Our visit to Hatfield House
Hatfield House, the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury, is a store house of history, so our travellers were really looking forward to their visit. It was dry but chilly and our journey there was trouble free. We actually arrived before the house opened. An added attraction in the grounds of the house was an antique’s fair and there was a large number of stalls scattered around. There was time for a coffee before we began our guided tours, for which we were divided into two groups. Both guides gave excellent tours and were very well informed about the house and its history.
The house is magnificent and has been the home of the Cecil family since 1611 and is steeped in family and national history.
It was while the then Princess Elizabeth was living in the Old Palace near the current house, in 1558, that she learned of her accession to the throne.
The rooms are full of exquisite furniture and paintings spanning many centuries. Also displayed are many historical mementos collected over the centuries by the Cecil family, one of England’s foremost political families. My own particular favourites were the French ‘colours’ captured at Waterloo and presented to the family by the Duke of Wellington, although the flags themselves had been replaced the staff and the golden eagles were original. There really is so much to take in and many of us returned to the house after our guided tour to take a closer look at various items that interested us. I particularly enjoyed the stained glass in the private chapel. After a major fire in the house the stained glass remained completely intact and the floor in the chapel is the only original floor in the house.
The grounds of the house are no less interesting. One exhibit in the grounds caused a great deal of interest and debate. In front of the house there is a modern sculpture entitled ‘Renaissance’ by Angela Connor. It isn’t just a sculpture but involves flowing water and a rising golden sphere! Whatever your thoughts about modern sculpture in such a setting, it certainly was fascinating to watch. The gardens and grounds are well worth a wander around. Those who undertook the long walk to the Elizabeth Oak, where legend has it Elizabeth was sitting when she was told of her accession were disappointed. It appeared that there was no 400 year old oak, but one planted by our present Queen in the 1950s!
Some of us wandered outside the grounds to St Etheldreda’s church just outside the gate. Here you can find the Salisbury Chapel and tombs. We couldn’t get much of a look as an orchestra were rehearsing for a concert the following day. Still the music was very pleasant.
We also encountered some large top hats both in the grounds of the house and in the church. Purchased by the house completely blank, they wanted the community to show their creativity, which they have done by painting in various forms on the hats. It was a challenge to find as many as possible.
After a successful and interesting day we had an uneventful journey home.