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Hertfordshire (// (listen); often abbreviated Herts) 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.
In 2013, the county had a population of 1,140,700 in an area of 634 square miles (1,640 km2). Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, Watford, and the only city in the county, St Albans have between 50,000 and 100,000 residents. Hertford, once the main market town for the medieval agricultural county, derives its name from a hart (stag) and a ford, used as the components of the county's coat of arms and flag. Elevations are high for the region in the north and west. These reach over 800 feet (240 m) in the western projection around Tring which is in the Chilterns. The county's borders are approximately the watersheds of the Colne and Lea; both flowing to the south; each accompanied by a canal. Hertfordshire's undeveloped land is mainly agricultural and much is protected by green belt.
The county's landmarks span many centuries, ranging from the Six Hills in the new town of Stevenage built by local inhabitants during the Roman period, to Leavesden Film Studios. The volume of intact medieval and Tudor buildings surpasses London, in places in well-preserved conservation areas, especially in St Albans which includes some remains of Verulamium, the town where in the 3rd century an early recorded British martyrdom took place. Saint Alban, a Romano-British soldier, took the place of a Christian priest and was beheaded on Holywell Hill. His martyr's cross of a yellow saltire on a blue field is reflected in the flag and coat of arms of Hertfordshire.
Hertfordshire is well-served with motorways and railways, providing good access to London. The largest sector of the economy of the county is in services.
Hertfordshire was the area assigned to a fortress constructed at Hertford under the rule of Edward the Elder in 913. Hertford is derived from the Anglo-Saxon heort ford, meaning deer crossing (of a watercourse). The name Hertfordshire is first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1011. Deer feature in many county emblems. Many of the names of the current settlements date back to the Anglo-Saxon period, with many featuring standard placename suffixes attributed to the Anglo-Saxons: "ford", "ton", "den", "bourn", "ley", "stead", "ing", "lett", "wood", and "worth", are represented in this county by Hertford, Royston, Harpenden, Redbourn, Cuffley, Wheathampstead, Tring, Radlett, Borehamwood, and Rickmansworth.
There is evidence of human life in Hertfordshire from the Mesolithic period. It was first farmed during the Neolithic period and permanent habitation appeared at the beginning of the Bronze Age. This was followed by tribes settling in the area during the Iron Age.
Following the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43, the aboriginal Catuvellauni quickly submitted and adapted to the Roman life; resulting in the development of several new towns, including Verulamium (St Albans) where in c. 293 the first recorded British martyrdom is traditionally believed to have taken place. Saint Alban, a Romano-British soldier, took the place of a Christian priest and was beheaded on Holywell Hill. His martyr's cross of a yellow saltire on a blue field is reflected in the flag and coat of arms of Hertfordshire as the yellow field to the stag or Hart representing the county. He is the Patron Saint of Hertfordshire.
With the departure of the Roman Legions in the early 5th century, the now unprotected territory was invaded and colonised by the Anglo-Saxons. By the 6th century the majority of the modern county was part of the East Saxon kingdom. This relatively short-lived kingdom collapsed in the 9th century, ceding the territory of Hertfordshire to the control of the West Anglians of Mercia. The region finally became an English shire in the 10th century, on the merger of the West Saxon and Mercian kingdoms. In the midst of the Norse invasions, Hertfordshire was on the front lines of much of the fighting. King Edward the Elder, in his reconquest of Norse-held lands in what was to become England, established a "burh" or fort in Hertford, which was to curb Norse activities in the area. His father, King Alfred the Great, established the River Lea as a boundary between his kingdom and that of the Norse lord Guthrum, with the north and eastern parts of the county being within the Danelaw. There is little evidence however of Norse placenames within this region, and many of the Anglo-Saxon features remained intact to this day. The county however suffered from renewed Norse raids in the late 10th to early 11th centuries, as armies led by Danish kings Swein Forkbeard and Cnut the Great harried the country as part of their attempts to undermine and overthrow English king Athelred the Unready.
A century later, William of Normandy received the surrender of the surviving senior English Lords and Clergy at Berkhamsted, resulting in a new Anglicised title of William the Conqueror, before entering London unopposed and being crowned at Westminster. Hertfordshire was used for some of the new Norman castles at Bishop's Stortford, and at King's Langley, a staging post between London and the royal residence of Berkhamsted.
The Domesday Book recorded the county as having nine hundreds. Tring and Danais became one—Dacorum—from Danis Corum or Danish rule harking back to a Viking not Saxon past. The other seven were Braughing, Broadwater, Cashio, Edwinstree, Hertford, Hitchin and Odsey.
In the later Plantagenet period, St. Albans Abbey was an initial drafting place of what was to become the Magna Carta. And in the later Wars of the Roses, St. Albans was the scene of two major battles between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists.
In Tudor times, Hatfield House was often frequented by Queen Elizabeth I. Stuart King James I used the locale for hunting and facilitated the construction of a waterway, the New River, supplying drinking water to London.
As London grew, Hertfordshire became conveniently close to the English capital; much of the area was owned by the nobility and aristocracy, this patronage helped to boost the local economy. However, the greatest boost to Hertfordshire came during the Industrial Revolution, after which the population rose dramatically. In 1903, Letchworth became the world's first garden city and Stevenage became the first town to redevelop under the New Towns Act 1946.
From the 1920s until the late 1980s, the town of Borehamwood was home to one of the major British film studio complexes, including the MGM-British Studios. Many well-known films were made here including the first three Star Wars movies (IV, V, & VI). The studios generally used the name of Elstree. American director Stanley Kubrick not only used to shoot in those studios but also lived in the area until his death. Big Brother UK and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? have been filmed there. EastEnders is filmed at Elstree. Hertfordshire has seen development at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden; the Harry Potter series was filmed here and the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye.
On 17 October 2000, the Hatfield rail crash killed four people with over 70 injured. The crash exposed the shortcomings of Railtrack, which consequently saw speed restrictions and major track replacement. On 10 May 2002, the second of the Potters Bar rail accidents occurred killing seven people; the train was at high speed when it derailed and flipped into the air when one of the carriages slid along the platform where it came to rest.
Hertfordshire is the county immediately north of London and is part of the East of England region, a mainly statistical unit. To the east is Essex, to the west is Buckinghamshire and to the north are Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. A significant minority of the population across all districts commute to Central London.
The county's boundaries were roughly fixed by the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844 which eliminated exclaves; amended when, in 1965 under the London Government Act 1963, East Barnet Urban District and Barnet Urban District were abolished, their area was transferred to form part of the present-day London Borough of Barnet and the Potters Bar Urban District of Middlesex was transferred to Hertfordshire.
As at the 2011 census of the ten Districts, East Hertfordshire had the minimal, 290 people per km2, whereas Watford had the maximal 4210 people per km2. Compared to nearby Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire has far less large towns or cities, such as Luton and Milton Keynes respectively, which have roughly 200,000 or more residents apiece. The overall population of Hertfordshire is higher than the two aforementioned counties (approximately 1,000,000), but featuring many small to medium-sized towns. The larger communities in the county, such as Stevenage, Watford, Letchworth and Hemel Hempstead, all have populations ranging from 70,000 to 150,000, and thus not overly large in the grand scheme of British locales.
The River Lea near Harpenden runs through Wheathampstead, Welwyn Garden City, Hertford, Ware, and Broxbourne before reaching Cheshunt and ultimately the River Thames. The far west of the county is the most hilly, with the Chiltern Hills surrounding Tring, Berkhamsted and the Ashridge estate. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty runs from near Hitchin in the north to Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
Many of the county's major settlements are in the central, northern and southern areas, such as Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Kings Langley, Rickmansworth, St. Albans, Harpenden, Radlett, Borehamwood, Potters Bar, Stevenage, Hatfield, Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City, Hitchin, Letchworth and Baldock. These are all small to medium-sized locations, featuring a mix of post-WWII new towns and older/more historical locales. The City of St. Albans is an example of a historical settlement, as its cathedral and abbey date to the Norman period, and there are ruins from the Roman settlement of Verulamium nearby the current city centre. Stevenage is a mix of post-WWII new town planning amidst its prior incarnation as a smaller town. The Old Town in Stevenage represents this historic core and has many shops and buildings reflecting its pre-WWII heritage. Hitchin also has a historic centre, with many Tudor and Stuart era buildings interspersed amongst more contemporary structures.
Hertfordshire's eastern regions are predominantly rural and arable, intermixed with villages and small to medium-sized towns. Royston, Buntingford and Bishops Stortford, along with Ware and the county town of Hertford are major settlements in this regard. The physical geography of eastern Hertfordshire is less elevated than the far west, but with lower rising hills and prominent rivers such as the Stort. This river rises in Essex and terminates via a confluence with the Lea near to Ware. Apart from the Lea and Stort, the River Colne is the major watercourse in the county's west. This runs near Watford and Radlett, and has a complex system/drainage area running south into both Greater London and Buckinghamshire.
The rocks of Hertfordshire belong to the great shallow syncline known as the London Basin. The beds dip in a south-easterly direction towards the syncline's lowest point roughly under the River Thames. The most important formations are the Cretaceous Chalk, exposed as the high ground in the north and west of the county, forming the Chiltern Hills and the younger Palaeocene, Reading Beds and Eocene, London Clay which occupy the remaining southern part. The eastern half of the county was covered by glaciers during the Ice Age and has a superficial layer of glacial boulder clays.
Natural resources and environment
Much of the county is given over to agriculture. One product, now largely defunct, was water-cress, based in Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted supported by reliable, clean chalk rivers.
Some quarrying of sand and gravel occurs in the St Albans area. In the past, clay has supplied local brick-making and still does in Bovingdon, just south-west of Hemel Hempstead. The chalk that is the bedrock of much of the county provides an aquifer that feeds streams and is also exploited to provide water supplies for much of the county and beyond. Chalk has also been used as a building material and, once fired, the resultant lime was spread on agricultural land to improve fertility. The mining of chalk since the early 18th century has left unrecorded underground galleries that occasionally collapse unexpectedly and endanger buildings.
Fresh water is supplied to London from Ware, using the New River built by Hugh Myddleton and opened in 1613. Local rivers, although small, supported developing industries such as paper production at Nash Mills.
Hertfordshire affords habitat for a variety of flora and fauna. One bird previously common in the shire is the Hooded Crow, the old name of which is the eponymous name of the regional newspaper, the Royston Crow published in Royston.
In November 2013, the uSwitch Quality of Life Index listed Hertfordshire as the third-best place to live in the UK.
This is a table of trends of regional gross value added of Hertfordshire at current basic prices with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.
|Year||Regional Gross Value Added[n 1]||Agriculture[n 2]||Industry[n 3]||Services[n 4]|
Hertfordshire has headquarters of many large well-known UK companies. Hemel Hempstead is home to DSG International. Welwyn Garden City hosts Tesco, as well as Roche UK's headquarters (subsidiary of the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Hoffman-La Roche) and Cereal Partners production facilities, Pure the DAB radio maker is based in Kings Langley. JD Wetherspoon is in Watford. Skanska is in Rickmansworth, GlaxoSmithKline has plants in Ware and Stevenage. Hatfield used to be connected with the aircraft industry, as it was where de Havilland developed the world's first commercial jet liner, the Comet. Now the site is a business park and new campus for the University of Hertfordshire. This major new employment site is home to, among others, EE, Computacenter and Ocado. A subsidiary of BAE Systems, Airbus and Finmeccanica in Stevenage, MBDA, develops missiles. In the same town Airbus (Defence & Space Division) produces satellites. The National Pharmacy Association (NPA), the trade association for all of the UK's community pharmacies, is based in St Albans. Warner Bros. also owns and runs Warner Studios in Leavesden.
Since 1922, Watford play their home games at Vicarage Road. The club joined the Football League in 1920 as a founding member of the Third Division and first played in the First Division of English football in 1982, finishing as runners-up to champions Liverpool. Watford have played in the Premier League since their promotion from the EFL Championship following the 2014-15 season.
Stevenage F.C. was formed in 1976 as Stevenage Borough and have played at Broadhall Way since 1980. Stevenage was the first club to win a competitive match at the new Wembley Stadium, beating Kidderminster Harriers 3–2 in the 2007 FA Trophy Final. The club currently play in the EFL League Two and have been managed by former player Dino Maamria since March 2018.
Arsenal F.C., whilst based at the Emirates Stadium in the London Borough of Islington, has long held a training ground in the county. Until 1999, it held the London Colney University of London facility, until it built a new purpose-built compound adjacent to it. Watford FC currently utilises the old Arsenal training area as its training facility.
Hertfordshire has many semi-professional and amateur clubs. The highest placed of these is Boreham Wood who play in the National League, the fifth tier of English football. The next highest placed are Hemel Hempstead Town and St Albans City, who play one division lower in the National League South.
Hemel Stags are a rugby league team based in Hemel Hempstead. Hemel Stags have played at Pennine Way Stadium since the club's founding in 1981. The club plays in league 1, the third tier of the British rugby league system.
Below is a list of notable visitor attractions in Hertfordshire:
- Aldenham Country Park
- Ashridge – the estate surrounding the neo-Gothic house by James Wyatt (not open to the public) is National Trust land.
- Bridgewater Monument, built in 1832 in memory of Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater. 108 feet (33 m) tall and open to the public to ascend to the top
- Berkhamsted Castle
- Cedars Park, Broxbourne – historic park once the site of James I's favourite residence, Theobalds Palace. Maintained by Broxbourne Services and the Friends of Cedars Park.
- de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre, between London Colney and South Mimms
- Henry Moore Foundation, Much Hadham – sculpture park on the work of Henry Moore
- Knebworth House, 250 acres (1.0 km2) of country park, venue of many rock and pop festivals
- Leavesden Film Studios, home of the Warner Bros. Making of Harry Potter studio tour
- Letchworth Garden City – the world's first Garden City. Site of the first planned Green Belt, the UK's first roundabout, and a number of experiments in early town planning and house and factory design
- Magic Roundabout (Hemel Hempstead) – a complex road junction
- Royston Cave – in Royston town centre
- Rye House Gatehouse in Hoddesdon (part of the Rye House Plot to assassinate King Charles II)
- St Albans
- Scott's Grotto, Ware
- Shaw's Corner, Ayot St Lawrence – home of George Bernard Shaw
- Stevenage – the first UK New Town
- Therfield Heath – a local nature reserve in the north of the county
- University of Hertfordshire – a public research university based in Hatfield
- Welwyn Viaduct to the north of Welwyn Garden City
- Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, Tring – a museum-annotated collection of dead mammals, birds, reptiles and insects
- Watford Museum, fine art and local artefacts
- The Ridgeway
- Icknield Way
- Grand Union Canal Walk
- Harcamlow Way
- Hertfordshire Way
- Hertfordshire Chain Walk
Four principal national railway lines pass through the county:
- the West Coast Main Line from Euston. Avanti West Coast operates high speed intercity services via Watford Junction to the Midlands, North Wales, the North West England and Scotland. West Midlands Trains provides local commuter and regional services in the far west of the county.
- the East Coast Main Line from London King's Cross. Local commuter and regional services are provided by Great Northern. London North Eastern Railway runs high speed intercity services via Stevenage to Yorkshire, North East England and Scotland
- the Midland Main Line which forms part of the Thameslink route between Bedford and Brighton via Central London with services are provided by Thameslink. East Midlands Railway provide intercity services along the line from London St Pancras to the East Midlands and Yorkshire
- the West Anglia Main Line from London Liverpool Street. Local commuter and regional services are provided by Greater Anglia mainly in the east of the county
A number of other local rail routes also cross Hertfordshire:
- the London to Aylesbury Line from London Marylebone runs via Rickmansworth and Chorleywood
- the Abbey Line, a local line from Watford to St Albans Abbey
- the Cambridge Line, a branch of the East Coast line which runs via Royston and Letchworth to Cambridge
Three commuter lines operated by Transport for London enter the county:
- the Lea Valley Lines, a suburban metro line from Liverpool Street to Cheshunt via Seven Sisters
- the Watford DC Line, a suburban metro line from Euston to Watford Junction
- five stations on the London Underground Metropolitan line
Hertfordshire has 26 independent schools and 73 state secondary schools. The state secondary schools are entirely comprehensive, although 7 schools in the south and southwest of the county are partially selective (see Education in Watford). All state schools have sixth forms, and there are no sixth form colleges. The tertiary colleges, each with multiple campuses, are Hertford Regional College, North Hertfordshire College, Oaklands College and West Herts College. The University of Hertfordshire is a modern university based largely in Hatfield. It has more than 23,000 students.
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