Watford is a town and borough in Hertfordshire, England, situated northwest of central London and inside the circumference of the M25 motorway. It is not to be confused with Watford, Northamptonshire which is 55 miles to the north.
The town developed on the River Colne on land belonging to St Albans Abbey until the 16th century. During the 12th century a charter was granted allowing a market and building St Marys Church began. The town grew modestly, assisted by travellers passing through to Berkhamsted Castle and the royal palace at Kings Langley. A big house was built at Cassiobury in the 16th century. This was partly rebuilt in the 17th century and another substantial house was built nearby at The Grove. Connections with the Grand Junction Canal and the London and Birmingham Railway allowed the town to grow more rapidly, with paper-making mills, such as John Dickinson and Co. at Croxley, influencing the development of printing in the town which continues today. Two brewers Benskins and Sedgwicks flourished in the town until their closure in the late 20th century. Hertfordshire County Council designates Watford, along with Stevenage, to be its major sub-regional centre. Several head offices are based in Watford. Both the 2006 World Golf Championship and the 2013 Bilderberg Conference took place at The Grove.
Watford was created as an urban district under the Local Government Act 1894, and became a municipal borough by grant of a charter in 1922. The borough had 90,301 inhabitants at the time of the 2011 census. The borough is separated from Greater London to the south by the parish of Watford Rural in the Three Rivers District. Watford Borough Council is the local authority with the Mayor of Watford as its head; one of only 18 directly elected mayors in England and Wales. Dorothy Thornhill has been the mayor since the directly elected system was set up in May 2002 and is both the first Liberal Democrat and the first female directly elected mayor in the United Kingdom. Watford elects one Member of Parliament for the Watford constituency. Prior to the establishment of this constituency in 1885 the area was part of the three-seat constituency of Hertfordshire.
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