Watford

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Watford
Watford Town Hall (19716814084).jpg
Watford Town Hall
Motto(s): 
Audentior / "Be bold" [1]
Watford UK locator map.svg
Watford within Hertfordshire
Coordinates: 51°39′18″N0°23′44.5″W / 51.65500°N 0.395694°W / 51.65500; -0.395694 Coordinates: 51°39′18″N0°23′44.5″W / 51.65500°N 0.395694°W / 51.65500; -0.395694
CountryUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
Region East of England
County Hertfordshire
Borough Watford
UK Parliament constituency Watford
Government
  TypeDirectly elected mayor and cabinet
   Mayor Peter Taylor (Liberal Democrat)
   MP Richard Harrington (Independent)
Area
  Borough8.3 sq mi (21 km2)
Elevation
233 ft (71 m)
Population
  Borough96,800 [2]
  Ethnicity
61.9% British White
2.3% Irish White
0.1% Gypsy or Irish traveller
7.7% Other White
17.9% Asian/Asian British
5.8% Black/Black British [2]
Time zone GMT
  Summer (DST) UTC+1 (Summer Time (British))
Postcode area
WD
Area code(s) 01923 & 020
Website www.watford.gov.uk

Watford ( /ˈwɒtfərd/ ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) is a town and borough in Hertfordshire, South East England, 15 miles (24 km) northwest of central London.

Non-metropolitan district Type of local government district in England

Non-metropolitan districts, or colloquially "shire districts", are a type of local government district in England. As created, they are sub-divisions of non-metropolitan counties in a two-tier arrangement.

Hertfordshire County of England

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

Central London Innermost part of London, England

Central London is the innermost part of London, in the United Kingdom, spanning several boroughs. Over time, a number of definitions have been used to define the scope of central London for statistics, urban planning and local government. Its characteristics are understood to include a high density built environment, high land values, an elevated daytime population and a concentration of regionally, nationally and internationally significant organisations and facilities.

Contents

The town developed on the River Colne on land belonging to St Albans Abbey until the 16th century. During the 12th century a charter was granted allowing a market, and the building of St Mary's Church began. The town grew partly due to travellers going to Berkhamsted Castle and the royal palace at Kings Langley. A mansion was built at Cassiobury in the 16th century. This was partly rebuilt in the 17th century and another country house was built at The Grove.

River Colne, Hertfordshire river in Hertfordshire, England

The Colne is a river in England which is a tributary of the River Thames. Just over half its course is in south Hertfordshire. Downstream, the Colne is the boundary between Buckinghamshire and London and finally between corners of Berkshire and Surrey. On leaving Hertfordshire, the watercourse splits off into several separate branches, a few of which rejoin it, and its main branch flows into the River Thames on the reach above Penton Hook Lock at Staines-upon-Thames.

Berkhamsted Castle Norman castle in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Berkhamsted Castle is a Norman motte-and-bailey castle in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. The castle was built to obtain control of a key route between London and the Midlands during the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century. Robert of Mortain, William the Conqueror's half brother, was probably responsible for managing its construction, after which he became the castle's owner. The castle was surrounded by protective earthworks and a deer park for hunting. The castle became a new administrative centre of the former Anglo-Saxon settlement of Berkhamsted. Subsequent kings granted the castle to their chancellors. The castle was substantially expanded in the mid-12th century, probably by Thomas Becket.

Kings Langley historic village and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England

Kings Langley is a historic village and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England, 21 miles (34 km) northwest of central London to the south of the Chiltern Hills and now part of the London commuter belt. The village is divided between two local government districts by the River Gade with the larger western portion in the Borough of Dacorum and smaller part, to the east of the river, in Three Rivers District.

The Grand Junction Canal in 1798 and the London and Birmingham Railway in 1837 resulted in Watford's rapid growth, with paper-making mills such as John Dickinson at Croxley, influencing the development of printing in the town. Two brewers, Benskins and Sedgwicks, amalgamated and flourished in the town until their closure in the late 20th century. Hertfordshire County Council designates Watford to be a major sub-regional centre. Several head offices are based in Watford. Both the 2006 World Golf Championship and the 2013 Bilderberg Conference took place at The Grove. [3]

The Grand Junction Canal is a canal in England from Braunston in Northamptonshire to the River Thames at Brentford, with a number of branches. The mainline was built between 1793 and 1805, to improve the route from the Midlands to London, by-passing the upper reaches of the River Thames near Oxford, thus shortening the journey.

London and Birmingham Railway early British railway company (1837–1846)

The London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR) was an early railway company in the United Kingdom, existing from 1833 to 1846, when it became part of the London and North Western Railway (L&NWR).

John Dickinson Stationery defuct British paper company

John Dickinson Stationery Limited was a leading English stationery company founded in southwest Hertfordshire. Later merged to form the Dickinson Robinson Group. In the 19th century, the company pioneered a number of innovations in paper-making.

Watford became an urban district under the Local Government Act 1894 and a municipal borough by grant of a charter in 1922. The borough, which had 90,301 inhabitants at the time of the 2011 census, is separated from Greater London to the south by the parish of Watford Rural in the Three Rivers District. Watford Borough Council is the local authority with the Mayor of Watford as its head; one of only 18 directly elected mayors in England and Wales. Watford elects one MP for the Watford constituency. Prior to the establishment of this constituency in 1885, the area was part of the three-seat constituency of Hertfordshire.

In England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, an urban district was a type of local government district that covered an urbanised area. Urban districts had an elected urban district council (UDC), which shared local government responsibilities with a county council.

Local Government Act 1894 United Kingdom legislation

The Local Government Act 1894 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that reformed local government in England and Wales outside the County of London. The Act followed the reforms carried out at county level under the Local Government Act 1888. The 1894 legislation introduced elected councils at district and parish level.

Municipal boroughs were a type of local government district which existed in England and Wales between 1835 and 1974, in Northern Ireland from 1840 to 1973 and in the Republic of Ireland from 1840 to 2002. Broadly similar structures existed in Scotland from 1833 to 1975 with the reform of royal burghs and creation of police burghs.

History

St Mary's Church, Watford St Mary's Church, Watford.jpg
St Mary's Church, Watford
The Essex Chapel in Saint Mary's Church Essex Chapel, Saint Mary's Watford.jpg
The Essex Chapel in Saint Mary's Church

There is evidence of some limited prehistoric occupation around the Watford area, with a few Celtic and Roman finds, though there is no evidence of a settlement until much later. [4] Watford stands where the River Colne could be crossed on an ancient trackway from the southeast to the northwest. Watford's High Street follows the line of part of this route. [5] [6] The town was located on the first dry ground above the marshy edges of the River Colne. The name Watford may have arisen from the Old English for "waet" (full of water – the area was marshy), or "wath" (hunting), and ford. [4] St Albans Abbey claimed rights to the manor of Cashio (then called "Albanestou"), which included Watford, dating from a grant by King Offa in AD 793. [7]

Ford (crossing) Shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading

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.

Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers probably in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English.

The Liberty of St Albans was a liberty situated within Hertfordshire, but enjoying the powers of an independent county. It was originally associated with the abbey of St Albans, and later with the borough corporation. It was absorbed by Hertfordshire in 1874. It was also known as the Hundred of Cashio.

The Cassiobury Estate (1707) Cassiobury Park by Kip and Knyff.jpg
The Cassiobury Estate (1707)

The name Watford is first mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 1007, where "Watforda" is one of the places marking the boundary of "Oxanhaege". It is not mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, when this area was part of St Albans' Abbey's manor of cashio. In the 12th century the Abbey was granted a charter allowing it to hold a market here and the building of St Mary's Church began. The settlement's location helped it to grow, since as well as trade along this north-south through route it possessed good communications into the vale of St Albans to the east and into the Chiltern Hills along the valley of the River Chess to the west. The town grew modestly, assisted by travellers passing through to Berkhamsted Castle and the royal palace at Kings Langley. A big house was built at Cassiobury in the 16th century. This was partly rebuilt in the 17th century and another substantial house was built nearby at The Grove. The houses were expanded and developed throughout the following centuries. Cassiobury became the family seat of the Earls of Essex, and The Grove the seat of the Earls of Clarendon. [4] [8]

Domesday Book 11th-century survey of landholding in England as well as the surviving manuscripts of the survey

Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the "Great Survey" of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states:

Then, at the midwinter [1085], was the king in Gloucester with his council .... After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out "How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire."

St Albans City in Southern Hertfordshire, England

St Albans is a city in Hertfordshire, England and the major urban area in the City and District of St Albans. It lies east of Hemel Hempstead and west of Hatfield, about 20 miles (32 km) north-northwest of central London, 8 miles (13 km) southwest of Welwyn Garden City and 11 miles (18 km) south-southeast of Luton. St Albans was the first major town on the old Roman road of Watling Street for travellers heading north, and it became the Roman city of Verulamium. It is a historic market town and is now a dormitory town within the London commuter belt and the Greater London Built-up Area.

River Chess river in the United Kingdom

The River Chess, a chalk stream, rises just north of Chesham in the Chiltern Hills, to flow through Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire to join the River Colne in Rickmansworth. The Chess, along with the Colne and Gade, gives rise to the name of the district of Three Rivers, where it forms its confluence with the Colne at Rickmansworth.

In 1762, Sparrows Herne Turnpike Road was established across the Chilterns. The toll road followed approximately that of the original A41 road. The location of a toll house can be seen at the bottom of Chalk Hill on the Watford side of Bushey Arches close to the Wickes hardware store; set in an old flint stone wall is a Sparrows Herne Trust plaque. [9]

In 1778, Daniel Defoe described Watford as a "Genteel market town, very long, having but one street". [10]

Industrial Revolution

The London & Birmingham Railway, Watford (1839) Roscoe L&BR(1839) p073 - Viaduct over the River Colne near Watford.jpg
The London & Birmingham Railway, Watford (1839)

Watford remained an agricultural community with some cottage industry for many centuries. The Industrial Revolution brought the Grand Junction Canal (now Grand Union Canal) from 1798 and the London and Birmingham Railway from 1837, both located here for the same reasons the road had followed centuries before, seeking an easy gradient over the Chiltern Hills. The land-owning interests permitted the canal to follow closely by the river Gade, but the prospect of smoke-emitting steam trains drove them to ensure the railway gave a wide berth to the Cassiobury and Grove estates. Consequently, although the road and canal follow the easier valley route, the railway company was forced to build an expensive tunnel under Leavesden to the north of the town.

St Albans Road railway station (1837) Watford, The old railway station house - geograph.org.uk - 981561.jpg
St Albans Road railway station (1837)

Watford's original railway station opened in 1837 on the west side of St Albans Road, a small, single-storey red-brick building. It closed in 1858 when it was replaced by a new, larger station at Watford Junction approximately 200 metres (220 yd) further south-east. The old station house still stands today; it is a Grade-II-listed building and is now occupied by a second-hand car dealership. [11] [12] Watford Junction railway station is situated to the north of the town centre. [13]

These developments gave the town excellent communications and stimulated its industrial growth during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Grand Union Canal, allowed coal to be brought into the district and paved the way for industrial development. The Watford Gas and Coke Company was formed in 1834 and gas works built. The canal allowed paper-making mills to be sited at Croxley. The John Dickinson and Co. mill beside the canal manufactured the Croxley brand of fine quality paper. There had been brewing in Watford from the 17th century and, by the 19th century, two industrial scale brewers Benskins and Sedgwicks were located in the town. [14] The parish church of St Mary's was extensively restored in 1871. [15] The town expanded slightly during this time. In 1851 a new street off the High Street was opened, King Street, followed by Queens Road and Clarendon Road in the early 1860s. During this time, Watford had a population of around 6,500 [10] The railways also continued to expand from Watford during this period; the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway opened in 1862 as a short branch line via Watford High Street to Rickmansworth (Church Street), and another branch was added to Croxley Green in 1912. The original plan was to extend the Rickmansworth line south connecting Watford to Uxbridge; this scheme failed and both the Rickmansworth and Croxley branches closed. [16]

Watford's population had risen to 17,063 by 1891 to become very cramped. Local landowners sold land for the development of the town and it was bought up by commercial interests. Various factories and other works sprung up in Watford, mostly breweries and prints, but also engineering works, a steam laundry, a cold storage company and a cocoa processing plant. The town expanded rapidly, most of the new inhabitants moving in from London. [10]

20th century

The Parade and pond Watford High St pond.jpg
The Parade and pond
Odhams Press printworks
Dome roundabout (1954) Odhams Press Hall Watford.jpg
Odhams Press printworks
Dome roundabout (1954)

At the start of the 20th century the town was growing fast. New roads were laid out in Callowland, North Watford, and in West Watford on farmland. Many continued to live in the cramped and unsanitary houses in the yards and alley-ways opening off the High Street. [17] Some of these people were among those who rioted in 1902 when the celebration for King Edward VII's coronation was postponed. [18] The Council had a programme of slum clearance which stopped with the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Building council houses resumed after the war and in the 1920s the Harebreaks estate was developed.

By the 1920s, printing had become the biggest industry in Watford. The biggest printers in the town were Sun Printers Ltd and Odhams Press. Watford was the biggest printing centre in the world and many advances in printing were made in Watford. During World War II the prints were taken over by the government who used them to print propaganda. After the war, the printing industry began going into decline. Union activity was common in Watford and advances in technology meant much of the industry became obsolete. Odhams Press closed down in 1978 and The Sun moved out of Watford during the 1980s after market reforms allowed it to do so. [19]

In 1925, the Metropolitan Railway Company built a branch to Watford, opening a station close to Cassiobury Park. [20] [21]

In the 1950s and 1960s, Watford was the home of the British designer furniture manufacturer Hille. At their premises on St Albans Road, designed by the modernist architect Ernő Goldfinger, [22] the designer Robin Day conceived the polypropylene stacking chair, now recognised as a classic of modern design. [23] Although Hille left the area in 1983, the listed Goldfinger building still stands on St Albans Road. [24] Mod culture found expression through clubs such as the Ace of Herts in the 1960s.

The de Havilland factory at Leavesden was responsible for the manufacture of the Mosquito fighter bomber and the Halifax bomber and later became Leavesden Aerodrome, to the north of Watford. No longer operational, it was converted into Leavesden Film Studios, now famously the home of the Harry Potter films.

Governance

Watford was created as an urban district under the Local Government Act 1894, and became a municipal borough by grant of a charter in 1922. The borough had 90,301 inhabitants at the time of the 2011 census. [25] The borough is separated from Greater London to the south by the urbanised parish of Watford Rural in the Three Rivers District. The Watford subdivision of the Greater London Urban Area, which includes much of the neighbouring districts, had a total population of 120,960 in the 2001 census. [26]

Watford Borough Council is the local authority. Watford is one of only 18 authorities in England and Wales headed by a directly elected mayor. Dorothy Thornhill was the first directly-elected mayor of Watford, elected in May 2002 and re-elected in May 2006 and May 2010. She was the first female directly-elected mayor in England and the Liberal Democrats' first directly-elected mayor. [27] [28]

Since 1999 Watford has been divided into 12 wards. [29] Each ward has three councillors who are elected for a four-year term. Following the 2012 election the political make-up of the council is: Liberal Democrat 24 seats (including the elected mayor), Labour 8 seats, Green 3 seats, Conservatives 1 seat, Independent 1 seat. [30] The council have made twinning links with five towns. The first was Mainz, Germany, in 1956, and the most recent is Pesaro, Italy, in 1988; the others are Nanterre, [31] Novgorod, and Wilmington, Delaware. [32]

Watford elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election, for the Watford constituency. Prior to the establishment of this constituency in 1885 the area was part of the three seat constituency of Hertfordshire.

Economy

intu Watford Shopping Centre entrance Harlequin Shopping Centre Entrance.JPG
intu Watford Shopping Centre entrance

Watford is a major regional centre in the northern home counties. Hertfordshire County Council designates Watford and Stevenage to be its major sub-regional centres, heading its list of preferred sites for retail development. [33] The High Street is the main focus of activity at night having a high concentration of the town's bars, clubs and restaurants. The primary shopping area is the Harlequin Shopping Centre, a large purpose-built indoor mall with over 140 shops, restaurants and cafes built during the 1990s, opened officially in June 1992. The owners of the shopping centre, Capital Shopping Centres, rebranded all their shopping centres, resulting in The Harlequin changing name to intu Watford Shopping Centre from May 2013. [34]

The town contains the head offices of a number of national companies such as J D Wetherspoon, Camelot Group, Mothercare, Bathstore, and Caversham Finance (BrightHouse). Watford is also the UK base of various multi-nationals including Hilton Worldwide, Total Oil, TK Maxx, Costco, JJ Kavanagh and Sons, Vinci and Beko.

Both the 2006 World Golf Championship and the 2013 Bilderberg Conference, took place at The Grove hotel. [3]

The town was home to the Scammell Lorries factory from 1922 until 1988. The site is now a residential area. Tandon Motorcycles, founded by Devdutt Tandon, were manufactured in Colne Way from 1947 until 1959.

Parks

Daffodils in Cassiobury Park Daffodils, Cassiobury Park, Watford.jpg
Daffodils in Cassiobury Park

There are 43 public parks, gardens, recreation grounds and allotments in Watford. Of these, eight have been awarded a Green Flag, in recognition of their quality.

Woodside Athletics Stadium Woodside Athletics Stadium.jpg
Woodside Athletics Stadium
Cheslyn Gardens Cheslyn Gardens.jpg
Cheslyn Gardens

Cassiobury Park

The name Cassiobury has had various spellings over time. It is derived from 'Caegshoe', which is believed to be the combination of 'caeg', a person's name, and 'hoe', meaning a spur of land. When the land was granted to Sir Richard Morrison in the 16th century, it was called 'Cayshobury', with 'bury' indicating a manor. [4] [8]

Cassiobury Park was formed from the grounds of Cassiobury House and consists of 190 acres (0.77 km2) of open space. The house was demolished in 1927 and the Cassiobury Gates in 1970, for road widening. In July 2007, the park won a Green Flag Award, which recognises the best green spaces in the country. [35] There is a children's play area, which includes a paddling pool, play equipment, a bouncy castle, an ice cream van, a kiosk where one may buy food, and 10.25" gauge miniature railway. The Grand Union Canal passes through the park.

Cheslyn House and Gardens

Awarded Green Flag status since 2009, Cheslyn has been open to the public since 1965 as a formal gardens and house. The 3.5 acre gardens comprise a formal open area to the front and a semi-natural woodland area to the rear. Henry and Daisy Colbeck originally owned the house and gardens. Mr Colbeck was a renowned local architect, and designed Cheslyn House; he and his wife created the original gardens. The Colbecks travelled extensively, and this is reflected in the range of unusual and exotic plants in the gardens. Since the space has been open to the public it has been further developed, with new features added such as the pond, rock garden, large herbaceous borders and aviary.

Woodside Park

Awarded Green Flag status since 2011, Woodside Playing Fields cover approximately 59 acres of playing fields, sports facilities and woodland. The site comprises a range of sports facilities including an eight lane synthetic track and stadium, an indoor bowls green, a community centre, cricket squares, football pitches and Woodside Leisure Centre. Woodside Stadium is home to Watford Harriers Athletics Club and hosts national level events such as the British Milers Club Grand Prix. The wider parkland includes two children's play areas and Albans Wood is a local nature reserve.

Heritage

There are 92 nationally listed buildings in Watford. These include St Mary's Church, which dates to the 12th century, and Holy Rood Church which dates to 1890. [12]

St Mary's is noted for its interior which was renovated in 1850 by the architect George Gilbert Scott and includes fine oak pews decorated in the Gothic Revival style. It also contains the Essex Chapel, which served at the burial place of the nobility of the Cassiobury Estate, including the Earls of Essex. The chapel contains a number of large, ornate marble tombs and memorials dating from the 16th century and later, and was described by Pevsner as "the chief glory of Watford Church". [36]

The Roman Catholic Church, Holy Rood, is a much later structure. Built in 1890 by John Francis Bentley, the architect responsible for Westminster Cathedral in London, it is noted as a particularity fine example of Gothic Revival architecture. The ornate interior contains stained glass by the designer Nathaniel Westlake. [37]

There are ten conservation areas in Watford; one Grade II Listed Park, and 240 locally-listed buildings. [38]

Theatres

Watford Palace Theatre

Watford Palace Theatre opened in 1908 Watford Palace Theatre.jpg
Watford Palace Theatre opened in 1908

The Watford Palace Theatre is the only producing theatre in Hertfordshire. It presents world premières, dance, family shows and an annual traditional pantomime. Situated just off the High Street, the Edwardian building was opened in 1908 and the 600-seat theatre underwent a refurbishment in 2004. It houses its own rehearsal room, wardrobe, cafe, and bar. The Palace also shows films and 'live' and 'as live' streams of opera and ballet during its theatre season.

Pump House

The Pump House Theatre and Arts Centre is based in an old pumping station situated just off the Lower High Street. The building was converted for use as a theatre, with rehearsal rooms, and meeting place for local arts based groups. Current facilities include a 124-seat theatre, rehearsal rooms, and live music venue. Community groups currently meeting at the Pump House include Dance House (children's ballet), Pump House Clog Morris (women's Morris dancing), Pump House Jazz (jazz club), Open House (live open mic music), Woodside Morris Men (men's Morris dancing), child, youth and adult theatre groups and also the Giggle Inn comedy club. [39] In 2018, the venue hosted the inaugural Watford Short Film Festival alongside Watford Museum. [40]

Watford Colosseum

Watford Colosseum was built in 1938 as Watford Town Hall Assembly Rooms to the design of architect Charles Cowles-Voysey and acoustician Hope Bagenal. [41] It acquired a worldwide reputation for its fine acoustics, [42] and throughout the second half of the twentieth century it was used for concerts and recordings by leading orchestras and musicians. [43] Rising costs and falling attendance led the council to close it in 1994, reopening it in 1995 as the Colosseum in a joint management agreement with a commercial company who had previously operated at the Town and Country Club in London. [42] [43] After the management company collapsed in 2004, the Colosseum was managed by Watford Council until April 2010, when it closed to undergo a £5.5 million refurbishment; reopening in August 2011 with new management. [44]

Concert life at Watford Colosseum collapsed with the management change in 1994. Two years later, the Classic Concerts Trust presented regular concerts by the English Classical Players until the end of 2009. [42] It was used to record various film soundtracks, including The Lord of the Rings , The Sound of Music , and Sleepy Hollow ; and among classical recordings, Julian Lloyd Webber's performance of Elgar's Cello Concerto, conducted by Yehudi Menuhin. [44] It is regularly used to host concerts by the BBC Concert Orchestra, including Friday Night is Music Night , and has housed performances by performers including The Who, Robbie Williams, and Oasis. [43]

The acoustics were analysed by an acoustics company in 2009, who reported that the size and "shoebox" shape of Watford Colosseum; the flat floor and the materials used in construction; allow for pleasant reverberation and good sound quality and clarity, such as to make it among the best in Europe. [41]

Museums

Watford Museum

Watford Museum, housed in a former brewery building on the Lower High Street, is home to a collection of fine art and sculpture which includes works by J. M. W. Turner, Sir Joshua Reynolds, William Blake and Jacob Epstein. The museum also hold special collections related to the Cassiobury Estate, Watford Football Club, and local heritage, as well as an archive collection of documents, printed ephemera, photographs and diaries related to Watford townsfolk, local government, nobility and businesses. [45]

Hertfordshire Fire Museum

Making of Harry Potter studio tour at Leavesden The Making of Harry Potter 29-05-2012 (7528994480).jpg
Making of Harry Potter studio tour at Leavesden

The Hertfordshire Fire Museum is dedicated to the history of firefighting in the county. It is based in a purpose-built building at Watford Fire Station, on the same street as Watford Museum. The Museum includes a wide range of vehicles, equipment, uniforms and archive material. [46]

Leavesden Film Studios

Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden is an 80-hectare film studio complex which has been used for a wide range of Hollywood film productions. Part of the site is open to the public and houses the Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour, displaying costumes and sets from the Harry Potter films which were produced at Leavesden. The studio complex is to the north of the borough, around 2.5 miles (4.0 km) from the town centre, and a special shuttle bus provides a connection from Watford Junction station to the studios.

Transport

Watford is 15 miles (24 km) northwest of central London.

Road

Post World War II road-building has resulted in Watford being close to several motorway junctions on both the M1 Motorway and the M25 London Orbital Motorway.

Watford is served by a number of different companies, including Arriva Shires & Essex, Arriva London, Uno, Red Rose Travel, Carousel, Mullany's Buses, Redline Buses and Tiger Line. Oyster Cards are accepted on TfL routes 142 (towards Brent Cross) and 258 (towards Harrow) into London. Intalink Explorer and Hertfordshire SaverCard is accepted on all but the London Bus routes.

Air

The hourly Green Line bus route 724 connects Watford Junction station and the town centre to London Heathrow Airport Airport on weekdays, with a service once every two hours at weekends and on bank holidays. [47] Regular bus services run between Watford and Luton, but not directly to Luton Airport. Direct train services run from Watford Junction Station to Birmingham Airport.

Elstree Airfield is 3 miles (5 km) east of Watford. Several private charter companies and flying clubs are based there. Watford contains 2f flight squadron part of the air training core, 2f is the oldest running air cadet flights in the world.

Rail

Watford Junction, northern terminus of London Overground Watford Junction stn Overground signage.JPG
Watford Junction, northern terminus of London Overground

Watford is served by three railway stations and a London Underground station. Watford Junction is on the West Coast Main Line with trains from London Euston to the Midlands, the northwest and Scotland. The station is mainly served by frequent suburban and regional trains operated by West Midlands Trains which run to Tring and Milton Keynes and the cross-London Southern service to Clapham Junction via Shepherd's Bush. Two all-stations services terminate at Watford Junction: the suburban service operated by London Overground which runs to Euston; and the Abbey Line shuttle service to St Albans Abbey. Watford North is the first stop.

The London Overground service from Watford Junction runs south via a suburban loop and stops at Watford High Street, before continuing via Bushey to London Euston.

Watford tube station is the terminus of the Watford branch of London Underground's Metropolitan line. The station is located outside the centre of Watford, close to Cassiobury Park.

Map of railways around Watford (2013) Watford railways.png
Map of railways around Watford (2013)
Stations in Central Watford
PicStationServicesNotes
Watford Junction Railway Station - geograph.org.uk - 23584.jpg Watford Junction National Rail logo.svg National Rail

Overground roundel (no text).svg London Overground

West Coast Mainline local & regional services

Abbey Line
Cross-London service to Clapham Junction
Watford DC Line

Watford High Street stn building.JPG Watford High Street Overground roundel (no text).svg London Overground Watford DC Line
Watford North entrance.jpg Watford North National Rail logo.svg National Rail Abbey Line
Garston station east entrance.JPG Garston National Rail logo.svg National Rail Abbey Line
Watford Tube Station.JPG Watford tube station Underground no-text.svg London Underground Metropolitan line

Abandoned schemes

In 2008 a proposal was made that Regional Eurostar services could run via Watford to Paris via Kensington Olympia. [48] In 1999 the Select Committee on Environment, Transport and the Regions took the view that Watford was "well placed to become an integrated transport hub" and it recommended that "services from Watford to Paris should commence as soon as possible". [49] The Regional Eurostar scheme eventually came to nothing and was put on hold indefinitely. [50]

A scheme to introduce light rail to Watford was conceived in 2009 when it was proposed that the Abbey Line should be converted to tram-train operation and run by Hertfordshire County Council. [51] The project was cancelled due to the complications and expense of transferring the line from National Rail to the county council. [52]

In 2013 the Croxley Rail Link project was approved to extend the London Underground Metropolitan line to Watford Junction by reinstating a stretch of the former Watford and Rickmansworth Railway. [53] As part of the scheme, Watford Metropolitan station would have closed to passengers and been replaced by new stations on the reopened route at Cassiobridge and Watford Vicarage Road. [54] The project did not go ahead due to funding problems. [55]

In August 2014, the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin indicated that the government was actively evaluating the extension of Crossrail as far as Tring, with potential Crossrail stops at Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone, Bushey, Watford Junction, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted. [56] [57] This proposal was subsequently shelved in August 2016 due to "poor overall value for money to the taxpayer". [58]

Canal

The Grand Union Canal, seen from the Metropolitan line Grand Union Canal look east near Watford.JPG
The Grand Union Canal, seen from the Metropolitan line

Watford is on the main Grand Union Canal route northwards from London. There is little commercial use, since the advent of the motorways, but the canal is used for recreational purposes. The River Gade and the River Colne flow through Watford.

Cycling

Watford town centre and the surrounding area is relatively compact and the terrain is generally quite flat. Over 9 miles (14 km) of new cycle routes have been developed in the town since 2003 and a range of cycle maps are available locally. In Watford cycling to work makes up 2.2% of all journeys compared with 1.6% across the whole of Hertfordshire. [59]

National Cycle Routes 6 and 61 run across the eastern and southern sides of the town, utilising the off-road Ebury Way and Abbey Way. There is a continuous cycle route through the north-south axis of the town centre, including the pedestrianised parts along The Parade and High Street. Cycle parking is provided at intermittent points in the town centre and at local centres in the wider town.

Education

Watford Free School building Watford Free School.jpg
Watford Free School building

The earliest records of schooling in Watford are of a schoolmaster named George Redhead in 1595, and of a Free School receiving an annual donation of £10 in 1640. The school consisted of "a room over two houses belonging to the Church Estate, nearest the churchyard." [5] In 1704, Elizabeth Fuller of Watford Place built a new Free School for forty boys and twenty girls on her land next to the churchyard, with rooms for a master and a mistress. [13] In the mid-19th century, the recorded schools in Watford were Fuller's Free School, by now in a poor state, and the separate boys and girls national schools of St Mary's in Church Street. All offered elementary education.

State-funded elementary schools began to appear in the 1860s and 1870s.[ clarification needed ] The Free School closed in 1882, and its endowment contributed to founding the Watford Endowed Schools, which provided secondary education and charged fees. [60] After these schools, now called the Watford Grammar School for Boys and the Watford Grammar School for Girls, moved to new sites in 1907 and 1912, the building housed the Watford Central School, which taught pupils up to the age of 14. St Mary's National Schools closed in 1922, and the site is now a car park. [61] [62] The London Orphan Asylum, later Reed's School, was located near Watford Junction station between 1871 and 1940. The buildings are now the Reeds housing estate off Orphanage Road.

All the state-funded primary schools in Watford are co-educational. Under an earlier system, schools were divided into infant schools, covering Reception and Years 1 and 2, and junior schools, covering Years 3 to 6. Most such schools have amalgamated to form Junior Mixed Infant schools or (equivalently) primary schools, and all new schools are of this type. Within the municipal borough, there are now 6 linked pairs of infant schools and junior schools, and 14 JMI or primary schools, of which 2 are Roman Catholic. Watford is also served by schools in the neighbouring districts of Three Rivers and Hertsmere.

Although all state-funded secondary schools in Hertfordshire are comprehensive, there is a great deal of differentiation in the southwestern corner of the county, centred on Watford but also including most of the Three Rivers district and Bushey in Hertsmere district. Within this area, there are: [63]

The partially selective schools and Bushey Meads School operate common admissions tests in mathematics and non-verbal reasoning each autumn. In addition to those seeking selective places, all applicants to Bushey Meads and Queens' School, Bushey are required to take the tests, so they are taken by the majority of Year 6 children in the area. The partially selective schools also operate a common test and audition procedure to select children for specialist music places. [63]

Results achieved by the schools at GCSE are also widely spread, including the three highest and the two lowest scoring state schools within Hertfordshire. [66] [67] The area also has by far the highest incidence in the county of children allocated to schools to which they had not applied. [68]

The only independent secondary school in the borough is Stanborough School, a day and boarding school operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There several independent schools nearby, including Purcell School, a specialist music school.

The Watford Campus of West Herts College is the only grade 1 further education college in the United Kingdom according to a 2011 Ofsted report. The Centre for Missional Leadership (CML) is the Watford branch of the London School of Theology, Europe's largest evangelical theological college, [69] and teaches an applied theology course in missional leadership, accredited by Middlesex University.

Sport

Watford v Coventry at Vicarage Road in May 2000 Watford v Coventry, Vicarage Road, 2000.jpg
Watford v Coventry at Vicarage Road in May 2000

Watford is home to professional football team Watford F.C., who reached the 1984 FA Cup Final and 2019 FA Cup Final, also finishing as league Division One (now the Premier League) runners-up in 1983. They were relegated from Division One in 1988. In 1996, Watford was relegated from the new Division One (now the Football League Championship). Watford won the then Nationwide Division Two championship in 1998, then the following season (1998–99) reached the Premier League. The club was relegated the next season. After five years of uncertainty, Watford won the Football League Championship Play-Off Final achieving promotion to the Premier League in 2006, this time beating Leeds United A.F.C. by three goals to nil. The club was relegated to the Football League Championship after a single season (2006–2007) in the Premier League. They were promoted to the Premier League in 2015, after finishing 2nd in the Championship. Singer-songwriter Sir Elton John is a keen, long-term supporter of Watford F.C. and a former club chairman. He still maintains his links with Watford as Honorary Life President. [70] Between 1997 and 2013 the club shared its ground, Vicarage Road, with Saracens Rugby Football Club.

Watford has a Non-League football team Sun Sports F.C. who play at The Sun Postal Sports & Social Club. Watford were home to the Watford Cheetahs American Football team who played their home games at Fullerians R.F.C. between 2008 and 2012 and Glen Rovers, who play both Hurling and Gaelic Football. The town also has a cricket team, Watford Town, and several Sunday League football clubs.

Notable people

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