Mr Hatfeild's philanthropy at Morden Hall Park
Mr Gilliat Hatfeild, the last private owner of the estate, donated Morden Hall Park to the National Trust upon his death in 1941. He was a philanthropic man who loved his park and the natural haven it provided in the heart of the city. He wanted others to benefit from this too. During his life time he made sure the park served the community in a number of ways and thanks to his legacy it continues to do so.
The war hospital
Mr Hatfeild inherited Morden Hall young, in 1906, but he never made it his home. He lived in the more modest Morden Cottage which he thought more suitable to his bachelor needs. He allowed the Hall and its grounds to be used as an auxiliary military hospital and a convalescent home for soldiers during the First World War. He was personally interested in the fate of the resident patients and would often treat them to tours of the grounds in his punts.
A place of convalescence for the local community
The Hall continued to be used as a hospital after the war, more particularly for women and children. Mr Hatfeild financed the facilities and it was run by the Salvation Army. Peter Kingston remembers being a patient between the wars, he was moved to Morden Hall for four weeks from London hospital: “I had appendicitis and boys just didn’t survive then, I wasn’t supposed to. I started getting better when I got here as I didn’t have to eat the horrible food we were given at London hospital.”
The Second World War took its toll on the estate. Many of the buildings were damaged by bombs, several glasshouses were demolished. In addition, the war department insisted on air raid shelters and trenches being built in the park. The Hall luckily remained unscathed and in use as a convalescent home for the largest hospital in London’s East End.
Mr Hatfeild’s legacy
Upon his death in 1941, Mr Gilliat Hatfeild left Morden Hall and its estate to the National Trust to preserve it as a green space for the benefit of the local community. His obituary remembered him as “gifted with kindness and great generosity. He was a friend of children and earned the love and respect of all those who came in contact with him. ” He stipulated in his will that the park should be made available to the public for free, which is of course the case today.
In 2016 we celebrated the 75th year of his legacy with ‘Mr Hatfeild’s Party’, a joyous family affair open to the public. Arts and crafts stalls provided children with the opportunity make paper boats which were later raced down the river in imitation of the punts of old. Children made paper flowers in memory of Mr Hatfeild’s beloved rose garden, recently restored to its former glory.