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Hatfield War Memorial

       
Hatfield War Memorial is situated on the east-side of Great North Road, adjacent to the main gates of Hatfield House (opposite Hatfield Train Station).

     

History (source: Historic England)

The aftermath of the First World War saw the biggest single wave of public commemoration ever with tens of thousands of memorials erected across England. This was the result of both the huge impact on communities of the loss of three quarters of a million British lives, and also the official policy of not repatriating the dead which meant that the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at this great loss.

One such memorial was raised at Hatfield as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by the members of the local community who lost their lives in the First World War. The design was by Sir Herbert Baker FRIBA RA. In his early work for the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission Baker made a proposal for a cross to stand in all of the Commission’s cemeteries, but a design by Sir Reginald Blomfield was chosen. Although the Commission’s architects were free to use crosses of their own choice within the cemeteries that they designed, the Blomfield cross proved to be the universal choice. Baker, nevertheless, used variants of his cross design for a number of English war memorials, including that at Hatfield.

The site, adjacent to the gates to Hatfield House, was donated by Lord Salisbury. It commemorates 139 local servicemen who died in the First World War and was unveiled by Lord Hampden, Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, on 12 June 1921. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Exeter, Lord William Cecil, and Lord Salisbury read out the names of the fallen.

Following the Second World War, the names of 58 men and women who died during service in that conflict were added. In 1934 Hatfield had become the headquarters of the De Havilland Aircraft Company, which during the Second World War was a significant manufacturer and tester of military aircraft: as an important target, the district suffered 503 air-raids and in three incidents some 34 civilians – men, women, and children – were killed. Their names are also recorded on the memorial’s name tablets.

The memorial cross underwent repairs in 1998 and 2015. Two names were added to the tablets in the pavilion following research carried out during 2014 by Hatfield Local History Society.

Sir Herbert Baker FRIBA RA (1862-1946) was born, and died, in Cobham, his English home.  Articled to Arthur Baker in 1881, he was Assistant to Messrs Ernest George and Peto (1886-90) and attended the Royal Academy Schools. During the 1890s he was in South Africa, designing the Prime Ministerial residence ‘Groote Schuur’ and many private residences as well as government buildings following the South African union. From 1912 he collaborated with Sir Edwin Lutyens in India on New Dehli.  From 1917 to 1928 Baker was one of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission principal architects, for whom he designed 113 cemeteries on the Western Front including Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world.  He was also responsible for four Memorials to the Missing including those to the South Africans at Delville Wood and the Indians at Neuve Chapelle. He designed 24 war memorials in England.  During the inter-war years his work at home included South Africa House (Grade II*), Rhodes House (Grade II*) and, his last major public commission, the Bank of England (Grade I).

 

Details

First World War memorial to the design of the architect Sir Herbert Baker, with a cross in Portland stone standing at the centre of a brick-walled, gated, memorial garden. Garden pavilion in brick and tile, with hipped roof, brick floor and walls, the interior walls bearing Portland stone tablets recording dedications and commemorative names.

MATERIALS: Portland stone memorial cross and commemorative tablets. Brick and clay tile pavilion with timber roof, brick garden walls and piers. Wrought iron garden gates.

DESCRIPTION: The memorial garden is on the east side of the Great North Road, immediately to the north-west of the gates, screens and gateposts to Hatfield Park and to the north of the statue by Frampton of the Third Marquis of Salisbury (three-times Prime Minster) (all Grade II-listed), and in close proximity to the Grade I-registered park of Hatfield House. Within the garden are the Portland stone memorial cross and the pavilion housing the commemorative tablets.

The garden is enclosed to the north, west, and south sides by a brick wall including intermediate taller piers with pitched tile caps. The lower part of the wall is in English bond, transferring by moulded bricks to the upper part in Flemish bond. Iron gates in the southern arc of the wall include plain vertical bars, spiked dog-rails, and two medallions encircling the town badge, inscribed HATFIELD TOWN COUNCIL. The eastern side of the garden is enclosed by a clipped yew hedge.

The Portland stone memorial cross comprises a wheel-head cross rising from a moulded collar on an octagonal cross shaft. The circlet of the wheel-head is formed by roses and lilies (representing England and France) that trail down the Latin cross head to the top of the shaft. The cross shaft ends in a moulded foot, which stands on a plinth, octagonal in plan. The plinth stands on a low octagonal pavement.

The pavilion at the north end of the garden is rectangular in plan, of three bays, and projects northwards outside the garden area: the garden wall butts the front of the building. It is in the form of a shelter building akin to those in Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries designed to provide shelter for visitors, as envisaged by Sir Frederic Kenyon in 1918. Built in red brick (English bond) with red tile details, the two side walls and the rear wall are solid, whilst the front wall is comprised of three round-headed arches. The central arch extends to the ground, the two side arches are closed by a dwarf wall. The pavilion has a hipped roof of plain clay tiles: the roof is open internally to display the timberwork. The floor is herringbone brickwork.

Portland stone tablets, supported by shallowly projecting brick piers, are fixed to the west, north, and east interior walls. These bear the inscriptions:

(west) WE WILL REMEMBER THEM 1939 – 1945/ (44 NAMES)

(north) THANKS BE TO GOD WHICH GIVETH US THE VICTORY MCMXIV – MCMXIX/ (NAMES)

(east) WE WILL REMEMBER THEM 1939 – 1945/ (15 NAMES)/ VICTIMS OF ENEMY ACTION ON 3RD OCTOBER 1940/ (21 NAMES)/ VICTIMS OF ENEMY ACTION ON 22ND SEPTEMBER 1944/ (4 NAMES)/ VICTIMS OF ENEMY ACTION ON 10TH OCTOBER 1944/ (9 NAMES)

The names of service personnel are recorded with rank, unit, date and place of death. The dedication on the rear walls spans three separate tablets of names.