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.
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.
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
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:
The [Middleton Park] Lodge had been built in the 1760's and large country
houses of the time nearly always had an ice house to store ice collected
in winter for use over the summer months.
- Friends of Middleton Park
From the 17th century, the rich and privileged increasingly built ice houses
in the grounds of their large houses in the country and sometimes actually
within town houses to preserve food and to provide ice for the table and
especially to cool wine. It is estimated that some 3,000 were built in Britain,
the majority during the period 1750 – 1875.
- Moseley Park
The use of icehouses came to these shores via France after the Restoration.
By the 18th Century, most wealthy landowners had one built in the grounds
of their principle homes.
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.