Whetstone is a place in the London Borough of Barnet, bearing the postcode N20. It is to the east of Totteridge, and these areas are known together as Totteridge & Whetstone. This combined area is the 63rd richest area in the UK - an acclamation which can be credited to Totteridge Lane, a long road home to many multi-millionaires. The High Road, the main road in the area, is the A1000 and part of the traditional Great North Road from London to Edinburgh.
Whetstone originated in medieval times. It was an important staging post for stagecoaches going north from London. There has been an inn on the site of the present Griffin pub for centuries, though the present building dates from 1928. The buildings to the left of the pub (viewed from the High Road) are late 15th century.
It is thought that Whetstone was named after the whetstone used to sharpen knives and other tools, a chunk of which is located on the High Road, on the pavement outside the Griffin pub (see picture). Some question this and suggest the stone was placed there as a mounting block for climbing on to horses as the Griffin was a coaching inn. It is also said that the name Whestone is merely a corruption of an old Anglo-Saxon name. Legend has it that it was used by soldiers about to fight in the Battle of Barnet.
Churchill and Hess
Whetstone may have been the venue for a secret meeting between Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess during World War II. A local newspaper unearthed a letter in Barnet Council's planning archives which states that Hess was brought to Tower House, 17 Oakleigh Park North, for interrogation after he made his infamous trip to Scotland in 1941.
The letter mentioning Hess dates from January 23, 1987, and was written by the owner of Tower House, a Mr W Jones, to inform his neighbours of his plans to demolish the building and erect luxury apartments on the site. It reads "We purchased 'Tower House' in 1953 and have operated from here ever since. It was built many years ago as a private house. In 1939 it was a boys' boarding school. During the war it was at different times a blood transfusion centre, a fire service station (hence the corrugated iron sheds) and a prisoner of war cage (Hess was brought here for interrogation after he flew to Scotland). After that it was unoccupied and derelict until we took it over."
Many historians are sceptical, and it was said that Churchill and Hess never met, but others say that knowing Churchill's temperament, he might have been fascinated and intrigued to meet Hess. It has been said that there would have been far more suitable venues.
At around the time of the alleged Churchill and Hess meeting, Whetstone may have also been the location of a Soviet spy base just a few doors down. Tass, the Soviet news agency, had a radio monitoring station at The Lodge, 13 Oakleigh Park North, and the British security agencies became aware that it was being used to track its activities. According to local newspapers, the diplomatic immunity granted to the Russians was a worry for the British government since it effectively granted a licence for Tass to publish libellous newsletters without the threat of prosecution.
Despite this concern, the Soviets were subsequently granted permission to use specialist radio equipment which was then used to spy on the British. The matter was escalated to Prime Minister Clement Attlee and was discussed by senior members of the cabinet, and the Russians were eventually ordered to cease their radio monitoring operation.