History Highlights

Browse amongst selected highlights from Hatfield Forest's rich and varied history, from medieval forest via Georgian pleasure ground to echoes of high political drama in France 120 years ago.

View showing ditched enclosure at Portingbury Hills

A brief history

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.

Hunting scene from Livre de Chasse

A medieval Forest

Hatfield Forest was designated a Forest (with a captial "F") by Henry I in about 1100. Fallow deer were introduced to improve the hunting.

View of the Shell House at Hatfield Forest, across the corner of the lake

A Georgian Pleasure Ground

From about 1750, the Houblon family would travel out to the central area of the Forest, to enjoy picnics, by the lakeside Shell House.

Title page showing composite coat of arms and entry from 1 Apr 1893

The Shell House Visitors Book

The Prince of Wales visited the Shell House in 1893, with his mistress, Daisy Greville Brooke (later Countess of Warwick).


A most generous gift

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.