The Knot garden at the Old Palace at Hatfield House is the work of the redoubtable Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury who died, aged 94, in 2016. The fiery daughter of the Earl of Dunraven and Mount Earl in County Limerick in Ireland, she married int the Cecil family in 1945 becoming Marchioness of Salisbury in 1972. Lady Salisbury supported many causes but her first love was gardening and although never formally trained, she transformed the gardens at Hatfield and at their other home, Cranbourne Manor, not to mention those of many of her friends including the prince of Wales at Highgrove House.
The Knot Garden at Hatfield is based on 17th century designs and fits within what once were the four walls of the Old Palace of which only the Great Hall now survives. For those who fancy a bit more history, Hatfield Old Palace was where Queen Elizabeth spent the happiest years of her somewhat turbulent childhood – and it was at Hatfield that she heard the news that her sister Mary had died and that she was now queen of England. Elizabeth never lived at Hatfield again, but she remained attached to the Old Palace and it remained royal property until, in 1607, after her death, her successor James I swopped it for Theobalds Palace nearby, which belonged to the Earls of Salisbury, and which he much preferred! Thus the Cecils, chief ministers, father and son, to Elizabeth throughout her reign, came to own her childhood home – and there they still are.
But back to the gardens. The Knot Garden, extensive though it is, is bordered by an extensive series of ‘courtyard’ gardens each bounded by finely topiar-ied yew hedges. These enclose herbaceous borders…
…and secret fountains….
And then there is the parkland around which you can walk for several miles. Not to mention the gardens running down from the main house, the orchards, the lakes and much, much more…. A great afternoon’s outing in these restricted times.
You need to book in advance and you will not be able to get into the house, but the gardens open throughout October. Check in to the Hatfield House site for details.