A Tale of Two Churches

Ethelreda in Hatfield and the City of London

By Ruth Herman

A Tale of Two Churches

In the heart of Old Hatfield there is delightful little church which has its origins in a 13th century wooden building.  Deep in the City of London is another beautiful little church. They are both named St. Ethelreda’s and despite their vastly different situations their origins are remarkably similar.

The London church is remarkable because for many years it was part of the See of Ely, and was named after the saint whose bones lay in the Bishop’s Cathedral.   And the Hatfield church is equally remarkable for the same reason because Hatfield is mentioned in the Domesday Book as the property of the Abbey of Ely. The link to Ely goes all the way back to the 10th Century when King Edgar who was a great promoter of the monasteries gave land at Hatfield to the Bishop of Ely.  There was a bit of a hiccup when Edgar died in 975 when a nobleman claimed that the land was in fact his, and it had been stolen from him using violence.  The upshot of the claim was that the monks were made to buy the lands. Their ownership was confirmed later by Ethelred and Edward the Confessor and in the thirteenth century they founded a church named after their patron saint, Ethelreda.  This association with the See of Ely explains much, including the naming of Bishops Drive, and Hatfield’s old name of Bishops Hatfield.  And of course it explains why there are two different churches with the same name in both London and Hatfield.

This page was added on 04/02/2016.

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