Times Group historians PERCY REBOUL and JOHN HEATHFIELD launch their new column, The Past in a Picture, with this Edwardian photo of the junction of Regents Park Road and Hendon Lane, Finchley

First of all, the date. It is difficult to be exact but as there are no tramlines it must be before the Finchley to Golders Green trams came through in 1909.

This date range is confirmed by Clement's Nursery, which occupies the triangle of land between the two roads Regents Park Road (left) and Hendon Lane.

The nursery, one of the many small plant nurseries in the area at that time, was opened by William Clement in 1875 and survived until 1910. He combined landscape gardening with his florist and nurseryman business, in which he grew cash crops, such as onions, and hired out plants for important occasions, such as weddings.

One of his specialities was the aspidistra plant so beloved by the Victorians. This often stood on a table in the bow windows of the growing number of terraced houses owned by the lower middle-class of Finchley.

The nursery was replaced in 1911 by the King Edward Hall, which still stands on the site today, but is itself threatened with demolition.

The main feature of the photo is the collection of horse-drawn vehicles clustered around the drinking trough for animals, located at the junction of the two roads. Motor vehicles were a rarity then: the horse was the main source of transport.

These granite troughs, some of which still survive in the borough, were installed at key locations by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association, a charitable body formed in 1859 to provide clean water to both humans and overworked animals. Today we take the purity of water for granted. In the 19th Century, water-borne diseases such as cholera, caused by public wells polluted with sewage, were among the greatest problems of the day. The association played a key role in overcoming the problem by erecting safe' drinking fountains at accessible locations.

Their concern for animals had an unusual aspect. Most cattle troughs in pre-association days were provided by local pubs, which expected both the carter and his animals to refresh themselves for a modest fee. As one pithy notice said: "All that water their horses here, must pay a penny or buy a beer."

Here we see the influence of the Temperance Movement in the association's affairs. Hansom cab drivers were given maps showing the location of the free troughs.

The origin of the roads featured in such photographs are of special historical interest. Regents Park Road was part of the turnpike road built in 1825 to link London's West End with the Great North Road at Tally Ho!, Finchley. Hendon Lane, on the right, was called Alcock's Lane in medieval times.

u Many of our readers will have tucked away old postcards and photographs that, typically, remind them of their forebears or how their home or street looked in days gone by.

To anyone interested in local history or the past generally, these are a mine of information when studied more closely. It is with this in mind that we present our new column, The Past in a Picture, in which we shall be featuring a single picture and looking in more detail at what it reveals in historical terms.