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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Dave Follows (3 October 1941 — 17 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.
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.
Junctions 13 (Stafford South) and 14 (Stafford North) of the M6 motorway provide access to the town.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.