Theobalds House

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Theobalds House

Theobalds Palace (also known as Theobalds House), located in Cedars Park, just outside Cheshunt in the English county of Hertfordshire, was a prominent stately home and (later) royal palace of the 16th and early 17th centuries, before being destroyed in the English Civil War and later. It was a leading example of the Elizabethan prodigy house.

Theobalds is now a hotel and conference venue.[1]

Early history[edit]

The manor was originally called Cullynges, later Tongs (after William de Tongge), and since 1440, Thebaudes, Tibbolds and finally Theobalds. The original house was surrounded by a moat.[2] A new house was built between 1564 and 1585 to the order of Lord Burghley, senior councillor of Elizabeth I. The location was ideal in that it lay just off the main road north from London to Ware. Burghley's intention in building the mansion was partly to demonstrate his increasingly dominant status at the Royal Court, and also to provide a palace fine enough to accommodate the Queen on her visits.[3] The formal gardens of the house were modelled after the Château de Fontainebleau in France, the English botanist John Gerard acting as their superintendent. The Queen visited eight times between 1572 and 1596. Robert Cecil inherited the house and arranged for James I to visit in 1603 when he received the homage of the Privy Council.

In 1607 James I exchanged Theobalds for Hatfield Palace, also in Hertfordshire. Hatfield was old-fashioned and Cecil promptly demolished most of it to make way for a new house designed to entice the King to stay. Theobalds Palace quickly became a favourite country seat of the King James I of England (James VI of Scotland), who eventually died within its walls on March 27, 1625. With the execution in 1649 of James I's son, Charles I, Theobalds was listed amongst other royal properties for disposal by the Commonwealth. This was achieved speedily and by the end of 1650, the house was largely demolished, but it was rebuilt after the Restoration and came to be in possession of George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle.

18th and 19th centuries[edit]

The Temple Bar in Theobalds Park before 2001

It was given by King William III to William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland. Theobalds Palace was replaced in the Georgian period by yet another stately mansion, known as The Cedars, parts of which still survive. It is about a mile to the north west of the original palace. This was built by George Prescott, a merchant and MP who had bought the estate from the 3rd Duke of Portland in 1763. The Cedars passed from the Prescott family to the Meux family of Meux's Brewery fame in about 1820, and they made alterations and added extensions during the 19th century. These included a remodelled entrance based on Sir Christopher Wren's Temple Bar, which had been dismantled and stored in a yard at Farringdon Road. In 1888, it caught the eye of Lady Meux (formerly a banjo-playing barmaid); the gateway was purchased from the City of London and the 400 tons of stone was transported by horse-drawn carts to The Cedars, where it was carefully rebuilt at a cost of £10,000.[4] Lady Meux often entertained in the gateway's upper chamber; guests included King Edward VII and Winston Churchill.[5]

Later history[edit]

In 1910 the estate was inherited by Admiral The Hon Sir Hedworth Meux, a member of the aristocratic Lambton family; he changed his surname as a condition of inheritance. After his death in 1929, the house was a hotel for some years. During World War II, the house was used by the Royal Artillery and then by the Metropolitan Police as a riding school. In 1955 it became a secondary school and after 1969, an adult education centre.[6]

The Temple Bar had remained in the hands of the trustees of the Meux family estate and despite its status as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, had lapsed into decay. After a long campaign, it was decided to return it to the City in 2001. The arch was again dismantled, and was reconstructed on a site next to St Paul’s Cathedral. The project was completed in November 2004,[7] and a commemorative plaque was placed in Theobalds Park.[8]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "'Theobalds', The Environs of London: volume 4: Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent (1796), pp. 29-39.". 
  3. ^ Loades, D., The Cecils: Privilege and Power behind the throne, The National Archives, 2007. p124-5.
  4. ^ National Heritage List online edition: Temple Bar. Accessed 2012-04-18
  5. ^ "History of Temple Bar | Temple Bar Gateway". 2004-11-10. Retrieved 2013-08-10. 
  6. ^ "Theobalds Park | Temple Bar Gateway". Retrieved 2013-08-10. 
  7. ^ "The Project | Temple Bar Gateway". Retrieved 2013-08-10. 
  8. ^ "Commemorative Plaque | Temple Bar Gateway". Retrieved 2013-08-10. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°41′20″N 0°03′22″W / 51.68889°N 0.05611°W / 51.68889; -0.05611