Cheshunt Park and the Cromwells
A historic estate in Cheshunt
By Nicholas Blatchley
The first known mention of Cheshunt Park dates from 1339, when John Duke of Brittany complained of trespass at “his park at Cheshunt.”
It appears to have been part of the Manor of Cheshunt, subsequently held by the Crown until it was granted in 1526 to Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son. Subsequently, though, it was separated from the Manor of Cheshunt and, from 1570, was part of the Manor of Theobalds. As such, it was held by the Cecils and then by the Crown.
After the execution of Charles I, the Manor of Theobalds, including Cheshunt Park, was seized by Parliament. A survey described it as consisting of “669 acres, One Roode, and Sixteene pole”, with each acre worth 14s 6d a year, and containing “impaled pasture ground”, woods and three “tenements”. The Chief Rangers of the park were specified as being the Earl of Salisbury and his son, Lord Cranborne.
The Cromwells at Cheshunt Park
In the mid 18th century, the estate of Cheshunt Park passed by marriage to a certain Oliver Cromwell, great-grandson of his more famous namesake and great-nephew of Richard Cromwell, briefly Lord Protector of England, who had spent much of his later life living in Churchgate, Cheshunt. The later Oliver Cromwell built a mansion in 1795, officially called Brantyngeshay, but later referred to simply as Cheshunt Park. In an ironic twist, this Oliver Cromwell also because Lord of the Manor of Theobalds, from which his ancestor’s enemy Charles I had set out to raise his standard at the start of the Civil War.
Oliver Cromwell left only one surviving child, a daughter called Oliveria, who was the last direct descendant of the Protector to bear the name Cromwell. Her husband, Thomas Artemidorus Russell, repeatedly applied for permission to take his wife’s name. Each petition was vetoed by George III, reportedly with the words, “No, no; no more Cromwells!”
Oliveria’s descendants owned Cheshunt Park throughout the 19th century, but from about 1860 it was leased to Frank Gissing Debenham, who lived there. After his death in 1912, his daughters bought the estate. The last of them died in 1969, and the house was demolished the following year. Cheshunt Park is now divided between a public park and a municipal golf course.