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Celebrities support historic community building facing closure in Finchley
Friends of Avenue House members Sandra Rebek and Jack Ellis with special guests Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton (centre)
CELEBRITIES joined hundreds of residents at an open day in aid of saving a historic community building in Finchley from closure.
Harry Potter star, Imelda Staunton and her husband, Jim Carter who recently played the butler in ITV’s drama Downton Abbey, were amongst a 400-strong crowd who attended Avenue House in East End Road on Sunday.
The Trees, Tours and Teas event was organised by recently formed Friends of Avenue House, a group of local residents working to prevent the estate from closing after it lost £35,200 in its annual income.
The group aims to raise £25,000 by the end of April and keep the grade II listed mid Victorian mansion and grounds open to the public instead of being handed over to Barnet Council.
Visitors were invited to take part in tours of the house and gardens and tea and cakes were provided by Parkway Patisserie of Regents Park Road, Finchley and Madeline Lewis, Gabriella Sgambati and Emma Lloyd who are pupils at Wren Academy in North Finchley.
As a child Ms Staunton used to live with her family in Vines Avenue, Finchley and speaking about the estate she said it was an important part of the area and deserved support.
She said: “The house and gardens are so wonderfully maintained, and are clearly enjoyed by so many people. “It would be very sad indeed if they were not kept as a resource for local people.”
Henry Stephens, otherwise known as Inky Stephens, son of the inventor of the famous blue-black ink, bequeathed Avenue House to the people of Finchley when he died in 1918.
Actor Jack Ellis, who has appeared in television series such as Bad Girls and Coronation Street, is a Finchley resident and a member of the Friends group.
He said: “This is an extraordinarily beautiful place, full of hidden treasures.
“It would be an absolute tragedy if people couldn't continue to enjoy it in the way Henry Stephens intended when he left it to the people of Finchley."
Throughout the day people offered donations towards the groups’ campaign which consequently raised over £4,000.
Sandra Rebak, chair of the Friends said: "The support local people have shown has been wonderful.”
She added: "There is cause for optimism.
“Bookings for spring and summer are better, so if we can get through the short-term crisis, the situation should improve.
“In the longer term, we aim to continue to support the financial sustainability of Avenue House through increased community support and involvement."
To find out more about Friends of Avenue House or to join the group, email: email@example.com To make a donation to Avenue House visit www.avenuehouse.org.uk or send a cheque made payable to Avenue House Estate Trust to Avenue House, 17 East End Road, N3 3QE.