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The Old Palace was built in about 1485 by the Bishop of Ely, John Morton. It is one of the foremost examples of mediaeval brickwork in the country and originally formed a quadrangle around a central courtyard. The remaining wing contains the Banqueting Hall, with most of its original roof timbers. Many of them are peppered with gunshot, apparently because sparrows flew in and were shot at when the building was later used as stables!
Henry VIII acquired the Palace from the Bishop of Ely in 1538 and used it as a nursery for his three children. It is with Elizabeth that the Palace is most associated. She had a happy childhood here, sharing in her brother Edward's education. Circumstances changed for Elizabeth when Queen Mary came to the throne in 1553, for Mary feared that her enemies might plot to place her protestant sister on the throne. Effectively Elizabeth was kept under house arrest at Hatfield.
In 1558 Elizabeth was sitting under an oak tree in the Park when she learnt of her succession to the throne. One of her first acts was to call her trusted advisers, including William Cecil, later Lord Burghley, together for her first Council of State which was held in the Banqueting Hall of the Palace.
In 1607 King James I exchanged the Palace at Hatfield for Theobalds, the home of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. Robert Cecil demolished three-quarters of the original building. The remaining wing survived as the stables for Hatfield House for the next three centuries, until it was restored by the 4th Marquess in 1915.
The Old Palace is available for hire throughout the year as a venue for corporate and private parties, marriage ceremonies, wedding receptions, banquets and other events.