Bishop's Stortford

Bishop's Stortford
Looking down Windhill towards the town Centre
Bishop's Stortford is located in Hertfordshire
Bishop's Stortford
Bishop's Stortford
Location within Hertfordshire
Population41,088 (2020)[1]
OS grid referenceTL495215
Civil parish
  • Bishop's Stortford
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBishop's Stortford
Postcode districtCM22, CM23
Dialling code01279
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
51°52′19″N 0°10′21″E / 51.8720°N 0.1725°E / 51.8720; 0.1725Coordinates: 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 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. Stortford had an estimated population of 41,088 in 2020.[2] The district of East Hertfordshire, where the town is located, has been ranked as the best place to live in the UK by the Halifax Quality of Life annual survey in 2020.[3] The town is commonly known as “Stortford” by locals.



The origins of the town's name are uncertain. One possibility is that the Saxon settlement derives its name from 'Steorta's ford' or 'tail ford', in the sense of a 'tail', or tongue, of land.[4][5] The town became known as Bishop's Stortford due to the acquisition in 1060 by the Bishop of London.[6]

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.[7]

First settlements: pre-Roman and Roman Stortford

Little is known of Bishop's Stortford until the Roman era, with the evidence being small archaeological finds. Limited evidence of ancient Mesolithic and Microlithic peoples in the form of flakes, cores and an axe have been found on the Meads and Silverleys respectively. Most Bronze Age evidence is from the neighbouring parish of Thorley to the south as opposed to Stortford proper, but a 3,000 year old socketed spearhead has been found at Haymeads Lane within the town. Evidence of settlement has been found on Dunmow Road dating from the Middle Bronze Age through to Romano-British times. In Bishop's Stortford: A History, Jacqueline Cooper concludes "existing evidence suggests that the Stortford area was settled only sparsely in prehistoric times, and nearby places like Braughing and Little Hallingbury were of more importance."[8]

Stortford was on the line of the Roman Road, Stane Street, which ran from St Albans to Colchester via Braughing. Construction started around 50AD on the road. Little evidence from the period survives except for excavations showing a section of the road, evidence of a cremation facility and a burial site.[9] None of the excavations has shown evidence of the Roman fort which likely existed in Stortford.[10] The settlement was probably abandoned in the 5th century after the break-up of the Roman Empire.[11]

Refoundation: post-Roman and medieval Stortford

Following the end of the Roman era, a new Anglo-Saxon settlement grew up on the site.

However, little is known about Stortford until the 1060s with the evidence becoming much stronger after the Norman Conquest.[12] In 1060 when William, Bishop of London, bought Stortford manor and estate for £8, leading to the town's modern name. By 1086, the motte-and-bailey Waytemore Castle had been built[6] as a local strongpoint for the area. It acted as a centre for defence and civil administration for roughly 125 years before it was dismantled but not destroyed by King John in 1211. Rebuilding of the castle started the following year at John's expense, and John stayed the night in the castle in 1216.[13] By the 15th century, the castle had fallen into disrepair, and the Bishop's Court (one of the administrative structures for the area) moved to Hockerill, to the east of the town.[6]

At the time of the Domesday Book the village had a population of around 120,[14] and grew to around 700 by the 13th century.[12]

In terms of governance, early medieval Bishop's Stortford was part of the Braughing Hundred, but acquired burgesses and between 1306 and 1336 was taxed as a borough. No charter survives however, and civil authority passed to two local manor courts at the Castle and the Rectory.[15] Stortford briefly sent two members to parliament in the reigns of Edward II and Edward III, with writs being issued to the town in the 1311–1315, 1318, 1320, 1322 and 1340.[16][17]

Plague and growth: early modern Stortford

At the start of the early modern period in the mid 15th century, Stortford was a primarily agricultural community, but had also acquired a tanning industry.[14] By the 16th century, Stortford had become an important centre of the malting industry. Not only were the local soils well suited for grains, but the fact that the town was just 35 miles to London provided an impetus to its development.[18] The economic draw of the maltings and the town's market supported a large number of inns and public houses by the middle of the 16th century pointing to its prosperity.[19]

Over the following hundred years, Stortford grew markedly. The population of Bishop's Stortford reached 1,500 by 1660 as a result of a positive net birth rate and migration to the town.[20] This was despite a series of a dozen plagues between the 1560s and 1660s.[21] The town also enjoyed a series of royal visits in the 17th century, with Charles I visiting the town in 1625, 1629 and 1642.[22]

The years following the last of Charles' visits were to prove somewhat turbulent for the town. During the English Civil War Stortford backed the Parliamentarians, with the Manor of Stortford being sequestered from the Bishop of London and sold off for £2,845. It was returned to the Bishop at the Restoration.[22] The Great Plague of 1666-7, and its lasting effects, reduced the population to only around 600 by 1700. The effects of the plague were so severe that the town had to appeal to the Hertfordshire magistrates, who levied a rate on every parish in the county for the relief of Bishop's Stortford, Hoddesdon and Cheshunt.[20]

Despite the demographic impact of the Great Plague, perhaps the turning point in Stortford's fortunes was the creation of the 'Hockerill by-pass' in 1670.[23] King Charles II had in the 1660s been increasingly travelling from London to Newmarket for the races and disliked the noise and congestion of Stortford, with its oderous market, maltings and tanneries. Moreover, the route was not always passable as noted by diarist Samuel Pepys who in made the following entry in his diary on 23 May 1668: ‘and so to Bishop's Stafford [sic]. The ways mighty full of water so as hardly to be passed’. As a result, the road from London to Newmarket was diverted to the east of the centre of Stortford, and instead ran through the outlying settlement of Hockerill.[24] The inns of Hockerill become an important overnight location for stop overs for overnight coaches to East Anglia.[25] Further demands for improved roads led to the creation of the Essex and Hertfordshire Turnpike Trust (later Hockerill Turnpike Trust) in 1744 to repair the road between Harlow Bush Common and Stump Cross in Great Chesterford. Later Acts of Parliament extended the term of the Trust and allowed new road construction.[26] From March 1785 the mail coaches ran from London to Norwich via Stortford.[27] Thus, the improved highways marked the first of the phases of Stortford's growth driven by emergent transport technology.

The second major transport development to provide a significant boost to the town was the construction of the Stort Navigation, which canalised the River Stort, and opened in 1769. The improvements to the navigation of the Stort were driven by the inability of the malting industry to use the Stort for river transport, which caused significant to the local roads and handed a competitive advantage to neighbouring malting areas like Ware who were linked to London by the River Lea. The work on the canal undertaken by George Jackson (later Sir George Duckett) had the added benefit of alleviating the flooding risk in the town.[28]

The Corn Exchange

Industrial revolution to World War II

With the roads and Stort navigation providing easy access to London markets, industrialisation came to Stortford. The advent of the Stort navigation brought new industries to the town, with bargemen, lock-keepers, wharfingers, coal and timber merchants all appearing. The malting industry also saw output significantly increase, with brown malt production doubling between 1788 and 1811. Together with national trends in the brewing industry, the 40 malthouses in Stortford in early 1800s Stortford also helped to stimulate the local brewing trade. At the turn of the 19th century, there were 18 brewers in town which in turn boosted the inn trade.[29] The boom in the town in turn boosted the metal working and bricklaying trades, and also aided the general retail trade. In 1791 there were 30 principal traders according to a contemporary directory.[30]

The vibrancy of the local economy - especially the agricultural trade sector - was demonstrated in 1828 when a consortium of local businessmen built the Bishop's Stortford Corn Exchange, which provided trading accommodation for 65 dealers.[31] By this point, the town directory was listing 200 commercial entries, and 350 by the turn of the century.[32]

The third major transport innovation to have a significant impact upon Stortford was the arrival of the railway in 1842. The line initially ran from London Liverpool Street to Stortford, but by 1845 the line was linked to Norwich. The new rail link brought an almost immediate end to the coaching industry, and the Stort Navigation entered terminal decline. The town, though boomed. Massive new residential estates grew up in the New Town (to the south and west of the historic core) and Hockerill (across the river to the east of the historic core) in the decades following the building of the railway.[33] A Bishop's Stortford–Braintree branch line was built to Braintree to bring goods into Stortford from the surrounding more rural areas, with the first section to Great Dunmow opening in 1864.[34] The single track line struggled to gain traction, and by 1922 had only seven eastbound and six westbound trains per day.[35] The bus service which started between Stortford and Dunmow in 1920[36] contributed to the demise of the line which closed to passengers in 1952 and freight in 1972.[37]

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

The mid-19th century onwards also saw the rapid growth in public utilities and governance in the town. The first gas street lights were installed in the town in the 1830s,[38] in 1855 the New Cemetery was opened,[39] in the 1870s a sewage farm and an isolation hospital were built,[40] while in 1895 the town's first proper hospital was opened.[41]

During World War II, Bishop's Stortford was the evacuation centre for many Britons, including Clapton Girls Technology College.

The modern service-industry town

In the post-war era. the town centre 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.

Stortford continued to grow as a comutter town from the second half of the 20th century onwards, spurred by the construction of the M11 motorway, Stansted Airport, as well as rail links to London and Cambridge. This contributed to its rise in population to almost 38,000 at the time of the 2011 census.[1]

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.


YearPop.±% p.a.
1801 2,305—    
1811 2,630+1.33%
1821 3,358+2.47%
1831 3,958+1.66%
1841 4,681+1.69%
1851 5,280+1.21%
1861 5,390+0.21%
1871 6,250+1.49%
1881 6,704+0.70%
1891 6,595−0.16%
1901 7,143+0.80%
1911 8,721+2.02%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1921 8,858+0.16%
1931 9,510+0.71%
1939 13,374+4.35%
1951 12,772−0.38%
1961 18,342+3.69%
1971 22,121+1.89%
1981 22,535+0.19%
1991 27,874+2.15%
2001 34,857+2.26%
2011 37,374+0.70%
2020 41,088+1.06%
Source: 1801-1961 & 1939 Register Census via Vision of Britain, 1971-1991 Hertfordshire Populations 1801-1991 (Hertfordshire County Council, undated), 2001-2020 ONS Mid-Year Population Estimates

Demographic history

The earliest reliable population figure for Bishop's Stortford was 120 at the publication of the Domesday Book in 1086.[14] Over the successive centuries the population waxed and waned as a result of economic growth and plagues, and generally only rough population estimates exist.[20][21] By the time of the first nationwide census in 1801 Stortford's population had reached 2,305[42] spurred by the town's position on the Hockerill Turnpike[26] and the canalisation of the River Stort.[28] Steady growth continued over the coming decades as the railways spurred industrialisation.[33] Population growth averaged 1.12% per annum through to 1911 and the advent of World War I. Inter-war growth averaged 1.54% per annum. Stortford's population exceeded the county town of Hertford in the 1961 census,[43] even though Stortford's average population growth slowed to 1.39% between World War II and 2020. Sources of population growth have been predominantly natural growth and in-migration, but on a number of occasions the boundaries of Bishop's Stortford parish have been expanded. Most recently this occurred in 1992 when some neighbouring parts of Essex were moved into the town[44] and in 2018 when homes were moved into Stortford from neighbouring Thorley Parish.[45] In 2020 Bishop's Stortford was the largest town in East Hertfordshire.[46]

Ethnicity and nationality

At the 2011 census, 93.6% of the population of Bishop's Stortford described themselves as white,[47] which was lower than the 96.2% recorded in the 2001 census.[48] The number of people describing themselves as having a white background in 2011 was significantly higher than the England aggregate of 85.4%, but slightly lower than the overall East Hertfordshire figure.[47]

Ethnic group, 2011 census[47]
Bishop's Stortford, % East Hertfordshire, % England, %
White 93.6 95.5 85.4
Mixed/multiple ethnic groups 2.2 1.6 2.3
Asian/Asian British 2.9 1.9 7.8
Black/African/Caribbean/Black British 1.0 0.7 3.5
Other ethnic group 0.4 0.3 1.0

The proportion of Bishop's Stortford residents reporting having been born in the United Kingdom was 87.8%, and was only slightly higher than the English average of 86.2%. Stortford recorded a significantly higher proportion of European Union-born residents than either East Hertfordshire or England.[47] The number of UK-born residents in 2011 was down from the 92.4% recorded in 2001.[47][48]

Country of birth, 2011 census[47]
Bishop's Stortford, % East Hertfordshire, % England, %
United Kingdom 87.8 92.0 86.2
Ireland 1.1 0.8 0.7
Other EU 5.3 3.0 3.7
Other countries 5.8 4.3 9.4


The number of occupied dwellings in Bishop's Stortford rose from 13,733 in 2001 to 14,920. In Stortford 3.0% of properties were recorded as empty in 2011, compared with 4.3% across England. Overall, the dominant type of housing are detached and semi-detached housing, although the proportion of flats has grown from 13.0% in 2001 to 17.6% in 2011. The proportion of flats is well below the English average of 22.1%[47][48]

Dwellings By Type, Census 2011[47]
Bishop's Stortford East Hertfordshire England
Number % Number % Number %
All Dwellings 15,377 100 58,356 100 23,044,097 100
Occupied Dwellings 14,920 97.0 56,577 97.0 22,063,368 95.7
Empty Dwellings 457 3.0 1,779 3.0 980,729 4.3
Detached Houses 5,198 33.8 16,294 27.9 5,128,552 22.3
Semi-Detached Houses 4,528 29.4 17,459 29.9 7,076,395 30.7
Terraced Houses 2,940 19.1 13,397 23.0 5,642,969 24.5
Flats (Purpose Built) 2,368 15.4 9,615 16.5 3,854,451 16.7
Flats (Converted) 219 1.4 912 1.6 984,284 4.3
Flats (In Commercial Buildings) 122 0.8 562 1.0 257,218 1.1
Caravan or other mobile or temporary structure 2 0.0 117 0.2 100,228 0.4

Home ownership is high in Bishop's Stortford at 72.3% of households, which is above both the East Hertfordshire and English averages. The proportion of properties available for social rent has risen from 9.8% in 2001 to 10.1% in 2011.[47][48]

Dwellings By Tenure, Census 2011[47]
Bishop's Stortford East Hertfordshire England
Number % Number % Number %
All households 14,920 100.0 56,577 100.0 22,063,368 100.0
Owned 10,781 72.3 40,665 71.9 13,975,024 63.3
Owned outright 4,594 30.8 18,186 32.1 6,745,584 30.6
Owned with a mortgage or loan 6,187 41.5 22,479 39.7 7,229,440 32.8
Shared ownership (part owned and part rented) 226 1.5 508 0.9 173,760 0.8
Social rented 1,510 10.1 7,185 12.7 3,903,550 17.7
Private rented 2,261 15.2 7,446 13.2 3,715,924 16.8
Living rent free 142 1.0 773 1.4 295,110 1.3


Bishop's Stortford has three tiers of local government at parish (town), district, and county level: Bishop's Stortford Town Council, East Hertfordshire District Council, and Hertfordshire County Council.

Bishop's Stortford
Local Government District (1866–1894)
Urban District (1894–1974)
Bishop's Stortford town council coat of arms.jpg
Coat of arms
 • 18916,595[49]
 • 197121,000[50]
 • Created25 December 1866
 • Abolished31 March 1974
 • Succeeded byEast Hertfordshire
 • HQBishop's Stortford
Contained within
 • County CouncilHertfordshire

Historical Development

Historically, Bishop's Stortford was administered by its parish vestry, in the same way as most small towns and rural areas; no borough corporation was established for the town, despite some limited moves in that direction in the fourteenth century.[51] Bishop's Stortford was included in the hundred of Braughing. The Bishop's Stortford Poor Law Union was established in 1835, covering the town and surrounding parishes in both Hertfordshire and Essex.[52]

On 25 October 1866 a public meeting at the town's corn exchange voted to establish a local board, the Bishop's Stortford Local Board. The parish of Bishop's Stortford was declared to be a local government district with effect from 25 December 1866, and the local board held its first meeting at the corn exchange on 23 February 1867. Jones Gifford Nash was chosen as the first chairman of the local board.[53] The Local Board later established offices at 7 North Street.[54][55][56]

Under the Local Government Act 1894, the Bishop's Stortford Local Board became the Bishop's Stortford Urban District Council with effect from 31 December 1894.[citation needed] The new council held its first meeting on 5 January 1895. The last chairman of the local board, John Slater, was appointed the first chairman of the urban district council.[57] The council continued to be based at 7 North Street until the First World War.[58] In 1914 the council bought a large old house called Wharf House at 4 The Causeway.[59] The house had been built by George Jackson, who had also built the adjoining Stort Navigation. Wharf House was renamed the Council House, and served as the council's offices until October 1972, when the council moved to purpose-built offices at 1 The Causeway. The Council House was demolished shortly afterwards to make way for the Jackson Square shopping centre.[60][61]

Bishop's Stortford Urban District Council was granted a coat of arms on 20 August 1952.[62]

2 Hockerill Street: offices of the Town Council, 1974–1994

Bishop's Stortford Urban District was abolished under the Local Government Act 1972, becoming part of East Hertfordshire on 1 April 1974. Bishop's Stortford Town Council was established as a successor parish to the old urban district.[63] The former urban district council's offices at 1 The Causeway were taken over by East Hertfordshire District Council, whilst the new town council was based at the former offices of the Braughing Rural District Council at 2 Hockerill Street. The town council moved to the Old Monastery on Windhill in 1994.[64] East Hertfordshire District Council vacated 1 The Causeway in 2013, having consolidated most of its functions at its main offices in Hertford. The district council set up a smaller Bishop's Stortford office in Charringtons House, adjoining 1 The Causeway. The vacated office at 1 The Causeway was demolished in 2017.[65]

Parliamentary Elections

Bishop's Stortford is the largest town within the Hertford and Stortford County Constituency for elections to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. The constituency covers Stortford, Hertford, Ware, Sawbridgeworth and the surrounding rural areas.[66] Since the creation of the seat in 1983, it has been represented by Conservative MPs.

Electoral Wards

For elections to East Herts District Council, Bishop's Stortford is currently divided into five wards: All Saints, Central, Meads, Silverleys and South. However, as a result of a boundary review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, the town will be split into six wards from the 2023 local elections: All Saints, Central, North, Parsonage, South and Thorley Manor.[67]

For elections to Hertfordshire County Council, three electoral divisions cover Bishop's Stortford: Bishop's Stortford East (All Saints and Meads District Council Wards), Bishop's Stortford Rural (Bishop's Stortford South, Little Hadham and Much Hadham Wards) and Bishop's Stortford West (Central and Silverleys District Council Wards).[68]

Economy and business

Bishop's Stortford is a prosperous town.[69] The key drivers of its growth according to the Town Wide Employment Study for Bishop's Stortford are "Stansted Airport, an excellent rail service into central London and good road links via the M11 to London, the M25 northern sub-region and Cambridge. Bishop's Stortford is well positioned in relation to the UK's most dynamic economies."[69] This study also highlights Stortford's skilled population, as well as the importance of "quality of life" as an important economic asset.[69] In addition to East Hertfordshire topping the Halifax Quality of Life survey in 2020,[70] Stortford has been highlighted as a popular commuter town in articles in The Times[71], The Evening Standard,[72] and the Metro newspaper London.[73]

Like the UK as a whole, Bishop's Stortford has a highly service-based economy. In the 2011 census, 84.5% of Stortford residents in employment stated that they worked in a service industry, which was higher than East Hertfordshire (81.2%) and England (81.2%). Of particular note is that 7.9% of local workers are employed in Transportation and Storage at 7.9% than the English average of 5.0%.[47] The most significant employer in this industry is Stansted Airport, which was estimated in 2013 to employ at least 1,000 people who live in Stortford.[74]

Employment By Industry of Bishop's Stortford Residents, UK SIC Classifications (2011 census)[47]
Bishop's Stortford East Hertfordshire England
Number % Number % Number %
Primary Industries (A-B) 25 0.1 459 0.6 203789 0.8
Manufacturing (C) 1468 7.4 6161 8.5 2226247 8.8
Utilities (D-E) 139 0.7 566 0.8 315362 1.3
Construction (F) 1,446 7.3 6,355 8.8 1,931,936 7.7
Services (G-U) 16,851 84.5 58,635 81.2 20,442,085 81.2
Wholesale and Retail Trade (G) 3,327 16.7 11,268 15.6 4,007,570 15.9
Transportation and Storage (H) 1,581 7.9 3,553 4.9 1,260,094 5.0
Accommodation and Food Service (I) 893 4.5 3,058 4.2 1,399,931 5.6
Other Services (J-U) 11,050 55.4 40,756 56.4 13,774,490 54.7
All usual resident 16–74 in employment 19,941 100 72,225 100 25,162,721 100

Commuters represent a sizeable proportion of the local working age population. The Town Wide Employment Study estimated in 2013 around 3,000 people (round 15% of those in employment) commute from Stortford by rail, with the largest proportion "in all probability" travelling into Central London.[75] This is reflected in Stortford in the 2011 census having a much higher proportion of workers in managerial and professional occupations than the national average,[47] as shown in the table below.

Employment By Industry, UK SIC Classifications (2011 census)[47]
Bishop's Stortford East Hertfordshire England
Occupations Number % Number % Number %
All usual resident 16–74 in employment 19,941 100.0 72,225 100.0 25,162,721 100.0
Managers, directors and senior officials 2,682 13.4 10,639 14.7 2,734,900 10.9
Professional 4,058 20.4 14,636 20.3 4,400,375 17.5
Associate professional and technical 3,056 15.3 11,160 15.5 3,219,067 12.8
Administrative and secretarial 2,377 11.9 8,968 12.4 2,883,230 11.5
Skilled trades 1,776 8.9 7,589 10.5 2,858,680 11.4
Caring, leisure and other service 1,839 9.2 5,740 7.9 2,348,650 9.3
Sales and customer service 1,546 7.8 4,345 6.0 2,117,477 8.4
Process plant and machine operatives 979 4.9 3,573 4.9 1,808,024 7.2
Elementary 1,628 8.2 5,575 7.7 2,792,318 11.1

Bishop's Stortford itself has a strong internal economy, with an estimated 16,985 people employed within the town boundaries.[76] There are 329 businesses established in the town centre (as of 2018)[77] represented by the Bishop's Stortford Business Improvement District (BID).[78] There is also a Bishop's Stortford Chamber of Commerce.[79]

Stortford is considered the Principal Town Centre in East Hertfordshire by East Hertfordshire District Council's District Plan, serving as a destination for visitors from beyond the town.[80] There is both an indoor shopping centre, Jackson Square,[81] and a traditional high street running along the axis of South Street, Potter Street and North Street, as well as the adjoining streets.[82] The town has a twice weekly market and a monthly farmers market run by Bishop's Stortford Town Council.[83]

Estimated Employment in Bishop's Stortford (Usual Place of Work), UK SIC Classifications[76]
Industry 2020 %
Agriculture, forestry & fishing (A) 0 0
Mining, quarrying & utilities (B,D and E) 35 0.2
Manufacturing (C) 800 4.7
Construction (F) 1000 5.9
Motor trades (Part G) 700 4.1
Wholesale (Part G) 700 4.1
Retail (Part G) 2500 14.7
Transport & storage (inc postal) (H) 350 2.1
Accommodation & food services (I) 1250 7.4
Information & communication (J) 800 4.7
Financial & insurance (K) 600 3.5
Property (L) 350 2.1
Professional, scientific & technical (M) 1750 10.3
Business administration & support services (N) 1750 10.3
Public administration & defence (O) 100 0.6
Education (P) 1750 10.3
Health (Q) 1750 10.3
Arts, entertainment, recreation & other services (R, S,T and U) 800 4.7
Total 16,985 100

Local media

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.[84]


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.[85] 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.

Northbound services link Bishop's Stortford to Cambridge, and at certain times, to Ely and King's Lynn.

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.[86]

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.[87]

Epping tube station on the Central line is about 12 miles (19 km) away from Bishop's Stortford.

Bishop's Stortford is one of the 42 locations bidding for the headquarters of Great British Railways.[88]


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.[89]

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:

Air pollution

East Hertfordshire District Council monitors nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels at Hockerill Junction in the town centre.[90] 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):[91]

NO2 levels at
Hockerill Junction
(2017 average)[91]
Location NO2 concentration
Stansted Road 36.0
Hockerill Street 41.3
Dunmow Road 45.6
London Road 56.3


Stansted Airport is to the east of the town, with rail and bus links to Bishop's Stortford. Stansted serves over 200 destinations globally.[92]

Bus and coach

The town is on the Arriva Shires & Essex bus network. Buses 309, 508, 509 and 510 connect the town to Stansted Airport. Buses 508, 509 and 510 all terminate to the south in Harlow.[93]

Other key routes include the 301 to Saffron Walden, the 351 to Hertford, and the 386 to Stevenage (via Letchworth). There are further routes to rural destinations in Hertfordshire and Essex.[94][95]


Bishop's Stortford is served by cycle routes on regional networks and the National Cycle Network.

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).[96][97]

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.[97][98]

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.[99]

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.[100][101]


Castle mound

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.

All Saints' Church

In 1935 All Saints' Church, Hockerill 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.

Notable people

Cecil Rhodes


Stortford schools regularly appear with rankings of the best schools in the country, with Hockerill Anglo-European College, The Hertfordshire and Essex High School, and The Bishop's Stortford High School frequently being top performers in The Sunday Times Schools Guide[106][107] Hertfordshire County Council is the education authority for the state schools in Bishop's Stortford, and is responsible for admissions.[108]

All of the state primary schools in Stortford have nurseries attached, while all of the state secondaries have sixth forms.[109] Bishop's Stortford High School[110] and Herts and Essex High School[111] are a single sex boys and girls school, respectively, from years 7-11 but both have mixed-sex sixth forms. There is also an independent school, the Bishop's Stortford College, which covers the whole educational spectrum from ages 4 to 18.[112]

There are no further education or higher educational institutions in Stortford. However, nearby educational options include Stansted Airport College,[113] Harlow College,[114] Hertford Regional College,[115] and Cambridge Regional College.[116]

State Nursey and Primary Schools[109] All Saints C of E Primary and Nursery School, Avanti Meadows Primary School (opening September 2022),[117] Hillmead Primary School, Manor Fields Primary School, Northgate Primary School, St Joseph's Catholic Primary, St Michael's C of E VA Primary, Summercroft Primary School, The Richard Whittington Primary School, Thorley Hill Primary School, Thorn Grove Primary School, Windhill21
State Secondary Schools[109] Avanti Grange (opening September 2023),[117] Birchwood High School, Bishop's Stortford High School, Herts and Essex High School, Hockerill Anglo-European College, St Mary's Catholic School
Private Schools Bishop's Stortford College[112]

Arts and leisure

South Mill Arts

South Mill Arts theatre and museum

The South Mill Arts complex (formerly 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.[118]

South Mill Arts is the town's largest live music venue. In the 1960s, the Rhodes Theatre had a string of concerts by now very high-profile musicians, who were then at the start of their careers. Performers included David Bowie, Stevie Wonder and Lulu as well as iconic bands such as The Who, The Animals, The Moody Blues, Small Faces and Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders.[119]


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. [120] Bishop's Stortford Community Football Club are one of the largest clubs of their type in the country, with over 80 teams and nearly 1,000 members as of the 2020–21 season.[121]

Bishop's Stortford Rugby Football Club play in National League 1, the third tier of English rugby. In total the club has around 700 male players across its Mini, Youth and Senior teams, as well as over 80 female players, as of 2021.[122]

Bishop's Stortford Cricket Club play their home matches at Cricket Field Lane, which is also a home venue for Hertfordshire County Cricket Club.[123] Thorley Cricket Club play in Bishop's Stortford, and as of 2021 had 40 adult members and over 100 children in their summer coaching programme.[124] Hockerill Cricket Club play at their ground on Beldams Lane[125] which they share with Bishop's Stortford Running Club. BSRC supports road running and cross-country running.[126]

Bishop's Stortford Hockey Club was formed in 1948 and is based at The Hertfordshire and Essex High School with a clubhouse and state of the art pitch.[127] They have 14 senior sides – 6 men's and 8 ladies' – along with a large junior section. The club has a number of former international players still involved with coaching or playing, including Rob Clift (gold medallist), Bernie Cotton, Pippa Bull, Vernon Brown, Ronnie Stott, in addition to a number of senior members who still represent their country at Masters level.

Public sports facilities include the Grange Paddocks swimming pool and gym, a tennis club, a squash club, and a golf club. A concrete skateboard park plaza featuring a back-and-forth run with a quarter-pipe and flat bank either side of several ledges and a rail is located in the town park.[128] Bishop's Stortford Town Council is investing in the facility to create a broader "teenage recreation space".[129]

A greyhound racing track was in existence at Lowes Farm. It opened on 15 April 1933 and meetings took place on Saturdays; the closing date is not known. It was unaffiliated to a governing body.[130]


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'.[131]

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.[132]


There is an annual Christmas Fayre in December, with over 100 stall and family-friendly entertainment.[133] There is also a summer Carnival, involving a procession with over 100 community groups taking part, bands, fairground rides, entertainers and stalls.[134]


Located in the town centre is the Complex, Anchor Street Entertainment, a multiplex which contains a cinema, health club, a bowling alley and a number of food outlets.

The town is home to two amateur dramatics groups, The Water Lane Theatre Group and Bishop's Stortford Musical Theatre Company.

The town is home to various youth organisations and youth groups, including an Army Cadet Force detachment, an Air Training Corps squadron, Scout troops,[135] and a GAP youth group affiliated to the Church of St James the Great in Thorley.


Aerial view of Bishop's Stortford and vicinity, on takeoff from Stansted Airport

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.


Climate graph of Bishop's Stortford

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+12 miles (4 kilometres) due east of Stortford's town centre. Located at an elevation of over 100 m, the weather station, and parts of Stortford in general are marginally cooler throughout the year than the Cambridgeshire area to the north or the London area to the south. Nonetheless, Stortford is still warmer than the English average.

The highest temperature recorded at Stansted was 35.0 °C (95.0 °F)[136] during the August 2003 heatwave. In an average year the hottest day should reach 28.8 °C (83.8 °F),[137] and 12.3 days[138] 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)[139] 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),[140] with 47.3[141] air frosts being recorded in an average year.

Typically, the Stortford area will receive an average of 622 mm of rain during the course of the year.[136][142] 1 mm or more of rain will be recorded on 114.7 days[143] of the 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
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[144]
Source 2: KNMI[145]


Coat of arms of Bishop's Stortford
Originally granted to Bishop's Stortford Urban District Council on 20 August 1952.
On a wreath of the colours on a mount Vert the battlements of a tower Proper issuant therefrom a cross pommelled Gules.
Vert on a pale Argent surmounted by a fess wavy of the last charged with a bar wavy Azure counterchanged on the pale a mitre and garb Proper.
Pro Deo Et Populo (For God And The People).[146]


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External links