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Remnants of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Enfield residence

Members of The Enfield Society have delved into the story of one of the borough’s most famous past residents

The Enfield house believed to be Sir Walter Raleigh’s former residence was demolished in the late 19th Century
The Enfield house believed to be Sir Walter Raleigh’s former residence was demolished in the late 19th Century

Enfield residents may know of the famous occasion when Sir Walter Raleigh rescued Queen Elizabeth I from getting wet and muddy by sacrificing his plush velvet cloak to cover a puddle.

Some claim this happened at Maidens Brook, just north of Elsyng Palace. However, there’s no hard evidence that the event ever happened – let alone in Enfield.

What we do know is that Elizabeth and her siblings would have known Enfield reasonably well as there are recorded visits to both Elsyng and Enfield Manor House (on the site of what is now Palace Gardens Shopping Centre).

But what of Raleigh. Did he know Enfield? As a favourite of ‘Good Queen Bess’ he acquired property all over London, and there are engravings of his houses in Islington and Blackwall. There’s also good evidence that he had a home in our borough.

Firstly, we can turn to the Ordnance Survey. The 19th Century versions clearly show an ancient monument described as Walter Raleigh’s house. If a government document says Raleigh had property in Enfield, then surely that’s enough evidence for it to be genuine.

Secondly, at least one source tells us that Raleigh’s first born, Demerei, was sent to Enfield to be wet nursed, so presumably it was to his own property. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to save the child from an early death.

So where was this house? It stood where Chase Side Crescent meets Gordon Road, until it was demolished in 1886. The site today is marked by Raleigh Buildings and Raleigh Place.

At the time of its demolition, it was owned by Alfred Somerset (who lived at Enfield Court, now Enfield Grammar Lower School). It was in poor condition and the story goes that he offered it to anyone who wanted to restore it.

But no-one came forward, so it was demolished. Some of the contents and appendages were auctioned off, however. A flag-shaped weathervane and wood panelling both went to the Leggatt brothers of Little Park. Can this be the weather vane that sits on top of the Tudor Rooms? A Mr Edelsten of Bush Hill Park (or more likely Forty Hill) supposedly bought some antique chairs. Where are they now? During the demolition, some clay pies were found, possibly from the 16th Century. Unfortunately the picture of Raleigh smoking newly-introduced tobacco in Enfield is unlikely.

Would the people of Enfield today allow such a monument to be demolished?

This is one of the reasons The Enfield Society exists. Formed in 1936 to stop proposed building on Chase Green, it has championed the history and heritage of the borough for over 80 years. Today it holds regular meetings with Enfield Council on planning and conservation. We also have a social side and as members enjoy regular rambles, talks, walks and produce a quarterly newsletter.

Membership of The Enfield Society starts from as little as £5 per year. To find out more and enquire about joining:
Visit
enfieldsociety.org.uk/join


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