Barnet existed before the Norman Conquest but it does not appear in the Domesday Survey. The oldest part of Barnet is East Barnet, but what had been the centre of the manor and parish gradually declined. By the 11th century an important route north out of London towards St Albans passed through Barnet, and where it did a town developed.

The inhabitants of Barnet were active during the Peasants' Revolt (1381) and armed with cudgels and bows, forced the Abbot of St Alban's, their manorial lord, into signing a charter allowing them to hunt, fish, and mill their own corn, all of which was overturned after the revolt.

High Barnet

High Barnet is the oldest town in Barnet. There is a possibility that High Barnet was a Roman settlement, but so far there is little evidence. A common name for Barnet town is 'Chipping' referring to the old Barnet market, which has existed in various forms and at various locations since at least the 12th century.

The name High Barnet is Elizabethan. The choice of the name High Barnet for the railway station in 1872 did not meet any local opposition. Local government in Barnet town was, until the middle of the 19th century, split between several different authorities including the civil parishes of Chipping Barnet, South Mimms and Hadley.

High Barnet was a more inclusive name than Chipping Barnet (the name for the former civil parish that governed the lower part of the town). Now Chipping Barnet is used for the constituency, and High Barnet is used for name of the local authority ward. Both names are valid.

Later in an area north of Barnet town, Gladmore Heath, the Battle of Barnet was fought in 1471. The High Road was made into a turnpike in 1712 and Barnet town's position on top of the hill meant that by 1756 it had 25 inns for coaches to change tired horses for fresh ones.

  • between 1818 and 1823 the road was improved and the incline of the hill was reduced with a raised causeway from Underhill
  • in 1828 a new road, now St Albans Road, created a shortcut to that town
  • even before the railways had an impact on the coaching trade, Barnet's importance as a coach stop was in decline. The toll was lifted in 1862.

Barnet Station (1850), later New Barnet Station, and High Barnet, and Totteridge and Whetstone Stations (1872) led to the development of some suburban roads particularly in New Barnet, as well as in areas such as Brunswick Park (1880). But the fares from Barnet to London were expensive and other areas, such as East Barnet, Arkley and Mays Lane remained rural.

It was not until March 1907, and a tramline from Archway, and the conversion of the railway into the Northern Line and Piccadilly Line underground railway, that many of the suburban streets developed.