The a-mazing Hatfield House and Gardens. Visit the official website.
About the Hatfield estate.
The 7th Marquess of Salisbury
has been doing a very commendable job protecting this treasure yet at the
same time has done a remarkable thing by sharing it with people in
order to enrich their lives. He is one of the richest people in the UK.
He is worth more than the queen (well almost as much) so he really
doesn't need the money and certainly doesn't need the headaches. In
fact since Hatfield is his family's home and where they actually live I
am very surprised that they put up with it.
How would you like to go into your living room at night and find that
one of the 500 tourists, who seem to be mainly loud and pushy Americans, had
left chewing gum on the floor and now your shoe is stuck to it? Or you
a baby bottle under a desk but only after two weeks and after it has
caused the whole room to smell to high heavens of rancid milk which has
permeated all the fabric in the room? Or that someone has taken a shortcut through a flower bed and destroyed your
These are the types of things that the 7th Marquess of Salisbury's
family must endure continuously. They have no real reason to
do so other than to be humanitarians.
I have very extensive memories of
the Hatfield House Estate which is about 24 miles north of London. I was the wife of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury who built Hatfield House. My bio under the alias of Elizabeth Brook, countess of Salisbury
says that I died either in 1596 or 1597. That uncertainty about
the date of my demise should be a tip off that my death had been faked.
I had been known as Anne Vavasour but I changed it to Elizabeth
Brook because of Spanish kidnapping and assassination attempts.
Since I was Queen Elizabeth's personal secretary and knew almost every state secret
the Spanish wanted me either dead or captured. When Spanish spies found
out that I had changed my name I had to fake my death in order to stay
After that I stopped allowing others to know that I was Robert Cecil's wife and started
to pretend to be his sister Anne (as well as others including Elizabeth) as I had
earlier when I was actually married to the Earl of Oxford. Detail of my various
aliases are listed in detail on this page of my bio.
It was all over when Queen Elizabeth died. I went from being a mover
and shaker for 25 years to having nothing to do. So I focused all my
ambition mainly on building Hatfield House and raising my children.
Wikipedia also says this:
The present Jacobean house was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil..
Wrong again. It was not a Jacobean house, it was the Jacobean
house. It was the first house made in that style and 'Jacobe'
(King James) had nothing to do with designing it. My husband and I designed it and
then built the first of the style which everyone then strived to copy.
was really a joint effort and neither of us designed any single part of
it alone. Everything we did was as a team and as a team we were about
as effective as either one of us ever could have been if we had
separately. This is something that most people never understood about
Robert and I.
Even detractors 400 years ago said 'half of the elements
already existed in this building or in that one'. That meant we
developed the other half and time has given me a new reply from a
angle. 'There were gliders and working gasoline engine's
before either Orville or Wilbur Wright had been born and
like that team the two of us Cecil's were the first to put it all
together and make the new style of architecture fly. Many people insist
that no better example of a Jacobean house has ever been built.
A 'first' that remains the 'best' after 400 years is an accomplishment that is almost
unheard of in any field. For an accomplishment whose merits are
still being debated after 400 years it is as rare as someone saying
that 'the Wright brothers built the first and the best airplane that has ever flown'. I
doubt that has been said since the second airplane was built.
[This statement is horrible and I need to polish it more before it can
be taken seriously but you can see where I am going with it, can't
Much of the interior, especially the furnishings, were patterned after my 'aunt Bess' of Hardwick's home which is now called Hardwick Hall.
I grew up visiting that house and grew to love it's furnishings. It was
a fantasy land with the most incredible tapestries which told the most
fantastic stories. (My father was the Earl of Derby so we were virtually her neighbors. So in spite of the fact that Hardwick was 150 miles from Hatfield
you can easily see the relationship between the two homes. In fact
possibly one fourth of Hatfield's interior and some of it's exterior
are patterned after Hardwick. Bess was one of Queen Elizabeth's
chamberladies and it was through her efforts that I also became a lady of the chamber.) She pretty much trained a generation of women including yours truely and Queen Elizabeth to become 'feminists' and that it was OK be what is now called a 'feminist'.
Hatfield House was the cat's meow in the 1600's. Over 50 architects
visited shortly after it was finished and they were sent
by firms from as far away as Germany just to see it. A lot of
the early homes made in this style had plans that often credited and referenced Hatfield
House. They probably still exist and can be found in archives. Look right on the first page of the plans for something to
the effect that it is a 'Hatfield style house' or 'based on the
Hatfield House design'. However, they probably refer to it as something like the 'Cecil Estate', not Hatfield House.
Much later, probably after my death, they named the style Jacobean.
The estate was really the equivalent of half Camp David and half Disney World.
The King of France who was my real nephew snuck over at least twice a
year. Then there was the ruler of Sweden and a slew of Habsbergs starting at the top
with head of the Holy Roman Empire and going right on down until you
had those who were of such dubious quality that you wanted to count the silverware after they left.
The house was built for Tarzan, Batman and a Laura Croft. I was the Laura Croft and a visiting King Louis XIII of France was the
young manic Tarzan. My being Laura Croft is easily understood in light of these pages. The
movie industry finds that people still feel the same about the house as
I recall my husband, Robert Cecil,
doing extensive draining of
marshes in about 1606. We called them fens, as in the 'unwholesome fens' in the play the Tempest and they were along the River Lea mainly where 'The Broadwater' now is and extending out from there and also where Stanborough Park now is which is about another half mile north.
This kind of confirms it: 'This was the Innings Park and includes the
warren, which is separated from it by the River Lea,
in this part artificially widened. On either side of
the water is a vineyard, which was planted by the
first earl,' Here
warren, vineyards and the Broadwater (the 'this part artificially
located in the upper right part of the ordnance survey map replaced the
first set of marshes mentioned. Interestingly, they tell
what we replaced the marshes with yet they say nothing about the
the need for eliminating them which was the point of the project.
the marshes in an effort to eliminate the bad air which we thought
strain of malaria (mal+air=malaria) which killed many of the local population. (This may be in the records at Hatfield.) Though today people laugh at how we thought bad air caused
disease it was not far from the truth. Smelly swamps were also a breeding ground
for the mosquitoes which spread the disease which has caused more deaths than all the wars of
a very big problem in England during the little Ice Age as the CDC states here. It increased as a problem from before the 1500's until at least the 1600's.
The marsh was five to ten times the width of what 'The Broadwater' is
now. The Broadwater is near the middle of where the marsh was located.
In order to drain the marsh we dredged the channel for the Broadwater
and deposited the dirt on each side of it. We made the Broadwater about
12 feet deep. The dirt from it allowed us to build up the area on each
side of it to several feet and create the Vineyards and the Warren.
That eliminated the 'bad air' and the mosquitoes that were the real
cause of Malaria.
used teams of slow draft horses pulling 'scrapers' to move the dirt
They looked somewhat similar to the horse drawn snow plow at the right
only they were larger, the sides of the plows/scrapers were higher and
either two or four horses. Even the children got involved. They
enjoyed commanding the large draft horses and by standing on the
were able to have '4 mph chariot races'. They
upped the ante by invading the stage material which we had at home and
finding stage swords as well as a trumpet and Roman helmets which were
as big as the children were. They would ride the sleds and amidst the
trumpet blare attempt to charge each other while flailing each other
with the swords (but the draft horses knew better and retreated at the
The children also enjoyed being allowed, for
the first time, to play in mud (which in places went up past their
children often got so muddy that I could not tell which ones were mine. The
children were paid for the work they did so their mothers did not mind
washing them and their clothes.
Within days the ranks of the children had swollen past the number of
men that we hired which varied from 20 to 110. The norm was about
30 men though it
went up to 110 (and about 15 horses) when we were digging and
had to bring in at least four huge pumps and dredging
machines. One I clearly remember was a two man operated
pump based on an Archimedes screw (left) but I can't remember what the
other three machines were. (It's been over 400 years so please give me
a break.) I recall that there was one machine that was hard to get ahold of. We had to send
correspondence (and probably negotiations) back and forth to probably Oxford
several times before we got a hold of it. (The letters may be in the
records.) The supervisor we signed up was the only person experienced
with such equipment but before he came he got another job offer and
broke the contract with us. We decided that we could manage without
him. Big mistake.
The water did not want to divert down the nice new river bed
we had made for it. No matter what we tried the water ended up back in
the trench we were making for the Broadwater. Also we could only dig about 5 feet down before it
flooded from an underground spring. We had the equipment to deal with these problems but not the expertise. This was long
before the industrial revolution and most people knew nothing about
Finally the word got out that I had been in charge of the
cannons at the Tower of London (even though I was actually in charge of
all of England's defense works under Queen Elizabeth) so they thought I was
eminently qualified and tried to put me in charge of the
machines. I had no idea about machines. I got out of it when it rained. I was saved because it rained
for over a week until the river swelled up right over it's embankment
and again right back into the Broadwater trench. I announced that this was solid proof that the rain gods (and angels) did not approve
of me being in charge of the machines.
For a short while we put the gardener in charge simply because he had
maintained an irrigation ditch once and because he worked outside a
The whole operation became the theater of the absurd and worthy of a play by the bard. We
finally had to bring in some professionals. Actually I think
it was a government surveying team with two engineers.
They were normally used to find locations for government buildings
and roadways. To know what they were doing they had been trained on the
construction of earthworks of all kinds and then they became surveyors. They
had finished one job and it was six weeks before their next job so to get
back on schedule and finish before the annual Malaria outbreak
commenced Robert contracted the whole team from the government. (That
contract may still be in around somewhere.)
[What I find amazing is that nearly everything is right where I left it
almost 400 years ago. Do you know what man made structure is still
standing in the U.S. and in use after 400 years? Nothing, not a single
thing. I thought the Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos,
in St. Augustine Florida was that old but it's was made of wood before
1695. You have to go to the pyramids in Mexico to locate something man
made which is 400 years old but they have not been used since the
Spanish conquered the natives. Around Hatfield many things and many people have
been added but almost everything that we (Robert Cecil and I) created
400 years ago is still there. Amazing. We must have done something
second set of marshes we drained were located a half mile north and
west of these marshes. It is in the upper left part of the map (at right)
where the two lakes are located and along the river just south of there.
The strain of Malaria we had was not a very virulent strain since we got bitten hundreds or
thousands of times without becoming ill but when a person got ill then
it often killed them right away. They usually died within three years. The attacks lasted about two weeks but the disease
never really went away. The attacks just partly subsided until they came back
worse...until you died. Death was almost always because of kidney failure due to 'blackwater fever'
but never because of cerebral malaria which causes most Malaria deaths
these days. Here is what happened. While the liver expanded beyond
belief the blood got thicker and thicker as it broke down until it
stopped flowing. I don't
recall how many lived. I have not located records from the time which
show how many survived. This was before quinine entered the
scene and that did cut down on the deaths significantly. (Excuse me but
I am a biochemist and my
scientific nature may make my descriptions seem a little gory and
protracted. Also, malaria was a problem that I worried and wondered
about for over 40 years so I want to thoroughly understand it.)
It was not
the kind of malaria
we now have in the tropics which can be caught with the first mosquito
bite and which is less fatal but returns time and again. When a person
now dies of malaria it is more often due to cerebral malaria than
blackwater fever which is all they died of 200 years ago. Less than 1% of those people who are now infected
with Malaria die each year so it is not nearly as fatal as the strain
we had to deal with in England. I can verify the following statement by the CDC:
The question may never be resolved because
the strains involved are now extinct. Here
Draining the swamps dramatically reduced the new cases of malaria the next year from over 50 (~2%
of the areas population) to less than ten and everyone in the
area was overjoyed. Then
the next year there was not a single new case nor were there any for
years afterwards. Robert had wiped out malaria
from the area. He even spoke about it in Parliament and several
counties acted immediately on his information by also draining swamps.
Massive draining operations were made. Tens of thousands of acres were
drained. Kent county comes
to mind. Tens of thousands were saved.
Another thing that occurred was that the deer became robust
and stopped giving birth to stillborn fawns. The deer may have been the
carrier or common host of this strain of malaria. Mosquitoes may have
bitten an infected deer and then given it to a human when it bit them.
The deer population of Europe declined over the next 350 years and that
may have been what really wiped out that strain of malaria in Europe.
Maybe it was because of the advent of cheap wire fences which
eliminated deer populations from the bottomland which was favored for
farming and were where mosquitoes were. This in turn would have
eliminated malaria from England and throughout
Europe. I can hypothesise forever but it is all really a guess. I don't
know why malaria disappeared from the U.K. but you should be glad that
I had a vague uneasiness until we drained the marshes and then it went away as abruptly as if we had left the area.
After that, as far as the local Hatfield residents were concerned, we
could do nothing wrong. However, what it did for the entire
community was even greater. It was truely a community project that
everyone involved was justly proud of (and that was just about everyone
within five miles of Hatfield).
Princess Elizabeth was sent to Hatfield by her sister, Queen 'Bloody'
Mary, supposedly as a reprieve from being a prisoner in the Tower of
London. Everyone loved
Elizabeth so Mary had been told before she would be allowed to order
her sisters' execution she herself would be murdered. Hence
Elizabeth felt being sent to Hatfield was actually a death
sentence. If Malaria did not kill her then she felt that her
sister would have her poisoned and then would tell everyone that
Malaria had caused her death. In fact there was one poisoning attempt
but Elizabeth was warned. The dog who ate her dinner died in agony
within 15 minutes. When Elizabeth found out Mary had died 90% of what
she felt was a relief from that fear of death by poison. She told me
that becoming queen was not what she wanted and it was only a slightly
better fate than dying by poison. She saw what power had done to others
and felt the corruption that it caused was in fact a poisoning of the
The effect malaria had in the Hatfield area was to dramatically limit the population both by
killing most of the people (1/4 to 1/2 of the population every 12
years) and by
preventing people from wanting to live in the area. People were often
afraid to even visit the area. Woodcutters from London refused to go into the
Hatfield area. They preferred to travel over 60 miles to cut fire wood
rather than travel 20 miles to Hatfield. (Although
and animals could be considered private property or property of the
crown trees were usually considered just like fish in the ocean were.
Trees were thought to be free for the taking even on private property
and on Crown property when they could get away with it.)
Thus Hatfield had
very limited deforestation and the area was never denuded of oaks. Almost all the other forest land within 100 miles of
London was stripped of wood in the late middle ages. This is why there
are still magnificent forests with medieval oaks around
Hatfield House. Even 400 years ago you would have been hard pressed to
find medieval oaks closer to London than near Sheffield, about 150 miles from London, at what they now call Sherwood Forest. The
oaks at Hatfield may actually be the oldest in Europe. Since pollarding
limits an oak's size some of them may be 1000 years old.
So, If you want to hug an old tree then Hatfield is the place to go!
I can describe the old palace which is largely now in ruins, the
dining room and the long table* in the 'new' Hatfield house as well as my favourite vestibule for
in the fall sunlight.
felt such a draw to the Hatfield House that I contacted them about
renting an apartment for inspiration. They put me on a waiting list
for a place in Ely. I was told it was right across from the
cathedral and it is also where they have the annual strawberry fair.
Then I recalled the murderous Bishop of Ely which I
put in the play Richard III and decided I would not take the place after all.
Wikipedia has the following information about Hatfield House misattributed.
Elizabeth's successor James I did not like the palace much and so traded it to Elizabeth's chief minister (and his own) Robert Cecil, First Earl of Salisbury, in exchange for Theobalds which was the Cecil's' family home. Wikipedia
King James liked it just fine (or at least that is what he told us). He
did like Theobalds better because it was a much nicer house. That was
not the determining factor in our trade.
I could tell you that King James did not like Hatfield because of the
malaria but I would be lying. You have to admit that since he died of malaria it would be an effective argument. Too bad I am so honest. You have to admit I missed a great opportunity to make my point.
The truth of the matter is
that he did not worry at all about catching diseases. He considered
that to be in God's hands.
The real reason he did not want Hatfield was that it was just too dangerous for him to
travel there until later when the road was
improved. Even then he mainly travelled to Hatfield in a covered stage in secret and we usually kept his presence a secret. The Bye Plot which
was a kidnapping plot was what inspired Robert Cecil to trade Theobalds to the King
for Hatfield. I think that kidnapping or one like it would have very
likely taken place on the
way to Hatfield House.
Robert never would have traded his family estate simply because the
new king liked it. It was duty. Since my husband was involved in state
security Robert felt it was up to him to protect the king by providing
him with a safer haven than Hatfield.
Theobalds is right off the A10 which was a Roman Road. It was highly improved and a heavily
travelled road since it carried most of the commercial transport of
people and goods going north towards and past Cambridge. As I recall it was very wide and even had regular coach service (public
transportation). It was a very safe road for the King to travel on.
On the other hand the road from London to Hatfield was so rutted that it was not
even decent to walk on in places. It too was an old Roman Road but for some reason it
had not been as well maintained. (I'll write the reason here when I recall it.)
King James' coach was
always vulnerable to attack if his horses could not run. On that road
they often had to walk. The road
from London was so forested with large Oaks that even at midday much of it was dark. The main problems were the large oak
branches that hung over the road in over 100 places like the oak at the left which is found on the Hatfield Estate on the Daffodil Ride. Bandits (and potential assassins) had
been known to jump from branches right on top of the coaches.
Others would cut
branches most of the way through and then hold them in place with
ropes. Then when a wealthy person's carriage came along they would cut
the ropes and the branch would drop. It would either kill or maim two
horses and stop the carriage completely leaving those inside very
vulnerable. Even if they dropped in front of the horses they could not
turn around since the road was too narrow. (I'm not telling you
anything new as you have seen these tactics used in
just about every Robin Hood type movie that has ever been made.)
The person that wrote the above entry in Wikipedia and elsewhere can't
faulted for not knowing this was the reason we never told people the
why we traded the estates. If we had we would have been setting our own
selves up for a highway robbery. We just let people know that the
King did not like it. It was true. He went to Hatfield to get away from
London and relax but the trip made him even more stressed. Then he
thought of the possibly of being attacked on his return trip to
London so he did not like it.
Even after we built the new Hatfield House King James usually travelled in secret when he visited.
Actually the British Government still owes my descendants quite a bit of
money. I think it's about 15,000 pounds sterling. Theobalds was a much
nicer and up to date house than the old Hatfield palace was so King
James added about ~20,000 pounds to sweeten the deal and he only paid part of
it off. His son Charles refused to pay any of it and then I died. Too
bad there was not any compounded interest added to the amount owed or
the Cecil family could cash in and buy most of England. More about the trade and building Hatfield on my 'Hatfield House' page here.
|How did Robert Cecil keep our family from getting kidnapped?
travelled more securely by not letting anyone know when we travelled. We
travelled in closed carriages. During most of the year one
set out each day from London and another from Hatfield.
They normally carried beef and other meat going in to London, which we had contracts
for at the palace, and fish as well as other merchandise on the return run from London.
We found it was cheaper to bring fish from the London docks to Hatfield
and smoke it there and then send it back to London than to smoke it in London. Not only was labor
cheaper but it was much more expensive to haul the wood to London to
smoke fish than it was to take fish to where the wood was at Hatfield. There
may be records of these contracts somewhere at Hatfield House. However,
the stages may have been official crown stages, essentially delivery
wagons for palace food, and who knows where those records would be or
even if they still exist.
We considered it part of our duty to provide pure and
safe food for the crown. One dynasty in Italy had been wiped out by
mercury which had been snuck into their meat over a period of months.
Everyone just got sicker and sicker. Their health never returned
to normal even though they finally figured out what was going on.
we travelled we usually travelled on one of these two stages. Since the
curtains were always drawn nobody
knew if anyone was even inside the carriage. So we didn't have to worry
about being kidnapped. I think even King James and later King Charles
often used it to sneak out and visit Hatfield. Usually his guard would
later follow with an empty stage. It was Robert's idea with lots of input from King James.
other words Robert Cecil invented the 'shell game' except he used
stagecoaches instead of shells. There were also 8 large bore wheel lock
rifles on racks inside the two stages (4 in each one) and the existence of those were
not kept a secret. Several of these may still be at Hatfield House
since they were ours and they were incredibly beautiful crafted pieces
of work second only to some Swiss clock mechanisms. They were all
matched, had engraved gold color mechanisms and were from the
continent, I think the Archdutchy of Salzburg in modern day Austria. They
were a similar style to this two shot gun in the Royal Collection (right).
It had lots of bone inlay. They were far too beautiful to ever have been
thrown away or relegated to use in the field for sport. There
was a depression on at the time and since we bought eight they made the
engravings about twice as detailed as what we had ordered which had
been 'with the best engraving', 200 hours per gun if my memory
serves me accurately after 400 years.
Wait a second, the one at the royal collection may have been one of them. They state: 'The manuscript catalogue of the Carlton House collection notes that 'on
the under part of the Stock is an engraving not very moral', but this
is no longer present.' Here
As I recall there was something very 'unflattering' (or rude)
on the bottom of the rifles so the one in the Royal
Collection may very well have been one of ours. I can't recall what was
written on them! Also, something on them hurt my finger and I think it
was the little button that changed barrels after you shot one of them.
It was really hard to push down.*
of these guns including their purchase may reside at Hatfield House. I
recall these very clearly because due to my boredom I stared at them
riding a hundred times to and from London. 'Number two' had perfect
and flawless workmanship. Also, due to boredom whenever the stage would
flush birds I'd get out and shoot them with one of the guns which
I kept loaded with bird shot. Hence, I put many a pheasant on our
No robbers ever bothered our stage. Not once.
Estate was a lot of work. My final thought in that life, when I lay on
my death bed, was 'at least I won't have to care for this place
*If the gun in the National Collection was one of our eight guns then although the stock was made in Dresden I
think the rest of the gun, the mechanism, was made in Austria. Of
course when we ordered the guns we ordered from the manufacturer in
Austria and he ordered the gun stocks. The Royal collection states:
barrel incised 1606 and stamped twice with the maker's mark, a lion
rampant facing right (Støckel, 5511); 'engraved on the stock
with the mark HF (for Hans Fleischer) here
staff at the Royal Collection assumes the manufacturer, Stockel 5511,
Germany because the stock was known to be made in Dresden by Hans
Fleischer. However that may be an improper assumption. I am not saying
that it is, I am just saying that it may be. If this is one of those
guns we had in our stages then it was actually manufactured in Austria.
I can think of many analogies today. If you purchase an elegant
car today such as some Rolls-Royce's you can buy the chassis alone and
then get a body for it from a coachworks. Before 1959 you could only
purchase a chassis from Rolls-Royce and you had to get the body from
another company and that coachwork company could be in another country especially Italy.
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