Waltham, like most villages has played, be it only humbly a part in our long island history. It began as a settlement long before William the conqueror had complied the Domesday Book in 1086AD. The site was probably chosen because of the availability of water from the stream, presently known as Buck Beck, but above the flood level, and, in an area of woodland which it was possible, in part, to clear, and from which fuel and building material could be obtained. The silts – clays, loams, sands and gravels of the undulating boulder clay foreland, fronting the Wolds were fertile and workable. The name Waltham (W(e) ald-ham) in Old English means settlement (ham) near a wood (Weald).
Life in these middle ages was often hard and certainly primitive and lawless. There are numerous record showing the misdeeds of Waltham people during these times. Disease, due to insanitary conditions, was rife, and the Black Death of 1349 carried off half the inhabitants.
After the middle ages the village affairs, which had been directed by the Lords of the Manor and their officials, were taken over by the Vestry and its elected officers. – Churchwardens. Overseers of the poor, Overseers of the Highways and Parish Constables. Meetings, held in the Church, but more often on the Kings Head were attended by ratepayers. Many of their record still remain. The vestry continued to manage local affairs and local government acts set up Parish Councils in 1894 A.D.
Before 1818 A.D. there were no schools for poor children. Sundays Schools were set up by the church in that year, and by the Methodists in 1838 A.D. The Church of England School was established at the corner of Kirkgate and Cheapside in 1866 A.D. and closed in 1957 – the buildings were later demolished. The Wesleyan day school in New Road opened in 1858 A.D. and closed in 1957 when the Leas County Primary School provided for all the youngsters of the village.
Education for older children (11-14 years) was first provided for Waltham when the Toll Bar Senior School was established in 1937, later becoming a Secondary Modern School in 1944, a comprehensive in 1971 and today a Business and Enterprise College.
Some of the street names are of ancient origin – Kirkgate (the church way) dating from Anglo Saxon times; Skinners Lane (Leading to the former Tannery) probably dating from late medieval times: Ings Lane led to the old meadow land (Ings) over which the former aerodrome extended; Cheapside was the medieval venue for markets and fairs, Cheesemans Lane recalls the former family of that name – the 18th and 19th century brick and tile makers. The name Ludgate Close comes from Ludgate Hill the rise in the High Street, so named by the firm of W.E. Topliss and Son, whose general store stood today where you see the Co-Op store. Fairway was until the 1903’s called Trailpoke Lane. New Road was a new road long before the enclousure of the open fields.
Although many of the newer roads have no historical connections, Norsefield, Danesfield and Summerfield Avenues remind us that our area was invaded and settled by the marauding Danes. Westfield Road certainly crossed what was formerly the “open” West Field and Manor Drive runs through the former grounds of the demolished Waltham Hall.
Waltham is a pleasant village with most of the amenities and services we all need – it also had them a hundred years ago – saddlers, blacksmiths, doctors, schoolteachers, shopkeepers etc.