This historic market town in Hertfordshire is located on the River Lea, just five miles east of St. Albans. Much expanded as a post-war 'new town' around 1948, it has a light engineering and aircraft industry. The University of Hertfordshire (previously Hatfield Polytechnic) was established here in 1992.

Hatfield House
Hatfield House © Travel About Britain

Located on the Old North Road (A1), Hatfield became an important coaching stop in the 17th-c. Much of its old character still survives, especially in the old town area where there are many buildings of interest, some 16/17th century and others Georgian. Several old half-timbered houses with oversailing upper floors can be found in Park Street and Church Street. Fore Street has a charming row of small Georgian dwellings, which tier up the hill. On the corner stands the 17th-c timber-framed and gabled Eight Bells Inn. Dick Turpin is said to have leapt from one of its upper story windows on to his horse Black Bess and galloped away from the Bow Street Runners.

The initial settlement developed around the entrance of a 12th-c Palace for the bishop's of Ely. This was replaced by the current Jacobean mansion of Hatfield House in 1607. Home to the Cecil family, it is one of the finest mansions in England. The estate and park is the largest in the county and the remains of the oak tree, under which Princess Elizabeth was sitting when news was brought of her accession to the throne, are still preserved. The house (open to the public) is famed for its collection of important tapestries and paintings. The delightful gardens that surround the house were laid out in 1611.

Near the house stands the original Old Palace, built in 1480-90 as the residence of Cardinal Morton. Also nearby stands the 13th-c Church of St Ethelreda's, containing a chapel to the Cecil family.

Standing outside the gates on the north entrance of Hatfield House is a large monument dedicated to the 3rd Marquis of Salisbury, a British Prime Minister from the last century.

Map of Hatfield


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