WALTHAH ABBEY, or WALTHAM HOLY CROSS, a market town in the Epping parliamentary division of Essex, England, on the Lea, and on the Cambridge branch of the Great Eastern railway, 13 m. N. by E. from London. Pop. of urban district of Waltham Holy Cross (1901) 6549. The neighbouring county of the Lea valley is flat and unlovely, but to the E. and N.E. low hills rise in the direction of Hainault and Epping Forests. Of the former magnificent cruciform abbey church the only portion of importance now remaining is the nave, forming the present parish church, the two easternmost bays being converted into the chancel. It is a very fine specimen of ornate Norman. Only the western supports of the ancient tower now remain. A tower corresponding with the present size of the church was erected in 1556 and restored in 1798. On the south side of the church is a lady chapel dating from the end of the reign of Edward II. or the beginning of that of Edward III., containing some good Decorated work, with a crypt below. Of the monastic buildings there remain only a bridge and gateway and ether slight fragments. Bishop Hall became curate of Waltham in 1612, and Thomas Fuller was curate from 1648 to 1658. At Waltham Cross, about i m. W. of Waltham in Hertfordshire, is the beautiful cross erected (1291-1294) by Edward I. at one of the resting-places of the corpse of Queen Eleanor on its way to burial in Westminster Abbey. It is of Caen stone and is supposed to have been designed by Pietro Cavallini, a Roman sculptor. It is hexagonal in plan and consists of three stages, decreasing towards the top, which is finished by a crocketed spirelet and cross. The lower stage is divided into compartments enclosing the arms of England, Castile and Leon, and'Ponthieu. Its restoration has not been wholly satisfactory. The royal gunpowder factory is in the immediate vicinity; government works were built in 1890 at Quinton Hill, \ m. W. of the town, for the manufacture of cordite; and the town possesses gun-cotton and percussion-cap factories, flour-mills, malt kilns and breweries. Watercresses are largely grown in the neighbourhood, and there are extensive market gardens and nurseries.
The town probably grew up round the church, which was built early in the 11th century to contain a portion of the true cross. The manor was held by the abbot and convent of the Holy Cross from the reign of Henry I. to that of Henry VIII. The town was never more than a market town until 1894. In 1845 a local board of twelve members was formed to govern it; in 1894, under the Local Government Act, it was brought under an urban district council. The market of Waltham was granted to the abbey by Richard I. and confirmed in 1227 by Henry III., who also conceded two fairs in 1251: one for ten days following the Invention of the Holy Cross, the other on the vigil of the Exaltation of the Cross and for seven days after. The charter from which the present market appears to be derived was granted by Queen Elizabeth in 1 560, and gave a Tuesday market for miscellaneous stock. The fairs have died out, although as late as 1792 they were held on the 14th of May and the 2sth and 26th of September. The fisheries in the river Lea appear in records from 1086 onwards. At the end of the 17th century a fulling mill is mentioned, and by the year 1721 three powder mills were in existence.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)