Peter Huggins of Waltham Abbey Historical Society passed
away on Friday, at the age of 91. He leaves behind a daughter and her family.
He made an influential name for himself primarily as an archaeologist, and is
credited with the great majority of the discoveries made at the site of the
Abbey of Waltham, in its monastic grange, and also in the surrounding town and
district. He remained an amateur, but was highly regarded by many leading
academics in his field, and had many reports published in academic journals.
For many decades, he worked in partnership with another of our late members, Dr.
Ken Bascombe, who was an expert in documentary research, and the two men
complemented each other's work. When Dr. Bascombe passed away in the mid 1990s,
Peter Huggins took this role on as well, and he researched and produced a number
of publications of genealogical source material relating to this town. He was
always keen to research the people who lived in the past, in the archaeological
contexts he was exploring, and saw this as of equal value to the archaeology
His career began as a spare-time interest in the early 1960s, and he continued
as an active archaeologist, wielding spade and trowel, right up until the early
years of this decade. Only shortly before his passing, he was directing an
ongoing series of ground-penetrating radar surveys of parts of the Abbey
grounds, and spent much of his leisure time in writing up reports and
publications, and in organising his archives.
In 2015, he published a survey of our parish church, in which he proposed that
its medieval Lady Chapel had been located, against accepted theory, at the west
end of the church: “...it is very possible that
[the Lady Chapel] was within the upper part of the new west front. If this was
the case, with a date of 1349 for the Gild of Our Lady, this may indeed be the
date for the new west front itself. Readers may think that here we are in the
realm of pure speculation, but read on..."
It has always been assumed that before the present west tower was built (in the
1550s), the 14th century façade which still stands behind it was a simple screen
or flat wall, with no predecessor to the later tower. Peter was claiming this to
be in need of revision.
At the end of this publication, he wrote:
"There is still so much to do and to learn, it certainly
is not the time to think of a conclusion to our work. Rather it is a time to
gather strength and motivate others to carry on, and to persuade people they
can, in general, do anything they want to do."
Peter's arguments for a chapel at the west end of the church inspired me and
another member of WAHS to survey the church's complex of passages and spiral
staircases for ourselves, and we believe that we have indeed found physical and
documentary evidence in support of Peter's theory.
We have been asked to put details of Peter’s many
published works on this website. There were so many that we have made a list
available for download, either in PDF or DOC formats. It contains links
where possible to full online copies of them.
For more information please