the Martians make it to Barnet?
Not many people know that H.G.Wells wrote about Barnet in his classic "The War of the Worlds", published in 1898.
Here is the extract that mentions our town
The War of the Worlds. H.G. Wells (1866–1946).
The Exodus from London
So you understand the roaring wave of fear that swept through the greatest city in the world just as Monday was dawning. The stream of flight rising swiftly to a torrent, lashing in a foaming tumult round the railway stations, banked up into a horrible struggle about the shipping in the Thames, and hurrying by every available channel northward and eastward.
By ten o’clock the police organisation, and by midday even the railway organisations, were losing coherency, losing shape and efficiency, guttering, softening, running at last in that swift liquefaction of the social body.
All the railway lines north of the Thames and the South-Eastern people at Cannon Street had been warned by midnight on Sunday, and trains were being filled. People were fighting savagely for standing room in the carriages even at two o’clock. By three, people were being trampled and crushed even in Bishopsgate Street, a couple of hundred yards or more from Liverpool Street station; revolvers were fired, people stabbed, and the policemen who had been sent to direct the traffic, exhausted and infuriated, were breaking the heads of the people they were called out to protect.
And as the day advanced and the engine drivers and stokers
refused to return to London, the pressure of the flight drove the people
in an ever-thickening multitude away from the stations and along the northward-running
So he got out of the fury of the panic, and, skirting
the Edgware Road, reached Edgware about seven, fasting and wearied, but
well ahead of the crowd. Along the road people were standing in the roadway,
For a time he remained in Edgware not knowing what next
to do. The flying people increased in number. Many of them, like my brother,
seemed inclined to loiter in the place. There was no fresh news of the
invaders from Mars.
It was perhaps a vague idea of making his way to Chelmsford,
where some friends of his lived, that at last induced my brother to strike
into a quiet lane running eastward.
He passed near several farmhouses and some little places
whose names he did not learn.
He heard their screams, and, hurrying round the corner,
saw a couple of men struggling to drag them out of the little pony-chaise
in which they had been driving, while a third with difficulty held the
frightened pony’s head.
My brother immediately grasped the situation, shouted,
and hurried towards the struggle.
Partly stunned, he found himself facing the man who had
held the horse’s head, and became aware of the chaise receding from
him down the lane, swaying from side to side, and with the women in it
Suddenly he stumbled and fell; his immediate pursuer went
headlong, and he rose to his feet to find himself with a couple of antagonists
again. He would have had little chance against them had not the slender
lady very pluckily pulled up and returned to his help.
“Take this!” said the slender lady, and she gave my brother her revolver.
“Go back to the chaise,” said my brother,
wiping the blood from his split lip.
“I’ll sit here,” said my brother, “if
I may”; and he got upon the empty front seat.
“Give me the reins,” she said, and laid the
whip along the pony’s side.
He learned they were the wife and the younger sister of
a surgeon living at Stanmore, who had come in the small hours from a dangerous
case at Pinner, and heard at some railway station on his way of the Martian
He stopped behind to tell the neighbours. He would overtake
them, he said, at about half past four in the morning, and now it was
nearly nine and they had seen nothing of him.
“So have I,” said my brother.
She explained that they had as much as thirty pounds in
gold, besides a five-pound note, and suggested that with that they might
get upon a train at St. Albans or New Barnet.
Mrs. Elphinstone—that was the name of the woman in white—would listen to no reasoning, and kept calling upon “George”; but her sister-in-law was astonishingly quiet and deliberate, and at last agreed to my brother’s suggestion. So, designing to cross the Great North Road, they went on towards Barnet, my brother leading the pony to save it as much as possible.
As the sun crept up the sky the day became excessively
hot, and under foot a thick, whitish sand grew burning and blinding, so
that they travelled only very slowly.
They began to meet more people. For the most part these
were staring before them, murmuring indistinct questions, jaded, haggard,
“This’ll tike us rahnd Edgware?” asked
the driver, wild-eyed, white-faced; and when my brother told
My brother noticed a pale grey smoke or haze rising among
the houses in front of them, and veiling the white facade of a terrace
beyond the road that appeared between the backs of the villas.
“Good heavens!” cried Mrs. Elphinstone. “What is this you are driving us into?”
My brother stopped.
“Way!” my brother heard voices crying. “Make way!”
It was like riding into the smoke of a fire to approach
the meeting point of the lane and road; the crowd roared like a fire,
and the dust was hot and pungent.
“Go on! Go on!” cried the voices. “Way! Way!”
One man’s hands pressed on the back of another.
My brother stood at the pony’s head. Irresistibly attracted, he
advanced slowly, pace by pace, down the lane.
The carts and carriages crowded close upon one another, making little way for those swifter and more impatient vehicles that darted forward every now and then when an opportunity showed itself of doing so, sending the people scattering against the fences and gates of the villas.
“Push on!” was the cry. “Push on! They are coming!”
Few stopped and came aside from that flood. The lane opened
slantingly into the main road with a narrow opening, and had a delusive
appearance of coming from the direction of London.
“I can’t go on! I can’t go on!”
My brother woke from his torpor of astonishment and lifted her up, speaking gently to her, and carried her to Miss Elphinstone. So soon as my brother touched her she became quite still, as if frightened.
“Ellen!” shrieked a woman in the crowd, with tears in her voice—“Ellen!” And the child suddenly darted away from my brother, crying “Mother!”
“They are coming,” said a man on horseback, riding past along the lane.
“Out of the way, there!” bawled a coachman,
towering high; and my brother saw a closed carriage turning into the lane.
“Where is there any water?” he said. “He is dying fast, and very thirsty. It is Lord Garrick.”
“Lord Garrick!” said my brother; “the Chief Justice?”
“The water?” he said.
“There may be a tap,” said my brother, “in
some of the houses. We have no water.
“Go on!” said the people, thrusting at him. “They are coming! Go on!”
Then my brother’s attention was distracted by a
bearded, eagle-faced man lugging a small handbag, which split even as
my brother’s eyes rested on it and disgorged a mass of sovereigns
that seemed to break up into separate coins as it struck the ground. They
rolled hither and thither among the struggling feet of men and horses.
“Way!” cried the men all about him. “Make way!”
So soon as the cab had passed, he flung himself, with both hands open, upon the heap of coins, and began thrusting handfuls in his pocket. A horse rose close upon him, and in another moment, half rising, he had been borne down under the horse’s hoofs.
“Stop!” screamed my brother, and pushing a
woman out of his way, tried to clutch the bit of the horse.
“Get him out of the road,” said he; and, clutching
the man’s collar with his free hand, my brother lugged him sideways.
But he still clutched after his money, and regarded my brother fiercely,
hammering at his arm with a handful of gold.
There was a smash as the pole of a carriage crashed into
the cart that the man on horseback stopped.
He saw Miss Elphinstone covering her eyes, and a little child, with all a child’s want of sympathetic imagination, staring with dilated eyes at a dusty something that lay black and still, ground and crushed under the rolling wheels.
“Let us go back!” he shouted, and began turning the pony round.
“We cannot cross this—hell,” he said
and they went back a hundred yards the way they had come, until the fighting
crowd was hidden. As they passed the bend in the lane my brother saw the
face of the dying man in the ditch under the privet, deadly white and
drawn, and shining with perspiration.
Then beyond the bend my brother stopped again. Miss Elphinstone
was white and pale, and her sister-in-law sat weeping, too wretched even
to call upon “George.”
“We must go that way,” he said, and led the pony round again.
For the second time that day this girl proved her quality.
To force their way into the torrent of people, my brother plunged into
the traffic and held back a cab horse, while she drove the pony across
“Point the revolver at the man behind,” he
said, giving it to her, “if he presses us too hard. No! point it
at his horse.”
And farther on, from a lull near East Barnet, they saw two trains running slowly one after the other without signal or order—trains swarming with people, with men even among the coals behind the engines—going northward along the Great Northern Railway.
My brother supposes they must have filled outside London,
for at that time the furious terror of the people had rendered the central
They began to suffer the beginnings of hunger; the night was cold, and none of them dared to sleep. And in the evening many people came hurrying along the road nearby their stopping place, fleeing from unknown dangers before them, and going in the direction from which my brother had come.
Had the Martians aimed only at destruction, they might on Monday have annihilated the entire population of London, as it spread itself slowly through the Home Counties.
Not only along the road through Barnet, but also through
Edgware and Waltham Abbey, and along the roads eastward to Southend and
Shoeburyness, and south of the Thames to Deal and Broadstairs, poured
the same frantic rout.
I have set forth at length in the last chapter my brother’s
account of the road through Chipping Barnet, in order that my readers
may realise how that swarming of black dots appeared to one of those concerned.
The legendary hosts of Goths and Huns, the hugest armies Asia has ever seen, would have been but a drop in that current. And this was no disciplined march; it was a stampede—a stampede gigantic and terrible—without order and without a goal, six million people unarmed and unprovisioned, driving headlong.
It was the beginning of the rout of civilisation, of the massacre of mankind.