Basil Spence designed two storey houses on Woods AvenueArchitects and Architecture

From Tudor to the immediate Post-War era and beyond, Hatfield has a wide range of buildings of architectural interest, while others are the work of architects of interest.


Sadly, a large part of Hatfield's architectural history has been lost – a victim of the town's tendency to reinvent itself (given its relative small size Hatfield may hold a record for 'brownfield' development). Most of the surviving Tudor and Georgian buildings are found in the conservation area in Old Hatfield.

Please note: some buildings in Hatfield – like St Ethelreda's Church – predate the Tudor period but these have generally undergone such extensive restoration and modification that little, if anything, of the original structure is visible. Also, housing in the immediate post-war period should be considered in light of the situation at the time: the threat of a Cold War nuclear strike created an urgent need for dispersing the population; the shortage of bricks and timber, and the mass of people who needed to be rehoused after the Blitz (including V1 and V2 strikes). Plus, improvements like central heating, fitted kitchens and attached bathrooms and toilets are not always visible from the outside.

Relatively little is also visible of Hatfield's largest single civil-engineering project – the Hatfield Tunnel (adding insult to injury, classic buildings like the Stone House Hotel and de Havilland workers' flats were demolished in order to build it).

Opened in November 1986, it was the longest tunnel in Britain's motorway network. The prime contractor on the 1,300-yard (some sources say 1,150 metres, others 0.7 miles) tunnel was Tarmac National Construction (now Carillion).


Hatfield House and the Old Palace – only one wing remains of the Bishop's palace built by the then Bishop of Ely, John Morton (and even that, built around 1480, replaced an even older building). Some of the bricks from the demolished Morton palace wings were used in the construction of Hatfield House. Visitors alighting from trains from London and using the overhead bridge only see the side view of this impressive Jacobean brick building (completed in the early 17th Century).


de Havilland Aircraft Company HQ building - thumbnailJames M Monro & Son of Glasgow – firm of architects responsible for The Grand Hotel at St Andrews (opened in 1895), the first purpose-built Marks & Spencer store in Scotland (1930), and over 120 Marks & Spencer stores since. The firm is also responsible for the de Havilland headquarters (shown in the photo) and factory buildings in Hatfield in the 1930s. They were also responsible for the Flight Test Hangar.

Please note: some sources spell the founder's name as 'Munro'.


White, two-storey, Art Deco style house, Ellenbrook areaArt Deco – apart from the de Havilland headquarters buildings, at least two stylish houses still stand in the Ellenbrook area. One of which is shown in this photo.


Ernest Brander Musman – elected as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1936. Credited with designing the Comet Hotel (now Ramada Jarvis) in Hatfield, which opened on 21 December 1936. Although not always apparent, it is designed along the outline of the DH.88 Comet Racer (the central bar being the nose). He also had some skill as an artist, and his work was displayed in exhibitions at the Architectural Association.


Lionel Gordon Baliol Brett, later 4th Viscount Esher and President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1965-67) – was appointed town planner for Hatfield in 1949. His first practice – Brett, Boyd and Bosanquet – is responsible for the Hilltop (Harrier) pub and community centre (1959), St John's Church (1960), and the curving lines of some of the terraced housing in south Hatfield (although the flat roofs did lead to controversy).


Sir Basil Spence – born in India and reportedly started his architectural career working for Sir Edward Lutyens on drawings for the Viceroy's House, New Delhi. Best known for having designed the new Coventry Cathedral (for which he received his knighthood), 'The Beehive' extension to the New Zealand Parliament and the 'Sea and Ships' Pavilion for the 1951 Festival of Britain. He also designed houses in south Hatfield (on Woods Avenue – shown in the photo at the top – and Briars Lane).


PRP – designed a cluster of 28 terraced single storey 3 and 4-bedroom houses in The Ryde for the Cockaigne Housing Group. This was PRP's first commission and it made the firm (founded by Peter Phippen in 1963, and joined shortly after by Peter Randall and David Parkes). In fact, it was so successful that, in 2006, The Ryde won the Housing Design Awards' Historic Award category and was awarded Grade II listing.


Hatfield Swim Centre - thumbnailHatfield Swim Centre – opened in 1966 and designed by W W Chapman and H G Coulter for architects Woodroffe, Buchanan & Coulter. Its roof (lightweight, hyperbolic paraobloid – shown in the photo) was one of the first and largest of its kind in Europe.


College Lane Campus Learning Resources Centre – won both the RIBA East Spirit of Ingenuity Architecture Award 2002 and the SCONUL Library Design Award 2002. Designed by Robert Matthew and Stirrat Johnson-Marshall (RMJM) – one of the world’s largest architectural practices with approximately 1,200 people in 14 international offices.


Howe Dell School – the school's new site on the airfield was opened in 2008, and made the news for its environmental credentials. It was the first building in the UK to use an inter-seasonal heat transfer system to store summer heat for winter use. Designed by Capita Ruddle Wilkinson, it has a host of other environmental features but most are not visible to the untrained eye (and as some features are underground even they'd have trouble).


Dr Andres Duany co-founder of award-winning US architecture and town planning firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), along with his wife, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Their work in the town of Seaside in Florida received global exposure in the Jim Carey film, The Truman Show. In 2008, Dr Duany conducted two charrettes (essentially a mix between a brainstorming session and public / professional consultation) in Hatfield. Held under the auspices of the University of Hertfordshire and the Building Research Establishment, the first looked at potential housing solutions to the requirements of the East of England Plan. The second examined redeveloping Old Hatfield.


Top ^


Back to: Hatfield claims to fame


Copyright © 2009, 2012 D H Markus. All rights reserved. No liability is accepted for the accuracy of information in this site.