Built on the site of the grounds of Phillebrook House, which was knocked down in 1889. It was named in honour of Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil (February 3, 1830 – August 22, 1903) the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury who served as Conservative Prime Minister three times for a total of over 13 years. He avoided alignments or alliances, maintaining the policy of “splendid isolation”. As a member of the landed aristocracy, he held the reactionary credo: “Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible.” Indeed, he was suspicious of democracy and opposed both Parliamentary reform and Irish Home Rule. While disagreeing that they should have any say in the matter he did however have a paternalistic attitude to the working classes and argued for better housing saying that the poor conditions of labourers’ and Artisans’ dwellings were injurious to morality and health. As Secretary of State for India he was contemptuous of Civil Servants for their failure to prevent the Orissa famine of 1866 where at least at least 1 million people died. He became leader of the Conservatives following the death of Benjamin Disraeli in 1881, under his command he brought the party into order. With a firm grasp of the world stage he remained as Foreign Secretary for much of his tenure as PM, his later administrations were markedly imperialistic in character and despite his conservatism at home he was quick to seize the opportunities in what became known as the Scramble for Africa, obtaining the majority of new territory on the continent while avoiding any conflicts with other European nations. He was leader during the Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) which severely weakened his influence in the country. However his handling of the Fashoda Incident in which British and French troops came face to face in East Africa sparking a war scare in Europe was seen as a masterclass in belligerent diplomacy with the French backing down to ensure British domination of the Sudan and Nile valley. In 1895 and 1900 he was honoured with appointments as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and High Steward of the City and Liberty of Westminster, which he held for life. On July 11, 1902, in failing health and broken hearted over the death of his wife, Salisbury resigned. He was succeeded by his nephew, Arthur Balfour. Due to breathing difficulties caused by his great weight, Salisbury took to sleeping in a chair at his home Hatfield House. By then he also suffered from a heart condition and later blood poisoning caused by an ulcerated leg. His death followed a fall from that chair. He was buried at St Etheldreda’s Church, Hatfield, where his predecessor as prime minister, Lord Melbourne, is also interred. It was not uncommon for developers to name roads after popular statesmen.
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