Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path) walk …
Havering-atte-Bower was first recorded in 1272, taking its name from the Old English personal name Haefer, and ingas, meaning settlement, and the Middle English bour, meaning bower, or royal residence (*). It essentially remains to this day an isolated small village on the top of a high hill on the north-eastern edge of London, commanding fine views over the surrounding countryside and encroaching built-up areas. Historically part of the county of Essex, the village has been part of the London Borough of Havering since 1965.
The village is steeped in royal history.
In the eleventh century, Edward the Confessor built a hunting lodge here that over the years evolved into Havering Palace, a royal residence used by a succession of kings and queens in the later Medieval to early post-Medieval periods, before being demolished in the seventeenth century (some materials salvaged from it were used in the construction of Bower House in the early eighteenth).
The present church of St John the Evangelist was built in the nineteenth century, on the site of a previous church that had itself once been one of the chapels in Havering Palace. The Purbeck Marble font dates back to the early Medieval period.
There was also once another royal residence, called Pyrgo Palace, a little to the east, which had been bought by Henry VIII in the post-Medieval period, as a replacement for the then-declining Havering Palace, and which was eventually demolished in the eighteenth century. Pyrgo Park occupies the site today.
(*) Note that a significant hoard of approximately 500 Bronze Age artefacts has recently been discovered from a site in the Borough of Havering. The “Havering Hoard” is to be the subject of a special exhibition in the Museum of London Docklands next year.