Walter Rayleigh’s connection to Enfield

This article by Joe Studman was first published in the March 2024 issue of The Enfield Dispatch.

Many Enfield residents will recall the occasion when Walter Raleigh rescued Queen Elizabeth 1st from getting wet and muddy by sacrificing his plush velvet cloak to cover a puddle. Some claim that 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 The Manor House (now Palace Gardens)

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.

Raleigh’s Cottage Chase Side [Enfield Local Studies and Archive]

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[1] so presumably it was to his own property. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to save the child from an early death.

Rayleigh Place, Chase Side [Photo: Joe Studman]

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 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. 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.

Raleigh’s cottage Gordon Road [Enfield Local Studies and Archive]

[1] Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life and Legend by Mark Nicholls & Penry Williams.

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