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Hatfield A Short History

The name of Hatfield is closely associated with the history of British aviation and the great house of Hatfield with its pageant of famous people through the centuries

Front view of Hatfield House

Hatfield was first chronicled in Saxon times and Elizabeth I was confined here for three years before she became Queen in 1558. There has been a market in Hatfield since 1226 and street trading continued in Old Hatfield until the 19th century. The market was revived in 1957 when the square was built in the new town and has continued since then.

Hatfield expanded dramatically in the 1930s with the opening of the De Havilland aircraft factory and has held an unrivalled place in British aviation history for sixty years with some of our most famous aircraft made here. The wartime Mosquito, Britain's first jet airliner, The Comet, and the famous Trident were all produced at Hatfield.

As the aircraft industry expanded a new town was built to house the influx of workers. In 1960 the existing company merged with Hawker Siddely and in 1977 became part of British Aerospace, with Hatfield as the headquarters for commercial aircraft. In the mid 1980s there were 7500 people employed in aircraft and weapons production but by 1993, after world recession in the late 80s, all production at Hatfield had ended. It was a painful blow to the local economy but the first seeds of recovery sown by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and its partners have taken fruit. The new Hatfield Business Park, part of the old aerospace site, has attracted a number of major companies and prospects for the town have greatly improved.

de Havilland campus

Hatfield today has established itself as a centre for new technology and higher education. The University of Hertfordshire is based here with a fine record of academic achievement and service to industry, it has over 18,000 part and full time students and is the town's largest employer.

The towns population has now risen to over 28,000, the traffic-free town shopping centre hosts an open air market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The main pedestrian shopping precinct is formed around a central paved area with the large re-developed Asda store at one end.

The Hatfield Farmers and Craft Market, which has been named as the best farmers market in the East of England by the National Farmers Union, is held on the first Saturday of every month in White Lion Square. It has grown in popularity since it started in 1999 and provides an opportunity for shoppers to buy direct from the producer.

View across White Lion Square

In 1986 the Hatfield A1(M) tunnel was opened and above it stands the Galleria Centre with shops, restaurants and a multi-screen cinema. The Galleria is one of the UK's largest indoor outlet centres and offers a wide range of designer brand products at discount prices.

Planning permission has been granted for a redevelopment of the town centre. Please visit our Hatfield redevelopment page for full details.

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