Bishop's Stortford is a historic market town and civil parish in the district of East Hertfordshire in the county of Hertfordshire in England. It is situated just west of the M11 motorway, on the county boundary with Essex and is the closest large town to London Stansted Airport and part of the London commuter belt. Bishop's Stortford is 27 miles (43 km) north east of Charing Cross in the centre of London and 35 miles (56 km) from Liverpool Street station where the railway line from Cambridge to London, which runs through the town, terminates. In the 2006 edition of the Channel 4 "Best and Worst Places to Live in the UK", East Hertfordshire was the seventh best district to live in. The town has a population of 38,078.
Nothing of historical significance is known of the Bishop's Stortford area until it became a small Roman settlement on the Roman road of Stane Street between Braughing and Colchester. After the Roman Empire broke down, the small town was abandoned in the 5th century.
A new Saxon settlement grew up on the site. At that time, the settlement was known as Esterteferd, probably because a family called Estere owned or controlled the river around which the settlement was based. Over time, this became Stortford. In 1060, William, Bishop of London bought the Stortford manor and estate for eight pounds, and the town has been known as Bishop's Stortford ever since.
At the time of the Domesday book the town had a population of around 120 inhabitants. The Normans built a motte and bailey wooden castle in the town, but by the Tudor period it was in ruins (the mound still remains). Development of the town increased with the presence of a river and the roads. A weekly market was set up for farmers to sell their goods.
Only the font survives from the Norman church of St Michael's, which was completely rebuilt in the early 15th century, followed by alterations and restoration in both the seventeenth and 19th centuries. Both the belfry and the spire which dominates the town and surrounding countryside were built in 1812.
Despite outbreaks of the plague in the 16th and 17th centuries, the town continued to grow with an approximate population of 1,200 by this point.
Unusually, the River Stort is named after the town, and not the town after the river. When early cartographers came to the town in the early 17th century, they reasoned that the town must have been named for the ford over the Stort and assumed the river was called the Stort. It has been ever since. Until then, there was no official name for the river.
After 1769, the River Stort was made navigable, and the town was made a stagecoach stop on the Mail coach road between Cambridge and London.
The Corn Exchange
By 1801, Bishop's Stortford had become a market town and a corn exchange had been established while the main industry was malting. In 1842 the railway came to Bishop's Stortford; another introduction of the Victorian era was the opening of a hospital, in 1895.
At the beginning of the 20th century, in 1901, the population was over 7,000. By 1951, Bishop's Stortford had expanded further, to 13,000. During World War II, Bishop's Stortford was the evacuation centre for many Britons, including the entire Clapton Girls Technology College. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Bishop's Stortford has seen further growth since it became a commuter town. The M11 motorway, nearby Stansted Airport, and the train links to London and Cambridge have contributed to the town having a population of around 35,000, as of the 2001 national census, but future growth is expected to increase the population to 45,000.
Bishop's Stortford has six outer suburbs: Thorley, Thorley Park, Havers, Bishops Park, St Michael's Mead and Hockerill. Hockerill is, however, a separate ecclesiastical parish comprised originally of the area east of the River Stort, centred around the old coaching inns and All Saints' Church in Stansted Road and including Bishops' Stortford Railway Station. Post-war development has enlarged this area to include the Parsonage Lane, Snowley and Collins Cross suburbs, and the Herts and Essex Hospital. Little Hallingbury and Takeley, too, are within the ambit of Bishop's Stortford; they are, however, in Essex rather than Hertfordshire.
In March and April 1825, a number of buildings in Bishop's Stortford were set alight and caused great alarm in the town. A committee was formed and a £500 reward offered for information on the arsonist. Soon a number of threatening letters were received, warning in part that "Stortford shall be laid in ashes". 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' Hockerill 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. It is a Grade II listed building and the tower dominates the eastern skyline of Bishop's Stortford. The building contains a notable rose window designed by Hugh Easton, a two manual Henry Willis II organ and is a popular venue for concerts.
Harry Roberts was arrested in a wooded area within the abandoned RAF Sawbridgeworth at nearby Thorley whilst on the run from the Police following the shooting of three policemen in London in 1966. He was taken to Bishop's Stortford police station where he was charged and later moved to London. He was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
On 28 August 2007, two men and a teenager were shot dead at Plaw Hatch Close in Bishop's Stortford. Two women were seriously injured in the attack that was around 9:35 pm. The men killed were named as Keith Cowell, 52, and his son Matthew, 17, who died alongside 33-year-old Tony Dulieu of Billericay. Keith Cowell's wife, Nicole, had left for work at Stansted Airport 10 minutes before the attack. A three-year-old girl called 'Angel' was thought to have been in the house at the time of the shooting. Chief Superintendent Al Thomas of the Hertfordshire Police said, "We share the concern and sense of shock within the community. Early information suggests this was a targeted incident and not a random attack." Police presence was dramatically increased after the incident in and around the town. However, crime rates in the town are well below the national average.
In November 2011, by means of a single page letter, the town council gave notice that with effect from September 2012 they would end their 46 year old twin town status with Villiers-sur-Marne in France and Friedberg, Hesse in Germany.
- Population: 38,078
- Median age: 36.0
- Retirees: 15.93%
- Unemployed: 1.63%
- Educated to Degree level: 25.83%
- Full-time students: 2.27% (864)
- Total migrants: 12.68% (4,829)
- Average distance travelled to fixed place of work: 19.18 km
The town centre is undergoing many changes, with the demolition of the old multi-storey car park and surrounding area to make way for a new town centre area and the building of new city-type apartments and penthouses on the riverside and around the town centre. Jackson Square (a modern shopping complex) was rebuilt and an extension added with many cafes, bars and shops. Also, the Havers estate (an outer part of Bishop's Stortford) is being redeveloped with new houses and flats. There are many plans for further expansion and development of the town due to its continued growth and the close proximity of Stansted Airport.
Bishop's Stortford is useful for a large number of Herts and Essex villages in its area, as most of the nearby towns (excluding Harlow) are small and Bishop's Stortford serves as a centre for meeting, shopping, and entertainment.
Rhodes Arts Complex
The Rhodes Arts Complex is a state-of-the-art venue which 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 its temporary exhibition gallery.
The town is generally seen as a conservative area, and this can be backed up by the fact that in the 2010 national elections Mark Prisk was elected for the Conservative Party with a majority of the votes cast (53.8%). Bishop's Stortford's constituency, Hertford and Stortford, covers many other settlements including Hertford. Caroline Spelman, the Conservative Cabinet Minister, is also from the town.
The most controversial political issue for the town relates to the expansion of Stansted Airport. A long-standing protest group called Stop Stansted Expansion vehemently opposes unsustainable growth at the airport and is wholly against plans for a second runway.
The town also has a Youth Council that meets once a month. It is made up of students from the local schools, and many local and youth issues are discussed.
The International Monarchist League is based here.
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 within the grassroots Tory party was behind the vote.
Bishop's Stortford is a particularly affluent area and this is partly due to the town's status as a commuter town for the (mainly financial) workers in London. The town is also home to many people working in the tourist industry, including hotels, catering and airline staff, because it is the closest large town to Stansted Airport. In total, about 85% work in the services sector (2001 census). Bishop's Stortford is served by a variety of shops, both high street chains and long-established family firms. The main retail streets are South, Potter, North and Hockerill Streets. 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.
Transport and services
Bishop's Stortford owes its continued growth to developments in transport. It is well serviced by all forms of transport: Greater Anglia train, in the previous 'one' livery, that serves Bishop's Stortford.
Bishop's Stortford station is on the London Liverpool Street to Cambridge main line operated by 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 away from Bishop's Stortford which means some residents use the London Underground station rather than the main line station at Bishop's Stortford.
Bishop's Stortford is close to junction 8 of the M11 motorway, which runs from London and the M25 north to Cambridge, and the town is a frequent stop-off point for travellers using the nearby Stansted airport. To the north of the town 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 town's doorstep, with easy transport via rail or bus between there and the town. This airport is mainly used for flights to Europe and is the third largest airport serving London.
The town has many bus routes, including the 308 main bus route for travel within Bishop's Stortford and to Stansted Airport. Other, longer routes like the 510 (Stansted Airport - Harlow) link Bishop's Stortford with other nearby towns, and several services exist to connect the plethora of nearby villages to the town.
There used to be a park and ride system to the town centre, but this has now ceased to operate due to the lack of support.
- This page is an excerpt taken from the Wikipedia entry for Bishop's Stortford under the creative commons license.