After leaving school Hadfield worked as an editor at the publishing firm J. M. Dent in London. During the Second World War he was a Book Officer for the British Council and formed a unit translating books into Arabic. After the war he founded the Cupid Press, which specialised in limited-edition anthologies of verse. In 1957 he published A Book of Britain, an anthology of words and pictures covering 500 years of art, articles and poems celebrating the best of British culture.
Following the success of Love on a Branch Line, he and his wife Anna McMullen bought Barham Manor in Suffolk.