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Looking down Windhill towards the town centre
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||BISHOP'S STORTFORD|
|Postcode district||CM22, CM23|
|Ambulance||East of England|
Bishop's Stortford is a historic market town in Hertfordshire, England, just west of the M11 motorway on the county boundary with Essex, 27 miles (43 km) north-east of central London, and 35 miles (56 km) by rail from Liverpool Street station. Bishop's Stortford had an estimated population of 40,089 in 2017.
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.
A new Saxon settlement grew up on the site, named Steort-ford, the ford at the tongue of land. 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. The Normans built a wooden motte-and-bailey edifice known as Waytemore Castle (see below).
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.
Despite outbreaks of the plague in the 16th and 17th centuries, the town continued to grow, reaching a population of about 1,200.
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.
By 1801, Bishop's Stortford was 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 Victorian advance was the opening of a hospital in 1895.
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.
Of the seven suburbs of Thorley, Thorley Park, Havers, Snowley 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.
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". 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.
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.
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.
- Population: 37,838
- 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 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. Bishop's Stortford is useful for a large number of Hertfordshire and Essex villages in its area, as most nearby towns are small.
South Mill Arts
The South Mill 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.
Previously called the Rhodes Arts Complex, on 24 August 2020 the arts complex was renamed South Mill Arts in response to the Black Lives Matter protests against institutional racism.
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%). He was succeeded by Julie Marson in the 2019 general election. The constituency covers many other settlements, including Hertford.
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."
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. The town twinning association continued without council backing but finally folded in January 2020.
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.
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.
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.
Bishop's Stortford owes its continued growth to developments in transport.
Bishop's Stortford railway station is on the West Anglia Main Line, and was first opened in 1842. There were 3.18 million passenger entries and exits at Bishop's Stortford in 2017/18. All trains are run under the East Anglia franchise, with most services calling at the station operated by Greater Anglia.
Greater Anglia trains provide Bishop's Stortford with a direct link southbound to Harlow, Tottenham Hale and London Liverpool Street, with many services calling at intermediate stations. A direct service to Stratford in East London also operates, which calls at most intermediate stations.
Stansted Express services call at the station, providing Bishop's Stortford with a direct link to Stansted Airport. Southbound services call at Tottenham Hale, which can be reached in under 30 minutes, and Liverpool Street station.
With the City of London under one hour away, Bishop's Stortford railway station places the town in the London commuter belt, but Transport for London's Oyster Cards are not valid for travel to Bishop's Stortford.
The M11 motorway passes to the east of Bishop's Stortford. Junction 8 links the motorway to the town, and the M11 carries traffic from Bishop's Stortford directly to Cambridge, Harlow and London. As the road passes the town, Bishop's Stortford falls in the M11 corridor for innovation.
The A120 runs east-west along the northern edge of the town. To the west, the A120 meets the A10 at Puckeridge (for Hertford or Royston). To the east, the A120 passes Stansted Airport en route to Braintree, Colchester, the A12 and Harwich.
Other key routes in the town include:
- A1060 to the Hatfield Heath, the Rodings and Chelmsford
- A1184 to Sawbridgeworth and Harlow
- A1250 east-west route through the town centre
- B1383 to Stansted Mountfitchet and Saffron Walden
East Herts District Council monitors nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels at Hockerill Junction in the town centre. There are four diffusion tubes around the junction for air quality monitoring. In 2017, three out of four tubes failed to meet the UK National Objective of 40μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre):
Bus and coach
National Cycle Route 11 is an incomplete cycle route which will run through the town centre. Completed sections of the route currently pass through Harlow, Sawbridgeworth, Stansted Mountfitchet and Cambridge. The section between Sawbridgeworth and Bishop's Stortford is in development, but when completed, the route will provide a direct, non-stop connection from Bishop's Stortford to the Lea Valley (southbound) and King's Lynn (northbound).
National Cycle Route 16 passes just to the northeast of Bishop's Stortford. The route is segregated from traffic, running non-stop to Great Dunmow. The route continues east on on-road and off-road routes to Braintree and Witham.
The Bishop's Stortford Circular Ride is a recreational cycle route on country lanes to the north of the town. The route begins and ends on Northgate End in the town centre. It passes through Patmore Heath, Stocking Pelham, Brent Pelham, Little Hormead, Braughing and Albury.
The River Stort towpath is a shared-use path which begins in Bishop's Stortford. Running parallel to the river, the path links the town directly to Sawbridgeworth and Harlow, and eventually to the River Lea towpath towards Hertford, or Tottenham and London's East End. Parts of the towpath carry NCR 11. The route is maintained by the Canal and River Trust.
Arts and media
- Lynda Baron (born 1939), an actress who played Nurse Gladys Emanuel in Open All Hours, lived in the town.
- Eliot Bliss (died 1990), a novelist and poet, lived here for over half a century.
- Russell Brand (born 1975), an actor, went to Hockerill Anglo-European College.
- Charli XCX (born 1992), a singer and songwriter, was raised in the town and attended Bishop's Stortford College.
- Paul Epworth, an Oscar and Grammy-winning producer, was born in the town.
- Flux of Pink Indians, an anarcho-punk band, originated in Bishop's Stortford in 1980.
- James Frain (born 1968), an actor who played Thomas Cromwell in The Tudors, attended St Joseph's Catholic Primary School.
- Bill Sharpe (born 1952), a keyboardist and founding member of Shakatak, a jazz-funk and jazz fusion band, was born in the town and attended Bishop's Stortford College.
- Sam Smith (born 1992), an English singer/songwriter, winner of the 2014 BRIT Critics' Choice Award and BBC's Sound of 2014, attended St Mary's Catholic School.
- Jon Thorne (born 1967), a double-bass player and composer, was born in the town.
- Third Party, an anthemic dance duo, were both born in the town.
Education and science
- Frederick Scott Archer (1813–1857) was the inventor of the collodion process, the first photographic emulsion used to create glass negatives.
- Helen King (born 1965), Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford and a former senior police officer, was born in Bishop's Stortford.
- Sarah Ockwell-Smith (born 1970s), a child-care author, attended Hertfordshire and Essex High School in 1987–1992.
Politics and business
- Martin Caton, Labour MP for Gower, was born in Bishop's Stortford.
- Nick de Bois, former Conservative MP for Enfield North, lives in the town.
- Sir Walter Gilbey, a businessman, wine merchant and philanthropist.
- Cecil Rhodes, born in 1853 as the son of the vicar of St Michael's Church, was the effective founder of the state of Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe), and of the De Beers diamond company and the Rhodes Scholarship.
- Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP and former cabinet minister, was born in Bishop's Stortford and attended the Hertfordshire and Essex High School.
- Francis Dane (born 1615), born in Bishop's Stortford, he fought against the persecution of purported witches during the Salem Witch Trials and was pastor of North Parish in Andover, Massachusetts.
- George Jacobs (1609–1692) was executed during the Salem Witch Trials.
- Ben Clarke (born 1968), ex-England Rugby Union international and British Lions representative, attended Bishop Stortford College.
- Ernie Cooksey (1980–2008), professional footballer, was born in the town.
- Glenn Hoddle (born 1957), Tottenham Hotspur and England footballer, bought his first house at Thorley Park.
- Callum Ilott (born 1998), professional racing driver in FIA Formula 2, attended Bishop's Stortford College.
- Jones Nash (1812–1877), first-class cricketer
- Callum McNaughton, professional footballer with West Ham United, attended Hockerill Anglo-European College.
- John Radford (born 1947), professional footballer with Arsenal, was more recently Bishop's Stortford FC manager and resident in the town.
- Edward Shaw (1892–1916), cricketer and army officer
- David Surridge (born 1956), cricketer
- Ashley Sutton (born 1994), professional racing driver in the British Touring Car Championship (2017 and 2020 champion), attended Birchwood High School
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.
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") and The Hertfordshire and Essex High School (commonly referred to as "Herts and Essex"). 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 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. Planning permission was granted in 2019 and building of the new school commenced in 2020
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 Isthmian Football League Premier Division, 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.  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.
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 medallist), in addition to a number of senior members who still represent their country at Masters level.
Public sports facilities including the Grange Paddocks swimming pool and gym, a tennis club, a squash club, and a golf club.
The town is home to various youth organisations and youth groups, including an Army Cadet Force detachment, an Air Training Corps squadron, Scout troops, and a GAP youth group affiliated to the Church of St James the Great in Thorley.
South Mill Arts (formerly the 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. Other live music venues include pubs The Half Moon and the Rose & Crown. Youth choir Cantate is based in Bishop's Stortford. The choir holds concerts in the surrounding area, including many in the town itself.
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.
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'.
Other public houses included the 15th-century Boars Head, 16th-century Black Lion, and the Curriers Arms was in Market Square from the 1700s until 1904. in the building which until recently was a Zizzi restaurant. Between 1644 and 1810, the Reindeer operated on the present site of the Tourist Information Centre.
Located in the town centre is Anchor Street Entertainment, a multiplex which contains a cinema, health club, a bowling alley 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.
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.
Water for the town is supplied by Affinity Water. The water is classed as very hard with over 345 mg/l of minerals and 0.225 mg/l of fluoride.
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) during the August 2003 heatwave. In an average year the hottest day should reach 28.8 °C (83.8 °F), and 12.3 days 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) 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), with 47.3 air frosts being recorded in an average 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|
|Source 2: KNMI|
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Bishop's Stortford.|
- Media related to Bishop's Stortford at Wikimedia Commons
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Bishop Stortford.|
- Bishop's Stortford Town Council
- Bishop's Stortford and Thorley: A History and Guide – comprehensive history