later the protestant monarchy was restored when in November 1558 the new Queen Elizabeth left Hatfield for London.

Riding on horseback dressed in purple velvet, she passed through the Squeeze with an escort of 1,000 men.

In 1660 General Monck marched some 5,800 soldiers through The Squeeze, to spend the night in  Barnet before marching on to London to restore Charles II to the throne.

Samuel Pepys was no stranger to The Squeeze and wrote of eating the finest cheese-cake in the Great Room above Umi’s Pizza & Chicken shop.

Hopscotch is in a designated Area of Archaeological Significance on the site of an old timber building which survived until at least 1921. Notable for it’s gabled facade and an oriel window, which appears in many old  illustrations, the site included a yard to the left and stables at the back with the rear extending at least to what is now Moxon Street.

This was part of a medieval burgage plot that comprised a market shop, dwelling and a tiny smallholding for vegetables and little animals such as pigs. That there are no parallel lines in the layout of the property is testament to the shop’s  medieval heritage, where there has been give and take during repeated construction over the last 900 years.

In the 1890s the shop sold pianos and sheet music, later it was a confectioners named Lorraine’s, then a trendy restaurant (knocked through to the curry house), then a charity shop and finally a computer game shop. 

A church has stood over the road since the 11th century. Rebuilt in the 15th century and in 1875 that church was largely rebuilt to designs by William Butterfield. The north aisle just over the road is all that remains of the 15th century church. It has been said that the tower is the highest point between itself and the Ural Mountains 3,600km to the east and York to the north.