Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Traveling Tuesday: Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England

 Traveling Tuesday: Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England


Located twenty miles north of London, Hatfield is a town in the county of Hertfordshire, England. Originally a Saxon settlement known as Hetfelle, by 970 AD, King Edgar had given five thousand acres to the monastery of Ely. 

Nearly six hundred years later, the village would be home to Elizabeth Tudor, later Elizabeth I, who reigned from 1558 to 1603. Parts of her childhood home still exists at Hatfield House’s Old Palace, and some of her belongings can be found inside. She also spent time in the Old Palace under house arrest during the reign of Mary I. A portion of the other wing, the Banqueting Hall, also stands and contains many of its original roof beams which are said to be pockmarked with gunshot holes from when people would shoot at the sparrows that nested in the ceiling. 

Hatfield House, the country home built in 1607 and on which I based Heron Hall in A Doctor in the
, is the home of the Cecil family, the Marquess of Salisbury and forms the center of the old town. Surrounded by forty acres, the 223-room house is considered the finest example of Jacobean architecture in England. The gardens were designed by John Tradescant the Elder who included plants that had never before been grown in Britain. 

Situated by the top of the hill, St. Etheldreda’s Church, the first wooden church, was founded by the monks from Ely in 1285. The current building was constructed then renovated between the 13th and 15th centuries and is exceptionally grand for a parish church, however unsurprising because it acted as the worship center for Hatfield House. The first Earl of Salisbury, Robert Cecil, is buried in an ornate tomb outside the church. A private cemetery holds other Cecil descendants. 

The Old Mill had stood at the same location on the River Lea for over one thousand years and is mentioned in the Doomsday book (a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of England and Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror). The present structure dates to the 18th century, and the miller’s cottage from the 17th century. To this day, the wooden machinery is still powered by the waterwheel, turning stones to produce freshly ground flour. 

In 1930, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, aviation pioneer and aerospace engineer, opened his airfield and
factory at Hatfield. By 1949, de Havilland was the largest employer in town with almost 4,000 staff. His Mosquito, a twin-engine combat aircraft is considered by many to be the most versatile warplane ever produced. Sadly, all three of his sons died in airplanes crashes, two as test pilots, the other in war service. 
After the war, Parliament created the Abercombie Plan for London to address the vast homelessness of its citizens as a result of the war. Hatfield was one of the first eight new towns proposed and has many examples of modernist architecture from the construction project. As of the 2011 census, the city has nearly 40,000 inhabitants. 

They’re supposed to be allies, but mutual distrust puts this pair on opposite sides. 
Emma O’Sullivan is one of the first female doctors to enlist after President Franklin Roosevelt signs the order allowing women in the Army and Navy medical corps. Within weeks, Emma is assigned to England to set up a convalescent hospital, and she leaves behind everything that is familiar. When the handsome widower of the requisitioned property claims she’s incompetent and tries to get her transferred, she must prove to her superiors she’s more than capable. But she’s soon drawn to the good-looking, grieving owner. Will she have to choose between her job and her heart? 

Archibald “Archie” Heron is the last survivor of the Heron dynasty, his two older brothers having been lost at Dunkirk and Trondheim and his parents in the Blitz. After his wife is killed in a bombing raid while visiting Brighton, he begins to feel like a modern-day Job. To add insult to injury, the British government requisitions his country estate, Heron Hall, for the U.S. Army to use as a hospital. The last straw is when the hospital administrator turns out to be a fiery, ginger-haired American woman. She’s got to go. Or does she?

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