See also Hatfield House
Hatfield House is the Jacobean childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I and was built in 1611. It sits in 52 acres of gardens.
The gardens were first developed in the early 17th century by John Tradescant the Elder who went to Europe to bring back trees, bulbs, plants, and fruit trees new to England. The gardens include orchards, fountains, scented plants, water parterres, terraces, herb gardens and a foot maze.
The wall around the secret garden (once the vineyard) was built in 1633. The vineyard dates back to 1611 but was never used for wine production. In Victorian times restoration of the gardens was begun after a period of neglect and still continues today. A walkway is lined with holm oaks in 19th century containers. The walk leads to a set of cast-iron gates, matching those on the north side. They were erected for Queen Victoria's visit in 1846.
The Sundial garden is so named because of the longitude timepiece with Hatfield as the centre of the world. It is surrounded by four brick planters filled with herbs. Also in this garden are box tunnels, raised rose beds underplanted with dianthus, and a blue and white border. Delphiniums and iris are special highlights.
The West garden is surrounded by a pleached lime walk. It dates from 1902 and connects the Privy garden with the West garden and the Sundial and Woodland gardens. Inside a yew hedge are plantings of spring bulbs, geraniums, iris, shrubs, herbaceous plants, roses and annuals.
The Old Palace garden is on the east side of the building on the private side of the house. It consists of formal box beds, a maze and a 17th century pond. It is an intricate design, bordered by box hedging and has a mini-maze in one of its four sections. The parterre was originally surrounded on all sides.
There are three walks in the parkland. They start near the stableyard where a map is posted. Trees include oak, Scots pine, hemlock, Corsican pine, lime, hornbeam, and beech. An oak tree marks the place where young Princess Elizabeth first heard of her accession to the throne. At the far end of a lake is a now disused watermill. Below the mill pool is a former saw mill. A castle folly dates from the 1780s.
The Woodland garden walk leads through mature beech and oak trees. Bluebells, wild flowers and narcissi bloom in the spring. Magnolias, camellias, prunus, sorbus and malus line the paths. There are rhododendrons and late-flowering shrubs such as styrax, eucryphia hoheria and halesia. Completing the picture is a hydrangea walk lining the grass paths to the Yew House.
A deer park, now located in the south front area, has existed since the 1200s. Three commercial farms operate on the estate. Hatfield Farm is a visitor attraction where traditional breeds of sheep, goats, ducks, geese, turkeys, Hungarian woolly pigs and cattle can be seen. Donkeys and chickens are also on display. A miniature train runs on weekends and school holidays. Tractor rides are offered. Children in the park can enjoy an adventure play area.
A picnic site, shops, and self-service restaurant are in the grounds.
Hatfield House and Gardens
Hatfield, on the A1 south-east of Hertford and north of the M25; south of the A414
Rail line (King's Cross every half-hour) runs to Hatfield village, then short walk to the house
Tel. 0 1707 287 010
Open: varies greatly; see website for full details of garden and house opening days and times
Web: Hatfield House
Parking; special events
For photos and more information on Hatfield House see our article Hatfield House
Insider Tip: Hatfield House and Gardens makes a great ‘day out’ trip from London. Trains run from London Kings Cross every half hour or so for the half hour journey, and the station at Hatfield is just across the road from Hatfield House grounds. In good weather, Hatfield house and gardens is worth a full day’s visit.
Photos © by Barbara Ballard
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