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Things to do in Watford, Hertfordshire


The Hertfordshire town of Watford is 20 miles north west of London within the M25 motorway.

It stands on a low hill overlooking the old ford on the River Colne which travellers from the Midlands to London had to cross. Watford High Street is on this same pre-Roman Route today. The early Saxon town, first mentioned in 1007, would have been a simple string of houses on the north side of the river.

Passing trade helped this first settlement to grow and it received a charter for a weekly market in 1100, granted by Henry I.

One of the oldest buildings is St Mary's Parish Church. It was built in 1230 on the site of an even earlier church and was extensively restored in 1871.

During the 17th century, the Earls of Essex built the magnificent house on the estate of Cassiobury and the Earls of Clarendon made their seat The Grove.

In 1762 the toll road across the Chilterns from Watford was improved and became known as the Sparrows Herne Turnpike. A plaque and original toll house can be seen at the foot of Chalk Hill.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution both the Grand Union Canal in 1798 and the London and Birmingham Railway in 1837 ran through Watford due to its easy gradient over the Chilterns.

Although local landowners allowed the canal to run through their land, the steam-emitting railway had to build an expensive tunnel through Leavesden as the owners of the Cassiobury and Grove estates did not want the railway anywhere near their backyard!

The Watford Gas and Coke Company and John Dickinson & Co. paper mill were founded alongside the existing breweries, Benskin's and Sedgwick's.


Present Day Watford

Watford is a regional centre for the surrounding Home Counties. It has excellent shopping in the Harlequin Shopping Mall, home to 140 shops, restaurants and cafés, which complement the older High Street.

Watford Colosseum has been used for many film recordings, pop concerts and classical concerts by the BBC Concert Orchestra. The Watford Theatre and the Pumphouse Theatre and Arts Centre provide plenty of cultural entertainment.

In 2006 Watford had an estimated population of 80,000. It has a professional football team, Watford FC, with Sir Elton John as honorary life president, and an American Football team, the Watford Cheetahs.

The tradition of printing continues in the town and it is the headquarters for British Waterways, Camelot (Lottery), Iveco trucks, Balfour Beatty builders and Total Oil.

The town is on the Metropolitan tube line to London.


Things to Do Around Watford

Old Watford is a collection of half-timbered houses clustered around the church and pond and is well worth exploring.

Watford and the surrounding area are ideal for cycling. The terrain is relatively flat and there are more than 20 miles of cycleways making it a popular way to travel to work. The Colne Valley Cycle Route and the National Cycle routes 6 and 61 are nearby.

The canal is popular for recreational use including walking along the towpath, kayaking and fishing.

Cassiobury Park is an award-winning 190 acre green space with a children's play area. The grand house was demolished in 1927.

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