Bishop's Stortford, by Jacqueline Cooper
Published by Phillimore in 2005, 132 pages. Hardback with Dust Jacket (N3298)
Brand New Book
The first Roman settlers in the Bishop's Stortford area established themselves above low-lying marshes half a mile upriver from where the modern town lies. The settlement was centred on today's Cannons Close and was no more than a wayside outpost, serving soldiers and traders travelling along Stane Street. Thus, with the end of Roman rule, its raison d'être disappeared. The later Saxon settlement that evolved, with a chapel on what is now Windhill, grew up above another ford on the river, which took its name from the town. The other part of the place-name came from the Bishop of London, under whose lordship Bishop's Stortford grew into a thriving market town, guarded by a castle.
So it remained throughout the Middle Ages and the trials of the Reformation. When, in the 17th century, Charles II built a new road through Hockerill to ease his journey to Newmarket, Bishop's Stortford also became an important coaching centre. The Turnpike Trust and the Stort Navigation of the 18th century helped to foster the town's burgeoning malting and brewing industry, and the railway's arrival in the 19th century increased the town's population, leading to further prosperity. Growth continued in the 20th century, alongside the emergence of new trades and retail, which were particularly evident after the Second World War.
Today, with a population of 34,000 that is still rising, Bishop's Stortford faces new challenges, including the growth of Stansted Airport and government requirements for increased housing in the south-east. Yet, despite numerous and momentous changes, Bishop's Stortford remains a lively, bustling market town, with the River Stort, still one of the town's greatest resources, acting as the common thread throughout its history. The author's engaging narration of the town's compelling story is complemented by a superb selection of illustrations.