The Flint Arch


In 1765, George Prescott began building five large houses, collectively named Theobalds Square, which were completed in 1770. As a focal point, he had an arch built with pleasing patterns, complete with two huts. Ruins on either side of the arch could have been another two huts. The arch is made of brick on the South side - reportedly inspired by Rye House in Hoddesdon - and a mixture of flint and Hertfordshire puddingstone on the North side. Some suggest that the structure also contains tufa. A 'T'-shaped pond was situated in front of the Flint Arch, creating a pleasing reflection in the view from The Cedars.

Purpose

The Flint Arch was built primarily as a folly for The Cedars, but there are a number of other uses that it may have had.

Huts

The two huts are made of brick on the inside, which has been plastered, and an outer layer of flint and other materials (like the arch).

Some people believe that the huts were used to take shade during the summer months. While this is possible, it could be argued that the structures would have been quite cramped to sit in, even at that time, and there does not appear to be any historical evidence behind this claim, therefore it could simply be an erroneous assumption.

It is much more likely that the huts served as ice houses, for perishable foods to be refrigerated throughout the year using ice extracted from frozen ponds in the winter. They have a strong resemblance to other ice houses, despite having what appear to be holes for windows, which were uncommon but found on some. The following information, quoted from other websites, supports this idea:

Niches in Arch

Several niches can be found at the top of the arch. These may have been included purely for aesthetic purposes, or they could have been used to hold candles to illuminate the arch at night. Another possible use is as pigeon holes, for collecting eggs or catching the birds for their meat, as pigeon pie was a very popular dish at Georgian palaces.

Condition and Preservation

The Flint Arch is in very good condition for its age. Due to the high-quality materials chosen, it continues to be very strong and resistant to any weather damage. The huts were formerly open to enter, and children enjoyed playing inside, however due to their age they are now protected by a metal fence to ensure their long-term preservation.

In the 2010s, when Cedars Park was receiving improvements using Heritage Lottery Fund grants, English Heritage supplied £90K for a professional restorative treatment of the Flint Arch, which will hopefully preserve it for years to come.


Use During WWII

It is purported that British soldiers camped overnight in the flint huts during WWII, to monitor for German soldiers attempting to land by parachute in the park. There is a ghost story that includes these soldiers.