Waltham Abbey

Waltham Abbey’s claim to fame is that it’s reputedly the burial place of King Harold II, the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings who was beaten by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It was also the last abbey in England to be dissolved by King Henry VIII during the reformation.

At the heart of this market town in Essex is Waltham Abbey Church, which occupies a site that has housed a church since the 7th century.

Waltham Abbey Church

The present-day stone church was largely built in the 12th century and inside it is much the same as many other churches in the UK, although it does have a splendid patterned ceiling and the chancel features some attractive stained glass windows.

The rose garden in the grounds of Waltham Abbey Church

The grounds of the church, however, are more interesting than most, with the abbey’s ruins, a pretty rose garden (above) and the remnants of an old bloomery forge (below) to explore.

The remains of the bloomery forge at Waltham Abbey

Most exciting of all for a history geek like myself is the stone memorial (below) that commemorates King Harold II’s alleged final resting place.

The purported grave of King Harold II in Waltham Abbey churchyard

On my way to the abbey, I did my usual thing of deciding I didn’t need to consult a map to get there, I’d just figure it out.

Except I couldn’t and I ended up in Waltham Cross instead of Waltham Abbey having turned left not right on leaving Waltham Cross train station. It wasn’t all a loss though as I came upon this little beauty in the town centre.

Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire

The Waltham Cross (above) is one of 12 stone monuments, known as the Eleanor Crosses, between London and Lincoln that were commissioned by King Edward I to commemorate his beloved first wife Eleanor of Castile after she died near Lincoln in November 1290.

Each monument marks a site where the late queen’s body spent the night on its 12 day journey to London for burial. The monument at Waltham Cross is one of only three complete crosses still standing. It’s amazing what you come across when you take a wrong turn.

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