The town name comes from the Roman name for the area, Cestrehunt. This is commemorated in the arms of the former Cheshunt urban district council. (See below)
Cheshunt is famous in several ways. Richard Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, died here in 1712. The town's Bury Green neighbourhood was once the home of singer Cliff Richard. Lotus Cars as well as the nationally famous Debenhams were also founded in Cheshunt, and the headquarters of Tesco, the UK's largest and most profitable supermarket chain, is also located here. The nearby village of Goffs Oak is the original home of Victoria Beckham of Spice Girls fame. In 2002, Cheshunt hosted the only officially licensed European BotCon convention ever.
Services in Cheshunt include the Brookfield Centre, which includes Next, Boots, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Argos and Marks & Spencer stores, as well as a large Tesco Extra store. There is a Marriott Hotel nearby, and the town centre includes a wide variety of smaller shops.
Up until 2004, Cheshunt was home to the famous Temple Bar, moved from London at the turn of the 19th century, but the gateway was re-installed in London.
Until the late 1960s the main land use around Cheshunt was for its Nursery industry, and many new techniques for growing under glass were developed here. Thomas Rochford had a large concern here, although now almost all the glasshouses have been re-developed into housing estates. This is often reflected in the names of the roads or estates, such as Rosedale or Thomas Rochford way. A small amount of nursery trade survives to the west of the town. The neighbouring town of Goff's Oak still has a large number of nurseries as well as a large garden centre.
The River Lee Navigation passes through Cheshunt and was used for the transport of flowers and crops to the London markets for many years until road transport became more viable. A wharf existed just east of the railway on the site now occupied by Herts Young Mariners Base and the Youth Hostel which was built on the site of the derelict open air swimming pool. Photos of the pool are exhibited at the hostel.
"Cheshunt Compound" a fungicide developed at the Cheshunt Research Station is still manufactured today.
From the end of World War II a large area of the River Lea flood plain was used for sand and gravel extraction which resulted in the creation of the now mature lakes which are popular with anglers, birdwatchers and naturalists. The area now forms part of the 1000 acre River Lee Country Park and the Turnford and Cheshunt Pits (SSSI).
There is now a thriving music scene in the town which focuses on the genres of indie and pop-punk. The popular underground band Neils Children who have recently gained attention originally hail from Cheshunt.
Cheshunt also have long established rugby and cricket clubs and an 18-hole golf course.