Past and Present at Hatfield

Only several miles from St. Albans, is the town and civil parish of Hatfield, in the borough of Welwyn Hatfield. The town has long been associated with aircraft design and manufacture, as it was home to British Aerospace until the 1990s. It is also home to the University of Hertfordshire.

The town has a rich and diverse history, mainly due to its strategic position on the Great North Road from London; it is only 20 miles north of London. The town is of Saxon origin, and also holds a special interest to people who enjoy finding out more about Tudor and Victorian history, due to Hatfield House and its Banqueting Hall.

Hatfield House, currently occupied by the family of the 6th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury, was built in 1611, by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. It was built on the adjoining site of the Old Palace of Hatfield, and is one of the largest attractions in Hatfield – definitely worth a drive to visit! The Old Palace was built in about 1485, and part of it still remains - a Banqueting Hall, open most evenings for Elizabethan style dinners, with music and entertainment from the same era.

The remaining wing of The Old Palace containing the Banqueting Hall, still has many of its original roof timbers, many of them peppered with gunshots! The Palace was acquired by Henry VIII in 1538, and used as a nursery for his three children, but later was where Elizabeth was kept under house arrest, when Queen Mary feared her sister’s takeover of the throne. When Elizabeth did become queen, her first Council of State was held in the Banqueting Hall of the Palace, so you can see why it is such an attraction for those interested in this period of history.

The town of Hatfield has also had a number of significant visitors during more recent years, with The Red Arrows making a flypast in Diamond 9 formation at the South Hatfield Festival during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a visit from The Queen herself to Hatfield House to plant a commemorative oak tree, and it also featured as part of the route for the 2012 Olympic torch relay.

There really are quite a few things to see and do in Hatfield if you hire a car and drive from St. Albans. It’s only about seven miles from town to town, so definitely worth a visit if you’re passing!

Posted on April 22nd 2015

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