The Churchgate History Trail

By Jane Ruffell

Growing up in Cheshunt in the early ‘80s I enthusiastically attended several memorable talks on the history of the town led by local historians Jack Edwards and Peter Rooke.

Mrs Rooke was a dinner-lady at the Dewhurst St Mary JMI School of which I was a pupil and she encouraged me in my quest for knowledge, recommending some leaflets and books on the local area that her husband and his friend had written.  Several of these I still have in my collection, most notably “Theobalds through the Centuries” by Peter Rooke and the “Cheshunt Past” series of photographic history books by Jack Edwards.  However, recently I was delighted to come across a pamphlet that I had thought I had mislaid entitled “Churchgate History Trail”.

This A3 folded pamphlet, as the title suggests, is a walking trail through one of the oldest parts of Cheshunt and contains a map of the locale that pin-points stops of significant historical interest and some fascinating fact and pictures.  I spent many glorious hours as a child with my younger brother in-tow re-tracing the route laid out in this map, taking pictures (alas, most of which have been lost or damaged through the years) and writing observations.  I often walk the Churchgate area, past the Dewhurst School and via White Hern Park and Bishops College, and unfortunately, although only 30 years have passed and despite being given Conservation Area status, much of the landscape and buildings have changed significantly in the last few years.

The 17th Century wall which bordered the garden of the White House and was held in place by large, circular, iron tie-plates, date stamped C17th (exact date escapes me) and marked Chas Wells, Ware is sadly now gone and there are some modern dwellings that have been added which seem to be completely out of character for such an area.  However, I am pleased to say that still standing is The Old Parsonage, one of Cheshunt’s oldest houses.

At Peace Close, the remains of the former Cheshunt Great House, once owned by Cardinal Wolsey, are in sad decline.  In my youth there was no fence around them and the ruins were kept in pristine condition by the Council.  Unfortunately, after years of abuse and being covered in graffiti these are now surrounded by large, metal railings and over-grown with weeds – a sorry sight indeed.

Since starting this piece on the trail I was delighted to bump into Mrs Rooke, who I have not seen since leaving primary school in 1983.  Quite unbelievably she remembered me and the interest I had taken in her husband’s work and said that she is so glad that I am still pursuing my love of local history.

I have yet to re-trace the trail in full, but aim to do so in the summer and will be interested to see what other changes there have been over the years.  Watch this space!…

This page was added on 28/02/2011.

Comments about this page

  • Hi Reg. You’re right, there seems to be very little information available about the building of Bury Green estate, which is rather strange. You’d have presumably been there at the same time as the estate’s most famous resident, Harry Webb (aka Cliff Richard).

    The only description I’ve been able to find about Grove House is from Jack Edwards’ book Cheshunt in Hertfordshire (1974): “On the south side three plane trees and an oak mark the former entrance to a large eighteenth century house known as Grove House, which had a farm and dairy adjoining. This was demolished when the present Grove House complex was built by the district council in the late 1960s.”

    Grove House is distinct from Grove Cottage (mentioned in another comment here) which was reputed to have been the basis for the house in Trollope’s novel The Small House at Allington.

    By Nicholas Blatchley (09/08/2017)
  • Hi,
    Just happened across these pages.
    I grew up in Bury Green from around 1950, went to St Marys infants school in Chruchgate and later to to Dewhurst school also in Churchgate. This as far as I recall shared a building called Grove house which stood on the corner of Bury green road (can find no references to this building) which I recall was also used as a polling station.
    Later went to St Marys high school.
    I recall as a youngster the forbidding site of Cheshunt great house which was mysteriously and conveniently burned down in the late sixties, so allowing new houses to be built.
    My real interest is in the history of Bury green council estate which is what it was known through the 50 & 60’s.
    Its strange that no pictures ever turn up of it being built.
    I guess I would have to approach the council to see if the archives are accessible?

    Its specifically the history of Bury green that interests me

    By Reg Scheuber (03/08/2017)
  • Hi Janice. I have vague memories of Grove Cottage, though I don’t remember Homedale. HALS has recently acquired a collection of photographs of Cheshunt, and hopefully some of these will find their way either onto this site or Herts Memories. I’m not sure if there’s anything of these two buildings, but I’ll try to find out.

    By Nicholas Blatchley (07/01/2015)
  • Interesing reading, does anybody remember Grove Cottage at the corner opposite Bury Green, Knocked down in the 60s? or Homedale. near the Church, or possess any photographs?

    By janice soons (03/01/2015)
  • Nice to read J Ruffells page. Have just had a visit to the Lowewood Museum in Hoddesdon. in the corse of vist i was able to Purchase two of P E Rooke books.’Cheshunt in Victorian &Edwardian Days and A History of St Marys Church. both most interesting. i Some one who has retuned to live in Cheshunt after 30 years of living in near by Waltham Abbey. would love to find out more History of the once massive Greenhouse industrie that was in my youth such a big part of this area,

    By DAVID SPOONER (27/02/2014)
  • Hi David, good to know you’re back across the border (though of course Waltham Abbey has plenty of fascinating history too). There are articles on this site about the local greenhouse area, but probably the best resource would be to come in to HALS at County Hall, Hertford, where there should be both books and documents relating to it.

    By Nicholas Blatchley (27/02/2014)

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