Notable Potters Bar lives revealed

PUBLISHED: 15:57 06 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:00 06 March 2017

The house in Darkes Lane where illustrator Fortunino Matania lived in 1914.

The house in Darkes Lane where illustrator Fortunino Matania lived in 1914.


From a 12th century warlord to contemporary jazz musicians via pioneers of Victorian technology – they all lived in or around Potters Bar.

A new exhibition at the Potters Bar museum in the Wyllyotts Centre tells the stories of 14 of the area’s most notable residents over the centuries.

The earliest is Geoffrey de Mandeville, who according to curator Arnold Davey, built a motte and bailey castle at South Mimms in the 12th century, when King Stephen was fighting the Empres Matilda for control of England.

Mr Davey said: “He either changed sides once or twice – it depends which source you believe.”

Many of the people chosen lived in the 19th century, such as photographer Roger Fenton and parachutist Dolly Shepherd.

Fenton was one of the first war photographers, capturing images of the Crimean War in the 1850s, but the exhibition explains he also built the house – now demolished – that gave its name to Mount Grace School.

Lord Trenchard, the “father of the RAF”, lived at North Mymms, but illustrator Fortutino Matania lived in Potters Bar itself, next to the United Reform Church in Darkes Lane.

The exhibition tells the stories of two notable Conservative politicians who both lived in the area and represented it in Parliament – Cecil Parkinson and Iain McLeod.

Mr Davey said: “He [McLeod] was made Chancellor of the Exchequer, but only for about 10 days before he died. He lived in the White Cottage in The Causeway.”

Another former resident of Darkes Lane was Edward Appleton, who won a Nobel Prize for physics.

Few non-specialists will know his name, but Mr Davey explained: “He made radar possible through his work on the different layers of the atmosphere.”

The curator has more fascinating life stories up his sleeve that he may reveal in future exhibitions.

But until mid-August, any visitor to the exhibition is sure to learn that Potters Bar has been home to an extraordinary host of talented and remarkable people over the years.

It is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2.30pm to 4.30pm, and Saturdays between 11am and 1pm.

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