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Lord Salisbury: ‘Hatfield is not a style war’

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The 7th Marquess of Salisbury Robert Gascoyne-Cecil outlines his project to overhaul the district around Hatfield House, his ancestral home

What’s wrong with your neighbourhood, Old Hatfield?

In the early 1970s all sorts of horrors were perpetrated there. The station was rebuilt to look like a shelterless stop on the far eastern trans-Siberian rail line, the old town centre was bypassed and the A1000 became a racetrack.

What’s happening to improve it?

Five years ago we took the cattle by the horns. I asked American new urbanist Andrés Duany to deliver a lecture, which spawned the Hertfordshire charrette to consider how the county could respond to the increased pressure for housing and improve that which was not so good.

What are your plans?

The charrette got the public behind us; the locals responded magnificently and we achieved a consensus. The idea is to make the area more of a vibrant whole, so Hatfield House, once again, plays a role in the community. In certain areas we have left open matters of detail, for example how Salisbury Square is going to look. We are showing a number of options to the local community.

Why use traditional architecture?

This is not a style wars but about making communities live and thrive. The beauty of using traditional materials is that it makes buildings that are adaptable over centuries. We want to be here for another 400 years so we think about what we build. If you have an interest in exciting modern buildings with modern materials that is excellent – particularly if there are iconic buildings that are not going to have to change.

Would you commission a modern building?

I would be interested in building an iconic Modernist building at some point, but I would not necessarily want it to be part of the housing on my high street unless it was for some particular purpose.

Why was a charrette important?

There’s a national disease that we are no good at anything, but if morale is raised and people feel something is happening – something they approve of and like – it is not surprising what you can actually do. It’s a virtuous circle.

Who is your favourite architect?

Inigo Jones. He was revolutionary in his time, changed everything.

Should post-war architecture ever be listed?

There is a case for listing as an example but the question is: do these buildings stand the test of time? The same applies to all forms of aesthetic fashion.

What is your favourite building?

It is the Villa La Rotonda by Andrea Palladio.


Old Hatfield: The masterplan


The Old Hatfield masterplan

The Old Hatfield masterplan - click to view


Dunhams Courtyard –   Fifteen dwellings and two B1 offices
Brooks Murray Architects
Status: Phase one constructed in 2010 by Jarvis Homes. Phase two currently under construction by Court Homes


George’s Gate and Coach Park – New tourist access, coach and car parking for visitors to Hatfield House
Brooks Murray Architects
Status: Coach Park Constructed 2009/2010 by Geoffrey Osborne. Brick gate piers and walling by Ekins of Hertford. Oak Gates by Castle Joinery


Bloody Hollow   - New play area for local children and visitors
Flights of Fantasy
Status: Under construction by Flights of Fantasy and P McCrudden Groundworks


St Audreys Care Home – Residential extension to existing care facility
Brooks Murray Architects


Church Street – Twelve new dwellings
Brooks Murray Architects
Status: To be constructed by Jarvis Homes in 2013


Fore Street Square – Landscaping / urban realm / parking improvements
Brooks Murray


St Etheldredas Church Hall – Refurbishment of existing community facility


Hatfield Railway Station – Major reconfiguration and improvement of transport interchange
Design team:
Multi-disciplinary team including GCE, Hertfordshire County Council, First Capital Connect
Architect for station building and car park: Seymour Harris
Status: Works due to commence March 2013


Salisbury Square – Revitalisation and partial redevelopment of central square – mixed use; retail, residential and office uses, significant public realm
Architectural Team:
Brooks Murray Architects and Wastell & Porter
Status: First phase of work (York House) to commence May 2013. Second phases of work; Stage one tender / expressions of interest to be issued Autumn 2013


Visitor Improvements; Stable Yard, revised landscaping to North Front of Hatfield House
Design team:
Gascoyne Cecil Estates (in house)
Status: Under construction by P McCrudden Groundworks and Armstrong Landscapes





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