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|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
Bishop's Stortford is a historic market town and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England. It is just west of the M11 motorway on the county boundary with Essex and is the closest sizeable town to London Stansted Airport. Bishop's Stortford is 27 miles (43 km) 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, decreasing to 37,838 at the 2011 Census.
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.
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 for 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 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.
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.
- Population: 37,838
- Median age: 36.0[clarification needed]
- Retirees: 15.93%[clarification needed]
- Unemployed: 1.63%[clarification needed]
- Educated to degree level: 25.83%[clarification needed]
- Full-time students: 2.27% (864)[clarification needed]
- Total migrants: 12.68% (4,829)[clarification needed]
- Average distance travelled to fixed place of work: 19.18 km[clarification 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. Bishop's Stortford is useful for a large number of Hertfordshire and Essex villages in its area, as most nearby towns are small.
Rhodes Arts Complex
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.
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.
The town has a Youth Council made up 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 within the grassroots Tory party was behind the vote.
Economy and business
Bishop's Stortford is a particularly affluent area, 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 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 its own local newspaper, the Bishop's Stortford Independent based at 12 North Street, which has been the home of publishing in the town since 1861.
Transport and services
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.
Arts and media
- Lynda Baron (born 1939), actress known as Nurse Gladys Emanuel in Open All Hours, lived in the town.
- Eliot Bliss (died 1990), novelist and poet, lived here for over half a century.
- Russell Brand (born 1975), actor, went to Hockerill Anglo-European College.
- Charli XCX (born 1992), singer and songwriter, was raised in the town and attended Bishop's Stortford College.
- Paul Epworth, 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), actor who played Thomas Cromwell in The Tudors, attended St Joseph's Catholic Primary School.
- Greg James (born 1985), DJ on BBC Radio 1, attended Bishop Stortford High School.
- John Mann (born 1961), comedian, lives in the town and writes a column in The Herts and Essex Observer.
- Sarah Ockwell-Smith (born 1970s), child-care author, attended Hertfordshire and Essex High School in 1987–92.
- Bill Sharpe (born 1952), 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), 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), double-bass player and composer, was born in the town.
- Third Party, anthemic dance duo, were both born in the town.
- 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, 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 in Bishop's Stortford in 1615, fought against 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.
- Frederick Scott Archer (1813–1857), inventor of the collodion process, the first photographic emulsion used to create glass negatives
- 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 McNaughton, professional footballer with West Ham United, attended Hockerill Anglo-European College.
- John Radford (born 1947), professional footballer with Arsenal, 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
- Helen King (born 1965), Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford and former senior police officer, was born in Bishop's Stortford.
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 schools 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, most 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 the planning hearing when the schools withdrew their application.
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, 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, 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 medalist), 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.
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, now a 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 soon to be reopened 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 has some of the hottest summers in Britain; it is also one of the driest places in the country. Temperatures may sometimes reach the mid-30s C in the summer. 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.
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 1961–90.
|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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- Bishop's Stortford and Thorley: A History and Guide – comprehensive history