History of Cedars Park

and Theobalds Palace

Cedars Park has a very rich history as the former site of Theobalds, a stately home which later became a grand royal palace.

In years past, Theobalds — pronounced "Tibbles" at that time — accommodated many important people, including Earls, Dukes, a Chancellor of the Exchequer, and European nobility, however the house's most notable residents are the royals who stayed there. Queen Elizabeth I visited Theobalds on at least fifteen occasions under the care of Sirs William and Robert Cecil in the 16th century. King James I also stayed at Theobalds during his visits to London, and loved it so much that he exchanged Hatfield House with Sir Robert Cecil in 1607 so that he could live at Theobalds, which he heavily expanded to create a palace.

England was run right from these grounds for much of the Jacobean period, since the country was an absolute monarchy at the time. From what we know, Theobalds in its heyday could easily have been the most elaborate and renowned estate in the country.

The palace was largely destroyed during the English Civil War, as many of the roofs contained valuable lead, which was sold to support the troops. After acquisition by the Meux brewing family, Admiral Sir Hedworth Meux signed a covenant in 1919 that bestowed the grounds as a public park for the people of Cheshunt to enjoy, which was officially opened on 2 July 1921, named "The Cedars".

Animated fly-through of Theobalds Palace

Chronology

  • 23 July 1383
    The manor of Cullynges is owned by Mr William Attemore.

  • 3 August 1383
    Being indebted to William de Tongge by 101 pounds, Attemore hands Cullynges to him, along with another estate called Le Mores. Cullynges is renamed Tongs. A study on the property mentions 76 acres of crops, 91 of pasture, 10 of meadow, and 5 1/2 of wood, as well as a grand main building.

  • 1440
    The house is named Thebaudes — the origin of what would become the final name, Theobalds¹.

  • 1441
    Master of St Anthony's Hospital John Carpenter, his son and Chancellor of the Exchequer John Somerset acquire the property.

  • 1563
    Sir William Cecil purchases the Theobalds estate from a London mercer named John Elyott. Almost immediately, he begins building a small mansion on the the estate for his son Thomas.

  • 27 July 1564
    Queen Elizabeth I enjoys her first recorded visit to Theobalds, and plans another.

  • 1564
    In preparation for further visits by the Queen, Cecil heavily expands the property to better accommodate her (despite having bought the estate with the intention of keeping it as a quiet family home) - he begins building a grand house, completed in 1585. By the end of the 1560s, Theobalds was England's largest private house.

  • 22 September 1571
    Elizabeth pays a second visit to Theobalds. Cecil gifts her a drawing of the house.

  • 1572
    A visit by the Queen is recorded.

  • 1572
    Cecil acquires the vicinal manor of Perieres, and uses it to enlarge Theobalds.

  • May to June 1575
    The Queen stays at the Palace for two weeks, during which time Elizabeth's Privy Council holds eight meetings.

  • 1577
    A visit by the Queen is recorded.

  • 1582
    The palace is extended further.

  • July 1591
    The Queen stays at Theobalds for around 10 days, during which time she is presented with the Hermit's Welcome.

  • 1592
    A visit by Jacob Rathgeb (Secretary to the Duke of Wirtemberg, Germany) is recorded. Frederick of Moempelgard visited several English cities and towns in 1592, and could have accompanied Rathgeb on his stay at Theobalds.

  • 1593
    The Queen enjoys a 9-day visit, which cost Sir William Cecil some 2500 pounds.

  • The Queen begins to stay the Palace for long periods of time. During these stays, lavish performances, sporting events and other entertainments are held, all at Cecil's expense.

  • 1594
    A visit by the Queen is recorded. The Hermit of Theobalds delivers her a formal speech.

  • 1596
    A visit by the Queen is recorded.

Thyobalds (circled) on a 1597 map of Hertfordshire²

The creator of this map, John Norden, stated:

Thibauldes, or Theobalde, a most stately house, erected from the firste foundation by the right honourable Syr William Cicill, Knight, Ld Theasoror of England. To speake of the state and beuty thereof at large as it deserveth, for curious buildinges, delightfull walkes, and pleasant conceites, within and without, and other thinges very glorious and ellegant to be seene, would challenge a great portion of this little treatise; and therefore, leaste I should come shorte of that due commendation that it deserveth, I leave it, as indeed it is, a princely seate.

  • 1598
    Sir William Cecil dies, his son Robert inherits Theobalds.

  • 1602
    Frederic Gerschow, Secretary to the Duke of Stettin Pomerania visits the Palace and notes 52 painted & carved trees in the Green Gallery, each representing an English province, displaying Arms of Earls and Barons. There were also decorations depicting produce grown in these regions.

  • 24 March 1603
    Elizabeth dies from sepsis.

  • 3 May 1603
    King James I makes his first arrival at Theobalds on a journey from Edinburgh to London. He stays there for 4 days and is paid respect by local Lords and appoints several new members of the English and Scottish nobility. Many extravagant entertainments take place. The arrival is described as follows:

There came before him some of the nobility, some barons, knights, esquires, gentlemen and others. Among them were the Sherrill of Essex and most of his men, the trumpets sounding next before his Highness... his Majesty not riding continuously betwixt the same two noblemen, but sometimes with one and sometimes with another as seemed best to his Highness; the whole nobility of the land around him observing no place of nobility, but all bare headed; all of whom alighted at the first courts door, save only his Majesty who rode along still, with four noblemen laying hands upon his steed.

In this manner he came to the court's door where I myself stood, where he alighted, from his horse, from which he had not gone ten princely paces when there was delivered to him a petition by a young gentleman, his Majesty returning his gracious answer that he should be heard and have justice. At the entrance to that court stood several noblemen among whom was Robert Cecil, who, there meeting his Majesty, conducted him into his house - all which was practiced with so great applause of the people as could be - hearty prayers and throwing up of hats.

  • May 1605
    Fulke Greville carries out a survey of Theobalds and suggests enlarging some windows in one of the galleries.

  • July 1606
    Christian IV of Denmark accompanies James I (his brother-in-law) on his second visit to the Palace. The 5-day stay included heavy drinking and entertainments (known as The Hours), the final of which is described as disastrous in John Harington's account. The visit cost Sir Robert Cecil 1180 pounds, plus 284 for presents and 23 to Inigo Jones for the masque props.

  • May 1607
    Robert Cecil exchanges Theobalds for Hatfield House, officially giving the Palace to Queen Anne, although some texts state it was given to her husband King James, as he owned Hatfield House. A masque is performed to celebrate the exchange.

  • 1607 - c. 1612
    Cecil and his gardener Munten Jennings work together to expand the property and its gardens. Cecil chooses to demolish and re-build some of the buildings.

  • July 1613
    The King's favourite dog, Jewel, is accidentally shot during a hunt. The King was furious and stormed exceedingly for a while before realising that it was his wife, Queen Anne, who shot the dog. As an apology for his anger, he gifted her a diamond worth 2000 pounds (although records suggest he only paid 1500).

  • Autumn 1613
    Johann Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Weimar visits Theobalds and hunts with James I.

The King and Prince then went down and out through the pleasure ground, where horses and carriages were waiting. The King and young Prince seated themselves in one carriage, his Highness took his place in the other; and thus they proceeded to the hunt; the other earls and lords rode on horseback. When they came to the hunting- ground, the King, the Prince, and his Highness also mounted on horseback; his Majesty had provided a fine palfrey for his Highness. The hunt generally conies off in this way: the huntsmen remain on the spot where the game is to be found, with twenty or thirty dogs; if the King fancies any in particular among the herd, he causes his pleasure to be signified to the huntsmen, who forthwith proceed to mark the place where the animal stood; they then lead the dogs thither, which are taught to follow this one animal only, and accordingly away they run straight upon his track; and even should there be forty or fifty deer together, they do nothing to them, but chase only the one, and never give up till they have overtaken and brought it down. Meanwhile the King hurries incessantly after the dogs until they have caught the game. There is no particular enjoyment in this sport. Two animals only were caught on this occasion: one was presented by the King to his Highness, which was eaten at his lodging. His Majesty, however, now and then uses long bows and arrows, and when he is disposed, he shoots a deer! ³

  • 1614
    James I of England and Christian IV of Denmark stay at the Palace together for a second time.

  • July 1615
    James invites Polish-Lithuanian nobleman Tomasz Zamoyski to hunt with him at Theobalds.

  • January 1618
    James suffers from gout, and a play is performed for him, which he reportedly does not enjoy.

  • September 1618
    James orders the demolition of two newly-built tobacco shops near Theobalds, as his Courtiers disliked them. Munten Jennings, the gardener at Theobalds, is instructed to build a silkworm house on the estate.

  • 1620 to 1621
    James has a wall built around the estate.

  • 9 January 1622
    After dinner, the King rides to the New River to see the ice on the water. He falls in head first and is helped out by Sir Richard Young, who returns him to a warm bed at Theobalds.

  • 27 March 1625
    After residing at the Palace for his final years, James I draws his last breath following a string of severe illnesses and a stroke earlier in the year.

  • Charles I inherits the estate.

  • September 1633
    Henry Cary, 1st Viscount Falkland breaks his leg at Theobalds, which is amputated — he dies as a result.

  • 30 January 1649
    Charles I dies, his son Charles II inherits Theobalds.

  • 1650
    A parliamentary survey of Theobalds estimates its size as 2500+ acres, and determines that it is in excellent condition and not fit for demolition. The report is misread and a great portion of the Palace is taken down.

  • 1651
    Charles II is exiled from England after being defeated by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester.

  • 1660
    Charles returns from exile.

  • 1661
    The estate is granted to George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle.

  • 3 January 1670
    Christopher Monck, 2nd Duke of Albemarle inherits the estate.

  • At some point, King William III acquires the estate.

  • 1689
    King William III grants the Palace to Hans William Bentick, 1st Earl of Portland.

  • Between 1699 and 1774
    The manor of Perieres is sold, becoming part of Beaumond Hall. It was apparently held jointly with Periers, so Periers must have been sold as well.

  • 23 November 1709
    William Earl of Portland dies, his sons inherit the property.

  • 1762
    William Cavendish-Bentick, 3rd Duke of Portland sells Theobalds to George Prescott.

  • 1763
    Prescott begins to build a mansion on the grounds, which became known as Theobalds Park.

  • 1765 to 1770
    Prescott builds a number of brick houses on the grounds, and a flint folly.

  • 1783
    A survey of the property says The former Palace of Theobalds [is] now in a ruinous condition.

  • Late 18th century
    Theobalds is passed to Oliver Cromwell (namesake of his famous grandfather). The Prescott family must have continued to live here at this time, as they reportedly left Theobalds Park around 1820.

  • c. 1820
    The Prescott family leave Theobalds Park and begin renting it to the Meux family.

  • 1860
    The Meux family purchase Theobalds Park.

  • 1841
    Henry Meux (1st Baronet) dies, leaving Theobalds Park to his son, Henry Meux (2nd Baronet), who makes great changes to the estate.

  • 1880
    After London's Temple Bar was dismantled in 1787, the Meux family (by wish of Lady Meux) purchase the arch from the City of London and it is transported from Farringdon Road to Theobalds, and reconstructed at a cost of 10 thousand pounds.

Lady Meux often entertained guests, including Winston Churchill, in the upper chamber.

A new kitchen, gun room, swimming pool and indoor roller-skating rink are added to the estate.

  • 1883
    Henry Meux (2nd Baronet) dies and his son Henry Bruce Meux (3rd Baronet) inherits the estate.

  • 1885
    Henry Bruce Meux and his wife Lady Meux move into Theobalds Park.

  • 1886
    Some extensions are made to Theobalds Park.

  • 1887
    A water tower is built at Theobalds Park.

  • 1910
    Lady Meux dies and Hedworth Lambton inherits Theobalds, changing his surname to Meux as per her request.

  • 19 December 1919
    Sir Hedworth Meux signs a covenant that bestows part of the Theobalds grounds to the people of Cheshunt (under the custodianship of the council) to be used as a public park, called (the) Cedars.

  • 1921
    In preparation for the park's opening, a tank from the Great War is moved into Cedars Park with a special street ceremony.

  • 2 July 1921
    Sir Hedworth Meux and the Earl of Cavan officially open The Cedars Park to the public.

Footnotes

  1. According to Fields in Trust, the first mention of the name Tybalds House was in 1140this appears to be a typing error, as several other sources state that the house was known by this name since 1440.

  2. Mapping Shakespeare by Jeremy Black.

  3. England as seen by Foreigners by William Brenchley Rye, p. 154.

  4. We would appreciate some clarity from any local historians with knowledge on this matter.