Cheshunt Great House

A mysterious fire

Cheshunt Great House c1910
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
The banquetting hall in the 19th century
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (D/EHw/Z8)
The banquetting hall c1910. The caretaker is sitting on a chair to the right.
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
The house in 1960. The bungalow to the left had just been built for the caretaker of a private member's club that never was.
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
The Chsehunt and Waltham Weekly Telegraph
The house in ruins a few days after the fire
OS map of 1938
Hertfordshire Archives and Local studies

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 31/05/2012.

Comments about this page

  • 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)
  • 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)

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