The present Hatfield House was built in the seventeenth century for Robert Cecil, chief minister to James I. Near the seventeenth century house is the Great Hall, a surviving wing of the Royal Palace of Hatfield where Elizabeth I spent much of her childhood in the sixteenth century. It is an English tradition that Elizabeth was given the news of her predecessor, Queen Mary's death while she was standing or sitting beside an ancient oak tree in the grounds of Hatfield House. The oak tree is a potent symbol of England. Ships that would spread English power around the world would be built of oak. The oak is perhaps as symbolic of England as the white cliffs of the south coast. Perhaps Elizabeth sat under an oak at Hatfield, and perhaps she didn't, but true or not the story reflects much about England. The Queen Elizabeth Oak, the tree beneath which Elizabeth is supposed to have heard of Queen Mary's death is a short walk from the house.
After learning of her succession to the throne Elizabeth held her first council meeting in the great hall which survives at Hatfield Palace. It was at this meeting that Robert Cecil was made the queen's principle advisor. An observation point through a side door gives a view of the hall.
Queen Elizabeth Oak, replanted in the supposed location of the original in 1985 by Elizabeth II
In a remarkable continuation of the Cecil's role in history, the family also produced a twentieth century prime minister. Robert Arthur Gascyone-Cecil, Lord Salisbury, was prime minister from 1885 to 1892, and then again between 1895 and 1902. Hatfield was his home, and the place where he had a laboratory built, allowing him to pursue his interest in science.
Hatfield House runs an award winning educational programme, which offers two hours of activities, with notes sent to teachers beforehand. Activities include meeting Henry VIII and having to entertain him!
Film enthusiasts may be interested to know that Hatfield has been used as a location for many films. These include Batman, Elizabeth, Elizabeth the Golden Age, Henry VIII and his Six Wives, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Shakespeare in Love, and Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes 2, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, The King's Speech, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Agatha Christie's Poirot - Hallowe'en Party and My Week With Marilyn.
The main house, built for Robert Cecil
Opening Times: Please use contact details below.
Address: Hatfield House, Hatfield Park, Great North Road, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL9 5NQ
Directions: Hatfield is in Hertfordshire , off the A1(m), seven miles north of junction 23 of the M25. Exit the A1(m) at junction 4 and follow the brown leisure signs. The main entrance is opposite Hatfield station. Kings Cross to Hatfield is a twenty five minute journey. Click here for an interactive road and satellite map centred on Hatfield House.
Access: Wheelchair users can see all of the open rooms in the house. Large or power chairs will not fit in the lift, but chairs for use in the house are available. There is a wheelchair route around the West Garden, a map of which is available from the garden kiosk. Access to shop, restaurant and toilet is good. Carers are admitted free.
telephone: 01707 287010
fax: 01707 287033
for group visits contact Cherise Fairman on 01707 287010