Bishop's Stortford

Bishop's Stortford

Looking down Windhill towards the town centre
Bishop's Stortford
 Bishop's Stortford shown within Hertfordshire
Population 37,838 (2011)[1]
OS grid referenceTL495215
Civil parishBishop's Stortford
DistrictEast Hertfordshire
Shire countyHertfordshire
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode district CM23
Dialling code 01279
Police Hertfordshire
Fire Hertfordshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK ParliamentHertford and Stortford
List of places

Coordinates: 51°52′19″N 0°10′21″E / 51.8720°N 0.1725°E / 51.8720; 0.1725

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)[2] north east of Charing Cross in central London and 35 miles (56 km) from Liverpool Street station, the London terminus of the line to Cambridge that runs through the town. Bishop's Stortford has a population of 38,202, adjusting to 37,838 at the 2011 Census.[1]


King Edward VII driving through Bishop's Stortford, October 1905

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 abandoned in the 5th century after the breakup of the Roman Empire.

A new Saxon settlement grew up on the site, named Steort-ford, the ford at the tongue of land.[3] In 1060, William Bishop of London bought Stortford manor and estate for eight pounds, leading to the town's modern sobriquet. 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's, 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.

St Michael's Church

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 for the ford over the river and assumed the river was called the Stort.[4]

After 1769, the River Stort was made navigable, and the town became a stop on the mail coach road between Cambridge and London.

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 introduction was the opening of a hospital in 1895.

In 1901 the population exceeded 7,000. The 1901 house known as Carfield Castle was used as an officers' billet in World War I.[5]

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 about 35,000 in the 2001 national 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. Post-war development has enlarged the town's area further.


The Corn Exchange

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".[6] 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 15 November 1966 Harry Roberts was arrested in a wooded area within the abandoned RAF Sawbridgeworth at nearby Thorley following the shooting of three policemen in London. He was later 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. 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.[7][8]

In November 2011, the town council sent notifications in a single-page letter stating that with effect from September 2012 it would end the 46-year twin-town arrangements with Villiers-sur-Marne in France and Friedberg in Germany. No cogent reasons were given.[9][10]

Castle Mound

Main article: Waytemore Castle

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.



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 Herts and Essex villages in its area, as most nearby towns are small.

Rhodes Arts Complex

Rhodes Arts Complex theatre and museum

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.[11]


In the 2010 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 (53.8%). 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."[12]

The International Monarchist League is based here. The loosely associated Constitutional Monarchy Association operates from the same address.[13]

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.[14]

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, 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.

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.

Transport and services

Bishop's Stortford owes its continued growth to developments in transport. It is well serviced by all forms of transport:

Abellio Greater Anglia train, in the previous 'one' livery, that serves Bishop's Stortford

Bishop's Stortford railway station is on the London Liverpool Street to Cambridge 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 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.

Notable people

Cecil Rhodes

Arts and media






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.

There is also an independent school, the Bishop's Stortford College, which covers the whole educational spectrum from ages 4 to 18.[24]

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")[25] and The Hertfordshire and Essex High School (commonly referred to as 'Herts and Essex').[26] 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.[27]

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 National League South,[28] the sixth 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. [29] 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, who play in National League 2 South, the fourth tier of English rugby.

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.

Youth organisations

The town is home to various youth organisations and youth groups, including an Army Cadet Force detachment and an Air Training Corps Squadron. GAP Youth Group is affiliated with St James the Great Church in Thorley.

Live music

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 Mon and the Rose & Crown. Youth choir Cantate is basedin 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.


The Black Lion

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'.[30]

Other public houses included the 15th century Boars Head, 16th century Black Lion, and the Curriers, now a restaurant. Between 1644 and 1810, The Raindeer operated which is now the site of the Tourist Information Centre.[31]


Located in the town centre is Anchor Street Entertainment, a multiplex which contains a cinema, health club, 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.


Climate graph of Bishop's Stortford

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 southeast, 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 Celsius in the summer. Snow is often seen in the winter months because the town is near to 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 Veolia Water Central. 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)[32] during the August 2003 heatwave. In an average year the hottest day should reach 28.8 °C (83.8 °F),[33] and 12.3 days[34] 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)[35] 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),[36] with 47.3[37] air frosts being recorded in an 'average' year.

Typically, the Bishop's Stortford area will receive an average of 622mm[32] of rain during the course of the year. [38] 1mm or more of rain will be recorded on 114.7 days[39] of the year.

Temperature averages refer to the period 1971-00, rainfall averages 1961–90.

Climate data for Stansted, elevation 101m, 1971–2000, Rainfall 1961–1990
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.5
Average low °C (°F) 0.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 53.97
Source #1: YR.NO[40]
Source #2: KNMI[41]

Location grid


  1. 1 2 "Town population 2011". City Populations. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  3. Hanks, Patrick; Hodges, Flavia; Mills, David; Room, Adrian (2002). The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: the University Press. ISBN 0198605617.
  4. "Bishop's Stortford & Thorley: A History and Guide". Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  5. "Fit for a princess". Daily Mail.
  7. Marsden, Sam (11 September 2007). "Two men arrested over Bishop's Stortford shooting". The Independent. London.
  8. "Girl, 3, survives fatal shooting". BBC Online News. 29 August 2007.
  9. Article dated 2 December 2011 France 24: 'English town cuts links with French and German twins', accessed 8 December 2011
  10. Die Europa-Monster aus Bishop’s Stortford; Spiegel Online accessed 23 December 2011. "Am 28. September 2012, so teilt Wyllie trocken mit, wird die Gemeinde alle Bande kappen mit den Schwestergemeinden. Gründe für den Abbruch der diplomatischen Beziehungen nennt er nicht."
  11. Bishop's Stortford Museum
  12. Bishop's Stortford Town Council and Information Centre Retrieved 14 November 2015
  13. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  14. Harding, Luke (1 December 2011). "Bishop's Stortford dumps its twin towns in France and Germany". The Guardian. London.
  15. McFarlin Library Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  16. "Is James the new Doctor Who?". Herts and Essex Observer. 18 November 2008.
  17. "Kelly Osbourne to hit the airwaves on Radio 1". Daily Mail. London. 6 September 2007.
  18. The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press.
  19. J. Blair, A saint for every minster?', in A. Thacker and R. Sharpe (eds), Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West (Oxford, 2002) pp. 463–67.
  20. Barbara Yorke, Nunneries and the Anglo-Saxon Royal Houses (Continuum, 2003) page 22
  21. Stowe MS 944, British Library
  22. G. Hickes, Dissertatio Epistolaris in Linguarum veterum septentrionalium thesaurus grammatico-criticus et archeologicus (Oxford 1703–05), p. 115.
  23. Ealdgyth of Stortford has been identified by some with Queen Ealdgyth, daughter of Earl Ælfgar (Bishops Stortford & Thorley: A History and Guide), who lived in Stortford after the death of her husband, King Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings. This is considered less likely by some scholars as she appears in the Secgan text with a cluster of Mercian royal saints from prior to 900AD.
  24. "Bishop's Stortford College Website". Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  25. "Bishop's Stortford High School Website". Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  26. "Herts and Essex High School Website". Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  27. "Schools withdraw plan to move to Green Belt", Bishop's Stortford Observer, 4 December 2008
  28. "Rushden expelled from Conference". BBC News. 11 June 2011.
  29. Stephens, Gareth; Lamb, Tim (18 September 2007). "Your team A-Z > Bishop's Stortford FC". BBC London. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  30. Guide to Bishops Stortford, Accessed 06/01/2015
  31. Guide to Bishops Stortford, Accessed 09/01/2015
  32. 1 2 "August 2003 Maximum". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  33. "Mean annual warmest day". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  34. "August >25c days". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  35. "1981 minimum". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  36. "Annual average coldest night". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  37. "Annual average air frost". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  38. "Rainfall data". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  39. "Rainfall data". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  40. "Climate Normals 1971–2000". YR.NO. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  41. "Climate Normals 1961–1990". KNMI. Retrieved 25 February 2011.

External links

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