Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path) walk …
Elsyng Palace or Enfield House, just outside Enfield, is thought to have originally been built sometime in the fifteenth century by John Tiptoft (Junior), 1st Earl of Worcester, who lived from 1427-70 (it is also possible that it was built even earlier, in the fourteeenth century, by Thomas Elsyng, a Citizen and Mercer of London). After Worcester’s execution in 1470, during the Wars of the Roses, the palace passed in turn to his sister Philippa, to her son Edmund, Baron de Ros, to his sister Isabel and her husband Sir Thomas Lovell, and to his great-nephew Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland. Lovell, who was the Speaker of the House of Commons in King Henry VIII’s time, extended it “sufficient to receive the court on progress”: Henry’s sister, Queen Margaret of Scotland stayed here in 1516; Henry himself, in 1520 and again in 1527; and his Queen, Katherine of Aragon, in 1532.
In 1539, in a property exchange, the palace passed to Henry, and remained Crown property throughout the remainder of the Tudor period. It appears to have been used on occasion for family as well as for formal business: Princess Mary and Prince Edward stayed in the palace over Christmas in 1539; and evidently the entire family over Christmas in 1542; and Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward were brought here to be informed of Henry’s death in 1547. On Henry’s death, the palace passed to Edward, who in 1550 gave it to Elizabeth. Elizabeth visited it on average every four years or so until 1596, by which time it was reportedly beginning to fall into disrepair.
The palace fell out of use under the succeeding first Stuart King James I, who preferred nearby Theobalds, and was partially demolished by him in 1608. The surviving part was subsequently demolished by Nicholas Raynton in 1650, to provide materials for the extension of Forty Hall.
Some remains have recently come to light in the grounds there, and many archaeological finds made.
Forty Hall is thought to have originally been built by Sir Nicholas Raynton between 1629-32 (it is also possible that it was built earlier, by Sir Hugh Fortee). It was subsequently extended by Raynton’s great-nephew, also named Nicholas, in 1656. After the younger Nicholas’s death in 1696, the house passed to John Wolstenhome (*), who carried out further extension and refurbishment work. Later owners included, from 1740, Eliab Breton; from 1787, Edmund Armstrong; from 1799, James Meyer; and, from 1894, Henry Carrington Bowles. The Bowles family sold the house to the Municipal Borough of Enfield in 1951, and it has been used as a museum by them from that date to this.
(*) Likely a descendant of the merchant and financier of the same name who was also a member of the Virginia Company.