30 June, 2007

Waltham Abbey and Cross

The Eleanor Cross at Waltham (which comes under Cheshunt in my guidebook) was erected in the 13th century to commemorate one of the resting places of Queen Eleanor (not the overalls)on her way from Harby near Lincoln where she died to burial in Westminster Abbey. This is one of the surviving three original crosses and it is in the middle of a pedestrianised area with a red brick shopping centre nearby. It is one of the best of the eleanor crosses although the upper parts are pure 19th century.

The old Swan Inn has been demolished but its forlorn and pointless sign still crosses the now pedestrianised street from the shopping centre.

Crossing the border into Essex, Waltham abbey contains a fine Norman church of Holy Cross and St Lawrence, which is actually the old abbey nave. There is pure romanesque arcading with characteristic round topped arches and columns with decoration reminiscent of Durham Cathedral. The Abbey was built by King Harold. The ceiling of the church is painted with the signs of the zodiac. I came to the abbey five minutes before closure so only had a brief look round the crypt gift shop (described as a visitors centre but really a gift shop)and the church itself. From what I could see the church was well worth a return visit.

The Welsh Harp Inn acts as a lytch (or corpse) gate (although I have seen that word in a newspaper as a 'Lynch gate') and is a fine and picturesque black and white building, with the timbers having become askew.

The town was a typical small town, again well worth a return visit with what looked like pargeted shops and old ruins.

There is a coöp in the town, in the town.

To get to Harlow I found it was a mile along dual carriageway (hateful phrase - who thought that up?) to Waltham Cross Station or a mile along the Lee Navigation to get to Cheshunt railway station. I chose the latter and saw a heron on the canal, and some very charming boats. Cheshunt station also has more trains to Harlow.

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