Watford began as a settlement in the 12th century when the Abbot of St. Albans who owned the land here was given permission to hold a weekly market. The Abbot also established St Mary’s, the parish church of Watford and one of the town’s Grade I listed buildings. Other interesting buildings include the Bedford Almshouses which date from 1580, the Free School which was established in 1704 and Holy Rood Church which is a Victorian Gothic revival masterpiece.

It was the early 1800s which saw the greatest and most rapid changes to the town. The Grand Union Canal brought goods not easily available before. Traditional agricultural trades had begun to be supplemented by new industries including brewing. Even more significant was the opening of the railway in 1837. The 19th century also saw a rapid expansion in housing as people moved to the town for work.

After World War II printing became the most important industry. Now with the decline in manufacturing, the service industries have become the main employers. And still more people have been attracted to the town, whether for work or for leisure, as the M1 and the M25 made it more accessible. For more information on the history of Watford, click here.

St Mary's Church