For a small, landlocked town, Hatfield has an astounding number of claims to fame – going back centuries and covering a wide range of activities and events.
From the childhood home of Edward VI and Elizabeth I (who learnt of her ascent and held her first court in Hatfield) to being the home and final resting place of Queen Victoria's first and last prime ministers (Melbourne in Australia is named after the first, while the second served three terms as PM and four as Foreign Secretary); the place where the field tests of the first operational tank took place, and the DH.98 Mosquito first flew; a place where the SBAC air show was held before it finally landed at Farnborough; where Amy Johnson was based at the time of her flight into oblivion; where The Police made the first public performance of Message in a Bottle; where Steven Spielberg filmed Saving Private Ryan...the list seems endless.
To try and bring some sort of order the claims are grouped under headings below.
Please note: This is not a complete list of Hatfield's claims to fame – the research is ongoing. Also, events in Hatfield aren't always as simple as may first seem. A case being the two fatal V1 flying bomb attacks during WWII. Over 10,000 of these unguided missiles were launched at Britain and about quarter actually landed on the mainland. So while V1 attacks were common, the ones that struck Hatfield, in late September and early October 1944, appear to have been the rarer air-launched type (the V1 ramps in France had ceased firing by the beginning of September 1944).
While many A-list stars have appeared in recent films that have used the town as a location – like Tomb Raider and Saving Private Ryan, Hatfield was a favourite hangout for the stars of stage and screen back in the Thirties.Click here for more...
Famous gardens and gardeners; agricultural shows; famous tractor dealerships; manufacturing, servicing and sales of agricultural vehicles...Hatfield has done its bit towards brightening up people's lives and putting food on the table.
Many of Hatfield's old buildings were cleared away to build the post-war New Town but there are still a wide range of buildings of architectural interest, spanning from the Tudor age to the current day. Some have won awards, while others are the foundation of a successful architectural practice.
While Hatfield House has numerous paintings by old masters, the aviation and industrial side of Hatfield has attracted more recent famous names.
Hatfield was first licenced to hold a market in 1318. In the days of the stagecoach it played an important part in the real estate market. Today, there are still regular fairs held in the town.
Famous authors who have visited or lived in Hatfield range from Samuel Pepys in the 17th Century to Dame Barbara Cartland in the 20th Century. While Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit character is thought to have been created here.
In the 1930s Hatfield became the home of The de Havilland Aircraft Company after it outgrew its original home at Stag Lane. The company later became part of Hawker Siddeley and then British Aerospace. Many famous aircraft first took to the skies from Hatfield.
From the time the airfield was opened in 1930, Hatfield has played a major role in aviation history. Even before de Havillands built their headquarters and factory in 1934, Hatfield was home to the London Aeroplane Club, the Stage and Screen Aero Club and the flying headquarters of the RAF Reserve Flying Club.
Hatfield was home to Elementary Flying Training School No.1 and the RAF Reserve Flying Club. The DH.82 Tiger Moth was the Empire's standard trainer and the DH.98 Mosquito its best twin-engine fighter. No surprise then that some of the stars of the RAF have Hatfield connections (although some came about after the war's end).
Aviation has always been an international affair and pilots from around the world have flown or learnt to fly at Hatfield. Some were already internationally famous, others were important to their own country's aviation history.
Revolutionary aircraft have been designed and built in Hatfield. But little would have been achieved if not for the ingenuity of their designers and the courage of their pilots – sadly, many paid with their lives. Aviation's triumphs and tragedies are all part of the Hatfield story.
The first aircraft of a type built are called prototypes. The maiden flights of new local prototypes is listed in Aviation – Aircraft (above). However, Hatfield has played host to other manufacturers' prototypes – including some of aviation's most famous designs.
From raising the crops to actually brewing the beer, Hatfield once had a thriving brewing industry that lasted some 400 years. Today, Salisbury Square is built on the site of the once mighty Hatfield Brewery and few traces remain.
Hatfield has a long history of being housing charitable organisations and institutions. Today, the town is home to the Willow Foundation.
Following the Norman Conquest of Great Britain, the victorious William the Conqueror decided to make an inventory of his new territory. Completed around 1098 AD, it records life in early Hatfield.
Hatfield is linked to one of the most sensational double agent operations of World War 2. It also briefly played host to a German spy, while a former Hatfield-based pilot dropped some spies of our own.
From country fairs to scout jamborees, from motorcar rallies to site equipment demonstrations, over the centuries Hatfield has played host to a wide range of events and exhibitions.
Hatfield has been a hit with movie stars since the Thirties – but mainly as a place to hang out. More recently, the town has had a starring role in some major blockbusters.
Samuel Pepys' Diaries, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist are well known books that have immortalised Hatfield in prose. But they are not the only ones.
Apart from Hatfield's historic role (covered under Transportation below), the town is a key logistical hub for a number of major organisations – particularly those distributing mail and food.
The German Air Force in WW2 was called the Luftwaffe. It was responsible for all the civilian deaths caused by enemy action in Hatfield during this conflict. But they first paid a visit to Hatfield long before the war started.
Glacial action during the last Ice Age has left Hatfield with sizeable deposits of clay, chalk and gravel. This mineral wealth has been used for over a thousand years at least. Even today minerals are still being commercially extracted.
What links The Rolling Stones, The Police, a man who taught guitar techniques to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Guys and Dolls, and a philharmonic orchestra? No encore for guessing Hatfield.
Hatfield has been visited by many photographers over the years – as Edwardian postcards prove. While it is not always possible to attribute the work, at least two famous photographers can be connected with Hatfield.
Situated on the Great North Road, childhood home of Tudor royalty, home to Victorian prime ministers and world leaders in aviation, Hatfield has perhaps had more than its fair share of visits from the great and the good.
With woods, fields, rivers, fish and game, Hatfield has been a site of human settlement before recorded history. Although exactly how long humans have lived in Hatfield is still open to debate and discovery.
There has been a church in Hatfield for over a thousand years. And in the grounds of Hatfield House are the remains of a palace used by the Bishops of Ely. Once the biggest parish in Hertfordshire, many famous church leaders have added their names to the Hatfield story.
King Edgar gave Hatfield away, Henry VIII got it back. His daughter received the news that she was Queen while sitting under a tree, thus Elizabethan history began in Hatfield. 427-years later, her namesake Queen Elizabeth II planted an Oak sapling to replace the original tree. In between (and since) many Royal visitors have graced Hatfield.
There are a number of public works of art around Hatfield. Some are by renown 20th Century sculptors.
During her reign Queen Elizabeth I is reported to have returned to Hatfield to take part in hunts in the 16th Century. From traditional country sports to more modern games – and their celebrity players – Hatfield has played its part.
From black & white Cold War cloak and dagger to the colourful explosive action of Band of Brothers, Hatfield has had a starring role in the history of television.
Matchbox cars and Hornby train sets were an essential part of growing up for generations of young boys. Hatfield was once home to toy manufacturers, Lone Star. While not as famous a name as Hornby, Airfix, Corgi or Matchbox (perhaps due to its inconsistent branding) they had a product range that included diecast cars, model trains, toy soldiers and much more.
Historically, Hatfield has been part of the Great North Road – the way to the north of Britain from London. Starting with the stagecoach, then the railways, then the motorways and finally air travel, Hatfield in many ways has been a part of the history of transport.
Hatfield and Great Britain rose to the fore during the reign of the Royal House of Tudor. Four of the five Tudor monarchs – Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I – are known to have lived in or visited Hatfield.
Water-mills are some of the earliest known structures in Hatfield. While there are a number of converted mills in the district, the Mill Green Mill is one of the few working water-mills in Britain. It is also houses the local museum.
Until humanity develops to a stage where wars cease to be an unpleasant reality we need to have weapons. Hatfield has been in the frontline when it comes to developing the tools to defend Britain.
A tax first levied in the 17th Century and that lasted over 150 years has left its mark on at least two of Hatfield's buildings.
Early attempts at creating a vinery in Hatfield were not successful. But Hatfield did, briefly, become a major centre in Britain's wines and spirits market.