Hatfield Forest is a medieval hunting Forest with a rich history stretching back over two thousand years. For a quick introduction, first read the Brief History, and then move onto the more detailed article, each dealing with a particular period. The final article describes the bequest by which the Forest was gifted to the National Trust.
The Forest has a rich and varied history. The Roman were here, and in World War II, the trees camouflaged ammunition dumps. Much happened in between.
The Forest was a hive of activity over 1100 years ago before the Norman Conquest.
In the medieval period, the forest was designated a Royal Hunting Forest.
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
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.
In 1729, the Houblon family acquired Hatfield Forest and set about turning the central area into a pleasure ground.
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.
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.
The Forest was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1924.
The special nature of the forest was recognised over 90 years ago, when it was saved by a wonderful act of generosity by one of our earliest conservationists.