Hatfield Old Palace

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Bishop/Royal)

There are major building remains

NameHatfield Old Palace
Alternative Names
Historic CountryHertfordshire
Modern AuthorityHertfordshire
1974 AuthorityHertfordshire
Civil ParishHatfield

Formerly Palace of the Bishops of Ely, built by John Morton about 1480. Given to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, in exchange for Theobalds Palace in 1607, and partly demolished, leaving this the east side of a former quadrangular block, and the gate lodge on the west. From 1628 until the C20 it was the stables to Hatfield House. Now a hall for entertainments. Red brick with diaper patterning. Much early-mid C19 restoration. 2 storeys and attics. East and west elevations are both 20 windows. 1-window square projecting towers in centre of both sides, rising to apex of plain tile roof. 5 windows each side and 2-window gabled end bays. Mostly 2-light windows under hoodmoulds. C19 stepped buttresses. Towers have ground floor porches with 4-centred arches. Single light casements on 1st and 2nd floors above these. Both towers have burnt-header patterned brick work which is mainly C19 restoration. Parapets on brick corbel tables. N end of range has coach entrance with cambered brick tunnel arch.

Dais of hall was at S end of present all. Kitchens and offices were in the N half of the range. The roof of the hall is a splendid specimen of late medieval timber construction, with principals resting on carved stone corbels, the arched braces moulded, the collar-beams cross-trussed, and with ogee-shaped wind braces in two tiers between the principals. (Listed Building Report)

Residence of the Bishops of Ely, built on a palatial scale by Bishop Morton c.1480-90. It became Crown property after the dissolution and was the childhood home of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. Robert Cecil demolished much of it in the early 17C, and the building materials were re-used in Hatfield House and church. Originally built round a courtyard, with a gatehouse range to the W; only one wing (the hall range) and the gatehouse survive. (Herts

HER from Pevesner)

Bishop's Palace Hatfield is a Medieval bishop's palace from late 15th century, and used by the crown from 1538-1607. The only surviving features include the gatehouse and west range. It was the originally the palace of the bishops of Ely and had been rebuilt in the newly fashionable brick in about 1480 by Bishop Morton. King Henry VIII used the palace extensively before finally formally acquiring it by exchange in 1538. Some works were undertaken, but it seems likely that no major alterations were needed. In 1549 it was granted to the then princess Elizabeth (the future Queen) and it became her main residence from 1555 until the death of Queen Mary in 1558. In 1607 the Hatfield was exchanged for another estate by James I and passed to the Cecil family. Sir Robert Cecil had much of the old house demolished and built a new mansion, Hatfield House on a different site. Some of the older buildings were retained as stabling. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

This was a manor of the bishop's of Ely before the rebuilding by Bishop Morton, but it is unknown what form the earlier building took.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL235084
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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 30, 391, 475
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 154, 253-5
  • Cooper, Nicholas, 1999, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680 (Yale University Press) p. 44, 109, 121, 164
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 121, 144-7, 162, 176
  • Thurley, Simon, 1993, The Royal Palaces of Tudor England (Yale University Press) p. 50, 80
  • James, T.B., 1990, The Palaces of Medieval England (London; Seaby) p. 12, 145, 148, 155
  • Colvin, H.M., Ransome, D.R. and Summerson, John, 1982, The history of the King's Works, Vol. 4: 1485-1660 (part 2) (London) p. 149-50
  • Pevsner, N. (Revised by Cherry, Bridget), 1977, Buildings of England: Hertfordshire (London, Penguin) p. 106-7
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1912, VCH Herfordshire Vol. 3 p. 94-5
  • RCHME, 1910, An inventory of the historical monuments in Hertfordshire (London: HMSO) p. 58-62 online transcription ([old plan > http://www.british-history.ac.uk/image.aspx?compid=123552&filename=fig7.jpg&pubid=1304]) ([plan > http://www.british-history.ac.uk/image.aspx?compid=123552&filename=fig8.jpg&pubid=1304])
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 133 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 280 online copy


Primary Sources


  • Isobel Thompson, 2005, Extensive Urban Survey - Hertfordshire (English Heritage) Download copy
  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)