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 seems to have originated in the 16th century. Waltham Abbey is one of those towns whose history is interwoven with that of its most important building, the Abbey itself. The riverside site of the town together with the well drained gravel terrain attracted early settlers. 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. Radiocarbon dating places a church and one grave from the 7th century.