National Trust in public appeal to unravel the truth behind Hatfield Forest's mysterious past

By Culture24 Staff | 12 August 2010
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The National Trust is fishing for the hidden history of Hatfield Forest
Members of the public are being urged to help piece together a puzzle from history as the National Trust searches for a breakthrough in a bid to find out how one of the UK’s oldest forests was used during World War Two.

An archaeological survey map hints Hatfield Forest in Essex could have been a military depot, but the Trust, which is putting together a new guide book on the site by popular demand, admits to a “gaping hole” in its knowledge of the period between 1939 and 1945.

“It was only when we came to the chapter about World War Two that we discovered that nobody here has any records about how the forest served King and country,” says Learning and Interpretation Officer Fiona Harrower.

“Our local history society has been helping us, but doesn’t have any information abut the war years. Neither does the Imperial War Museum.

“Establishing what the buildings were used for would be a real breakthrough for us. Without this information, we might be faced with having to abandon this chapter of our history, which would be a great shame.”

The map, produced by English Heritage, shows 21 buildings believed to have been ammunitions stores as part of an offshoot of the nearby Stansted Mountfitchet airbase.

An oral archive left by a local resident describes how he climbed a fence to leave the forest, suggesting it was closed to the public for security reasons at the time.

The Trust is hoping to produce the book, which features details of some of the 1,200-year-old trees in the area, by Easter 2011.

Email hatfieldforest@nationaltrust.org.uk or call 01279 870678 to tell your story of Hatfield Forest.

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