Cheshunt Great House

A mysterious fire

By S Williams

Cheshunt Great House on a postcard c1910
Hertfordshire archives & Local Studies
The banqueting hall in the 19th century
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (D/EHwZ8)
The banqueting hall in 1910. The caretaker is sitting on a chair to the right.
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (D/EHwZ8)
1960. The bungalow to the left had just been built for the caretaker of the private member's club that never was
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (D/EHwZ8)
Chehunt & Waltham Weekly Telegraph
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies
The house in ruins a few days after the fire
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (D/EHwZ8)
OS map of 1938
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
A sad end to the Great House
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (D/EHwZ8)

The Rosedale estate along Goffs Lane at the junction with Churchgate hides the remains of one of Hertfordshire’s most famous and historically significant houses, Cheshunt Great House.

Built in the 15th century, the house was reputed to have been owned by Cardinal Wolsey along with many other distinguished people.  It was originally shaped in a quadrangle and had over 40 roooms, including a magnificent banqueting hall.  In the 1750s, it was remodelled and encased in red brick. 

For most of the 19th century it was owned by freemasons.  Later, part of it became a museum and visitors were shown the vaulted cellars where some skeletons were found in the 1880s.  The stories of ghosts, murders, secret tunnels and bloodstains were legendary. 

Changing times – 1950s

In 1952, the house was described by its owner, Reverend B J Haddad:

“The main staircase is a splendid specimen of joiners work, also in carving and tuning.  In all, there are 14 large and small rooms apart from the banqueting hall and chapel.  There are also several wide passages, a bathroom with electric water heater and three other places of convenience, a large garage, summer house and two glasshouses.  The entire interior walls are pannelled throughout with wood from the time of Queen Anne.  The grounds, which measure about two square acres contain an orchard of fruit trees, a flower garden, a kitchen garden and many other trees of various kinds including oak.”

It was described by others as “the ugliest house in the district”.

During the Second World War, the house was occupied by the Home Guard and in 1959 was bought by a couple who planned to restore and open it to the public.  The Potters, who were art dealers, spent a lot of money on restoring the house as it had become quite dilapidated.  Their vision never really came to fruition and it was sold in 1964 for £10,000.  The new owner planned to turn it in to a private member’s club and was met with some opposition from nearby residents.

Although some work was done on the house, it stood empty for a while.  Security of the site was non-existent and it soon became a favourite place for gangs of children to play. 

The 1960s and a mysterious fire

Late one Monday night in September 1965, flames were seen coming from an upstairs window.  The fire quickly spread and within five hours, the whole house was completely gutted.  As it burned, the owner optimistically commented that “the old girl would be re-built”.  Sadly, this was not to happen as the walls were too unstable to be retained and gradually they were demolished. The fire was thought to have been started deliberately.  It was a shame that six hundred years of history came to such a quick and devastaing end.

Shortly after, the site and surrounding nurseries were aquired by the London County Council for re-development and all traces of the once “Great House” disappeared.

Did you ever visit the house or do you remember the fire?

This page was added on 22/07/2010.

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  • My sister was the little girl adopted by Rev.Haddad. I only found out recently, sadly I never got to meet her, living only a short distance away.

    By Julie SHAND (04/10/2023)
  • I don’t think any locals were under any illusions regarding the cause of the fire! Every remotely interesting historic building in the area has burnt down at some time! Such a shame!

    By Tina Stevens (nee Blackaller) (29/04/2023)
  • Just came across this article that immediately brought back childhood memories. We lived on Lordship road near St Mary’s School (now re-located). When the fire broke out our mother woke us in the early hours as the sky was lit by the massive fire. Cheshunt Great House had been a playground for us boys, long before the days of Health and Safety. Ian Buchanan (not the actor), Chris Pavely, The Tayor brothers, my brother, Steve and I went there to enact battles, half bricks were our ammunition. Ian, himself an accurate stone thrower, took one on the head resulting in much red stuff, fortunately with no real damage. Another play area was the moat next to the playing field opposite the House.
    It was rumored that the fire was a result of ‘spontaneous’ combustion following a planning application refusal. After the fire houses were built ion the site.
    On a side note, Jake Gutteridge, did your dad go to St mary’s High School, I seem to remember him in my class. If he did, he would remember teachers such as Chris Meads, Tony Instral, Roger Martin and Mr Wigg and the horrible Head master, Mr Watkins.

    By Tim Ralph (01/10/2021)
  • The events that occurred at this house sound remarkably similar to those of Old Palace House at Cedars Park. There have been several ghost caims over the years, and it burnt down in the late 60s/early 70s.

    By Jake Gutteridge (26/04/2021)
  • I can remember visiting it one night with a friend and her father abt 1955/6. Not sure why we were there possibly business for her father. We lived Waltham Abbey at the time. The people kindly showed us around but I do remember clearly the feeling of being scared and of something wrong with the place. Maybe a young girls imagination but the memory of that feeling has stayed with me ever since.

    By Pamela Bear (12/04/2020)
  • I was born in 1952. On our way to school we used to dare each other to run up to the house and touch it. All my friends told me it was supposed to be haunted. It certainly looked creepy. I left Cheshunt in the early 70s

    By Yvonne Davey (23/05/2019)
  • I am trying to find out who lived at Beaumont Manor during 1939 and if there is any connection with a Major Ian Williams.

    By Robert Kyle (23/02/2019)
  • The remains are round the corner from my house and I remember walking past many times on dog walks with my family, I always thought there was something strange about it, never heard the story behind it before, I’d seen children’s toys behind the fence for a few weeks, walking past and they had been moved round and some had been taken out, no explanation for it, parents said I was being silly, but the dogs seemed to sense something about it.

    By Georgia (03/10/2016)
  • The rev. Haddad and his wife adopted a child as they couldn’t have children themselves. The little girl was called Mary and she was my aunt. She grew up in the great house before Mr. Haddad sold it on. There are pictures in a book at cheshunt library of the Haddads, and the great house and my aunt as a little girl. I remember the night it burnt down, I watched it from my bedroom window in Franklin Ave.

    By Debra Greenfield (30/09/2016)
  • I remember the fire and could see it from my childhood home in Goffs Lane

    By A Freeman (28/09/2016)
  • My x mother in law lived there when she was a little girlx

    By Jackie (28/09/2016)
  • My grandfather, Philip Seymour an ex Policeman, was caretaker and his wife Minnie Seymour (nee Tucker) did catering for Freemason functions held at the Great House; My late father, Ralph Seymour, born 1916 and was brought up there at the Great House… He mentioned of a room nobody was allowed into which had blood stains on the wooden furnishings; that it was haunted; that the bodies of two Nuns were found bricked into a wall; that there were two tunnels leading from the Great House to Waltham Abbey; the tunnels were sealed-off with thick brick walls; there was a point in the cellars where, when passing with a candle, it would be extinguished; there used to be a moat around the house; one of my second cousins apparently chopped down a fruit tree for which he was castigated; I was told that the Great House was given by Cardinal Wolesley to King Henry Vlll – not impossible since it was a favoured hunting place presumably for the Hart deer; about the day after the Freemasons “do” our family and friends would hold a party when Nan would play piano, dad would play Base (using a Tea-chest with broom handle and string), he also played wash-board, spoons and a carpenters saw and they would dance the night away. Dad was born on a farm in Goffs Oak.


    By Barry Seymour (02/05/2015)
  • I Remember the night of the Great House fire and watching it from my bedroom window which was in nearby Birch field Road which faced Goffs Lane.Think in hindsight that it was such a big coincidence that a massive housing development was to transform this entire area. Such a shame that it could not have been saved for the nation.

    By DAVID SPOONER (29/04/2014)
  • Hi Richard, interesting to hear about your grandfather. Unfortunately, the information held at the County Archive about the Great House all seems to be about the building itself. According to the Kelly’s Trade Directory for 1912, the house “is now the property of a limited liability company and is available for masonic meetings and private parties.” There may be some information in Archer’s book Historic Cheshunt, published in the 1920s, though the chances are this would be about residents of the house, rather than servants. If you’re in a position to get to County Hall, there’s a copy in the Local Studies Library.

    By Nicholas Blatchley (04/09/2013)
  • My grandfather Sidney Bloomfield, was employed at the house as a Groom/Gardener up to the time of the 1st World War. (he was killed and now has ‘no known grave’) I have been trying to research his background and would appreciate any information about his work at the Great House. I have a silver plated cigarette case inscribed with the Great House and his initials on ther front.

    By Richard Bloomfield (29/08/2013)
  • I remember playing in the great house cellars,If my memory serves me well they were lined on the floor with mosaic tiles in a rich blue colour,I also remember the fire.I lived in Dewhurst road until 1972.

    By david anderson (02/07/2012)