North London did not became north London until the year 1910 according to the author of a new book. SOPHIE KUMMER reports Many people do not remember that there was once an Odeon cinema in Hendon, although it only closed down just over 30 years ago.

Knowledge of an area these days resides mainly in the memories of the elderly, and we rely on anecdotes and neighbourly chit-chat to fill us in on the history of where we live and work.

Enthusiasm for looking at picture postcards documenting our street scenes has waned considerably since their heyday in the early 20th Century.

But according to Barnet Council's heritage officer Hugh Petrie, the value of examining them has remained.

Mr Petrie, a professional historian, spent a month earlier this year assembling photographs of north London and captioning them for a new book in the series entitled Photographic Memories of Britain.

The book, called North London, uses photographs from the well-known archives of Francis Frith, who started photographing street scenes and documenting British life in the late 19th Century.

He gradually built up an enormous archive of pictures from all over the country and, after his death, his sons ensured that the photos of Frith & Co were in the vanguard of postcard development.

Now, the Frith Collection is commissioning local historians all over Britain to get involved in the monumental task of recognising scenes and captioning photographs for new books.

Mr Petrie said: "One of the important aspects of local history is its ability to develop what might be called civic or community pride.

"It helps people feel proud about where they come from it gives them roots."

He said that the North London book, which has pictures from as early as the 1880s up to the present day will appeal to people in their 70s or 80s, who will recognise how much things have changed.

But he also said the pictures were of value for other reasons. He said: "It is a good book. The pictures are quite useful because they do fill in the gap of what post-War London looked like.

"It also documents the time when north London became north London. That was in about 1910, what I consider to be the turning year, when the Underground and tram lines started being built and north London stopped being a group of farms with a bit of town, and became a town with a few farms. It shows a disappearing world."

He explained: "Things have changed so much people need to know. The sort of thing you notice from the pictures is the lack of cars. A lot show front gardens and things like that and buildings that have gone.

"There was the Odeon in the quadrant in Hendon, for instance, looking down Brent Street towards Parson Street. Looking at the picture, you suddenly realise it has gone."

Five pictures included in the book are Mr Petrie's own, taken of things such as The Spires shopping centre in Barnet, which he feels should be included because it is peculiar to the way we live now.

Another aspect the photographs show is what he calls a feature of north London the Green Belt.

He said: "It is hard to define north London as an area. The Lea river in the east is the only geographical boundary, but how far south do you go? What defines it, I would say, is that mix of large open spaces and true urban centres. Right beside Golders Green you have the heath extension, then there's Mill Hill, Totteridege, Arkley and as far south as Hendon, all with swathes of open land."

History has always interested Mr Petrie, but he maintains the book will appeal to others too.

He said: "People often say to me, 'Oh, my mum would love this, that's what it looked like when she first came to London.' But it's good to look at these pictures anyway: they inspire memory and inspire us to think of the past and each other."

Photographic Memories of Britain: North London is published by the Frith Collection at £9.99 and is available at WH Smith in Brent Cross.