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Hatfield, originally Bishop's Hatfield, is in the Welwyn Hatfieldmarker district of Hertfordshiremarker, in the south of Englandmarker. It forms part of the Welwyn Hatfield constituencymarker which also includes Welwyn Garden Citymarker and has been twinned with the Dutchmarker port town of Zierikzeemarker since 1953. Its MP is Grant Shapps (Con.). It is known as the town where the first production-line jet airliner, the de Havilland Comet was built and as the site of a tragic rail crashmarker in 2000.


Saxon to Medieval eras

Dating back to Saxon times, the village of Hatfield was first known as "Hetfelle" and then became known as "Haethfeld" when around 970 King Edgar gave to the monastery of Elymarker. No records remain from this time until 1226 when Henry III granted the Bishops of Ely rights to an annual four-day fair and a weekly market. Old Hatfield retains many historic buildings notably the Old Palace, St Etheldreda's Church and Hatfield Housemarker. The Old Palace was built by the Bishop of Ely, Cardinal Morton, in 1497 during the reign of Henry VII and the only surviving wing is still used today for Elizabethan banquets. St Etheldreda's Church was founded by the monks from Ely and the first wooden church, built in 1285, was probably sited where the existing building stands overlooking the Old Town.

Perhaps the most famous local historical landmark is Hatfield House, seat of the Cecil family, whose history is not only closely interwoven with that of the town but also of Tudor times. Princess Elizabeth Tudor was confined for three years in what is now known as "The Old Palace" in Hatfield Park. It was here in 1558, whilst said to be sitting under an oak tree in the Park, that she learned that she had become Queen following the death of her half-sister, Mary. Records show that within a few days the young Queen Elizabeth held her first Council in the Great Hall (The Old Palace) of Hatfield.

Victorian Hatfield

The original town (now Old Hatfield) grew up around the gates of Hatfield Housemarker; the still-existing Eight Bells Inn is described by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist as a temporary resting place for Bill Sykes, on the run from central London after murdering Nancy. However in 1851 the route of the Great North Road (now the A1000 road) was altered to avoid cutting through the grounds of Hatfield House and this diversion explains the apparent discrepancy where Dickens describes Sykes as coming down the hill from the Londonmarker road and finding the welcome sight of the Eight Bells Inn. Nowadays the Eight Bells is on a quiet cul-de-sac.

20th century development

The aviation industry

The opening of the de Havilland airfield and aircraft factory prior to the Second World War resulted in further rapid growth of the town and, as the place of manufacture of the Mosquito, Dove, Heron, Comet and Trident, Hatfield is indelibly linked with the history of British aviation. Eddie Chapman, the infamous double agent, faked an attack on the Hatfield factory in 1942 (that same year Hatfield sponsored the frigate HMS Tweed through a successful Warship Week National Savings campaign). The de Havilland Company - later Hawker Siddeley and finally British Aerospace - became the district's largest employer.

After the Second World War, Hatfield was designated as a "new town" under the New Towns Act 1946 (and the earlier Abercrombie Plan for London in 1944), forming part of the initial Hertfordshire group with nearby Stevenagemarker, Welwyn Garden City and Letchworthmarker. It retains "new town" characteristics including trees and open spaces that were outlined in the original design.

The closure of British Aerospace in 1992 had a serious impact on the area. Production of the HS146 (by now known as the British Aerospace 146 'Whisperjet') was transferred to Woodfordmarker in Cheshiremarker. An early bizjet, the DH125, was also developed here although mass production took place at Hawardenmarker in Flintshire. Some components of wind turbines were also developed here prior to the airfield's closure.

The vacated premises and surrounding grounds served as a film set for almost all of the BBC/HBO television drama Band of Brothers, which followed on from significant use of the site in the filming of the Steven Spielberg movie Saving Private Ryan. Hatfield's aerospace and military production history remains today mainly in the form of name only — streets such as Comet Way and Mosquito Way; pubs such as the Airfield and The Harrier; the previously mentioned university buildings along with the massive A1marker motorway junction (named Olding's Corner), the land being gradually turned over to retail, offices and housing.

The growth of the university

With Hatfield Business Park and the University of Hertfordshiremarker - formerly Hatfield Polytechnic - already established and expanding and the redevelopment of the airfield site taking shape, the town's future remains promising. The population of Hatfield has expanded to over 30,000 and is still growing.

A large section of the airfield site was purchased by the University and the £120 million de Havilland Campusmarker, incorporating a £15 million Sports Village, was opened in September 2003. The university has closed its sites at Watfordmarker and Hertfordmarker; faculties situated there have been moved to the de Havilland Campus. The university maintains its campus at St Albansmarker, which houses law students.

In addition to the new university campus, part of the former BAe land was also due to be the site of a £500 million new hospital to replace the Queen Elizabeth II Hospitalmarker in Welwyn GCmarker. Controversially the project has now been cancelled.

Town centre

Redevelopment of Hatfield town centre is also being planned, involving the construction of 275 flats and retail units. Planning permission has been granted and compulsory purchase orders have been approved. The development has been delayed partly by the global economic recession, but the lax attitude towards negotations with the developer St Modwens are the main culprit. and an active campaign group has been established to promote the town centre.



Hatfield experiences an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) similar to almost all of the United Kingdom.

Culture and recreation

Hatfield has two swimming pools, two sports/leisure centres, a nine screen cinema, a factory outlet shopping centre situated above the A1(M) called The Galleriamarker and two supermarkets - Asda in the town centre and Tescomarker at the northern end of the town.


Hatfield contains numerous primary and secondary schools, including Onslow St Audrey's Schoolmarker and Bishops Hatfield Girls Schoolmarker.

Places of interest

T-Mobile at Hatfield Business Park.
  • College Lane Campus and de Havilland campus of University of Hertfordshiremarker are located in Hatfield.
  • Hatfield Housemarker is where Queen Elizabeth I spent her childhood.
  • A local history museum located at Mill Green, just off the A414-A1000marker junction.
  • Also at Mill Green is the Mill Green Watermillmarker, which still produces flour for sale and is one of a very few watermills in Hertfordshiremarker. There is also a café open Easter to September; regular events suitable for families are held at the mill.
  • ASDA, Eisai Co., Image2Output, T-Mobile Limited, Computacenter, BDO Stoy Hayward and Porsche offices are also located here.
  • The main warehouse for Ocado is located on the business park. It is the largest warehouse in Europe; able to fit 20 normal sized supermarkets inside it. The warehouse is run by computers that organize the miles of conveyor belts that are used to transfer crates around the factory, using humans only to place food from shelves into the customer crates.


Situated in the south of Hertfordshiremarker, Hatfield is to the north of Londonmarker and separated from the city by the Green Belt. The town has excellent transport links with the nearest airport at Lutonmarker only away and Stansted airport also within easy reach. The A1 roadmarker and, a few miles to the South, the M25marker make for easy access to Heathrow and Gatwick by car. The main railway link from Londonmarker to Yorkmarker runs through the town and there is a 22-minute commuter service to Londonmarker.

Hatfield memorial garden

The area contains the site of a fatal rail crash on October 17, 2000. The incident brought track maintenance deficiencies to public attention, to the severe detriment of Railtrack, the company established to manage rail infrastructure, and set in motion the events that led to its insolvency. It is five miles (8 km) north of Potters Barmarker, scene of a later fatal train derailmentmarker. There is a small garden beside the East Coast Main Line that was built as a memorial for the crash victims: it can be accessed on foot from the Great North Road marker.

Famous Residents

Queen Elizabeth (Hatfield Old Palace)Lord Salisbury, 3 x Prime Minister (Hatfield House)Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister (Hatfield Parish)Lord Melborne, Prime Minister (Hatfield Parish)Reginald Mauldling, Cabinet MinisterBarbara Cartland, NovelistMick Taylor, Rolling Stones guitarist 1969-74

Nearby towns and villages

See also



Image:UHCollegeLaneCampus.jpg|UHmarker College Lane campus, Main BuildingImage:UHdeHavillandCampus.jpg|Learning Resource Centre, de Havilland campusImage:HatfieldHallJosephNashc1840.jpg|The main hall of Hatfield HouseImage:Hatfield_Morris_edited.jpg|The north front of Hatfield House, 1880Image:Hatfield_saint_peter_church.jpg|Saint Peter Church, on Bishop RiseImage:Theairfield.jpg|The Airfield pub, Comet WayImage:Hatfield_business_centre.jpg|Hatfield Business ParkImage:Hatfield_Porsche_Centre.jpg|Porsche garageImage:Hatfield_T-Mobile.jpg|T-Mobile (UK) Ltd HQImage:Hatfield_Galleria.jpg|The Galleria, 2006Image:Hatfield_Occado.JPG|Ocado distribution centreImage:07-11-05 Hatfield 50.jpg|Rail crashmarker memorialImage:Onslow_St_Audrey's.jpg|Onslow St Audrey's SchoolImage:Hatfield_A1(M).jpg|The A1(M) in Hatfield

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