Friern Barnet is a suburban development situated situated 7.4 miles (11.9 km) north of Charing Cross. The centre of the development is formed by the busy intersection of Colney Hatch Lane (which runs north-south), Woodhouse Road (taking west-bound traffic towards North Finchley) and Friern Barnet Road (leading east towards New Southgate).
The area was originally considered to be part of Barnet, most of which was in Hertfordshire. By the thirteenth century the Middlesex section of Barnet was known as "Little Barnet", before becoming "Frerenbarnet" and then "Friern Barnet" (in the past also sometimes spelt in other ways, such as "Fryern Barnett"). The "Friern" part of the parish's name derives from the French for "brother", and refers to the medieval lordship of the Brotherhood or Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.
Friern Barnet was mainly rural until the nineteenth century. The opening of Colney Hatch pauper lunatic asylum in 1851, and of railway stations on the Great Northern and Metropolitan Railways, also in the middle of the nineteenth century, began its development as an outer London suburb. This process was accelerated by the arrival of electric trams in 1909.
Local affairs were administered by the parish vestry until 1875, when it was grouped with neighbouring parishes as part of Barnet Rural Sanitary District. In response to a petition by local ratepayers who wished the area to be removed from the Barnet RSD, the parish adopted the Local Government Act 1858 and formed a local board of health of nine members in 1884. Under the Local Government Act 1894 the local board's area became an urban district. The urban district occupied an area of in 1911 and had a population of 14,924. In 1961 it occupied an area of and the population was 28,813. In 1965 it became part of the London Borough of Barnet.