There are records of a small settlement in the area between the 1st & 5th Century AD. But little is recorded until 1060 when the Bishop of London bought the Manor of Esterteferd (later corrupted to Stortford), which is how it got the name of Bishop's Stortford. At about this time a small castle was built in the town but all that is left is a mound in the Causeway gardens. Because much of the land around the town was marsh, it became an important river crossing and with the opening of a market the town prospered. It became the centre for growing cereals, which led to the creation of a malting industry (No 15 Windhill is a converted oast house with the Granary next door). The river was used to transport goods to London. There are still several buildings dating back 4 –500 years.
In the 17th century, with the advent of the stagecoach Bishops Stortford became a convenient stopping place between London and Cambridge and East Anglia. A cattle market was opened in the 18th century, but has since closed. In the 19th century Cecil Rhodes (founder of Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe) and Walter Gilbey (founder of Gilbey's gin) were born in the town. The population of the town has now expanded to over 30,000.
The most visible building in the town is St Michael's Church, which is a Grade1 listed building. It is believed that there was a wooden church on this site in the 7th century, and the Doomsday book (1086) records a priest, but the first full record of a priest was in 1332. In the 12th century a substantial church was built, and the present font is from this church. The present church was started in the 15th centry but has been altered and added to many times since.
Bishops Stortford is a thriving town, which has expanded considerably over the last few years. Much of the layout of the town centre has not changed since the horse and cart days and this in many ways adds to its charm.
The town has a diverse range of shops from supermarkets, department store, male and female fashion shops, chemists, travel agents, as well as banks, post offices, estate agents, cafes and over 20 restaurants in the town centre. On Thursdays and Saturdays there is a street market.
Being half way between London and Cambridge and with a good train service it is a convenient base to use when visiting these cities.
The local Tourist Information centre is only 4 minutes walk from the cottage and they have up to date literature on local places of interest, timetables, ticket availability and local souvenirs etc and are very helpful.
Places of interest in or near the town:
- Bishops Stortford Centre Museum and Arts Centre
- Rhodes Theatre
- Leisure complex - Multi screen cinema and bowls
- Henry Moore Foundation
- Mountfitchet reconstructed castle
- Duxford Air museum
- Audley House & Gardens
- Walks along the tow path
Information on these and other places of interest can be found on the Tourist Information section of the Town Councils website www.bishopsstortford.org