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)
My location
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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.

Comments about this page

  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)

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