What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
Waltham Abbey and Cross
=How to get there.=–Train from Liverpool Street. Great Eastern Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Waltham. =Distance from London.=–12-3/4 miles. =Average Time.=–40 minutes. Quickest train, 23 minutes.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 2s. 0d. 1s. 6d. 1s. 1d. Return 3s. 3d. 2s. 6d. 1s. 7d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–"The New Inn,” etc.
Waltham Abbey is a market town in Essex on the banks of the Lea, which here divides into several branches which are used as motive power for some gunpowder and flour mills. Harold II. founded the stately Abbey Church in May 1060. William the Conqueror disputed Harold’s claim to the throne and landed in England at Pevensey in 1066. At Waltham Abbey, troubled and anxious, Harold prayed for victory in England’s name before the fatal battle of Hastings, where he was slain. William at first refused to give up Harold’s body to his mother, Gytha, but he afterwards allowed two monks from Waltham to search for the body of the king. They were unable to find it amongst the nameless dead, but his favourite, Edith the swan-necked, whose eye of affection was not to be deceived, discovered it. His weeping mother buried the disfigured corpse probably about 120 feet from the east end of the old church.
At Waltham is one of the many crosses erected by Edward I. in memory of his first wife, Eleanor of Castile, wherever her body rested on its way to Westminster from Lincoln. At Northampton is another of these famous crosses. When the king asked the Abbot of Cluny to intercede for her soul, he said, “We loved her tenderly in her lifetime; we do not cease to love her in death.”
A little way to the left of Waltham Cross, now a gateway to the park of Theobalds, stands Temple Bar, stone for stone intact as it was in the days when traitors’ heads were raised above it in Fleet Street, although the original wooden gates have gone. A portion of the richly-carved top of the gate is still in existence in London. Waltham Abbey is probably close to that part of the river Lea where King Alfred defeated the Danes. They had penetrated far up the river when King Alfred diverted the waters of the river from underneath their black vessels and left them high and dry in a wilderness of marsh and forest. The gentle Charles Lamb was very fond of the country all round Waltham Abbey, especially Broxbourne and Amwell.
[Illustration: THE ABBEY GATE AT WALTHAM.
Waltham Abbey was founded in 1060 by Harold II.]