A time line

ancient oak tree and autumn foiliage at Hatfield Forest, Essex

Hatfield Forest looks virtually the same today as it did a thousand years ago. The oldest trees in the Forest have been growing throughout this time. Imagine what they have seen in their lifetime.

700BC - 43AD Evidence for Iron Age activity in area of the Forest, remains found at Portingbury Hills and the Warren. 

43-410AD Evidence for Roman activity in the area of Forest, Roman bricks incorporated into the church at Great Hallingbury. 

410AD The Anglo-Saxons name the forest hoep feld. 

1000 The oldest trees still standing begin to grow, including the Doodle Oak.

1086 Hatfield Forest is mentioned in the Domesday Book prepared for William the Conquerer.

1100 Henry I declares Hatfield a Royal Hunting Forest and introduces fallow deer. 

1304 Robert the Bruce inherits Hatfield Forest.

1306 Edward I, King of England, claims Hatfield Forest. His successor Edward II passes the Forest to his sister Elizabeth de Bohun.

1446 Henry VI relinquishes the remaining Royal hunting rights in the Forest to the owner, the first Duke of Buckingham. 

1521 Henry VIII confiscates the third Duke of Buckingham’s lands after his execution for treason, and holds onto Hatfield Forest until his death. 

1547 Edward VI gives Hatfield Forest to his Lord Chancellor, Sir Richard Rich.

1729 Trustees of the Houblon family buy Hatfield Forest for the heir Jacob Houblon III. 

1746 Landscape improvements to the Forest result in the creation of the Lake and the building and decoration of the Shell House. 

1757 Lancelot “Capability” Brown provides a plan for altering the lake, by the addition of two arms, one by the dam. He is paid £150. 

1856 Leaves seen for the last time on the Doodle Oak. 

1923 Hatfield Forest is sold to Thomas Place, a timber merchant. 

1924 Sir Edward North Buxton buys Hatfield Forest and donates it to the National Trust. The Forest opens as a National Trust property in May 1924. 

1940 During World War II, Elgin’s Coppice is used as a storage depot for supplies, with the trees cover providing camouflage. The remains of 22 buildings have been identified. 

1979 The lake is dredged and the top of the dam raised by 2 m. This results in the arm, a consequence of the 1757 Brown-inspired alteration, being cut off from the main lake, to form the Decoy Lake.

1989 Publication by Oliver Rackham of “The Last Forest : the Story of Hatfield Forest”, the definitive work on the history and ecology of the Forest. 

1999 A Korean Airlines cargo “jumbo” jet explodes shortly after take-off from Stansted airport and the main debris falls into a field next to the Forest. Much of the minor debris came to rest in the Forest, to the effect that a sizeable portion of the woodland was fenced off out of bounds for a decade afterwards. 

2005 The Shell House is reopened after restoration.