Finchley is a Saxon place name and its earliest recorded use is in the 13th century. The end of the name,'ley', suggests an opening in woodland, and the beginning 'Finch' either refers to the bird, or a person called Finch.
Friern Barnet was known for a time as little Barnet, and was at some time connected with East Barnet further to the north. When the manor came under the control of the Knights of St John brotherhood of knights, the area became Friern, as in French for brother 'frère', Barnet.
Finchley and Friern Barnet are not in Domesday Book.
By the 11th century Finchley belonged to the Bishop of London. The few early medieval inhabitants maintained the extensive woodlands cultivated to provide fuel and pigs for sale in London.
Proper farming began by the end of the Norman period, and by the 15th and 16th century the woods between Finchley and Friern Barnet were cleared to form Finchley Common. By the 1270s there was a settlement at Church End, Finchley, and around the church of St James at Friern Barnet.
An important road north out of London passed through Friern Barnet from Saxon times. It was redirected to cross Finchley (c1300) to join the older road at Whetstone. Whetstone developed to serve travellers and had a number of inns by the Tudor period.
By the 17th century there was a large hog market at the southern end of Finchley Common. In the 18th century Finchley and Friern Barnet were well known for the quality of their hay.
After enclosure North Finchley began to develop in the 1820s. In the late 1820s the Finchley Road was built from Marylebone in London to the Great North Road at Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley. There were horse drawn omnibuses for a small number of wealthy individuals to commute to London by 1827.
The Great Northern Railway opened a railway at Colney Hatch (now called New Southgate) in 1851. At the same time as the building of the railway Colney Hatch Asylum was built, the largest asylum in Europe. The Edgware Highgate and London Railway opened a line to Finchley in 1867 and opened a branch line to Barnet in 1872 (including Totteridge and Whetstone). Trams started in Finchley in 1905 and Finchley became a proper suburb by 1914.
The first factories in Friern Barnet opened in the 1890s. Finchley had a small motor works on East End Road in 1911 (now a carpet store). There was only one large manufactory, Simms Motor Units at Red Lion Hill, which in its heyday employed more than 2000 people (it closed in 1991).
South Friern was the location of Britain's first proper film studios, run by the film pioneer Robert Paul. Finchley became a borough with its own mayor in 1933 and there was talk that the two areas should merge. The Great Northern Railway line became part of London Transport's Northern Line in 1939, with an underground link to Archway opening in 1940.