Forest History

Hatfield Forest is a medieval hunting Forest with a rich history stretching back over two thousand years. Here we take a more detailed look at this, in a series of articles.

Arch made of Roman tiles at St Giles Church Gt Hallingbury

History: 1 - Before the Norman Conquest

The Forest was a hive of activity over 1100 years ago before the Norman Conquest.

portrait of Henry I, statue of Robert the Bruce and stone effigy of Eleanor de Brohun

History: 2 - Medieval

In the medieval period, the forest was designated a Royal Hunting Forest.

Effigy of Sir Richard Rich, Felstead

History: 3 - the Tudor era

In the 16th century, the Forest passed into the hands of Sir Richard Rich, a notorious "fixer" for Henry VIII and later Lord Chancellor to his son, Edward VI

An overgrown pillow mound in the Warren

History: 4 - 1600 to 1729

In the 17th century, the Forest was sold by the heavily indebted Morley family to Sir Edward Turnour, from nearby Parndon, a Speaker of the House of Commons.

A map of the Forest from 1757

History: 5 - The Houblon era

In 1729, the Houblon family acquired Hatfield Forest and set about turning the central area into a pleasure ground.

View of Shell House across the lake at Hatfield Forest

History: 6 - Landscaping the Forest in the Eighteenth century

Having acquired the Forest in 1729, the Houblon family set about improving the central area, to create a detached pleasure ground, a short ride away from their residence, Hallingbury Place.

Victorian cast iron fencing posts

History: 7 - The Victorian Era

The Houblon family continued to regard the Forest as source of pleasure rather than a source of revenue so was saved from being ploughed up.

Detail from ticket for opening ceremony for Hatfield Forest 1924

History: 8 - The Forest in the Twentieth century

The Forest was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1924.