St Etheldreda’s Church history
Just outside the walls of Hatfield House, at the top of the steep road up Fore Street (once part of the Great North Road from London) stands the historic parish church, with its fifteenth century tower, built when the Old Palace was the residence of the Bishops of Ely, and dedicated to their patron saint, St. Etheldreda.
The church has been extended, rebuilt, repaired and altered throughout its history, to suit the needs of the Christian community of the parish.
People have gathered here for a thousand years to express their beliefs about the invisible, intangible, eternal world beyond human senses, to share joys and grief and fellowship, and to dedicate their lives to the service of God and their fellow men.
For the Christian heritage is more than the stones of buildings such as this. The church is a meeting place for worship, where through the centuries the spiritual life of Christians has been experienced in prayer and meditation, in the music, poetry and drama of the liturgy, in the festivals of the Church’s year, and in the rich symbolism of Christianity, especially the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Here the words of the Bible, developing the story of the loving relationship of God and Man revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, inspire people to live by the Christian ideals of love and forgiveness, with the reassurance of salvation. But though God is eternal, the forms and ideas of religious life change with changing society.
In the uncertain world of the Middle Ages, chantry chapels were built for masses to be sung for the repose of souls; in the more secure Victorian age the church was rebuilt and refurbished with stone, marble and oak.
In the twenty-first century, a thriving and more egalitarian Christian community of all ages worships Sunday by Sunday in the family communion, round the simple modern altar, which can be moved aside if needed.
Weddings baptisms and funerals bring families and community together as they have for a thousand years. In the English tradition, the church has many memorials to people of standing in the community – statesmen and gentry, clergy and doctors, farmers, merchants and brewers, women of property and piety, army and naval officers, and ordinary soldiers who gave their lives in wars. They and many others are buried in the churchyard; their successors carry on the Christian life today.
St Luke’s Church history
In 1877 St. Luke’s Chapel in Newtown, Hatfield, was built as a cemetery church by the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury and opened on January 29th 1878 by the Bishop of St. Albans.Following the appointment of a curate, regular services were being held here from 1888 and by 1893 Hatfield had grown so much, and the chapel was so popular, that Lord Salisbury offered to convert it into a cruciform church.This work was done, by Mr. H. T. Shillito, adding the chancel and two transepts and the organ installed . Today an iron strip across the floor by the front pews marks the extent of the older chapel. The stained glass East Window, by Christopher Webb, was added in 1924 as a memorial to those who rest in the adjoining churchyard.
The Font, from the Methodist Chapel, Spring Villas, Old Hatfield, was given by Mr Tingey in time for his granddaughter’s baptism on January 29th 1939.
A young German who served his apprenticeship at De Havilland’s and learnt to fly at Hatfield made a return visit on Thursday 3rd October 1940 around midday in a Junkers 88 and dropped a bomb on Aircraft 94 Assembly Shop. Seventy men were wounded and 21 killed. A communal grave to 6 of the local men is in the churchyard. The pilot and crew were captured at Cole Green and handed over to the police.
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was marked in 1953 by jumble sales and gifts given to supply the altar linen and frontals and in 1954 the structure of the church was passed by the Fifth Marquess of Salisbury to the parish of Hatfield.
Mrs Naden gave St. Luke’s its wooden altar panelling in 1957 to replace the curtaining.
1961. The Altar Silver, made by Mr. F Newland-Smith a local goldsmith, was given by Mrs. H C Reeves & Mr. E Tingey in memory of their parents who were life-long members of the congregation.
In 1968, the central heating was installed and the roof tiles were replaced by the tiles from the old Memorial Hall. Approximately 4,500 tiles were wheeled across the road by the scouts for their ‘Bob-a-Job’ week. Some of the old church tiles were used by The Wrestlers pub.
A Flower Festival in St. Luke’s in April 1968 was held to mark the opening, by the Marquess of Salisbury and the Bishop of Hertford, of the new Lord William Cecil Memorial Hall, in memory of the late Lord William Gascoyne-Cecil, one time rector of the parish and later Bishop of Exeter.
On 21st October 1968, after a few years without its own minister, Lord and Lady Salisbury were among the 180 people, including ministers from all denominations, for the installation of Rev. P. Liddle as district vicar to the pastoral district of St. Luke’s. This was the first appointment of this type and marked a new era for St. Luke’s.
25th March 1971 the church was licensed for marriages and the first one took place on 3rd July 1971.
Between 1968 and 1972, hassocks were embroidered by members of the Trefoil Guild from the designs of Miss M Reeves. Other members embroidered and gave hassocks from their own designs.
2005. A baptismal bowl and ewer were made for St Luke’s church by Mr. David Thomas of Welham Green.
2006 saw a number of innovations to St Luke’s. 7th January the Revd. Susan Marsh introduced a Saturday Family Service at 5p.m. Our first May Fair was held and in October a popular children’s Scarecrow Festival combined with the Harvest Thanksgiving.
2007. A wrought iron reading stand, in memory of Mr Edmund Keen, was made by Baddeley Rose Ltd. of Welham Green.
18th October 2008. St Luke’s day. We celebrated 130 years of service since the church was first dedicated.