Bishop's Stortford

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Bishop's Stortford
Looking down Windhill towards the town centre
Hertfordshire UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Bishop's Stortford
Location within Hertfordshire
Population37,838 (2011) [1]
OS grid reference TL495215
Civil parish
  • Bishop's Stortford
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district CM22, CM23
Dialling code 01279
Police Hertfordshire
Fire Hertfordshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
List of places
51°52′19″N0°10′21″E / 51.8720°N 0.1725°E / 51.8720; 0.1725 Coordinates: 51°52′19″N0°10′21″E / 51.8720°N 0.1725°E / 51.8720; 0.1725

Bishop's Stortford is a historic English market town and civil parish in Hertfordshire, just west of the M11 motorway on the county boundary with Essex. It is the closest sizeable town to London Stansted Airport, 27 miles (43 km) [2] north-east of Charing Cross in central London, and 35 miles (56 km) by rail from Liverpool Street station, the London terminus of the line to Cambridge that runs through the town. Bishop's Stortford had a population of 38,202 in 2001, easing to 37,838 at the 2011 Census. [1]

Market town legal term for European settlement that has the right to host markets

Market town or market right is a legal term, originating in the Middle Ages, for a European settlement that has the right to host markets, distinguishing it from a village and city. On the European continent, a town may be correctly described as a "market town" or as having "market rights", even if it no longer holds a market, provided the legal right to do so still exists.

Hertfordshire County of England

Hertfordshire is one of the home counties in England. It is bordered by Bedfordshire to the north, Cambridgeshire to the north-east, Essex to the east, Buckinghamshire to the west and Greater London to the south. For government statistical purposes, it is placed in the East of England region.

M11 motorway motorway in England

The M11 motorway is a 55-mile (88.5 km) motorway that runs north from the North Circular Road (A406) in South Woodford in northeast London to the A14, northwest of Cambridge, England. Originally proposed as early as 1915, various plans were considered throughout the 1960s, with final construction being undertaken between 1975 and 1980. The motorway was opened in stages, with the first stage opening in June 1975, and the completed motorway becoming fully operational in February 1980. Running from South Woodford to Girton, the motorway provides direct access to Harlow, a large new town, as well as the city of Cambridge and since 2002, the motorway has greatly improved access to London Stansted Airport, the fourth busiest airport in the United Kingdom.



King Edward VII driving through Bishop's Stortford, October 1905 Edward VII driving through Bishops Stortford, October 1905.png
King Edward VII driving through Bishop's Stortford, October 1905

Nothing is known of Bishop's Stortford until it became a small Roman settlement on Stane Street, the Roman road linking Braughing and Colchester. The settlement was probably abandoned in the 5th century after the break-up of the Roman Empire. [3]

Roman Britain part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire

Roman Britain was the area of the island of Great Britain that was governed by the Roman Empire, from 43 to 410 AD. It comprised almost the whole of England and Wales and, for a short period, southern Scotland.

Stane Street (Colchester) Roman road that ran from Braughing, Hertfordshire to Colchester

Stane Street is a 39 mi (63 km) Roman road that runs from Ermine Street at Braughing, Hertfordshire to Colchester in Essex.

Roman roads roads built in service of the Roman Empire

Roman roads were physical infrastructure vital to the maintenance and development of the Roman state, and were built from about 300 BC through the expansion and consolidation of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. They provided efficient means for the overland movement of armies, officials, and civilians, and the inland carriage of official communications and trade goods. Roman roads were of several kinds, ranging from small local roads to broad, long-distance highways built to connect cities, major towns and military bases. These major roads were often stone-paved and metaled, cambered for drainage, and were flanked by footpaths, bridleways and drainage ditches. They were laid along accurately surveyed courses, and some were cut through hills, or conducted over rivers and ravines on bridgework. Sections could be supported over marshy ground on rafted or piled foundations.

A new Saxon settlement grew up on the site, named Steort-ford, the ford at the tongue of land. [4] In 1060, William, Bishop of London, bought Stortford manor and estate for £8, leading to the town's modern name. At the time of the Domesday Book the village had a population of around 120.[ citation needed ] The Normans built a wooden motte-and-bailey edifice known as Waytemore Castle (see below).

Anglo-Saxons Germanic tribes who started to inhabit parts of Great Britain from the 5th century onwards

The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century, and the direct ancestors of the majority of the modern British people. They comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, their descendants, and indigenous British groups who adopted many aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language; the cultural foundations laid by the Anglo-Saxons are the foundation of the modern English legal system and of many aspects of English society; the modern English language owes over half its words – including the most common words of everyday speech – to the language of the Anglo-Saxons. Historically, the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement and up until the Norman conquest. The early Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today, including regional government of shires and hundreds. During this period, Christianity was established and there was a flowering of literature and language. Charters and law were also established. The term Anglo-Saxon is popularly used for the language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. In scholarly use, it is more commonly called Old English.

Ford (crossing) crossing in a river

A ford is a shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading, or inside a vehicle getting its wheels wet. A ford may occur naturally or be constructed. Fords may be impassable during high water. A low water crossing is a low bridge that allows crossing over a river or stream when water is low but may be covered by deep water when the river is high.

William the Norman was a medieval Bishop of London.

Only the baptismal font survives from the Norman Church of St Michael, which was rebuilt in the early 15th century and altered and restored in the 17th and 19th centuries. Its conspicuous belfry and spire were built in 1812.[ citation needed ]

Baptismal font article of church furniture intended for infant baptism

A baptismal font is an article of church furniture used for baptism.

Bell tower a tower that contains one or more bells, or that is designed to hold bells

A bell tower is a tower that contains one or more bells, or that is designed to hold bells even if it has none. Such a tower commonly serves as part of a church, and will contain church bells, but there are also many secular bell towers, often part of a municipal building, an educational establishment, or a tower built specifically to house a carillon. Church bell towers often incorporate clocks, and secular towers usually do, as a public service.

Spire tapering structure on top of a building

A spire is a tapering conical or pyramidal structure on the top of a building, often a skyscraper or a church tower, similar to a steep tented roof. Etymologically, the word is derived from the Old English word spir, meaning a sprout, shoot, or stalk of grass.

St Michael's Church Bishop's Stortford 3.JPG
St Michael's Church

Despite outbreaks of the plague in the 16th and 17th centuries, the town continued to grow, reaching a population of about 1,200.[ citation needed ]

Bubonic plague Human and animal disease

Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis. One to seven days after exposure to the bacteria, flu-like symptoms develop. These symptoms include fever, headaches, and vomiting. Swollen and painful lymph nodes occur in the area closest to where the bacteria entered the skin. Occasionally, the swollen lymph nodes may break open.

The River Stort is named after the town, and not the town after the river. When cartographers visited the town in the 16th century, they reasoned that the town must have been named after the ford over the river and assumed the river was called the Stort. [5]

Stort Navigation river in the United Kingdom

The Stort Navigation is the canalised section of the River Stort running 22 kilometres (14 mi) from the town of Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, downstream to its confluence with the Lee Navigation at Feildes Weir near Rye House, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.

After 1769, the River Stort was made navigable, and the town became a stop on the mail coach road between Cambridge and London.

By 1801, Bishop's Stortford was a market town, and a corn exchange had been established, while the main industry was malting.[ citation needed ] In 1842 the railway came to Bishop's Stortford. Another Victorian advance was the opening of a hospital in 1895.

In 1901 the population exceeded 7,000. The 1901 house known as Carfield Castle was used as an officers' billet in World War I. [6]

During World War II, Bishop's Stortford was the evacuation centre for many Britons, including Clapton Girls Technology College. By 1951, Bishop's Stortford's population had reached 13,000, and growth as a commuter town continued through the second half of the 20th century. The M11 motorway, Stansted Airport, and rail links to London and Cambridge contributed to its rise in population to almost 38,000 at the time of the 2011 census. [1]

Of the six suburbs of Thorley, Thorley Park, Havers, Bishop's Park, St Michael's Mead and Hockerill, the last is a separate ecclesiastical parish east of the River Stort, centred around the old coaching inns, All Saints in Stansted Road and the railway station. Postwar development has enlarged the town's area further.


The Corn Exchange CornExchange.jpg
The Corn Exchange

In March and April 1825, a number of buildings in Bishop's Stortford were set alight, causing great alarm. A committee that formed offered a £500 reward for information on the arsonist. Several threatening letters were received, warning, for example, that "Stortford shall be laid in ashes". [7] Thomas Rees was arrested and found guilty on the charge of sending the letters, but not of arson. He was transported to Australia as a convict.

In 1935 the parish church of All Saints was destroyed by fire, and in 1937 a new church, to a spacious, light, and airy design by the architect Stephen Dykes Bower, was erected in its place. This is a Grade II listed building and the tower dominates the eastern skyline of the town. The church contains a notable rose window designed by Hugh Ray Easton and a two-manual Henry Willis II organ. Concerts are also held there.[ citation needed ]

On 28 August 2007, two men and a teenager were shot dead at Plaw Hatch Close. Two women were seriously injured in the evening attack. Police presence was dramatically increased after the incident. However, crime rates in the town are well below the national average. [8] [9]

Castle Mound

Waytemore Castle, Bishop' s Stortford - - 1764727.jpg

Waytemore began as a motte and bailey castle in the time of William the Conqueror. A rectangular great tower was added to the motte in the 12th century. It was improved in the 13th century under King John and a licence for crenellation was granted in the mid-14th century. It lost significance after the Civil War and was used as a prison in the 17th century.

Only earthworks, the large motte, and the foundations of a square tower can now be seen.[ citation needed ]



The town centre recently underwent changes with the demolition of a multi-storey car park and surrounding area to make way for a new town centre area and city-type apartments and penthouses on the riverside and elsewhere. Jackson Square (a modern shopping complex) was rebuilt and an extension added. The Havers estate, on the edge of the town, is being redeveloped with new houses and flats.[ citation needed ] Bishop's Stortford is useful for a large number of Hertfordshire and Essex villages in its area, as most nearby towns are small.[ citation needed ]

Rhodes Arts Complex

Rhodes Arts Complex theatre and museum North side Rhodes Arts Complex Museum Theatre Bishop's Stortford Hertfordshire England.jpg
Rhodes Arts Complex theatre and museum

The Rhodes Arts Complex incorporates a theatre, cinema, dance studio and conference facilities. Situated within the complex, in the house where Cecil Rhodes was born, is the Bishop's Stortford Museum. It has a local history collection, a unique collection relating to Rhodes and the British Empire in Africa, as well as a temporary exhibition gallery. [10]


In the 2017 national elections Mark Prisk was elected for the Conservative Party to Bishop's Stortford's constituency, Hertford and Stortford, with a majority of the votes cast (60.3%). The constituency covers many other settlements, including Hertford.

A controversial political issue for the town relates to the expansion of Stansted Airport. A protest group called Stop Stansted Expansion opposes growth at the airport and plans for a second runway.[ citation needed ]

The town has a Youth Council of students from the local schools, but the Town Council is said to be "reviewing [its] operation in relation to its responsibilities." [11]

The International Monarchist League and the Constitutional Monarchy Association operate from the same address. [12]

In December 2011 the Conservative council of Bishop's Stortford voted 13 to 3 in favour of cancelling its twinned status with Friedberg in der Wetterau in Germany and Villiers-sur-Marne in France. It is thought that anti-EU sentiment in the grassroots Tory party was behind the vote. [13]

Economy and business

Bishop's Stortford is an affluent area, partly due to its status as a commuter town for mainly financial workers in London. The town is also home to many people working in the tourist industry, including hotels, catering and airline staff, as it is the closest large town to Stansted Airport. In total, about 85 per cent work in the services sector (2001 census). Bishop's Stortford is served both by high street chain stores and long-established family shops. The main retail streets are South Street, Potter Street, North Street and Hockerill Street. There is a modern shopping complex called Jackson Square. Market days are Thursday and Saturday, which consist of a selection of stalls with a variety of goods including bags and luggage, flowers, cards and clothing.[ citation needed ]

Bishop's Stortford Chamber of Commerce is the town's largest business organisation. It actively champions local projects and interests at local, regional and government level. Business Stortford is an initiative set up to showcase the town's unique location and encourage companies from the UK, Europe and beyond to relocate or expand their operations in the area. It is targeting European businesses seeking a base in the UK, international companies wanting a well-connected location in Europe and UK firms looking for first-class air transport links to Europe. Business Stortford is backed by Bishop's Stortford Chamber of Commerce and supported by the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.[ citation needed ]

Local media

Bishop's Stortford has a local newspaper, the Bishop's Stortford Independent based at 12 North Street, which has been the home of publishing in the town since 1861. [14]

Transport and services

Bishop's Stortford railway station Bishop's Stortford Station.jpg
Bishop's Stortford railway station

Bishop's Stortford owes its continued growth to developments in transport:

Bishop's Stortford railway station is on the London Liverpool Street to Cambridge West Anglia Main Line operated by Abellio Greater Anglia. The Stansted Express services take around 25 minutes to reach Tottenham Hale and 40 minutes to reach London Liverpool Street and allow Bishop's Stortford to be part of the London Commuter Belt. Epping tube station is about 12 miles (19 km) away from Bishop's Stortford.

Bishop's Stortford is close to junction 8 of the M11 motorway between London and Cambridge. The town is a frequent stop-off point for travellers using nearby Stansted Airport. To the north is the A120, which meets the A10 at Buntingford to the west and the A12 at Colchester to the east.

Stansted Airport is on the doorstep, with easy transport via rail or bus between there and the town.

The town's many bus routes include the 308 for travel to Stansted Airport. Other routes such as the 510 (Stansted Airport–Harlow) provide links with nearby towns and villages. [15]

Notable people

Cecil Rhodes CecilRhodes.jpg
Cecil Rhodes

Arts and media







Hertfordshire County Council is responsible for education. Bishop's Stortford follows the English schools model of primary school, secondary school, and further education college. There are 13 primary and 5 secondary schools (two of which are single sex). The town does not have any further education colleges for post-16 education, as all schools in Hertfordshire have sixth forms.[ citation needed ]

There is also an independent school, the Bishop's Stortford College, which covers the whole educational spectrum from ages 4 to 18. [20]

Many of the secondary schools in the Bishop's Stortford area have gained special college status, variously for technology, sciences, languages, music or performing arts. Secondary schools include St Mary's Catholic School, Birchwood High School, Hockerill Anglo-European College, the Bishop's Stortford High School (commonly referred to as the "Boys' High") [21] and The Hertfordshire and Essex High School (commonly referred to as "Herts and Essex"). [22] The latter two are single-sex schools, for boys and girls respectively, although both have mixed-sex sixth forms.

In July 2008, Herts and Essex High School and Bishop's Stortford High School submitted a planning application to merge to a single site funded by the building of new residential estates on their existing land. This met with vigorous opposition, notably from the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation. Over 930[ citation needed ] letters of objection were received, and eventually the plan collapsed in September 2009 just prior to a planning hearing, when the schools withdrew their application. [23]

Leisure and entertainment


Semi-professional football team Bishop's Stortford F.C. were formed in 1874, and play at Woodside Park in the town. Currently members of the Southern Football League Premier Division, [24] the seventh tier of the English football pyramid, the club have won two national titles – the 1973–74 FA Amateur Cup and the 1980-81 FA Trophy. It is the first club to win both competitions. [25] Bishop's Stortford Swifts, who play in the Essex Olympian Football League, are also based in the town. They play at Silver Leys, the home of Bishop's Stortford Rugby Football Club. Bishop's Stortford Rugby Football Club play in National League 1, the third tier of English rugby, following a successful 2016/17 season. The club runs five senior men's sides, a ladies' team and a mini and youth section that caters for circa 600 players.

Bishop's Stortford Cricket Club play their home matches at Cricket Field Lane, which is also a home venue for Hertfordshire County Cricket Club. Hockerill Cricket Club play at their ground on Beldams Lane which they share with Bishop's Stortford Running Club. BSRC supports road running and cross-country running.[ citation needed ]

Bishop's Stortford Hockey Club share the Cricket Field Lane clubhouse with the cricket club and have 10 senior sides – 6 men's and 4 ladies' – along with a junior section. The club has a number of former international players still involved with coaching or playing, including Rob Clift (gold medalist), in addition to a number of senior members who still represent their country at Masters level.[ citation needed ]

Public sports facilities including the Grange Paddocks swimming pool and gym, a tennis club, a squash club, and a golf club.

Youth organisations

The town is home to various youth organisations and youth groups, including an Army Cadet Force detachment, an Air Training Corps squadron, Scout troops, [26] and a GAP youth group affiliated to the Church of St James the Great in Thorley.

Live music

Rhodes Arts Complex is the town's largest live music venue. A recipient of a National Lottery grant in 2006, the venue hosts both local and international artists, including Midge Ure, The Beat, Ade Edmondson.[ citation needed ] Other live music venues include pubs The Half Moon and the Rose & Crown.[ citation needed ] Youth choir Cantate is based in Bishop's Stortford. The choir holds concerts in the surrounding area, including many in the town itself.[ citation needed ]

Stortford Film Festival

The Stortford Film Festival, the main sponsor of which was Hertfordshire Community Foundation, started in 2010 with a one-day showcase of short films. The 2nd Stortford Film Festival, which took place between 21 and 26 May 2011 at Rhodes Arts Complex, featured over sixty feature films, shorts, animations, documentaries and music videos from over twenty countries. The 2nd Stortford Film Festival jury featured screenwriter and author Hanif Kureishi and award-winning filmmaker Eran Creevy.[ citation needed ]


The Black Lion Bishop's Stortford 2.JPG
The Black Lion

Being a market town and major coach stop between London and Cambridge, Bishop's Stortford has many large public houses within the town centre. In 1636 The Star in Bridge Street was run by John Ward. The Inn was acquired by Hawkes and Co. and bought in 1808. In the early 20th century The Star catered for cyclists, providing cycle sheds that attracted people from local villages. John Kynnersley Kirby (1894–1962), painted local scenes and portraits of local characters, painted the interior of The Star for a painting entitled 'The Slate Club Secretary'. [27]

Other public houses included the 15th-century Boars Head, 16th-century Black Lion, and the Curriers, now a restaurant. Between 1644 and 1810, the Reindeer operated on the present site of the Tourist Information Centre. [28]


Located in the town centre is Anchor Street Entertainment, a multiplex which contains a cinema, health club, a soon to be reopened bowling alley,[ citation needed ] and a number of food outlets. A concrete skateboard park and metal halfpipe is located in the town park. The town is home to two amateur dramatics groups, The Water Lane Theatre Group and Bishop's Stortford Musical Theatre Company.


Aerial view of Bishop's Stortford and vicinity, on takeoff from Stansted Airport Bishop's Stortford and vicinity.jpg
Aerial view of Bishop's Stortford and vicinity, on takeoff from Stansted Airport

Bishop's Stortford has grown around the River Stort valley, with the town centre lying about 60 metres above sea level, rising to over 100 metres above sea level on the eastern and western margins of the town.

Being in the south-east, the town enjoys a warmer climate than most of Britain and summer temperatures may sometimes reach the mid-30s C/ it is also one of the driest places in the country. Snow is often seen in the winter months because the town is near the east coast, where cold, moist air is brought in from the North Sea and cold fronts from northern Europe. In recent years there has been up to three inches of snow early in the year, which has resulted in minor disruption to transport and caused some schools to close for several days. However, the snow tends not to persist in any noticeable quantity.[ citation needed ]

Water for the town is supplied by Veolia Water Central. The water is classed as very hard with over 345 mg/l of minerals and 0.225 mg/l of fluoride.[ citation needed ]


Climate graph of Bishop's Stortford Climate graph BS.JPG
Climate graph of Bishop's Stortford

Bishop's Stortford, along with the rest of Britain, has a temperate maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters. The nearest weather station for which averages and extremes are available is Stansted Airport, about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) due east of Bishop's Stortford's town centre. Located at over 100m, the weather station, and parts of Bishop's Stortford in general are marginally cooler throughout the year than the Cambridgeshire area to the north or the London area to the south. Nonetheless, Bishop's Stortford is still warmer than the English average.

The highest temperature recorded at Stansted was 35.0 °C (95.0 °F) [29] during the August 2003 heatwave. In an average year the hottest day should reach 28.8 °C (83.8 °F), [30] and 12.3 days [31] will record a temperature of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or more. The lowest temperature recorded at Stansted was −14.7 °C (5.5 °F) [32] during December 1981. Notably cold minimum temperatures tend not to occur due to the lack of higher terrain meaning little cold air drainage occurs. The average annual coldest night should fall to −7.6 °C (18.3 °F), [33] with 47.3 [34] air frosts being recorded in an average year.

Typically, the Bishop's Stortford area will receive an average of 622 mm of rain during the course of the year. [29] [35] 1mm or more of rain will be recorded on 114.7 days [36] of the year.

Temperature averages refer to the period 1971–2000, rainfall averages to 1961–1990.

Climate data for Stansted, elevation 101m, 1971–2000, Rainfall 1961–1990
Average high °C (°F)6.5
Average low °C (°F)0.9
Average precipitation mm (inches)53.97
Source #1: YR.NO [37]
Source #2: KNMI [38]

Location grid

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Sawbridgeworth railway station

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Bishops Stortford High School

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All Saints Church, Hockerill Church in Hertfordshire, England

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Thorley Wash nature reserve

Thorley Wash or Thorley Flood Pound is a 17.3 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Thorley, south of Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire. It was formerly a flood pound for the Stort Navigation, which was decommissioned in 2004 and converted to a more natural state. It was purchased by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust from the Environment Agency in 2011.


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