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

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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