Online Encyclopedia

HATFIELD

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 62 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HATFIELD, a town in the Mid or St Albans parliamentary division of Hertfordshire, England, 171 M. N. of London by the Great Northern railway. Pop. (1901), 4754. It lies picturesquely on the flank of a wooded bill, and about its foot, past which runs the Great North Road. The church of St Etheldreda, well situated towards the top of the hill, contains an Early English round arch with the dog-tooth moulding, but for the rest is Decorated and Perpendicular, and largely restored. The chapel north of the chancel is known as the Salisbury chapel, and was erected by Robert Cecil, first earl of Salisbury (d. 1612), who was buried here. It is in a mixture of classic and Gothic styles. In a private portion of the churchyard is buried, among others of the family, the third marquess of Salisbury (d. 1903). In the vicinity is Hatfield House, close to the site of a palace of the bishops of Ely, which was erected about the beginning of the 12th century. From this palace comes the proper form of the name of the town, Bishop's Hatfield. In 1538 the manor was resigned to Henry VIII. by Bishop Thomas Goodrich of Ely, in exchange for certain lands in Cambridge, Essex and Norfolk; and after that monarch the palace was successively the residence of Edward VI. immediately before his accession, of Queen Elizabeth during the reign of her sister Mary, and of James I. The last-named exchanged it in 1607 for Theobalds, near Cheshunt, in the same county, an estate of Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, in whose family Hatfield House has since remained. The west wing of the present mansion, built for Cecil in 16o8-1611, was destroyed by fire in November 1835, the dowager marchioness of Salisbury, widow of the 1st marquess, perishing in the flames. Hatfield House was built, and has been restored and maintained, in the richest style of its period, both without and within. The buildings of mellowed red brick now used as stables and offices are, however, of a period far anterior to Cecil's time, and are probably part of the erection of John Morton, bishop of Ely in 1478-1486. The park measures some Io m. in circumference. From the eminence on which the mansion stands the ground falls towards the river Lea, which here expands into a small lake. Beyond this is a rare example of a monks' walled vineyard. In the park is also an ancient oak under which Elizabeth is said to have been seated when the news of her sister's death was brought to her. Brocket Park is another fine demesne, at the neighbouring village of Lemsford, and the Brocket chapel in Hatfield church contains memorials of the families who have held this seat.
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