Cheshunt (St. Mary)

CHESHUNT (St. Mary), a parish, and formerly a market-town, in the union of Edmonton, hundred and county of Hertford, 8 miles (S. by E.) from Hertford; containing, with Cheshunt-street, Waltham-Cross, and Woodside wards, 5402 inhabitants. In this parish was formerly a bank separating the kingdoms of Mercia and East Anglia during the heptarchy, the lands on one side of which the elder brother still inherits, and the younger those on the other side. Cardinal Wolsey possessed the united manors of Andrews and Le Mote, in the parish, and received from the crown the appointment of bailiff of the honour, and keeper of the park, of Cheshunt. Here stood the palace called Theobalds, the favourite residence of Lord Burleigh, and afterwards of James I., who died in it in 1625; it was also the occasional resort of Charles I., who here received the petition from both houses of parliament in 1642, a short time before he placed himself at the head of the army. The greater part of the palace, the park attached to which was ten miles in circuit, and surrounded by a wall, was taken down by the Parliamentary Commissioners for selling the crown lands, in 1650. Near the church is a house in which Richard Cromwell, after resigning the protectorate, lived in retirement, under the assumed name of Clark, till his death in 1712. The parish comprises about 8450 acres, the soil of which is rich and fertile, consisting of the several varieties of gravel, clay, and loam; the surface is undulated, and the scenery enlivened by the picturesque windings of the New River, and the expansive stream of the Lea. The Cheshunt station of the Cambridge railway is 16¼ miles from the London terminus. The village is supposed to occupy the site of a Roman station on the Ermin-street: the petty-sessions for the division are held here.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £26; net income, £401; patron, the Marquess of Salisbury; impropriator, J. J. Martin, Esq.: there is a good glebe-house, with nearly 200 acres of land allotted at the inclosure, in 1800, in lieu of tithes. A new church, in the later English style, with a campanile turret, was erected in 1832, at an expense of £3282, under an act of the 58th of George III. At Waltham-Cross, is Trinity chapel, in the gift of the Vicar. Cheshunt College, for the preparation of young men for the ministry, was originally established in 1768, at Talgarth, in the county of Brecon, South Wales, by the Countess of Huntingdon, who continued to support the college until her death in 1791, when it was removed by the trustees to this place; a chapel was built in 1806, and in 1821 a new building was annexed for the accommodation of 20 additional students. The institution is supported by the interest on about £8000 stock, a portion of an estate called Cobham, and subscriptions, the whole producing about £1200 per annum. A free school was founded about 1642, and endowed with land by Robert Dewhurst, who built the school-house, and also assigned 20 nobles each for apprenticing six boys. Almshouses for ten widows, at Turner's Hill, are endowed with a donation of £500 from James I., and the income has been augmented by various benefactions. To the north were lately some remains of a nunnery founded in the reign of Stephen, by Peter de Belengey, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, for nuns of the Sempringham order, whom Henry III. afterwards displaced for others of the Benedictine order: its revenue, in the 26th of Henry VIII., was estimated at £27. 6. 8. Roman coins of the reigns of Adrian, Claudius Gothicus, and Constantine, were found in 1724.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.