On the border between Cheshunt and Waltham Cross, Theobalds Park is what remains of one of Hertfordshire’s great estates. Theobalds Palace had its glory days in the 16th and 17th centuries, when it was home first to Lord Burleigh, who virtually ran England under Elizabeth I, and then became a royal palace of James I and Charles I.
Although the palace was demolished in the 1650s under the Commonwealth, the history of Theobalds didn’t end there. The various buildings around the Park have had fascinating histories of their own. The mansion that replaced the palace, now Theobalds Park Hotel, has a Grade 2* listing, while most of the rest are Grade 2 listed.
Remains of Theobalds Palace
The original Theobalds Palace, home to the Cecils and to the early Stuart kings, was demolished under the Commonwealth during the 1650s. It was initially replaced with Old Palace House, Grove House and the Cedars, and in 1763 by Theobalds House, now Theobalds Park Hotel.
Very little of the Palace survives, but two small remnants, both in what’s now Cedars Park, are Grade 2 listed. One, protected by iron railings, is described as:
Section of W ground floor wall of C16 Theobalds House. About 10 metres long. Red brick, stone dressings, C19 stucco on W side. Remains of 1 window with ovolo- and fillet-moulded side mullions. Deep splayed wall either side of window on E.
The second connects to part of the current wall around Cedars Park, which is described as:
joining at right angles with a fragment of the SW corner of Theobalds Palace: N elevation with blocked 4-centre arch window with 2 stone mullions; S elevation has the inner angle of an early C17 stone arch surmounted by roundel and entablature, broken off on W and S return sides.
Remains of The Cedars
The Cedars was built in 1763, along with Old Palace House and two other houses, Jackson House and Grove House, now demolished. Named after two cedar trees believed to have dated from the original Palace, The Cedars belonged to the Prescott family, and eventually came into the hands of the brewer Sir Henry Meux and his wife, the socialite Valerie, Lady Meux, who entertained guests including the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and Sir Winston Churchill.
Since the couple were childless, Lady Meux left the estate to Admiral of the Fleet Sir Hedworth Lambton, on condition that he changed his name to Meux. Sir Hedworth donated the grounds to the people of Cheshunt in 1921. It became Cedars Park and is still a very popular public park.
Some substantial remains of Cedars House still stand, notably the outbuildings that may date back to the original Palace. These were used largely as servants’ quarters for The Cedars, and one section for many years housed two stuffed tigers, left by Sir Hedworth. One of these subsequently disappeared, but the other is now in Lowewood Museum.
Early C17 outbuildings, probably by Office of Works for James I. Adjoins garden wall on E, and tall C17 on NW. Red brick, stone dressings, machine tile roof. 2 storeys. Lower storey set forward slightly with angled and battered brick band. Brick- coped W gable end with large external chimney stack, plinth with moulded stone coping, stone quoin blocks. S elevation with inset plaque, dated 1621, taken from Deer Park Wall at Albury, and with 2 light wooden casement on right hand side. N continuation of W wall has later lean-to range on E side.
The other, protected by iron railings, is the remains of the Cedars Park Grotto which, like most of the buildings, dates from the late 18th century:
Large later C18 grotto. Flint and rubble on red brick walling. Taller central section has 3 pointed-arch openings surmounted by five small round-headed brick niches in arch profile. Flint- arched niche on E side. 2 domed free-standing pavilions set forward left and right with triangular-arched openings, painted brick and modern cement interiors.
Theobalds Park Farm
One of two surviving farms from the estate, Theobalds Park Farm stands to the west of the A10, just north of the M25 interchange. The remaining buildings consist of the farmhouse, a large barn and a cob outhouse.
The farmhouse is described as early 19th century, “Roughcast, low pitched slate roof. L-plan. 2 storeys”, but the other two buildings predate it. The timberframed barn is described as 18th century, while the cob outhouse, dated as late 17th/early 18th century is special as being “A rare survival for Hertfordshire, of a pre-improvement type of cob (or battered clay) farmbuilding.”
On the west side of Bulls Cross Ride, just to the south of Theobalds Park Hotel, the listed buildings at Bullscross Farm are the farmhouse and a barn.
The farmhouse is described as an “Early C18 square house. Red brick, hipped old tile roof.” The barn dates to the 17th century and is described as a “five bay timber frame barn” with “C18 or early C19 N extensions”.
Buildings in the West of the Park
Three other listed buildings survive in the western part of the park, close to Theobalds Park Hotel and along Oldpark Ride. These include a classroom block, from when the house served as a school. Built around 1900, the listing describes it as “included for group value”.
Early-mid C18 red brick house with, hipped mansard roof. Square plan, each side with 3 flush sash windows under gauged brick lintels. 2 storeys, cellar and boxed attic dormers. Brick modillion cornice. 6-fielded panel door with surround of fluted Roman Doric pilasters, carved consoles and open pediment.
Sections of Wall
Various sections of the original boundary walls associated with Theobalds Palace are still standing. These are all described as red-brick walls, dating from the late 16th or early 17th centuries, and form either the garden wall (now the boundary wall of Cedars Park) or else the boundary of James I’s extensive deer park.
The two small sections of the 1620 deer park wall are further afield than the modern concept of Theobalds Park. The better-preserved of these two stands just to the east of the present A10 at Albury Farm. The other, ruined and overgrown, stands close to Woodgreen Farm’s farmouse, just off Silver Street in Goffs Oak.