The people who shaped Hatfield

PUBLISHED: 08:46 12 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:54 20 February 2013

Quintin McKellar

Quintin McKellar

From 13th-century royals to a 21st-century academic leader, Louise McEvoy takes a look at some of the most influential people in Hatfield through time...

Royal residents

MANY prominent people have lived or stayed at Hatfield House, or in the Old Palace in the grounds of the Jacobean mansion.

The Old Palace was built in about 1485 by the Bishop of Ely, John Morton, and seized by Henry VIII when he took over properties of the Church during the Reformation. He used the palace as a home for his children Mary, Elizabeth and Edward but it is Elizabeth who has the strongest historical links with Hatfield, having spent a large part of her childhood at the Old Palace and, following her fathers death and half-sister Marys eventual rise to the throne, finding herself practically imprisoned there.

Mary viewed Elizabeth, a Protestant, as a direct threat to her plans to re-establish Catholicism in England.

It was in Hatfield in 1558 that Elizabeth learned of Marys death and her own subsequent accession to the throne. Her first council was held in Hatfield, but after that she spent little time in the town.

James I did not like the Old Palace, so he exchanged homes with his chief minister Robert Cecil, the second son of Burghley and 1st Earl of Salisbury. In 1607/08, Robert pulled down three sides of the Old Palace, which was a quadrangle, and built the present house, but he died just before the house was finished in 1612.

For many years Hatfield House was not owned by people of particular note, but in the second half of the 18th century it became the home of George IIIs Lord Chamberlain senior official of the royal household, the 1st Marquess.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert paid a visit to Hatfield House in 1846, when the 2nd Marquess lived there.

The 3rd Marquess, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, was three times Prime Minister and, during his office, England increased its Empire and held the balance of power in Europe. Guests to Hatfield during this time included former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and author Lewis Carroll.

Under the 4th Marquess, Edward VII stayed at Hatfield House, as well as Prime Ministers Arthur Balfour and Neville Chamberlain.

Guests entertained by the 5th Marquess included Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the Prince of Wales and Sir Winston Churchill.

Hatfield House is now the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury.

War effort and beyond

BRITISH aviation pioneer Geoffrey de Havilland opened an aircraft factory in Hatfield in the 1930s a move which has led the Hertfordshire town to hold a significant place in aviation history.

Some of the most well-known aircraft were made at the De Havilland factory. It produced World War IIs Mosquito fighter bomber, for instance, as well as Britains first jet airliner The Comet.

De Havillands decision to establish an aircraft factory in Hatfield had a huge impact on the town - not simply for propelling it into the history books and putting its name firmly on the map, but also because the new town was built in order to house the workers at De Havilland.

In 1977, it became part of British Aerospace and by the mid-1980s there were 7,500 people employed, but by 1993 all production had stopped at Hatfield.

Shaping the future

A YEAR ago Professor Quintin McKellar became the vice-chancellor of the Hatfield-based University of Hertfordshire, having been the principal of The Royal Veterinary College of the University of London.

The role combines chief executive responsibilities for a large organisation with 2,300 staff, 27,000 students and a turnover of 260million together with the academic and scholarly leadership of a university now in the top four per cent globally, he explains.

Quintin says he has three particular goals as vice chancellor to consolidate the leading business-facing character of the university, embed curricula which deliver graduates distinguished by their range of attributes, and broaden the research undertaken within the university.

I enjoy all aspects of university life, but particularly value the opportunity to interact with academic and professional colleagues with an extraordinary range of interests and expertise, he continues. I get great pleasure from the knowledge that the university transforms the lives of so many people and instils a love of learning which contributes to their lifelong wellbeing and happiness.

Quintin, a father-of-four, is a very keen rower, having competed in the 1986 Commonwealth Games, and is a member of the Broxbourne Rowing Club. I visit the gym at the university early most mornings and am greatly looking forward to next years Olympics but sadly not as a competitor, he says.

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