Watford (/ˈwɒtfərd/) is a town and borough in Hertfordshire, England, situated 17 miles (27 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 along a road running uphill from a ford of the River Colne. The land belonged to St Albans Abbey until the 16th century. In the 12th century the Abbey was granted a charter allowing it to hold a market here, and the building of St Mary's 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 (from 1798) and the London and Birmingham Railway (from 1837) 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 industrial-scale brewers Benskins and Sedgwicks flourished in the town until their closure in the late 20th century. Today Watford is a major regional centre for the northern home counties. Hertfordshire County Council designates Watford, along with Stevenage, to be its major sub-regional centre. Several head offices of national companies and multi-nationals are based in Watford. Both the 2006 World Golf Championship and the 2013 Bilderberg Conference took place at The Grove hotel. 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 urbanised parish of Watford Rural in the Three Rivers District. The Watford subdivision of the Greater London Urban Area, which includes much of the neighbouring districts, had a total population of 120,960 in the 2001 census. Watford Borough Council is the local authority, with a directly elected mayor as head. The Mayor of Watford is one of only 18 directly elected mayors in England; 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 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. Wikipedia
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