The Environs of London: Volume 4, Counties of Herts, Essex and Kent. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1796.
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The site of Theobalds palace lies a little to the north of the road to Ware at the distance of twelve miles from London, in the parish of Cheshunt, which village is beyond the limits prescribed for this work.
In the year 1385 William Attemore of Cheshunt, being indebted to William de Tongge in the sum of 101l. it appears that the Manor of Cullynges in that parish, and an estate called Le Mores, both the property of William Attemore, were made over to Tongge, who thus became proprietor, and for some time gave name to this manor (fn. 1). The estate then consisted of a capital messuage, 76 acres of arable, 91 of pasture, 10 of meadow, and 5½ of wood (fn. 2). In the year 1441, the manor of Thebaudes, being then vested in the crown, was granted to John Carpenter, master of St. Anthony's Hospital in London, John Somerset, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and John Carpenter, jun. to be held of the crown by the annual render of a bow valued at 2s. and a barbed arrow, value 3d. (fn. 3) The same year there was a grant of divers privileges and exemptions to the above persons and their successors in the manor of Thebaudes (fn. 4). After this I find nothing relating to it, till it was the property of William Lord Burleigh; whose son, the first Earl of Salisbury, gave it to James the First in exchange for other lands (fn. 5). King Charles the Second, in the year 1661, granted it to George Duke of Albemarle (fn. 6). On the death of Christopher, the second duke, without heirs male, in 1687, it is probable that it reverted to the crown with the park and house at Theobalds (fn. 7), and that it was granted to Ralph Duke of Montagu, who married the Duke of Albemarle's widow. It is certain, that John Duke of Montagu sold it in 1736 to Mrs. Letitia Thornhill (fn. 8); from whom it passed, by marriage, into the family of Cromwell (fn. 9). It is now, under the wills of Eliza and Letitia, daughters of Richard Cromwell, Esq. (who both died unmarried), the property of Oliver Cromwell, Esq. of Gray's Inn, the only male descendant of his celebrated namesake.
When the manor of Theobalds was surveyed by order of parliament, in 1650, the manerial profits were valued at 12l. 2s. 4d. the rent of the lands was 275l. 7s. per annum; the improvements were estimated at 152l. 14s. 7d. per annum (fn. 10).
The original site of this manor was a small moated house, the traces of which are still visible in Sir George Prescott's park (fn. 11). Sir William Cecil (afterwards Lord Burleigh) began, about the year 1560, to build upon a new site, what, it is said, he at first intended for a small mansion, to be the residence of his younger son (fn. 12). On the 27th of July 1564, Queen Elizabeth first honoured him with a visit at Theobalds. It is probable that she then expressed an intention of repeating her visit, which induced her minister to enlarge his house for her better accommodation; and that it was completed upon a more enlarged scale before the 22d of September 1571, when the Queen visited him again, and was presented with a copy of verses, and a portrait of the house. Her visits were repeated in 1572, 1575, 1577, 1583, 1587, 1591, 1593, 1594 (fn. 13), and 1596. In 1583, she came with a large retinue, and staid four days; the Earls of Leicester and Warwick, the Lord Admiral, Lord Howard, Lord Hunsdon, Sir Christopher Hatton, and Sir Francis Walsingham were then with her. In Murdin's State-Papers is the copy of a manuscript in Lord Burleigh's own writing, specifying the rooms in which the several persons belonging to her court were to be accommodated. In 1593, her Majesty's stay at Theobalds was prolonged to nine days. Each of these visits is said to have cost the Lord Treasurer from 2000 to 3000l. "The Queen lay there, at his Lordship's charge, sometymes three weeks, or a month together" (says the writer of his life (fn. 14)). "Her Majesty sometymes had also straungers and ambassadors came to her at Theobalds; where she hath byn sene in as great royalty, and served as bountifully and magnificently, as at anie other tyme or place, all at his Lordship's chardg: with rich shows, pleasant devices, and all manner of sports that cold be devised, to the greate delight of her Majesty, and her whole traine; with greate thanks from all who partook of it, and as greate comendation from all that heard of it abroad." The usual expence of his housekeeping at Theobalds was 80l. per week. His stables cost him a thousand marks (666l. 13s. 4d.) per annum. The sum of 10l. a week was allotted to setting the poor to work in his garden; and 20s. a week was distributed by the vicar of Cheshunt, as his almoner (fn. 15). Lord Burleigh was succeeded at Theobalds by his son Robert, afterwards created Earl of Salisbury, who, like his father, proved one of the ablest statesmen of his time. On the 3d of May 1603, he entertained King James the First on his way from Scotland, when he came to take possession of the crown of this kingdom. Here the Lords of the Council paid their homage; the king appointed several new members, both of the English and the Scotch nobility, and made twenty-eight knights. "His Majesty," says Stow, "staid four days, with entertainment such and so costly as hardly can be expressed, considering the multitudes that thither resorted, besides the train; none going thence unsatisfied (fn. 16)." In 1606, the earl gave a second entertainment to King James and to Christian the fourth, King of Denmark, who staid with him four days (fn. 17). Soon afterwards, to oblige his royal Master, who was much pleased with the situation of Theobalds, he gave him the house, manor, and park, in exchange for the palace and manor of Hatfield. Theobalds became a favourite residence of King James, who frequently retired thither, particularly in the latter part of his reign. He drew his last breath in this palace, on the 27th of March 1625. King Charles resided occasionally at Theobalds. There the petition from both houses of parliament was presented to him, in February 1642; and thence he went immediately afterwards to put himself at the head of his army (fn. 18). When the sale of crown lands was in agitation in 1649 (fn. 19), it was at first resolved, that Theobalds should be excepted, but it was afterwards determined that it should be sold. In the year 1650, the commissioners who were appointed by parliament to make a survey of Theobalds palace reported, that it was an excellent building, in very good repair, by no means fit to be demolished; and that it was worth 200l. per annum, exclusive of the park; yet, left the parliament should think proper to have it taken down, they had estimated the materials, and found them to be worth 8275l. 11s. Notwithstanding this report, the greater part of the palace was taken down to the ground, and the money arising from the sale of the materials divided among the army.
The survey above mentioned (fn. 20) contains a very minute and accurate description of Theobalds palace. It consisted of two principal quadrangles, besides the dial court, the buttery court, and the dovehouse court, in which the offices were situated.
The fountain court, so called from a fountain (fn. 22) of black and white marble in the centre, was a quadrangle of 86 feet square; on the east side of which was a cloister, eight feet wide, with seven arches. On the ground-floor of this quadrangle was a spacious hall, paved with Purbeck marble; the roof "arched over at the top with carved timber of curious workmanship, and of great worth, being a goodlie ornament to the same;" at the upper end was "a very large picture of the bignesse of a paire of stagges hornes seene in France." On the same floor were the Lord of Holland's, the Marquis of Hamilton's, and the Lord of Salisbury's (fn. 23) lodging-rooms (fn. 24); the council-chamber, and the chamber for the king's waiters. On the second floor was the presence-chamber, "wainscotted with carved wainscot of good oak, painted of a liver colour, and richly gilded with antick pictures over the same; the seelinge full of gilded pendants hanginge downe, settinge forth the roome with greate splendor; as alsoe with verie large windowes, and several coates of armes sett in the same." These windows opened south on the walk in the great garden leading to the green gates going into the park; where was an avenue, of a mile long, between a double row of trees. On the same floor were also the privy-chamber, the withdrawing-chamber, the king's bed-chamber, and a gallery 123 feet by 21, "wainscotted with oak, and paintinges over the same of divers cities, rarely painted, and sett forth with a frett seelinge, with divers pendents, roses, and flower de luces, painted and gilded with gold; alsoe divers large stagges heades (fn. 25) sett round the same, and fastened to the sayd roome, which are an excellent ornament to the same." The windows of this gallery looked "north into the park, and so to Cheshunt." On an upper floor were the Lord Chamberlain's lodgings, my Lord's withdrawing-chamber, and several other apartments. Near the Chamberlain's lodgings on the east was a leaded walk, 62 feet in length, and 11 in breadth, with an arch of freestone over it; "which said arch and walk," says the survey, "looking eastward into the middle court, and into the highway leading from London to Ware, standeth high, and may easily be discerned by passengers and travellers, to their delight." On the west of the Lord Chamberlain's lodgings was another walk of the same dimensions, looking westward into the fountain court. At each corner of these walks stood "fower high, faire, and large towers, covered with blue state, with a lyon and vaines on the top of each; and in the walk over the hall, in the midst of the fower corners, one faire and large turrett, in the fashion of a lanthorne, made with timber of excellent workmanship curiouslie wrought, standinge a great height, with divers pinacles at each corner, wherein hangeth twelve bells for chiminge, and a clocke with chimes of sundrie worke." The walk from the lower gate up to the middle of the fountain court is described as leading "through the severall courtes, so that the figure of Cupid and Venus maye easily be seene from the highway, when the gates are open." This walk, says the survey, "is so delightful and pleasant facing the middle of the house, and the severall towers, turretts, windowes, chimneyes, walkes, and balconies, that the like walke for length, pleasantness, and delight is rare to be seene in England (fn. 26)."
The middle court was a quadrangle of 110 feet square; on the south of which were the Queen's chapel (with windows of stained glass), her presence-chamber, privy-chamber, bed-chamber, and cofferchamber. The Prince's lodgings were on the north side; on the east side was a cloister, over which was the green gallery, 109 feet by 12, "excellently well painted round with the severall shires in England, and the armes of the noblemen and gentlemen in the same." Over this gallery was a leaded walk, (looking eastward towards the dial court and the highway,) on which were "two lostie arches of bricke, of no small ornament to the house, and rendering it comely and pleasant to all that passed by." On the west side of the quadrangle was another cloister (on five arches); over which were the Duke's lodgings, and over them the Queen's gallery, 109 seet by 14.
On the south side of the house stood "a large open cloister, built upon severall large faire pillars of stone, arched over with seven arches, with a faire rayle and balisters, well painted with the Kinges and Queenes of England, and the pedigree of the old Ld Burleigh, and divers other antient families (fn. 27); with paintings of many castles and battailes, with divers subscriptions on the walls." This cloister was standing so lately as 1765. The whole house was built, as the survey states, of excellent brick, with coins, jambs, and cornices of stone. I have not been able to find any print or painting which conveys any adequate idea of this palace. There is a scarce print of it by Stent, upon a small scale, which seems to be a very imperfect representation. The view in the tapestry at Houghton, which was supposed to be Theobalds, and is engraved in Gough's edition of Camden, does not agree with the description in the survey. At Hinton St. George (the seat of Earl Poulet) there is an inside view of Theobalds, by Polenberg (fn. 28).
The gardens at Theobalds were large, and ornamented with labyrinths, canals, and fountains (fn. 29). The great garden contained seven acres of ground; besides which there was the pheasant garden, privy garden, and laundry garden. In the former were "nine knotts, artificially and exquisitely made; one of which was sett forth in likenesse of the kinge's armes." The fruit and other trees (fn. 30), the materials of the banquetting house, walls, &c. were valued all together at 590l. 1s.
The stables, which are included in the survey of the manor, stood near the road leading from Waltham Cross to Cheshunt. On the west side of the road was the camel stable, 63 feet in length; on the east side were two stables, each 119 feet, and a barn 163 feet in length. These were valued all together at 290l. for the materials, being then much out of repair. Adjoining to the stables was a large building called the Alms-house, built, it is probable, by Lord Burleigh, and appropriated as a residence for some of his pensioners; it had a hall and chapel. This building is still standing, and divided into tenements for poor people. The arms of Cecil are on the front. Some parts of Theobalds palace appear to have been left standing, and inhabited after its dismantlement in 1650. One of the chapels (fn. 31) was kept up, and used by the Presbyterians, as lately as 1689, when the site of Theobalds was granted to the Earl of Portland. It was in some remaining part of the old palace, it is probable, that the first Lord Barrington was born, in 1678 (fn. 32). Every vestige of the palace was destroyed in 1765, when the houses which now form Theobalds-square were erected.
When King James got possession of Theobalds, he enlarged the park, by taking in part of Enfield Chase, and of Northaw and Cheshunt commons, and surrounded it with a brick wall, ten miles in circumference (fn. 33). When the survey was taken in 1650, Theobalds park contained 2508 acres (fn. 34), valued (together with six lodges, one of which was in the occupation of Col. Cecil,) at 1545l. 15s. 4d. per annum. The deer were valued at 1000l.; the rabbits at 15l.; the timber at 7259l. 13s. 2d. exclusive of 15,608 trees (fn. 35) marked for the use of the navy, and others already cut down for that purpose. The materials of the barns and wall were valued at 1570l. 16s. 3d.
In the year 1633, Henry Cary Lord Falkland lost his life by an accident in Theobalds park (fn. 36). After the restoration of Charles the Second, the Duke of Albemarle obtained a grant (fn. 37) of the site of Theobalds house, the park, and the manor; which all escheated to the crown by the death of Christopher, the second duke, without male issue. King William, in the year 1689, granted Theobalds palace and park to William Earl of Portland (fn. 38); from him this estate descended to the present Duke; who, about the year 1762, sold it to the late George Prescott, Esq. The old park had long been converted into farms. The present park, which contains 205 acres, was inclosed by Mr. Prescott, who built a handsome brick mansion on a rising ground, about a mile to the north-west of the site of Theobalds palace, and at a short distance from the New River, which runs through the park. Theobalds park is now the property and residence of Sir George William Prescott, Bart.