Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Hatfield House: A Home Requisitioned

Hatfield House, WWII Hospital
During WWII, thousands of England’s country houses were requisitioned by the government or lent by their owners for use as barracks, homes for evacuees, schools, hospitals, storage locations for artwork, military headquarters and training facilities, and even prisoner-of-war camps. Unfortunately, the occupation of these manors came at great sacrifice. A huge number of them were significantly damaged by their wartime occupants, and more than one thousand of these ancestral homes had to be demolished due to irreparable devastation.

I discovered the fate of these homes during my research for A Doctor in the House, a story about an American Army doctor who meets her match when she arrives in England at an earl’s requisitioned home to set up a convalescent hospital. This novelette will be part of a Christmas collection published by CelebrateLit Publishing in Autumn 2017.

Hatfield House
Hatfield House, located about fifteen miles north of London in Hertfordshire, was one such country home that was used as a military hospital, as it had been during WWI. A Jacobean house that was completed in 1611 by Robert Cecil, the first Earl of Salisbury, it was originally a royal palace for James I. Because it was intended for the entertainment of the king and his court, the ornate rooms and galleries were massive, perfect for use as dormitory-style hospital wards.

The country homes were also excellent locations to “heal the soul” as well as the body, because of their ability to maintain most of their architectural structure, interior d├ęcor, and manicured gardens. The tranquil beauty of the house and landscaping was meant to play a large part in the healing process, evidenced by a wonderful photo of nurses guiding their patients through one of Hatfield House’s hedge mazes in John Martin Robinson’s book Requisitioned.

James Gascoyne-Cecil,
4th Marquess of Salisbury
The manor was offered in both wars by the same owner, James Gascoyne-Cecil, the Fourth Marquess of Salisbury. Seventy-eight years old when WWII broke out in 1939, he was the prime minister’s oldest son and had a successful political career in his own right. In use by the Royal Army Medical Corps from September 2, 1939 through 1945, Hatfield House was only twenty minutes from Kings Cross Station. In preparation, the furniture was removed from the main rooms and stored, and the floors were covered with linoleum to protect the wood. Paintings, tapestries, armor, and wall paneling were all left intact, no doubt appreciated by the British soldiers and German POWs who were treated there.

A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Shenton Matchett is the author of several romance novellas available through Amazon. Her story “A Love Not Forgotten” is part of the Let Love Spring collection from CelebrateLit Publishing.  Under Fire, the first book in her trilogy about WWII war correspondent/amateur sleuth Ruth Brown will be released on July 25, 2017 by eLectio Publishing. Visit Linda at www.LindaShentonMatchett.com.


  1. Interesting history but sad so many of the many of the large country homes were destroyed or damaged by the occupants during WWII. I look forward to reading your upcoming releases. Congratulations, Linda!