25 April 2022


I’ve got an afternoon to myself, so I head out from Commons Wood on foot to see if I can find a back route into Hatfield Old Town. I take a dog's-leg across the golf course, negotiate the noisy North Orbital and walk two miles into a rural landscape that has everything but the sound.

It’s not to be - the gateway across the park is closed - so I head back to the North Orbital and catch a bus into Hatfield. I jump off the bus into a slick transport terminal. The minimalist shelters are information super-highways - with ticker-tape LED signs conveying the time of arrival calculated from a GPS signal. The shelters are made of glass - transparency reigns supreme.

I feel exposed. I want to be in the thick of wattle and daub and hand made clay brick. The first sign of my destination is the tower of St. Etheldreda which sits at the heart of the old town of Hatfield. I enter the old town by a narrow ginnel fronted by Arm and Sword Lane. Walking from the stark glass of the bus station into the knowing warmth of the old town is akin to a cup of hot cocoa on a winter’s night. It feels like a time- slip. Instantly I’m coddled by wonky jettied buildings.

Hatfield Old Town is an enclave and it’s central focus is the church of St. Etheldreda. How does this place, surrounded by the sprawling conurbation of London survive? The buildings here have similar characteristics: irregular sizes, lumpy roofs and out-of-plumb walls. Their facades lean into the street to greet, they tell their story with their dentils and their scrolls. There’s a hierarchy of style that defines their original purpose: some have had a distinguished past and others more mundane - but no less the colourful for it. The common denominator is variety and I feel enlivened and connected.

Read the next entry:

A Year in the Life: 14 May 2022
“I look at the buildings along the street - all the facades that we’ve come to know over the years have completely gone - erased.”

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Old Hatfield - Wikipedia

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