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Stafford

[staf-erd]
This article is about the town of Stafford, England. For the larger local government district see Borough of Stafford. For other uses, see Stafford (disambiguation)

Stafford is the county town of Staffordshire in England. It lies in the north of the West Midlands region, between Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent. The population of Stafford was given in the 2001 census as 63,681, with that of the wider borough of Stafford as 124,531.

History

Stafford means 'ford' by a 'staithe' (landing place). The town's location was the only feasible place for a large army to cross the River Trent, and so was strategically important in the wider region. The original settlement was on an island in the middle of the marshes of the River Sow, a tributary of the Trent. There is still a large area of marshland northwest of the town, which has always been subject to flooding, such as in 1947, 2000 and 2007.

In the year 913 Stafford was fortified by Ethelfleda, Lady of Mercia and daughter of Alfred the Great, becoming the new capital of Mercia (the previous capital having been in or near Stone). Queen Ethelfleda ruled Mercia from Stafford for five years as Queen of Mercia, after the death of her father and husband - at around this time the county of Staffordshire was first formed. King Alfred's son Edward, with the crucial aid of Ethelfleda, finally conquered and Christianised the Vikings who had settled in the east of England.

Stafford Castle was built by the Normans on a nearby hilltop in 1070, four years after the invasion of 1066. It was first made of wood, and later rebuilt of stone. It has been rebuilt twice since, but now only 19th century ruins remain atop the impressive earthworks. Illumination of the castle at night-time has made it a landmark for motorists on the M6 motorway and train travellers on the West Coast Main Line. Stafford was considered part of the ancient Pyrehill hundred.

In 1206, King John granted a Royal Charter which created the Borough of Stafford. On the 31 March 2006 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the town to join in the 800th anniversary civic celebrations.

A shoe making town

Stafford town has a long history of shoe making. It is "an ancient borough and market town, celebrated for the manufacture of shoes." Furthermore, "in the eighteenth century Stafford was represented (in Parliament) by the famous playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. When he was in Stafford he would stay with his friend William Horton. Horton was the founder of the Stafford Shoe Industry. A century after Horton began the early Factory System, Stafford was exporting some 5,000,000 pairs of shoes to South Africa alone. The were a number of spin-off industries which prospered in Stafford, these including Venables Wood Yard, Spic and Span Polish later to become Dove then Evode(anagram of Dove). The shoe industry gradually died out in the town, with Lotus Shoes being the last manufacturers." The large red-brick Lotus Shoe factory on Sandon Road closed and was demolished about 2001 to be quickly replaced by modern housing.

See for example: Staffordshire Industrial Archaeology Society, Journal No 10 (1981) including: A M Harrison, The Development of Boot and Shoe Manufacturing in Stafford 1850-1880; Staffordshire Industrial Archaeology Society, Journal 19 (2005), Shoemaking in Stafford, containing: The Development of Boot and Shoe Manufacturing in Stafford, 1850-1880, by Martin Harrison, Richard Podmore & Son, Shoe Manufacturers, by Martin Harrison, Stafford Box Factory in 2003, by Martin Harrison

Buildings and the town centre

The oldest building in Stafford is St Chad's church.

Opened in 1908, Victoria Park is a 13 acre (53,000 m²) Edwardian riverside park with an open-air paddling pool, bowling green, bird cages, greenhouse and two play areas.

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre is the town's main entertainment and cultural venue. An Arts centre has also been planned for the town to offer more culture and try and boost tourism in the town.

In the main shopping street, Greengate Street, lies the Elizabethan Ancient High House, the largest timber-framed town house in England. The Ancient High House is now a museum, with changing exhibitions.

The Shire Hall Gallery, found in the very centre of Stafford town, houses the Art Gallery, which shows changing exhibitions. It also contains a cafe and the town's Library.

The Shire Hall used to be the Court House for the town, and as a Grade 2 listed building, still retains two courtrooms. One of these is open to the general public and has a permanent exhibition showing the history of the building, some high profile cases that were heard there and guided tours are available. Part of the tour includes an old 'holding cell' which is open to public viewing.

The Apollo Cinema shows most big-budget films and has three screens.

The new £15 million Stafford Leisure Centre opened on 12 April 2008, adjacent to the ASDA superstore in Lammascote Road. It replaces the old Riverside Recreation Centre, which has been demolished to make way for a £50 million housing, leisure and retail complex (incorporating a multiplex cinema) along the River Sow. The former Tesco store and Bridge Street multi-storey car park will both be demolished as part of this development.

R.A.F Stafford was transformed into M.O.D Stafford in late 2007, after the R.A.F left the Town. It is now home to a Gurkha signals regiment and a RAF regiment contingent.

Staffordshire University has a large campus in the town focusing heavily on computing and teaching courses.

77,900 new homes are expected to be built in greenfield areas of Staffordshire, with 12,900 expected to be built in Stafford.

People

Famous people from Stafford include:

The 17th century author of The Compleat Angler, Izaak Walton, and the 18th century playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan was once the local MP. Also, the 1853 Lord Mayor of London, Thomas Sidney, was born in the town.

In the early 1900s, the village of Great Haywood near Stafford was home to the wife of famous The Lord of the Rings author J. R. R. Tolkien. He stayed with his wife, Edith, in her cottage in the village during the winter of 1916, and the surrounding areas were said to be an inspiration for some of his early works.

Climax Blues Band, initially, as their name suggests, a popular blues band but later to go more mainstream with 'Couldn't Get It Right', (a number 10 hit in the UK in October 1976, and number three in America the following year) also hailed from Stafford. Band leader Colin Cooper was born in the town in 1939, still lives locally, and is the only Staffordian in the current incarnation of the band. Former bass and guitar player Derek Holt until recently ran a public house in the town centre, and still plays there regularly.

Stafford was the birthplace of Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey, Freya Copeland, who plays Angela 'Angie' Reynolds in the soap Emmerdale and comedian Dave Gorman. The science fantasy author Storm Constantine is a long-time resident.

1970s hit duo Medicine Head hailed from nearby Tixall.

Anthony Gardner, the Premiership footballer, is also from Stafford.

Footballer Christopher Birchall, who plays for Championship side Coventry City, was born in Stafford on 5 May 1984. Despite this, he plays his international football for Trinidad & Tobago, gaining qualification because his mother - although of English stock - was born there. Birchall is the first white player to represent Trinidad & Tobago for 60 years, and played for them in the World Cup in Germany in 2006. Birchall was playing for Port Vale FC at the time, and was transferred to Coventry City FC at the start of the 2006–2007 season.

Fran Healey, lead singer of rock band Travis, was born in Stafford on 23 July 1973 but moved to Scotland shortly afterwards.

Dave Follows (3 October 194117 October 2003) was a prolific cartoonist. Follows' cartoons include: The Creature Feature in The Sunday Times for sixteen years; and strips for over twenty local newspapers including The Stafford Newsletter for over twenty years. Dave's first published cartoon was printed in the Staffordshire Advertiser & Chronicle 1971. The iconic May un Mar Lady strip appeared daily for over 20 years in the North Staffordshire edition of The Evening Sentinel and is currently enjoying a full re-run. Many of Follows' cartoons are currently being syndicated in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. The co-creator of animated comedy series Hungry Hamsters, Dave was born in and lived in Stafford all his life.

Rave acts Altern-8 and Bizarre Inc were also from the town.

Former Aston Villa, Derby County and Watford winger Nigel Callaghan lives and DJs in the town.

Economy

A major activity in the town since 1903 has been heavy electrical engineering, particularly producing power station transformers, exported around the world. The works have been successively owned by Siemens, English Electric, GEC, GEC Alsthom, Alstom and most recently Areva. Every so often a delivery takes to the road. Each transformer weighs several hundred tons and so a sort of road train is used. The weight is spread by a 160-wheel cradle, pulled by an 8-wheel drive Faun Goliath tractor unit and pushed by two more. In the 1968 Hixon rail crash, one such road train was struck by an express train when it was crossing the railway at a level crossing.

Bostik, the adhesives manufacturer, has a large factory in the town.

Local employment is also provided by Stafford Prison, close to the town centre.

Stafford is home to the computing and IT campus of Staffordshire University, specifically the Beaconside Campus houses the Faculty of Computing Engineering and Technology, it also houses part of the Business School, and the adjacent Blackheath Lane campus (ten minutes walk from Beaconside) houses the School of Health, which teaches nursing. The main campus being in Stoke-on-Trent about 18 miles away to the North.

Business news in Stafford is covered by The Stafford Post.

Transport

Stafford railway station is a stop for many inter-city trains on the West Coast Main Line; enabling easy commuting to the cities of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Liverpool and Manchester.

Junctions 13 (Stafford South) and 14 (Stafford North) of the M6 motorway provide access to the town.

Local bus travel within the town is provided by Arriva Midlands while services to Stone and Stoke-on-Trent are handled by First PMT.

Stafford is served by four large taxi companies: Aerobrights, Anthony's AJ's, Kaminski Hire and Westside. There are also a large number of independent operators who work from the ranks at the station, Bridge Street, Broad Street and Salter Street.

The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal runs close to the Baswich and Wildwood areas, and was previously linked to the River Sow by the River Sow Navigation.

Healthcare

The town is supplied with primary care by the South Staffordshire Primary Care Trust.

The town's main hospital is Stafford Hospital, previously known as Staffordshire General Hospital and also Stafford District General Hospital. The hospital is operated and managed by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and provides a wide range of non-specialist medical and surgical services. Stafford Hospital's Accident and Emergency unit is the only such facility in the town. Wards at Stafford Hospital are numbered, with the exception of the Children's wards (known as the "Anson Suite"), which are named after local towns and landmarked (e.g. Shugborough ward). This hospital is built on the site of Coton Hill private psychiatric hospital which opened in 1851 and closed 1975 and was demolished with only the old chapel and gate house still visible.

The St. George's Hospital is actually a combination of two historical hospitals - the Kingsmead Hospital (previously an Elderly Care facility) and the St. George's psychiatric hospital. This hospital provides mental health services, including an Intensive care unit, Secure units, an Eating disorder unit, an EMI unit, Drug and Alcohol Addiction services and open wards. There is a small outpatient facility, and this is the location of the town's AA meeting. Wards a the St. George's hospital are named after local villages are termed "houses" (e.g. Brocton House, Chebsey House, Coton House, etc).

Education

Primary and Secondary education are provided by various different schools in the town.

The Chetwynd Centre also provides Higher Education in the town. It normally teaches specialised A-levels, some vocational qualifications and subjects taught by teachers with no school base. The centre has joined up with all the town's secondary schools, except the grammar school, to provide better resources for students. The schools are:

Stafford College is a large College of Further Education. Stafford College also provides some Higher Education courses on behalf of Staffordshire University and focuses heavily on computing and engineering.

Rodbaston College is based in the village of Rodbaston, on the edge of Stafford. It is an agricultural college and provides most of its training in this sector.

Staffordshire University has a large campus in the East of the town and focuses heavily on computing, engineering and media technologies (Film, Music and Computer Games). The University has 2 halls of residence opposite the campus, the smaller Yarlet with 51 rooms and the larger Stafford Court with 554 Rooms. Stafford court is divided into 13 'houses' named after local villages.

Sport

Stafford is home to three association football clubs; Stafford Rangers F.C., Brocton F.C. and Stafford Town F.C., none of which play at a fully professional level.

The town also has a Rugby Union club Stafford RUFC, though again it does not play at a high level.

There is also a local Hockey team with four adult teams.

The Stafford knot

The arms of Staffordshire show a distinctive three looped knot and the county motto is the knot unites. However this is properly called the Stafford knot since it was the badge of the de Stafford family. The fanciful legend is that three convicted felons who had committed a crime together were due to be executed in Stafford gaol. There was argument over who should be hanged first but the hangman solved the problem by devising this knot (although it is in fact a simple overhand knot, the most basic knot of all) and hanging the three simultaneously. However; the knot can be seen on a 4 ft (1.2 m) high carved Anglo-Saxon cross in a Stoke churchyard. This strongly suggests it pre-dates the Norman and medieval period, being probably either i) a heraldic symbol of early Mercia or ii) a Celtic Christian symbol brought to Staffordshire by missionary monks from Lindisfarne (commemorated in the arms of Stafford).

The North Staffordshire Railway was referred to as the Knotty after the knot.

RAF/MOD Stafford

RAF Stafford was a non-flying Royal Air Force station. In March 2006, RAF Stafford was redesignated as MOD Stafford. The event was marked by a fly past and a flag lowering ceremony. For many years the site provided employment for civilians and military personnel. RAF Stafford though was handed over by the RAF in accordance with the defence strategy and streamlining that has become commonplace. A small element of TSW still operate from MOD Stafford

Areas

An estate which is next to Weeping Cross, and many people get confused between these two estates. It is also found by heading towards Rugeley and Cannock, or from Uttoxeter past Weston Road School and through the lanes. It has a Co-Op as a convenience store, and a hairdressers. It also has a church with a graveyard.

A large council estate with Wolverhampton Road at one end and Newport Road at the other. The first houses in Highfields were built c. 1955, with substantial additions (Highfields number two estate, as it was then known) in 1963/4. West Way is the longest street in Highfields, carving its way through the entire estate. Many of the streets in the sixties expansion of Highfields were named after poets and playwrights (Shakespeare Road, Masefield Drive, Coleridge Drive, Keats Avenue, Tennyson Road, Binyon Court (now renamed "The Keep"), etc). Of the older roads, the longest is Bagot's Oak, so called because of a large old tree that was in the road. Much of the original estate was built on Preston's Farm land.

Parkside is a housing estate at the extreme north of the town. It has two entrances from the A513 Beaconside Road, forming a U-shape. The estate has access to many green areas, including 3 parks, a 'green' and access to Stafford Common. There is also a primary school on the estate and access to Sir Graham Balfour School. The estate also has a pub (The Staffordshire Bull) and a precinct of shops that form the northern terminus of the number 8 bus route through the town.

Rickerscote many of years ago used to have a lane running from the now Silkmore estate heading towards the area where the bridge to Argos is. This area is known to many as 'the village', and there is a local shop that serves the people. Rickerscote is home to a large area of grassland know locally as the 'green'.
Other locally well known areas of here are 'The Conker Tree', Boultons Farm, Devils Triangle and 'The Metal Bridge'. The local drinking houses are the Rickerscote Arms, known to the old school as the Alpine, and further into the estate there is the Post Office Social Club.

Silkmore is an area situated between Rickerscote and Meadowcroft, with the distant Rising Brook to its side. The local primary school is Silkmore and the area has a selection of shops, ranging from the local butchers to a Chinese. Over the years the area has been under a small facelift in order to brighten up and change the image of the place.
An area of Silkmore is renowned for flooding, namely the area where the 'Southend Club' used to stand. This has now been replaced with new homes. Other areas of the estate that no longer exist are 'The Pioneer', 'The Garage' and 'Finney's Farm'. These have all now been replaced by homes or the Co-op.

Walton on the Hill is at the extreme south of Stafford bordering Milford and is the most select and exclusive residential area in the Borough with the highest average house prices. Walton High School is one of the top state schools in the Midlands and as such, places are much sought after.

Weeping Cross is an estate on the east side of Stafford, named because of an old tree which was used for hanging people. It is easily found by heading up Radford Bank, and towards Rugeley and Cannock. It also holds Leasowes Primary School and St Annes Catholic Primary School. Weeping Cross also has a local pub, the Lynton Tavern, a clinic with nearby Pharmacy, a library and a row of convenient shops. The number one bus runs every 20 minutes around the estate.

An estate on the edge of Stafford that borders on Highfields and the M6 Motorway. A large green area with two football pitches and a basketball court known as 'The Bottom Pitches' or 'BP' can be found in Western Downs along with 'The Rainbow Park' on Clarendon Drive, and the 'Dome Park' or "Pome Dark" on Torridge Drive. Until the council built a play area on 'The Pome Dark' they were the main footballing locations on the estate. The number nine bus route also covers Western Downs and the area is known by locals as "Junction 13A".

Nearby Places

See also

References

Notes

Bibliography

  • (11th century and earlier) Staffordshire Newsletter 1994 Guide

External links

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