When war broke out 100 years ago, the owner of Morden Hall Park, Gilliat Edward Hatfeild, offered the Hall to the War Office for use as a military hospital. This year, to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, Attic Theatre Company brings the untold stories of the men and women who lived, worked and nursed at Morden Hall Park to life in Fields Unsown, a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Hatfeild Legacy: Then and Now

Fields Unsown 132

Morden Hall Park came into the hands of the Hatfeild family in the late 1800s, with Gilliat Hatfield buying the park and the home from the Garth family. For a time, it existed as a family home, before the death of Gilliat Hatfeild and the subsequent inheritance of it by his son, Gilliat Edward Hatfeild.

Gilliat Edward, a bachelor by design, then moved into the cottage, close to the river, and began tending a rose garden, still thriving today. During the War years, he offered Morden Hall as an auxiliary hospital to assist in the convalescence of those injured or suffering from shell shock on the front lines.

In the 1930s, Hatfeild planted a rose garden, still thriving today, and spent a lot of time tending the gardens and flora around the park, even stowing away a set of secateurs and other gardening equipment in a hollowed out tree. A generous man, he also spent a lot of time working with children around his estate, throwing garden parties for them to enjoy the park. Hatfeild was famed for his quirks – especially his dislike of electricity and more modern modes of transport. He was involved heavily with the development of the Hall, even stipulating in his will that he would not accept the introduction of railways through his properties, and to this day, the National Trust, have honoured his wishes without exception.

Hatfeild

At the end of the war, Hatfeild paid to keep the hospital running as a Salvation Army hospital, as it remained until Hatfeild’s death in 1941, after which it was willed to the National Trust, who have ensured that the park remains free for all in accordance with Hatfeild’s wishes. On his death on 9 February 1941, Hatfeild left Morden Hall Park to the National Trust, for the benefit of the local community.

Beyond the death of Hatfeild, in the summers of the late 1940s and early 1950s, there were ‘film star’ parties held in association with the British Film industry and the Sunday Pictorial newspaper. These would gather plenty of important stars and their fans would gather, hoping to catch an autograph or their favourite stars. After this died out, the Hall and Park have been adapted for more public use.

Though the hall is leased privately, Morden Hall Park is free for all, opening from eight to six throughout the year – compliant with Hatfeild’s wish that ‘a fee shall not be charged so that my Morden estate shall be open to the public’. To see more of what is happening in the park in 2014, visit the National Trust website, here.

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