The St. John's Ambulance Building

A reading room and social club in 1889

By Derek Martindale

Derek Martindale 2011
Drawing (dark area) showing the proposed extention
Hatfield House Estate Office plans c/140
Derek Martindale 2011
Derek Martindale 2011


The St Johns Ambulance Building next to St. Luke’s Church, Hatfield Town Centre,was built in 1889 by Lady Salisbury to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.  The building was to be used as a Reading Room and Social Club by the residents of Hatfield New Town.



The building was extended in 1908 (to the left of the entrance) by the Fourth Marquess. This as can be seen from the drawing almost doubled the size of the building.

After the first world war the building was sometimes known as the Newtown Recreation Room.  It was around 1938 that  St. John’s Ambulance started using the building for ARP training.

In August 1941 the building was requisitioned by Hertfordshire County Council at first being used as a nursery centre.

The St Johns Ambulance Service brought the building from the Hatfield Estate for £300 in April 1960.

The sad news, is that, at the time of writing a planning application has been submitted to demolish the building and to replace it with a two storey block of flats.

On 23rd June 2011 the planning application was withdrawn.

My thank’s to Mr Robin Harcourt Williams, Librarian & Archivist at Hatfield House, for providing the information.


This page was added on 19/05/2011.

Add your comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • I was a St John Ambulance cadet training in this building back in the late 1970’s with Jean & Roy Thornhill who led this group (Where are they now?).
    Then in the nineties I led the Badgers ( junior St John Ambulance), my daughters were Badgers at the time. The Badgers compiled a time capsule (in a box) in 2000, I wondered what happened to it. The Badgers will be in their mid 20’s and early 30’s now! Really sad that the building was sold but it was getting old and cold!
    I remember one night, during a Badger evening we hear loud noises coming from the cemetery side of the building, it sounded like someone was trying to break in, the children were really scared. I called the police and several police cars turned up within a minute (the police station was close by then.)! Very exciting but the culprit got away.
    It would be good to keep the building and make it safe, as it is one of the last original buildings in the town. Maybe it could be used as a Hatfield history classroom by local children and adults on occasions.

    By Jemma Emmans (31/01/2021)
  • A for sale board is now in place for this building. It would be great if the Council were to purchase this plot and build a nice town hall or a point of interest where the community could have a hub to discuss the future of Hatfield and keeping its heritage. I am aware of the state of the building and it does need serious attention. This spot could be transformed and be an amazing site to show creativity on entrance to Hatfield. Let’s make this work for us!

    By Harry (06/07/2015)
  • I seem to remember that as a child when I belonged to “Dr. Barnardo’s” we used to meet in the Reading Room for our meetings, socials etc.

    By Beryl Blanks (nee Crane) (02/08/2011)
  • David Willson, long time resident of Hatfield, remembers that in 1941 this building was used for an exhibition to raise funds for “War Weapons Savings Week”. The exhibition was of military items, including defused unexploded German bombs, firearms, a gun turret, and a parachute from a German landmine. Entrance fee was 1d (old money). David remembers playing with his friends among and jumping over some of the defused bombs. To make way for the exhibition the library was moved to the Congregational Church in St Albans Road, where it stayed.

    By Christine Martindale (10/06/2011)
  • Newtown Reading Room & Social Club From Hatfield This Century Newsletter 1994 Miss Dorothy Larkin has loaned us some extracts from the Parish Magazine of October 1889 reporting on the Reading Room which was erected by the Marchioness of Salisbury to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. It was established as a working mens’ club with evil speaking, lying and slandering being strictly prohibited It said “This is a working men’s club. Games include bagatelle, cards (cribbage and don are most in vogue), draughts, chess and dominoes. The members are mostly working men and youths of New Town and have numbered as many as 130. Mr. Wm. Butterfield is Honorary Secretary, and Mr. Robert Canham is Assistant Secretary. It must be gratifying to Lady Salisbury – through whose benefice the room was built – to know that many working men and youths who formerly spent their evenings loafing the street corners and outside public houses are now provided with healthy amusement and instruction in the new Town Reading Room”

    By Frank Cox (30/05/2011)