The nearest railway station is in the town of Waltham Cross, accessible from Liverpool Street Station in London. The nearest underground station is at Loughton on the Central Line, with which there are bus connections.
|211||Waltham Cross to Roundhills via Waltham Abbey||Mon-Sat every 2 hours|
|212||Waltham Cross to Breach Barns via Parklands||Mon-Sat every 2 hours|
|213||Waltham Cross to Epping St Margarets Hospital via Upshire||Mon-Sat every hour|
|240||Waltham Cross to Debden Broadway via Loughton||Sunday every 2 hours|
|250||Waltham Cross to Debden Broadway via Loughton||Mon-Sat every 30 mins, Sunday every 2 hours|
|251||Upshire to Hammond Street Smiths Lane via Waltham Cross||Mon-Sat every 15 mins, Sunday every hour|
|505||Chingford to Harlow Mark Hall North via Waltham Abbey||Mon-Sat every hour|
|523||Loughton Crown to North Weald Market via Epping||Saturdays (Market days) 1 return journey|
|853||Waltham Abbey King Harold School to Chingford via Sewardstone||Schooldays 1 return journey|
The name Waltham derives from weald or wald "forest" and ham "homestead" or "enclosure". The name of the ancient parish as a whole is Waltham Holy Cross, but the use of the name Waltham Abbey for the town only seems to have originated in the 16th century, but there has often been inconsistency in the use of the two names. Indeed the former urban district was named Waltham Holy Cross, rather than Waltham Abbey. There are traces of prehistoric and Roman settlement in the town. Ermine Street lies only 5 km west and the causeway across the River Lea from Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire may be a Roman construction. A local legend claims that Boudica's rebellion against the Romans ended in the neighbourhood, when she poisoned herself with hemlock gathered on the banks of Cobbins Brook. The recorded history of the town began during the reign of Canute in the early 11th century when his standard-bearer Tovi or Tofig the Proud, founded a church here to house the miraculous cross discovered at Montacute in Somerset. It is this cross that gave Waltham the earliest suffix to its name. After Tovi's death around 1045 Waltham reverted to the King (Edward the Confessor), who gave it to the Earl Harold Godwinson (later king). Harold rebuilt Tovi's church in stone around 1060, in gratitude it is said for his cure from a paralysis, through praying before the miraculous cross.
Legend has it that after his death at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, his body was brought to Waltham for burial near to the High Altar. Today the spot is marked by a stone slab in the churchyard. In 1177 as part of his penance for his part in the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry II refounded Harold's church as a priory of Augustinian Canons Regular of sixteen canons and a prior. In 1184, this was altered and Waltham became an abbey with an abbot and twenty-four canons, which grew to be the richest monastery in Essex. To the abbey's west and south the town grew up, with a single High street as late as 1848 (White's Directory of Essex) The town's dependence on the Abbey was signalled by its decline after he Abbey was dissolved in 1540, the last monastic house to be dissolved.
A substantial part of Waltham Abbey survives from the Middle Ages, and it now used as the parish church. In addition there are a few other remains - the former Gatehouse, a vaulted passage and Harold’s Bridge all in the care of English Heritage.
Waltham Abbey is notable for the reputed grave of Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon King of England. The Abbey also contains the Epping Forest District Museum, housed in a building dating back to 1520, which tells the story of the people who have lived and worked in this part of south Essex from the earliest inhabitants to the present.
On the site of the former gunpowder factory the museum illustrates the evolution of explosives and the development of the Royal Gunpowder Mills (an Anchor Point of ERIH, The European Route of Industrial Heritage) through interactive and traditional exhibitions and displays. the site hosts living history and battle re-enactment events most summer weekends and you can also take the self guided nature walk that shows visitors the ecology that has reclaimed much of the remaining 175 acres.
The former gravel pits in the Lea Valley and parts of the former Abbey Gardens is now in the care of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority for recreation use and nature conservation.
The Epping Forest Conservation Centre in High Beach provides information, maps, books, cards, displays and advice on the area.