UK Genealogy Archives logo
DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we may receive a commission.

Bishops Hatfield, Hertfordshire

Historical Description

Hatfield or Bishops Hatfield, a small but ancient market and union town and a parish in Herts. The town stands on the slope of a hill on the Great North Road, 5 miles E from St Albans, 7 W from Hertford, and 20 N from London. It has a station on the G.N.R., at a junction of branch lines to Hertford, St Albans, and Luton, and a head post office. It has a modern suburb called Hatfield New Town half a mile W of the railway, on the road to St Albans, and the parish includes the hamlets of Astwick, Grub's Lane, Hatfield Hyde, Mill Green, Newgate Street, Roe or Row Green, Stanborough, Symonds Hyde, Woodhall, Woodhill, and Wood-side, and the ecclesiastical parish of LEMSFOED. The area of the parish, which is the largest in the county, is 12, 884 acres; population of the civil parish, 4330; of the ecclesiastical, 4693. The manor belongs to the Marquis of Salisbury, The town itself is one of narrow streets and ancient houses, but clean, pleasant, and picturesque. It is partly paved, and away by the Lea there are some large mills. The living is a rectory in the diocese of St Albans; net yearly value,, £828' with residence. Patron, the Marquis of Salisbury. The church of St Etheldreda, which, after St Albans abbey church, is the largest in the county, is a cruciform building of flint and stone chiefly in the Decorated style, and comprises a nave, 73 feet by 36, with aisles; chancel, 43 feet 6 inches by 20, with chapels on both the N and S sides; transepts with aisles, embattled western tower and spire, and porches on the N and S. It was restored and much of it rebuilt in 1872. It contains many interesting monuments of the Cecils, the Botelers, the Brockets, and the Reads. One of the Cecil monuments, that of the first Earl of Salisbury, is well executed, and is a fine example of the work of its period. It consists of a recumbent effigy of the Earl in full robes, with the insignia of the Order of the Garter and holding his treasurer's staff in his hand. The slab of black marble on which he rests is supported by white marble statues of the virtues-Fortitude, Justice, Prudence, and Temperance-and beneath is the recumbent marble figure of a skeleton on a mat. There is a cemetery church at New Town, which was built in 1877 by the Marquis of Salisbury, and is a building of stone in the Early English style. There is a Wesleyan chapel which was erected in 1889, and an undenominational union ' chapel which was built in 1823. A large building was erected in 1884 by the Marquis of Salisbury to serve as a Conservative clubhouse, reading-rooms and library, temperance hotel, and public hall. There are chapels of ease at Hatfield Hyde and Woodhill, and there is a small church at Newgate Street which was erected in 1842 and enlarged in 1887. There are charities worth about £70 a year.

HATFIELD HOUSE, the seat of the Marquis of Salisbury, is a magnificent mansion of brick, with enrichments of stone, in the Early Jacobean style of architecture, of which style it is one of the finest specimens extant. It stands in a fine park, the largest in the shire, immediately E from Hatfield town. An ancient palace of the Bishops of Ely formerly stood here, was the place of Edward VI.'s residence when he was called to the throne, was the place also of Elizabeth's residence when she was called to the throne, and for several years before, and has left some remains. An oak tree is still standing in the park under which Elizabeth is satd to have been reading when the news of her accession was brought to her in 1558. It was at Hatfield, also, that Elizabeth held her first privy council on Sunday, 20 Nov., 1558. The present building, which succeeded the palace, was built by Sir Robert Cecil, afterwards first Earl of Salisbury, between the years 1605 and 1611. It is in plan a parallelogram, 280 feet long and 70 wide, with, on the S or principal front. two wings, each projecting 100 feet and 80 wide, and forming with the centre three sides of a court 140 feet long. The wings are connected by a centre, Italian Renaissance in character, of two orders, the lower Doric and the upper Ionic, with a highly-enriched Elizabethan central gate-tower and stepped gables. The central tower, in which is the elaborate entrance porch, is 70 feet high, and is crowned by a clock turret with cupola. It bears in the parapet the date of the completion of the building, 1611, beneath the Earl's crest and coronet. The wings have projecting angle turrets 50 feet high, with cupola roofs 20 feet high, enriched central porches, and handsome oriels. The N front is less ornate, its principal features being the central compartment with the entrance. The state rooms of the mansion are said to be the finest remaining examples of their class and time, and it contains a wonderful collection of portraits, arms, and curiosities. It is also rich in historical documents and MSS., the collection including, among other treasures, Lord Burghley's diary, a mass of documents relating to the chief events in the reign of James I., and upwards of 13, 000 letters of the first Cecils, extending from Henry VIII. to James I., all carefully arranged, classified, and catalogued. On the western side of the house there is an ancient garden, at the comers of which are mulberry trees, said to have been planted by James I.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyHertfordshire 
Ecclesiastical parishBishop's Hatfield St. Ethelreda 
Poor Law unionHatfield 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Bishops Hatfield from the following:

Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Hertfordshire is online.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Hertfordshire newspapers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Hertfordshire, 1572 and 1634. Edited by Walter C. Metcalfe, F.S.A. is available on the Heraldry page.