Watford ( ( listen)) is a town and borough in Hertfordshire, England, situated 15 miles (24 km) 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 the building of St Mary's Church began. The town grew partly due to travellers going to Berkhamsted Castle and the royal palace at Kings Langley. A mansion was built at Cassiobury in the 16th century. This was partly rebuilt in the 17th century and another country house was built at The Grove. Connections with the Grand Junction Canal (1798) and the London and Birmingham Railway (1837) allowed the town to grow more rapidly with paper-making mills, such as John Dickinson and Co. at nearby Croxley, influencing the development of printing in the town. Two brewers, Benskins and Sedgwicks, amalgamated and flourished in the town until their closure in the late 20th century. Hertfordshire County Council designates Watford to be a 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 became an urban district under the Local Government Act 1894 and a municipal borough by grant of a charter in 1922. The borough, which had 90,301 inhabitants at the time of the 2011 census, 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 (MP) 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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