Brief History of Whalebones Park

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Whalebones  Park entrace 2017

Whalebones  Park entrace 2017

Whalebones Park is 14 acres of green space in High Barnet. It first appeared on a map in 1872, and has since become part of Barnet’s heritage.

According to local legend, the great polar explorer John Franklin (1786-1847) lived part of his life in Whalebones House and was the first to erect whale bones in the entrance. It’s said that when the whale bones first arrived, they stunk out the village. Apparently nobody thought the bone marrow would have such a pungent smell!


First copy and page of the Barnet Press

First copy and page of the Barnet Press

In recent History, Whalebones Park was home to the late Miss Gwyneth Cowing who set up the Barnet Society and whose family owned the recently closed Barnet Press.

Seeing the whale bones in such disrepair, Miss Cowing worked with a Whaling and Sea company in Norway to have the bones replaced. (This is a super interesting story, click here to find out more.)

Miss Cowing had a huge role within Barnet's community. In 1945 she founded the Barnet Society with Trevor Jukes to give a voice to local people who believed that the green belt needed defending.

Her family started the Barnet Press in 1861, which at the time was the only journal in the district, which published full reports of local events and forums in all respects.

Studio Space for Barnet Art Guild

Studio Space for Barnet Art Guild

In 1948 Miss Cowing established the guild of artists following an exhibition of local artists work at Queen Elizabeth’s Girls School. Being a talented artist herself, Miss Cowing took it upon herself to provide the artists guild with studio space.


Girl Guides Badge in Whalebones Park

Girl Guides Badge in Whalebones Park

Whalebones Park was home to the Brownies and Girl Guides for a long time, with lots of local residents from ages ranging from 18 to 70+ still having fond memories of their time there.

The Barnet Beekeepers have been using Whalebones Park for decades, which supports in training future beekeepers and maintaining a bee sanctuary in the borough.

During her time at Whalebones House, Miss Cowing also hired her friend and landscape architect Sylvia Crowe to design the garden to Whalebones House.


When Miss Cowing passed away in 1987 she left much of her assets in a trust. It was her wish that Whalebones Park, her freehold property, be kept for agricultural purposes. Find out more about this on the Situation page.

In the middle of the 2010's part of Whalebones estate gifted to the NHS and used to house trainee nurses for several decades was sold to Linden Homes. This site is now called Elmbank Estate and is worth over £23M.

In 2015, the trustees of the land on Whalebones Park decided that it should be sold to developers because, the costs of maintaining the estate are increasing, the funds in Miss Cowings legacy are dwindling and there are increased incidents of trespassing on the land.

Theresa Villiers MP at Whalebones Park

Theresa Villiers MP at Whalebones Park

In 2016, Theresa Villiers the MP of High Barnet pledged to oppose planning on Whalebones Park

Want to know what the current situation is? Please visit the Situation page now.