1000 years or so ago, the Park area would have been forest but over the following centuries areas of forest were progressively cleared for the growing local communities. By the 14th century Thomas Daws lived in the area, giving his name to Daws Lane and to Daws Farm. 100 years ago, Daws farm would have been producing hay for horses – Mill Hill was an important staging post for travellers journeying to/from London to feed and rest themselves and their horses, the main mode of transport at the time. The many ale houses and good supply of hay would have been key components of the Mill Hill economy and everyday life.
Reflecting changes in the local demographics, mode of transport and way of life, in 1923 a section of Daws Farm was purchased by Hendon Urban District Council and opened to the public the following year. There was a grand opening on 24 July 2024, with the guest of honour – the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Rt. Hon. Josiah Wedgewood (great-great-grandson of the famous potter), dedicating the estate as “an open space for the benefit and enjoyment of the public forever”. Two further purchases of land for Mill Hill Park were made in 1926 (the large corner filed at the junction of Wise Lane and Daws Lane) and 1930 (the small section leading down to The Rise). Close by, the 25 hectares of Arrandene open space were purchased in 1929 and in subsequent years additional land was acquired for other parks, open spaces, woodlands and nature reserves – providing Mill Hill inhabitants with an unusually large area of open land.
When The London Borough of Barnet was formed in 1965, it took over management the Mill Hill Park and continues to do so, ensuring that this lovely area of open space can be enjoyed by all. The building of the Barnet Bypass (A1/A41) in 1926 separated the main part of the park from the smaller and quieter Flower Lane section, linked by the short underpass.
Much has changed since then, with the progressive development of park amenities by Barnet Borough. In 1997 David Bailey had the idea of forming a group of local residents with the aim of working with the Borough to protect the beauty and amenity of the Park, and to represent the interest of its users. The Friends of Mill Hill Park was thus created, with Ted Anderson as its inaugural chair.
In the following 25 years, the Friends of Mill Hill Park have worked hard in consultation with the Borough of Barnet – particularly with the Green Spaces Team and the elected Mill Hill Ward Councillors. As a result, the Park greatly increased its tree coverage, benefitting biodiversity and addressing climate change, together with benches to sit and enjoy the park and, for the more active, table tennis and a playground. For the latter, in 2010, the Friends of Mill Hill Park raised £49,473 of Lottery money, to which Barnet Borough added £24,773, to produce an enclosed area furnished with play equipment suitably challenging for 2-7 year olds. This quickly became a major attraction for children and their parents. Additional equipment suitable for an older (8-14 year old) age group was added below the enclosed area.
The work of course continues and in 2021 the Memorial Woodland was planted in the Flower Lane section of the Park – initiated and coordinated by the Borough, designed by gardening expert members of the Friends of Mill Hill Park and planted by residents from across the Borough in memory of lost loved ones.