Array of books on Hatfield set against a green backgroundHistorians of Hatfield

Over the years a number of people have contributed to recording Hatfield's history. It is also worth remembering that Hatfield was not just a parish town – Hatfield Rural District also included Welham Green, Brookmans Park and part of what became Welwyn Garden City. In a twist of fate the town and parish of Hatfield are now part of the Welwyn Hatfield District. Listed below are some of the authors and their works covering Hatfield. Sadly, most of these are out of print – although copies can still be found at the Hatfield Public Library and the Hertfordshire Archives & Library Service (HALS) at Hertford.


Earliest mentions – Cotton manuscript and the Domesday book

The first known written reference to Hatfield predates the Domesday Book (commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1085 following the Norman conquest of Britain). It is found in the Cotton manuscript, written on a Gospel belonging to the Diocese of Ely, and lists people who lived in the area. As Hatfield was only given to the then Abbotts of Ely (the Bishopric or the office of Bishop of Ely was created in 1108) around 970 it is likely that it was written between 970-1085 AD.

As 'Hetfelle' (meaning open land or pasture) it is one of the five places, now called Hatfield, listed in the Domesday Book – and the only one in Hertfordshire. The entry, by an unknown author, reveals that early Hatfield was a small settlement with two water-mills and a population of 55.

The town is mentioned in much later histories of Hertfordshire written by Chauncy, Cussans and Clutterbuck (which were cited by Hatfield's first historian).


Reverend Jocelyn James Antrobus

Rector of St Ethelreda's Church and author of Bishop's Hatfield: Some Memories of its Past – the first book dedicated to Hatfield's history. First written in 1914, the eighth edition was published in 1955. It covers Hatfield's past from prehistory up to the end of the 19th Century.

Reverend Antrobus graduated from New College, Oxford in 1900; was ordained a deacon in 1901, and as a priest in 1902. First appointed curate at Ludlow before serving in the same role at Hatfield from 1904-13. He reportedly served as vicar of Saffron Walden until 1917. Reverend Antrobus was appointed as Rector of St Ethelreda's Church, Hatfield on 17 May 1917. He also wrote a small booklet The Parish Church of St Ethelreda, Bishop’s Hatfield (No.26 in the Notes on Famous Churches and Abbeys). He remained at Hatfield until his retirement in 1936.

He died, aged 77, in September 1953. 


Lionel Munby MA and Workers' Educational Association

Under the guidance of Lionel Munby MA, Staff Tutor of the Extra Mural Board of Cambridge University, the Hatfield Branch of the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) researched and produced the 12-part Hatfield and its People. It remains the most detailed history of Hatfield (from its beginnings to the start of the new town in the 1950s).

The study group included: Mrs N Brown, S H Dawson, W H Dunwoodie, H W Gray, Mrs B Hutton, Dr K Hutton, Mrs M Malcolm, T L Padget, M Pinhorn and J A Preston. Many others helped in create this historical record.

The first booklet in the series Part One - A Thousand Years of History was published on 12 November 1959. The thirteenth booklet Part Twelve - The Twentieth Century  (Part 11 was produced in two booklets) was published exactly five years later on 12 November 1964.

Part One – A Thousand Years of History

Part Two – The Story of Roe Green and South Hatfield

Part Three – Pubs and Publicans

Part Four – Newgate Street

Part Five – Roads and Railways

Part Six – Law and Disorder

Part Seven – Churches

Part Eight – Schools

Part Nine – Farming Yesterday and Today

Part Ten – Houses

Part Eleven A – Families and Trades

Part Eleven B – Families and Trades

Part Twelve – The Twentieth Century

The combined work forms a book of 453 pages and 18,450 booklets were reportedly produced in total. However, facsimile editions are still available at St Ethelreda's Church.

In 1966 a 36-page abridged version Hatfield and its People – A Short Picture History was produced by the WEA.


Doctor Peter Wilfred Kingsford

Born in London on 29 November 1908, he worked for the Great Western Railway while studying part time at the London School of Economics. He joined the Army Educational Corps during World War II and served in India and Malaya.

Dr Kingsford helped Dr Chapman found the Hatfield Technical College in 1952.

He is the author of History of Elizabethan Hatfield 1558-1969, published by Broadwater Press in 1969.

Once a member of the Communist Party he has also wrote a pamphlet The Labour Movement in Hatfield, 1918-1970, published in 1988.

Among his other works are:

A Modern History of Brookmans Park 1700-1950, published in 1991

Gobions Estate, North Mymms, Hertfordshire, published in 1993

A resident of Brookmans Park and President of the North Mymms Local History Society, he celebrated his 100th birthday in 2008. An article marking the event, written by Simon Wesson, was published in the Welwyn Hatfield Times (3 December 2008, page 21).


Robert Richardson

Formerly editor of the Welwyn Hatfield Times and the Herts Advertiser, and a resident of Hatfield, he wrote The Book of Hatfield, first published in 1978. A second edition was published in 1988, sponsored by British Aerospace.

He also co-authored Yesterday's Town: St Albans with Beryl Carrington, and wrote and narrated the Hatfield Goes Back to the Future DVD (please see below).

Later, turning his hand to detective fiction his first book, The Latimer Mercy, won the John Creasey Memorial Award from the British Crime Writers' Association. However, it is his second book Bellringer Street, modelled on Hatfield (but referred in the book as Capley) that is likely to be of particular interest to users of this site.


Brian G Lawrence

Born in Hatfield in 1937, he attended Countess Anne's Primary School when it was located at Church Street. After a successful career in banking, he has focussed on local interests. His titles included Vice President of the Hatfield Cricket Club, Chairman of the Hatfield Round Table, Chairman of the Hatfield This Century local history group, and a member of the Hatfield '41' Club and the Mill Green Heritage Trust.

Apart from articles on Hatfield published in Hertfordshire Countryside and other newspapers and magazines, he is the author of Hatfield at War, published in 1995. He also compiled An Artist's Impression – Sketches of Old Hatfield by Beresford Johnson, published in 2000.


Sue Kirby

Sue Kirby was educated in Welwyn Garden City after her family moved there in 1961. She studied at the University of Exeter and did a postgraduate course in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. After a stint at the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle she became Curator of Welwyn Hatfield Museum, based at Mill Green Museum and Mill, in 1986.

She co-authored Hatfield: A Pictorial History with Richard Busby, published in 1995.

She has also written a number of articles and booklets related to Hatfield including Mill Green Mill: A Short History and Guide and Hatfield's First New Town: The Story of a Hatfield Suburb 1848-1990.


Richard J Busby

Born in London but lived in Hertfordshire since 1940. He was senior librarian at Hatfield Public Library before he took early retirement in 1994 – after nearly 40-years with Hertfordshire County Council.

He co-authored Hatfield: A Pictorial History with Sue Kirby, published in 1995.

He is also the author of a number of other books, including The Book of Welwyn, published in 1976. He was also the co-editor of Hertfordshire Archaeology.


Anne Burke and Mary Corbett and 'The Boom Time Group'

At the time of writing in 2009, their book was the last published on Hatfield.

Hatfield Voices from the '50s and '60s. First published in 1997.

The Boom Time Group included Jean Beadle, Audrey Paris, Joyce Chapman, Shirley Knapp, Frank Clayton, Barbara Latham, Reg Coleman, Maureen Cowie, Pat Lewis, John Deans, Michael Marlow, Ann Dunkley, Jean Marshall, David Dunkley, Barbara Morley, Daphne Elmer, Jim Parker, Valerie Turley, Constance Schofield, Claire Figg, Barrie Smith, Jean Franks, June Smith, Pat Glanville, Frank Vann, Fran Higgins, Janet Vann, Peggy Jones, Joan Wadds, David Kay, Daphne Westwood, Joyce Kay, David Willson, Ron Kingdon and Ken Wright. Many others also helped.


Some other Hatfield-related specialist interest books

The Ryde Remembered by G Philip Marris and Diana Press. First published in 2012. Traces the history of 72 acres on which The Ryde housing estate was built.

Hatfield House – The First 400 Years edited by (Lady) Hannah Salisbury. First published in 2011. Commemorates the 400th anniversary of Hatfield House. Includes chapters on the trees in the park and the rural estate.

The Gardens at Hatfield House by Sue Snelling. First published in 2005. It is a lavishly illustrated history of the gardens of Hatfield House (including its most famous gardener John Tradescant) and its 7,000-acre park; horticultural trends in British gardens; and a personal account of garden restoration by the sixth Marchioness of Salisbury all rolled into one.

The Cecils of Hatfield House by David Cecil. First published in 1973. Lord David Cecil, younger son of the 4th Marquess and a distinguished scholar (he was Professor of English Literature at Oxford), examines his family's history.

Family Story: The Drages of Hatfield by Charles Drage. Printed in Hatfield, by The Stellar Press, in 1969, it appears to have been privately published. A history of one of Hatfield's oldest families – one with Norwegian roots.

The Hatfield, Luton & Dunstable Railway by G & S Woodward.  First published in 1977. Covers a long defunct branch line that dates back to Hatfield's glory days as an important rail hub (and not just a through station as it is now).

The Hatfield and St Albans Branch of the Great Northern Railway by Roger D Taylor and Brian Anderson. First published in 1988.

Open and Local Justice: A History of Hatfield Petty Sessional Division by Victor J Mills and Elizabeth A Menzies. Privately published in 1988. It is a history of the Hatfield Courthouse and Bench before the 1990 merger of the Hatfield and Welwyn Benches to form the Mid Herts Bench. The building is now used as a Coroners Court.

Hatfield Aerodrome: A History by Philip J Birtles. First published in 1993, it marked the end of manufacturing at Hatfield and the eventual closure of the airfield. It covers the origins of de Havillands and aviation development at Hatfield under Hawker Siddeley and finally British Aerospace.

Panshanger Aerodrome by Michael Packham. First published in 2006. Originally built as a decoy site to lure German bombers aware from Hatfield. As Hatfield Aerodrome became overcrowded it later became a 'live' airfield as Hatfield-based units were moved there. Ironically, while aviation has long gone from Hatfield, Panshanger airfield is still in use today.


Hatfield Local History Society (HLHS)

The Hatfield Local History Society has published a number of booklets and pamphlets over the years. The HLHS also publishes a quarterly newsletter and holds regular meetings.

Rock Around the Clock by Jon Brindle (covers popular music)

Recollections of the Hatfield Branch Lines

A Walk Around Old Hatfield

The Origins of Hatfield Street Names

Growing Up In Hatfield Before 1945 – a series of four booklets (1. Mary Howe MBE, JP; 2. G W Bennett; 3. M Laurence; 4. Elizabeth Hook) arising from the 1990 WEA series of meetings.

The Tingeys of Hatfield by Janet Robinson

Moore Memories by Marian Moore

The Life and Times of William George Walby of Hatfield

Dreams Come True .... And Other Musings by Mary Padget

The Workhouse – Fact versus Fiction by Caroline Hill

My Life at the Vineyard, Hatfield Park – 1892-1942 by Alice Blaxill Hemmings

Glebe Cottages Hatfield by Joy Emerton

Hatfield Collegiate Schools – Dagmar & Alexandra Houses by Frank J Cox

The Early Days of De Havilland at Hatfield by Don Lawrence

When the Bombs Dropped – The Story of the de Havilland Factory Bombing by Terry Pankhurst


Covers of the VHS video and DVD on Hatfield featured in this sectionHatfield in video and DVD

Hatfield has been the subject of at least one video and a DVD.

Wooden Whisper Jets is a 70 minute VHS video produced in 1996 by Flight on Film. It covers 60 years of aviation at Hatfield, spanning de Havilland to British Aerospace. Narrated by Anthony May, it was written and directed by Jonathan Kent (this video was also released by DD Home Entertainment in 1996 but was called de Havilland at Hatfield).

Hatfield Goes Back to the Future is a 55 minute DVD produced in 1998 by Hatfield Town Council. This video history of the town was written and narrated by Robert Richardson. It was produced and directed by Steve Sullivan.

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23 July 2009

Updated December 2012


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