In 1679, James Ravenscroft at the age of 84, decided to build an almshouse called Jesus Hospital for “six poor ancient women, being widows or maidens”. Having purchased the land he chose the women calling them the Sisters of Jesus Hospital, and appointed governors, two churchwardens from Barnet, two alderman of St Alban’s and the rest to be made up of gentlemen residing in the neighbourhood, but not inhabitants of Barnet. The statutes he set down describe the types of women who should be given refuge: “The pensioners shall be fifty years of age, inhabitants of Barnet, neither common beggars, common drunkards, backbiters, talebearers, common scoulds, thieves, or other like persons of infamous life or evil name or repute; of sorcerie, witchcraft, or charming, or guilty of perjury; nor any ideot or lunatic.” To pay for their well-being he gave land in the parishes of Stepney and Chipping Barnet, and directed that two-thirds of the profits should be equally divided amongst the pensioners. The remainder was to be used for repairs, reasonable wages and for emergencies. Ravenscroft died the following year and was buried in the parish church of St John the Baptist along with other members of his family. The park was previously within Barnet Common. In the 1880s when a new road was being built here, a small area of remaining open land with a pond was converted into this public park. Initially it was called Barnet Recreation Ground, it was later named in honour of James Ravenscroft.
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