14 July 2023

The Oak House through the ages

The Oak House at Hatfield Park was the vision of Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, the third Marquess of Salisbury. Famous for being Prime Minister to Queen Victoria, the Marquess served as Prime Minister for the United Kingdom on 3 separate occasions, for a total of 13 years.

Originally named Countess Anne’s School, the building was erected by the third Marquess in 1869, its high quality architecture and details were influenced by the nearby Old Palace, where Queen Elizabeth 1st famously spent a happy childhood. The red brickwork and windows in particular emulate  styling from the Old Palace, or the Great Stables, as the building was known in those days. A Hatfield builder by the name of Chapman was in charge of the project, whilst the woodwork was completed by Estate staff.

Countess Anne’s charity school was founded by the wife of the Fifth Earl of Salisbury in the early 18th century. Countess Anne was known to possess a controlling spirit, evidenced in one of the rules of the school –

‘That if any of the Charity-Children are absent from School three Days in one Month (times of Breaking up, a Month in Harvest and Sickness excepted) to be Expelled. Also in case they are guilty of Swearing, Pilfering, or any other disorderly Behaviour, as well as out of School as in School; And likewise if they are not kept Neat and Clean’

The building served as a temporary place of worship in 1871-1872, when the Third Marquess restored the neighbouring parish church.  It is sometimes incorrectly asserted that it was first built for this purpose but its original use was for the school.

The school ceased to exist in 1912 but was quickly re-established in 1913 when the Church of England Infants’ School moved into the Countess Anne building, under the control of the local education authority.  It was requested that it should be known as the Church of England Infants’ School, however habit prevailed and it was still referred to as Countess Anne’s, which was gradually adopted as its official name.

The school moved to a site in Hatfield town centre in 1962, and the building was converted for use as a church hall, being opened by Lord Salisbury in 1965. The lease of the hall was surrendered by the parish in 2017.

Today the The Oak House is a thriving local business and an integral part of the Hatfield Park vibrant community, providing a stunning location and ambience for a wellness studio. The Oak House Studio and Therapies is managed by husband and wife team Graham and Keeley who offer a different wellbeing experience focussed around the ‘age of the new gentle’.

References –

Hatfield and its people – the story of a new town, a garden city, a historic house, the farms and the countryside in a Hertfordshire parish published in 1962.

The Old Hatfield Historic Trail (2018)

Hatfield Park Archives Team


The Oak House through the ages - Hatfield Park