Administrative (pop. 2001: 1,033,977) and historic county, southern England. It adjoins London on that city's northern side; its county seat is Hertford. It includes the two early “garden cities”—Letchworth (1903) and Welwyn Garden City (1920)—and four of the eight new towns planned around London since World War II (1939–45). With an array of direct road and rail links to London, it houses light industries, offices, film studios, and thousands of exurbanites.
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Hertfordshire was originally the area assigned to a fortress constructed at Hertford under the rule of Edward the Elder in 913. The name Hertford is derived from the Anglo-Saxon heort ford, meaning deer crossing (of a watercourse). The name Hertfordshire first appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1011. Deer feature prominently in many county emblems.
The area has a history dating back to the Middle Stone Age. It was first farmed during the Neolithic period, and permanent habitation appeared at the beginning of the Bronze Age. This was followed by tribes settling in the area during the Iron Age.
Following the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43, Hertfordshire adapted quickly to the Roman way of life, and one of the new towns, Verulamium, became the third largest town in Roman Britain. After the Romans left Britain, the Anglo-Saxons occupied the area, creating their own towns, including the county town of Hertford.
The Norman conquest in 1066 reached its climax at Berkhamsted where William the Conqueror accepted the final Saxon surrender. After the Norman conquest, Hertfordshire was used for some of the new Norman castles at Bishop's Stortford and at the royal residence of Berkhamsted.
The Domesday Book recorded the county as having nine hundreds. Tring and Danais became one, Dacorum, from (Danis Corum or Danish rule harking back to a Viking not Saxon past). The other seven were Braughing, Broadwater, Cashio, Edwinstree, Hertford, Hitchin and Odsey.
As London grew, Hertfordshire became conveniently close to the English capital, and much of the area was owned by the nobility and aristocracy, and this patronage helped to boost the local economy. However, the greatest boost to Hertfordshire came during the Industrial Revolution, after which the population rose dramatically. In 1903, Letchworth became the world's first garden city, and Stevenage became the first town to redevelop under the New Towns Act 1946.
In 1965 under the London Government Act 1963 East Barnet Urban District and Barnet Urban District were abolished and their area was transferred to Greater London to form part of the present-day London Borough of Barnet. At the same time the Potters Bar Urban District of Middlesex was transferred to Hertfordshire.
From the 1920s until the late 1980s, the town of Borehamwood was home to one of the major British film studio complexes, including the MGM-British Studios. Many well-known films were made here: for example, all the Harry Potter films were made at Leavesden Film Studios near Watford.
Following a proposal put forward by The Welwyn Garden Heritage Trust, town-planner Andrés Duany has suggested that designated "Garden Villages" could be built within Hertfordshire to relieve some of the pressure for new homes, with perhaps a third Garden City to follow.
The rocks of Hertfordshire belong to the great shallow syncline known as the London Basin. The beds dip in a south-easterly direction towards the syncline's lowest point roughly under the River Thames. The most important formations are the Cretaceous Chalk, which is exposed as the high ground in the north and west of the county, forming the Chiltern Hills, and the younger Palaeocene, Reading Beds and Eocene, London Clay which occupy the remaining southern part. The eastern half of the county was covered by glaciers during the Ice Age and has a superficial layer of glacial boulder clays.
Fresh water is supplied to London from Ware, using the New River built by Hugh Myddleton and opened in 1613. Most of the county's own supply comes from the chalk aquifer. Local rivers, although small, supported developing industries such as paper production at Nash Mills.
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Hertfordshire has headquarters of many large well-known UK companies. Hemel Hempstead is home to DSG International. Tesco are based in Cheshunt. Pure Digital the DAB radio maker is based in Kings Langley. JD Wetherspoon is in Watford. Comet and Skanska are in Rickmansworth. Hatfield used to be connected with the aircraft industry, as it was where de Havilland developed the world's first commercial jet liner, the Comet. Now the site is a business park and new campus for the University of Hertfordshire. This major new employment site is home to, among others, T-Mobile, Computacenter and Ocado. A subsidiary of BAE Systems, EADS and Finmeccanica in Stevenage, MBDA, develops missiles. In the same town EADS Astrium produces satellites. The National Pharmacy Association (NPA), the trade association for all of the UK's community pharmacies, is based in St. Albans.
The loss of aircraft manufacture at Hatfield is just one of a number of industrial losses as companies capitalise on land values and move to regions where land is cheaper and recruitment is easier. Examples include Scammell, (formerly of Watford), DRG (Hemel Hempstead) and Lucas (also Hemel). In general, the land thus freed has been used for housing or service industries.
The county has always been traversed by some of the principal roads in England, originally the A1 (Great North Road) to Yorkshire and Scotland, A5 (Watling Street) to North Wales, A6 to North West England and the A41 (Sparrows Herne turnpike) to the Midlands and now the M1, M11, A1(M) and the M25.
Principal rail routes lie through Stevenage to Yorkshire and Scotland, and through Watford to the Midlands, Wales, the North West and Glasgow. Lesser routes serve St. Albans (and the East Midlands) and Royston (to Cambridge and Norwich). Commuter routes supplement the through routes and the London Underground extends to Watford.