The Manor of Ware

The Manor of Ware in Hertfordshire during the Middle Ages

The town of Ware has a long history.  The oldest dateable artefacts found in the area go back to the late Paleolithic period (c.25,000 – 10,000BC).  There is evidence for a more permanent settlement in the Mesolithic period (8,000 – 5,000 BC).  The Romans were also there and so it goes on into the Middle Ages, which is the period this post will be dealing with.[i]

The town probably gets its name from the Old English wær, ‘weir’.  This is likely as it is situated next to the River Lea, which was said to have had “Stoppages, which there obstruct the river”. There was an acute rivalry between Hertford and Ware concerning trade, which depended on the River Lea for transport.  Ware got accused of obstructing the river, to the detriment of Hertford situated up-river.[ii]

At the time of the Norman conquest, Ware was one of the largest manors in the county, and was held by Anschil (or Eskil) of Ware.   Anschil appears to have been a very wealthy and influential landholder, with over 30 holdings in Hertfordshire and the South Midlands. At Ware, he is said to have had a great residential manor.[iii]  After 1066, Ware was first granted to Ralph Taillebois.  However, he exchanged it fairly soon, for property in Bedfordshire, with Hugh de Grandmesnil, one of the most trusted followers of William the Conqueror.   The Domesday Book recorded a deer park, a newly planted vineyard, 2 mills and “375 eels” at Ware[iv], and it is to be assumed that there was a manor house as well.  The mention of a vineyard is interesting.  As we have seen at Hatfield,  vineyards were quite common in medieval monastic houses, but clearly were not limited to them.

Hugh de Grandmesnil granted some of his assets in Ware to endow his family’s abbey at Saint-Evroul in Normandy and also founded in 1086 a cell of this abbey in Ware.  This was situated to the north of the High Street, in the area of St Mary’s Church, but the exact location is not known. The present church was only founded in the 13th century, but as a priest is mentioned in the Domesday Book, There was probably an earlier church.[v]

This very wealthy priory was suppressed in 1414.  It passed to King Henry V, who then granted it to his new foundation at Sheen[vi] (which was why Carlton Curlieu, which had belonged to Ware Priory, was then granted to Sheen).

Nothing remains of this priory. It is not to be confused with the building nowadays known as “The Priory”.  This was in fact a Franciscan friary, which was established by Thomas Wake, second Lord Wake (1297-1349), by 1338. Unlike the priory, it was not a rich house, because Lord Wake had problems endowing his foundations due to a lack of resources. The west wing was the first to be built.   What remains today are a part of the hall, refectory and the south and west ends of the covered cloister.  Most of the rest of the layout and the location of the church could be established in archaeological excavations.[vii]

Ware was quite often passed down the female.  This starts with Hugh de Grandmesnil’s granddaughter Petronilla, who was married to Robert de Breteuil, earI of Leicester.  Her main residence was a hall at Ware.  In 1208 the king granted her the market in the town and control of the bridge for life.  She and her son Robert, whom she outlived, are considered to have left their mark on the town by planning the outlay which exists to this day.  They diverted the Old North Road (the Roman Ermine Street) so that instead of going straight from north to south, it ran eastwards parallel with the river for about half a mile.  It then crossed the Lea at a new bridge, further east than the old one. The detour is still clearly visible in the plan of the modern town.  The new High Street was wide enough to accommodate a market and shops, as well as creating attractive properties between the new street and the river.  At that time, the Old North Road was the main road to the North as well as the main pilgrimage route to the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Walsingham in Norfolk. Therefore, the town became very wealthy and had a great number of inns.[viii]

The next instance was in 1349.  After the death of the above mentioned Thomas Wake, who left no children, his estates and barony passed via his sister Margaret to the earls of Kent and thence to the Holland family.[ix]  After the death of Thomas Holland, fifth earl of Kent, Ware passed to his daughter Eleanor and her husband Thomas de Montagu, earl of Salisbury.  Thomas Montague died in 1428, and their daughter Alice inherited Ware.  She was married to Richard Neville, who became through her the fifth earl of Salisbury.   This was the brother of Cecily, who was married to Richard, duke of York.  There is an undated record – though presumably from the time before the two factions of the Wars of the Roses were too entrenched – that Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou used the park at Ware for hunting.[x]

The royal hunting visits did not help Richard, earl of Salisbury.  After he fought for his brother-in-law in the Battle of Wakefield (30 December 1460), he was beheaded the next day.  Then his son Richard Neville, the “Kingmaker”, inherited Ware.

After his death at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, Ware came to his daughter Anne, who married Richard, duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III. While Richard was king, his steward at Ware was John Sturgeon, who came from Hitchin in Hertfordshire. He seems to have fallen under some cloud, when a group from Hertfordshire, including men from Ware, were involved in unrest against the king. In November 1484, Sturgeon was replaced as sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire by Sir Robert Percy.  The following month, he surrendered the stewardship of Ware to Robert Brackenbury.  Brackenbury was also constable of the Tower and would die alongside Richard at Bosworth.  I have found no evidence that Richard ever visited Ware himself, but he was certainly concerned about the lack of military enthusiasm among the inhabitants.  According to a letter from the king to his representatives in Ware, they preferred more peaceful activities like playing tennis or bowling (and poaching) to archery practice.[xi]

Richard III’s queen, Anne, died in April 1485.  Her heir for Ware was her then ten-year-old nephew Edward, earl of Warwick, the son of Anne’s sister Isabel.  However, he never held Ware.  After Bosworth, Henry VII granted Ware to his mother Margaret Beaufort.  Margaret Beaufort was also descended from Thomas Holland.  Just one month after Bosworth – on 22 September 1485 – she secured the right to appoint a steward at Ware, and was granted Ware in March 1487.[xii]

This brings us to the question of the manor house in Ware.  There is evidence that there was a manor house at the site of Place House Hall in present-day Bluecoat Yard off East Street from at least the 11th century, it might even go back to Anschil of Ware.  We heard that Petronilla had a hall at Ware, but don’t know where, but it might very well have been this one from the 11th century.

In the early 13th century, Ware was held by her daughter Margaret, widow of Saer de Quincy, earl of Winchester (d. 1219).  She seems to have felt that the 11th century building was not adequate and decided to build a great hall, a large chamber, and a chapel in the priory to provide more comfortable accommodation when visiting Ware.  She may even have held her manorial courts in this hall. Margaret died in 1235, and the priory buildings continued to be used as the manor house.  Her grand-daughter Joan, wife of Sir Humphrey de Bohun, became lady of the manor of Ware.  After her husband’s death (in 1265), she added another room to the building.  Eventually, this intrusion stretched the patience of the prior to far.  After her death in 1283, the prior had the doors and windows of these buildings barred and the latest addition demolished.  When the escheator came to take possession of her property in the king’s name, he found himself locked out, though he eventually managed to get in by force.[xiii]

These dramatic events were probably the reason to move back to the original site.  Parts of this building still exist.  Place House Hall was originally built in the late 13th or early 14th centuries, probably during the tenure of John Wake (Joan’s nephew) or his son Thomas Wake (the same who founded the friary).

The Manor of Ware

Place House Hall, Ware

A dendrochronological investigation of 8 oak timbers resulted in dates between AD 1179 and AD 1253, though on the whole the findings were limited.  The building was an aisled hall with two unequal bays, which survive, and there was a three bay cross wing at the west end.  It seems that at some stage there was also another bay to the east.  The hall has an arched crownpost roof with curved braces, a style which was only in use from the late 13th century onwards. Both the east and west wing do not exist anymore and only the aisled hall remains.  The original timber frame can still be seen.  On the south side there is a projecting two storey gabled porch from the 17th century (clearly visible in the above photograph), but beneath it is the original chamfered pointed timber arch. Although the present building has much changed since it was first built, it is regarded as the most complete of these early timber-framed buildings.

The Manor of Ware

Part of the timber frame (photograph taken through a window)

The name ‘Place House’ derives from one of its former names, ‘Braughing Place’. This name also suggests that it was used for the court of Braughing Hundred.

The duke of York with his Neville in-laws were at Ware on 21 August 1455 on their march south which led to the 1st Battle of St Albans.  It was from here that they wrote another letter to Henry VI, declaring their loyalty to the king and accusing Somerset.  Given that at that time Place House belonged to Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury, it is tempting to think that this is where the Yorkist party tried their last minute attempt to get the ear of the king. Although this letter was taken by courier during the night to the king’s party, who were staying in Watford, it is questionable whether Henry actually ever was shown any of the letters.  The next day, the first Battle of St Albans was fought. [xiv]

This is the building which came to Margaret Beaufort after the Battle of Bosworth.  She made changes to the original design of Place House.  The building was probably enlarged.  There is also a carved movable screen, which is sometimes attributed to her, though this seems unlikely (see below).  Margaret Beaufort died in 1509.  In 1513, her grandson Henry VIII returned Ware to Margaret Pole, sister of Edward, earl of Warwick.  She held it until her execution in 1541, when it fell again to the crown.  In 1548, Edward VI granted it to his sister Mary Tudor, whose steward was Richard Welles.  It was probably he, and not Margaret Beaufort, who commissioned the screen, as its panels are decorated with Tudor roses and pomegranates.  Pomegranates were the badge of Catherine of Aragon, and together with the Tudor Rose, they were the emblem of her daughter, Mary Tudor.  Incidentally, Richard Welles was the first known tenant of Place House.[xv]

Once Mary became queen, she granted the house to Katherine, who was a granddaughter of Margaret Pole.  She sold the house in the 1570s to Thomas Fanshawe.  He later built a new house at Ware Park and Place House was probably then tenanted.[xvi]

The Manor of Ware

Entrance to Bluecoat Yard on East Street with Place House Hall see through the gate

In the 17th century, the building became a school for “bluecoat children”, as the children of Christ’s Hospital were known.  Christ’s Hospital was founded by Edward VI for poor children from London, who otherwise had no means to receive an education.   It catered for both boys and girls. The children wore a uniform of dark blue coats with yellow lining, which gave them their colloquial name.  A statue of a child in the uniform stands in a niche above the entrance to Bluecoat Yard on East Street (though the present statue is a modern one).

The building was significantly altered for its use as a school.  The west wing was demolished, the hall extended and fireplaces were added.  The east wing became the schoolmaster’s house.   Outbuilding to the south and west of the hall were demolished to make room for 12 cottages, were the children lived with nurses.  The school closed in 1761 and the children were moved to bigger premises in Hertford, but the building continued to be used for educational purposes.

Around 1900 it was sold by Christ’s Hospital and converted for residential use.  After the death of the last private owner the building was offered to the Hertfordshire Building Preservation Trust, who restored Place House.  It was re-opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 8 July 1978 and is now used as an amenity hall for local residents.  The building rates as one of the most important early medieval timber-framed structures in the County.[xvii]

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Place House.  I found the house in a peaceful garden, away from the hustle and bustle of the town.  Looking in through the window, I could see the 13th century timber frame.  In front of it is a garden which incorporates design features of a medieval garden and plants which would have been used in medieval times.[xviii]  The dog that bounded into the walled garden to drink from the water feature just added to the tranquility of the place.  Even if it does not feature among the top tourist spots, if you have the chance, Place House in Ware is definitely worth a detour.


[i] Clive Partridge, ‘Hertford and Ware: archaeological perspectives from birth to middle age’, in:  A County of Small Towns:  The development of Hertfordshire’s urban landscape to 1800, ed. by Terry Slater & Nigel Goose.  Hertfordshire Publications, 2008 (Reprinted 2010), pp.127-158

[ii] J.E.B. Gover, Allen Mawer & F.M. Stenton, The Place-Names of Hertfordshire. English Place-Name Society, Vol.XV. Cambridge University Press, 1938, p.206; ‘Parishes: Ware’, A History of the County of Hertford: volume 3 (1912), pp. 380-397. URL: [last accessed 25 July 2016]

[iii] Richard Abels, ‘Sheriffs, Lord-Seeking and the Norman Settlement of the South-East Midlands’, in: Anglo-Norman Studies XIX: Proceedings of the Battle Conference, 1996, Christopher Harper-Bill. Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1997, p.37

[iv] ‘Parishes: Ware’; The Doomsday Book Online:  Hertfordshire.  URL: [last accessed 28 July 2016];

[v] Anne Rowe, Medieval Parks of Hertfordshire.  University of Hertfordshire Press, Hatfield, 2009, p.222; Isabell Thompson, ‘Ware: Extensive Urban Survey’, English Heritage (2005); Partridge, p.150; ‘Ware – The Story so Far’, Ware online.  URL:  [last accessed 25 July 2016], p.2

[vi] ‘Alien house: Ware priory’, A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 4 (1971), pp. 455-457. URL: [last accessed 28 July 2016]

[vii] ‘Friaries: Friars minors of Ware’, A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 4 (1971), pp. 451. URL: [last accessed 25 July 2016]; Thompson; ‘The Priory (Ware Town Council Offices and Community Centre), Ware’, British Listed Buildings.  URL: [last accessed 28 July 2016]; W. M. Ormrod, ‘Wake, Thomas, second Lord Wake (1298–1349)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [last accessed online 27 July 2016]

[viii] ‘Ware – The Story so Far’, p 3; David Crouch, ‘Grandmesnil, Petronilla de, countess of Leicester (d. 1212)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [last accessed online 25 July 2016]. Partridge, p.148 is of the opinion that it was town planning rather than organic growth which changed the direction of this main road.

[ix] ODNB ‘Wake, Thomas, second Lord Wake (1298–1349)’

[x] Rowe, p 222.  According to ‘Parishes: Ware’, Eleanor was the niece of Thomas Holland.  However, according to the ODNB entries on Thomas Montagu as well as on Thomas Holland she was his daughter: Anne Curry, ‘Montagu, Thomas, fourth earl of Salisbury (1388–1428)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008.  [last accessed online 25 July 216], M. M. N. Stansfield, ‘Holland, Thomas, fifth earl of Kent (1350–1397)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 [last accessed online 25 July 2016]

[xi] ‘Parishes: Ware’; Rosemary Horrox, Richard III:  A study in service.  Cambridge University Press, 1989 (reprinted 1999), p.279; Chris Skidmore, Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors.  Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2013, p.219

[xii] ‘Parishes: Ware’; Michael K Jones & Malcolm G Underwood, The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby.  Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp.102-103

[xiii] ‘Alien house: Ware priory’; Richard D. Oram, ‘Quincy, Saer de, earl of Winchester (d. 1219)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2005 [last accessed online 28 July 2016]

[xiv] ‘About Place House’, Place House Hall Ware.  URL: [last accessed 24 July 2016];  ‘Place House, Ware’, British Listed Buildings.  URL: [last accessed 26 July 2016]; Andrew Boardman, The First Battle of St.Albans 1455.  NPI Media Group, 2006, pp.45-50;  R.E. Howard; R.R. Laxton & C.D. Litton, ‘Ancient Monuments Laboratory Report 90/1997: Tree-ring analysis of timbers from Place House, Bluecoat Yard, Ware, Hertfordshire’, Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England (1997). Available at URL: [last accessed 24 July 2016]; Nikolaus Pevsner, Hertfordshire (2nd edition revised by Bridget Cherry). Yale University Press, 2003, pp.23-25; Thompson;  John Walker, ‘Late 12th and early 13th century aisled buildings: a comparison (Part 1)’, Vernacular Architecture, Vol.30, 1999, pp.21-53

[xv] Hertfordshire Building Preservation Trust, Place House, Ware:  A short history, April 2008 (brochure).

[xvi] ‘Parishes: Ware’

[xvii] ‘Place House, Ware:  A short history’; ‘Place House, Ware’, British Listed Buildings; ‘Christ’s Hospital’, Discover Hertford.  URL: [last accessed 26 July 2016]

[xviii] Hertfordshire Building Preservation Trust, Place House Hall:  The Garden, July 2010 (brochure)

Eulenspiegel Fountain, Braunschweig

Braunschweig Now and Then:

The Eulenspiegel Fountain in Braunschweig

Braunschweig, in Lower Saxony, Germany, is a city rich in history.  This became clear to me, when I recently had the opportunity to revisit the city where I was born.  We moved away when I was seven, long before its history held much interest to me.  Seeing it again, brought back to me the stories my grandfather used to tell me.  He was a wonderful story-teller.  His range covered stories by others (sometimes embellished to make them more attractive for his little granddaughter), and above all stories he made up on the spot, linking them to the buildings or monuments around us.

I would like to share with you a monument to one of the heroes of the stories he told me:  Till Eulenspiegel. It’s not very often that you get a chance to touch one of the heroes of the stories of your childhood.  However, this was what I able to do when I saw the Eulenspiegel for the first time, at the age of four or five.  Needless to say I went back to say “hello” to Till now.

Eulenspiegel Fountain Braunschweig

Eulenspiegel Fountain in Braunschweig

Continue reading

David Kindersley

Today would be the 101st birthday of David Guy Barnabas Kindersley, stone-carver and type designer.  He was born on 11 June 1915 in Codicote, Hertfordshire.  Among his extensive work is the Richard III Memorial Stone.  Some of David Kindersley’s work is at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The memorial stone was originally in Leicester Cathedral.  It had been a project of Rev T.C. Hunter-Clare, to which the Richard III Society had contributed. It was dedicated in August 1982.

Since January 2015, just prior to Richard III’s reburial in Leicester Cathedral, the memorial stone has been on permanent display at the King Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester.

David Kindersley died on 2 February 1995 in Cambridge.

The photograph was taken in 2013, showing the memorial stone in its original position in Leicester Cathedral.

David Kindersley

Richard III Memorial Stone

To learn more about David Kindersley, you may wish his obituary in the Independent:

Leicester City – the unexpected EPL Champions

Congratulations to Leicester City on winning the English Premier League title.  This morning, this was the first thing I read, when checking the overnight news on my phone.  Imagine me cheering loudly in a still sleeping house.

Anyone who knows me, realises how utterly unlikely this reaction is.  I’m not interested in sport, never have been, and least of all in soccer.  Nevertheless, here I am supporting a soccer team on the other end of the world.  Just don’t expect any technical analysis of the Leicester’s game plan from me here.

At the beginning of the season, nobody had any hopes of Leicester City achieving anything.  Bookies apparently rated their chances of winning at 5000 to 1. The result is that in Australia the TAB faces a payout of over $1 million.  This will be the biggest loss on a sporting event ever for TAB, as the Sydney Morning Herald reports today. The losses to British betting agents will be considerably bigger.

Many journalists have made a connection between the Foxes’ success and Richard III, as the team’s chances started to pick up once the king had been reburied in Leicester Cathedral in March last year. After his reinterment with “dignity and honour”, I have no doubt that Richard would support Leicester City, if he could support any team from beyond the grave.  However, even if not accepting supernatural influence from long-dead monarchs, there is a connection.

Until August/September 2012, Leicester was hardly on top of any tourist’s visiting wish list. It certainly wasn’t on mine.   However, that changed, once the remains found in a car park were confirmed to be those of Richard III.  In March 2013, we set off to the Midlands, as I wanted to attend a conference on the archaeological dig organised by the Richard III Society at Leicester University.  Let’s start with the positive experiences.  The conference was great and I also enjoyed the Jewry Wall Museum.  The volunteers at St Mary de Castro were incredibly welcoming.  On the negative side was the hotel.  Our room was dusty, the bathroom mouldy, and the staff were anything but interested in providing service for their customers.  I felt the city itself was rather non-descript, and the grey and drizzly weather didn’t do much for it either.

We returned for the reinterment in March last year, and could feel the transformation, as soon as we got off the coach and walked to our hotel.  Everyone was excited and smiling.  We had decided to stay at a different hotel this time.  The choice of the Premier Inn City Centre  was validated as soon as we arrived.  The staff at reception was very professional and welcoming, the room clean and comfortable.

Not that I spent much time at the hotel after checking in.  I rather made my way to meet up with friends in Jubilee Square to wait for Richard’s cortege.  The sun was shining, it was relatively warm and the atmosphere tremendous.  What impressed me particularly was that people of all sorts of different backgrounds were there together, waiting in anticipation for the arrival of the coffin.  Leicester is one of the most multicultural cities in the UK and it has made a success of it.  The masses waiting for the cortege were certainly an example of what it can be like.  And I’m not the only one who noticed this change as this article shows.

The city itself had also scrubbed up very nicely for the big event.  Information boards now make it easy for the tourist to find his or her way around.  They also point out sites of interest, of which the city has its fair share.  All in all, this time round it was a much better experience.

And that brings me back to this unlikely fan’s unlikely interest in these unlikely champions.  I think it’s all due to a sense of excitement, of being caught up in the excitement of a larger group.  That was the case with Richard III’s reinterment, and it’s the same with sport.

The first time I experienced it, was, when as a teenager, I went with some friends to watch some boys of our group, who were part of the local village football team, playing the team from the next village. The same happened in 2011, when my husband decided to go to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup.  Again, I wasn’t particularly interested in rugby, but the prospect of a trip to New Zealand was too good to be missed, and I gladly went along.  Once there, walking around in Wellington during the afternoon, the general excitement got to me.  By the time, we were at the stadium and watched South Africa play Wales, I was just as enthusiastic as the fans, who had supported their respective teams for ever.

My support for Leicester was the same.  My friends from Leicester were getting increasingly excited and that spilled over.  So when Leicester City got mentioned on the news in Australia, I started listening, while I normally just mentally switch off when the sport news come on.  Friends in Australia, who have no interest in Richard III and sometimes not even in soccer, started asking me whether I was supporting the Foxes.  With the result that this morning, the first thing I did, was to check how the game between Tottenham and Chelsea had gone, and then started cheering, even if nobody was listening.

It should also be mentioned that the soccer team are not the only champions from that city.  Also yesterday, Mark Selby from Leicester played in the final of the 2016 Betfred World Snooker Championship and won, which apparently was also a big surprise.

So you see, when it comes to Leicester you have to expect the unexpected.  In 2012, nobody seriously expected finding Richard III’s remains virtually as soon as the ground in that car park was broken. A year ago, nobody seriously expected Leicester City to be EPL Champions.

Let me add another remarkable coincidences, one that you won’t find in the media.  I just got a new mobile phone.  Yesterday morning, I was playing around with it, trying to discover more of all the wonderful things it can do (well, wonderful to me, as my old one had been rather limited).  When looking at the option to play music, I switched on the shuffle feature.  The first thing it decided to play was Queen’s “We are the Champions”.  That surely had to be a sign!

You might also like:

You can watch the lovely ‘Fox and the Ghost King: Morpurgo’s Leicester football tale‘ on YouTube.  It was originally broadcast on the BBC.

There is also an “updated” version of the words Shakespeare put into Richard III’s mouth by Stephen Moss in the Guardian.

The German Reinheitsgebot

The German Reinheitsgebot –

the oldest, currently valid consumer protection law in the world

Today we are celebrating a very important anniversary:  the German ‘Reinheitsgebot’ (purity law) is 500 years-old.  On 23 April 1516, the co-regents of Bavaria, dukes Wilhelm IV and Ludwig X, passed a decree that beer may only be made of barley, hops, and water.[i] Continue reading

How to Bury a King

Book Review:  How to Bury a King:

The Reinterment of King Richard III

Pete Hobson, How to Bury a King: The Reinterment of King Richard III.  Zaccmedia, 2016

On 26 March 2016, the one year anniversary of Richard III’s reinterment in Leicester Cathedral, three books and a CD were launched in St Martin’s House adjacent to Leicester Cathedral.

The launch was held in the great hall of St Martin’s House, with the choir singing to publicise the release of the CD.  He lieth under this Stone features much of the choral music performed at Leicester Cathedral during the reinterment week in March 2015.  Of course, it also includes ‘Ghostly Grace’, composed especially for the occasion by Judith Bingham.

The three books were How to Bury a King by Rev Peter Hobson, acting canon missioner at Leicester Cathedral, Flowers for a King by Rosemary Hughes, who was responsible for the floral arrangements in the Cathedral, and Richard III – His Story, by Leicester artist Kirsteen Thomson. Continue reading

Hatfield before Hatfield House, Part 4

Hatfield before Hatfield House –

the 15th century ‘Old Palace’

In this final part of Hatfield before Hatfield House, we look at the last medieval manor at Hatfield, and the only one of which a part is still standing.[i]

In 1478, a new bishop of Ely was appointed:  John Morton. Morton was a dedicated supporter of the Lancastrians and would be on very good terms with Henry VII, though considerably less so with Richard III.  However, he is not only remembered for political mischief, but also as one of the great builders of his age.  Soon after being elevated to the bishopric of Ely, he set about rebuilding the manor at Hatfield, as well as Wisbech Castle, which also belonged to the Diocese of Ely.  Another project was a great dyke, which was cut through the fens from Peterborough to Wisbech, and is considered a pioneer effort in drainage.  In 1486, a grateful Henry VII had him translated to the see of Canterbury, where he completed the Angel steeple on the cathedral and further buildings of the archdiocese, as for example the gatehouse of Lambeth Palace (also built of brick).[ii] Continue reading

Hatfield before Hatfield House, Part 3

Hatfield before Hatfield House –

the Medieval Manor of the Bishops of Ely

Part 1 and Part 2 of Hatfield before Hatfield House explained how the Bishops of Ely came to hold the estate and how the park and township developed.  Part 3 will deal with the medieval manor of the bishops of Ely at Hatfield.

It is known that the bishops of Ely had a substantial house at Hatfield from early on, though we don’t know exactly when it was first built or what it looked like. [i] Continue reading

Hatfield before Hatfield House, Part 1

Hatfield before Hatfield House –

the Anglo-Saxons and Ely

Today’s main attraction for a visit to Hatfield in Hertfordshire is Hatfield House.  This “modern” palace was built between 1608 and 1611 by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James I.[i]  In the 17th century, Hatfield belonged to the crown, but James I was envious of Cecil’s Theobalds House, near Cheshunt, Herts.  He therefore offered several properties, including Hatfield, in exchange.  This being an offer he couldn’t refuse, Cecil agreed and made the best of it.  While Hatfield House is most impressive and certainly worth a visit, the manor of Hatfield has a much older history, which is often overlooked.  Therefore, this is the first of a series of posts dealing with Hatfield before Hatfield House. Continue reading