A Brief History of Watford

Apr 9, 2018

Home of Harry Potter and commuters’ hub, there is plenty to attract folk to the town of Watford.

A Brief History

Expansive green parks provide places to escape the capital’s buzz and rows of retail and leisure options offer a quieter alternative to the hubbub of Oxford Street.

Life wasn’t always this way however, with the town once being only a weekly market.

The market first began in the 12th century when the local landowner was granted permission to hold a weekly sale of local goods and produce. Popular as it was, a parish church was soon erected on the land.

St. Mary’s still stands to this day and remains one of the town’s most iconic sights. Soon after, market sellers began flocking to the settlement on a more permanent basis and the town of Watford was born.

The town expanded at a modest rate in the following years, with some of those early buildings still accessible around the centre.

Only on the dawn of the Industrial Revolution did Watford begin expanding at a rapid rate. London’s Grand Union Canal passed by the town and soon enough Watford had access to produce and transport routes like never before.

New industries took off in the town and Watford became an important stop-off on the way to London. As the century wore on, the town became one of the nation’s leading areas for paper production and the printing press.


Remnants of the era can still be seen today, with the imposing Odhams Press printworks building looming over the Dome Roundabout.

As the 20th century accelerated towards its end, the industry began to leave charming Watford, to be replaced with new leisure and retail facilities.

Its location along the key motorway and railway lines made Watford an attractive prospect for those working in nearby London but not keen on living in the capital.

Wizarding Worlds

As the year 2000 dawned, filmmaking found a home in Watford and emerged as the town’s premier calling card. American giant, Warner Bros. took over the abandoned aerodrome building north of the town and created Leavesden Film Studios, home of the most successful film franchise of all time, Harry Potter.

Nowadays, Watford remains popular with locals and visitors alike and is ideal for a weekend escape.

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