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Flag of Hertfordshire
Coat of arms of Hertfordshire County Council
Coat of arms
"Trust and fear not"
Hertfordshire within England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region East
Established Ancient
Time zone UTC±00:00 (Greenwich Mean Time)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+01:00 (British Summer Time)
Members of Parliament List of MPs
Police Hertfordshire Constabulary
Largest city Watford
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant Robert Voss
High Sheriff The Hon. Henry Holland-Hibbert (2020-21)
Area 1,643 km2 (634 sq mi)
 • Ranked 36th of 48
Population (2005 est.) 1,048,200
 • Ranked 15th of 48
Density 638/km2 (1,650/sq mi)
Ethnicity 80.8% White British
1.5% White Irish
0.1% White Gypsy or Irish Traveller
5.1% Other White
0.8% White & Black Caribbean
0.3% White & Black African
0.8% White & Asian
0.6% Other Mixed
2.6% Indian
1.1% Pakistani
0.5% Bangladeshi
0.8% Chinese
1.6% Other Asian
1.8% Black African
0.8% Black Caribbean
0.3% Other Black
0.2% Arab
0.4% Other
Non-metropolitan county
County council Hertfordshire County Council
Executive Conservative
Admin HQ Hertford
Area 1,643 km2 (634 sq mi)
 • Ranked of 26
Population 1,048,200
 • Ranked 6th of 26
Density 638/km2 (1,650/sq mi)
ISO 3166-2 GB-HRT
ONS code 26
GSS code E10000015
Hertfordshire numbered districts.svg
Districts of Hertfordshire
  1. North Hertfordshire
  2. Stevenage
  3. East Hertfordshire
  4. Dacorum
  5. City of St Albans
  6. Welwyn Hatfield
  7. Broxbourne
  8. Three Rivers
  9. Watford
  10. Hertsmere

Hertfordshire ( often abbreviated Herts) is one of the home counties in southern England. It borders Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire to the north, Essex to the east, Greater London to the south, and Buckinghamshire to the west. For government statistical purposes, it forms part of the East of England region.

Hertfordshire covers 634.366 square miles (1,643.00 km2). It derives its name - via the name of the county town of Hertford - from a hart (stag) and a ford, as represented on the county's coat of arms and on the flag. Hertfordshire County Council is based in Hertford, once the main market town and the current county town. The largest settlement is Watford.

Since 1903 Letchworth has served as the prototype garden city; Stevenage became the first town to expand under post-war Britain's New Towns Act of 1946.

In 2013 Hertfordshire had a population of about 1,140,700, with Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, Watford and St Albans (the county's only city) each having between 50,000 and 100,000 residents. Welwyn Garden City, Hoddesdon and Cheshunt are close behind with around 47,000 residents.

Elevations are higher in the north and west, reaching more than 800 feet (240 m) in the Chilterns near Tring. The county centres on the headwaters and upper valleys of the rivers Lea and the Colne; both flow south, and each is accompanied by a canal. Hertfordshire's undeveloped land is mainly agricultural, with much of it protected by green-belt policies. Services have become the largest sector of the county's economy. Hertfordshire is well-served with motorways and railways for access to London, the Midlands and the North.

See the List of places in Hertfordshire and also List of settlements in Hertfordshire by population articles for extensive lists of local places and districts.


Hertfordshire was the area assigned to a fortress constructed at Hertford under the rule of Edward the Elder in 913. Hertford is derived from the Anglo-Saxon heort ford, meaning deer crossing (of a watercourse). The name Hertfordshire is first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1011. Deer feature in many county emblems.

There is evidence of humans living in Hertfordshire from the Mesolithic period. 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, the aboriginal Catuvellauni quickly submitted and adapted to the Roman life; resulting in the development of several new towns, including Verulamium (St Albans) where in c. 293 the first recorded British martyrdom is traditionally believed to have taken place. Saint Alban, a Romano-British soldier, took the place of a Christian priest and was beheaded on Holywell Hill. His martyr's cross of a yellow saltire on a blue background is reflected in the flag and coat of arms of Hertfordshire as the yellow background to the stag or Hart representing the county. He is the Patron Saint of Hertfordshire.

With the departure of the Roman Legions in the early 5th century, the now unprotected territory was invaded and colonised by the Anglo-Saxons. By the 6th century the majority of the modern county was part of the East Saxon kingdom. This relatively short lived kingdom collapsed in the 9th century, ceding the territory of Hertfordshire to the control of the West Anglians of Mercia. The region finally became an English shire in the 10th century, on the merger of the West Saxon and Mercian kingdoms.

A century later the victorious William of Normandy received the surrender of the surviving senior English Lords and Clergy, at Berkhamsted, resulting in a new Anglicised title of William the Conqueror. He then embarked on an uncontested entry into London and coronation at Westminster.

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 and at King's Langley, a staging post between London and 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.

The first shooting-down of a zeppelin over Great Britain during WW1 happened in Cuffley.

De Wint, Peter, Cornfields near Tring Station, Hertfordshire, 1847
Peter de Wint, Cornfields near Tring Station, Hertfordshire, 1847, Princeton University Art Museum

As London grew, Hertfordshire became conveniently close to the English capital; much of the area was owned by the nobility and aristocracy, 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.

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 including the first three Star Wars movies (IV, V, & VI). The studios generally used the name of Elstree (the adjoining village). American director Stanley Kubrick not only used to shoot in those studios but also lived in the area until his death. In more recent times, Elstree has had the likes of Big Brother UK and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? filmed there, whilst EastEnders is also filmed at the studios. Also Hertfordshire has seen development in other film studio complexes, Leavesden Film Studios were developed on the Leavesden Aerodome site, north of Watford. The Harry Potter series was filmed at the studios, whilst the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye was also filmed there.

On 17 October 2000, the Hatfield rail crash killed four people with over 70 injured. The crash exposed the shortcomings of Railtrack, which consequently saw speed restrictions and major track replacement. On 10 May 2002, the second of the Potters Bar rail accidents occurred killing seven people; the train was at high speed when it derailed and flipped into the air when one of the carriages slid along the platform where it came to rest.

In early December 2005, the 2005 Hemel Hempstead fuel depot explosions occurred at the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal.

In 2012, the canoe and kayak slalom events of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games took place in the town of Waltham Cross, within the borough of Broxbourne.

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.


Hertfordshire is the county immediately north of London and is part of the East of England region, a mainly statistical unit. A significant minority of the population across all districts are City of London commuters. To the east is Essex, to the west is Buckinghamshire and to the north are Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

The county's boundaries were roughly fixed by the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844 which eliminated exclaves; amended when, in 1965 under the London Government Act 1963, East Barnet Urban District and Barnet Urban District were abolished, their area was transferred to form part of the present-day London Borough of Barnet and the Potters Bar Urban District of Middlesex was transferred to Hertfordshire.

The highest point in the county is at 245 metres (804 ft) (AOD) on the Ridgeway long distance national path, on the border of Hastoe near Tring with Drayton Beauchamp, Buckinghamshire.

As at the 2011 census of the ten Districts, East Hertfordshire had the minimal, 290 people per km², whereas Watford had the maximal 4210 people per km²

An unofficial status, the purple star-shaped flower with yellow stamens, the Pasqueflower is among endemic county flowers.


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, 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.

Natural resources and environment

Despite the spread of built areas, much of the county is given over to agriculture. One product, now largely defunct, was water-cress, based in Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted supported by reliable, clean chalk rivers.

Some quarrying of sand and gravel occurs in the St Albans area. In the past, clay has supplied local brick-making and still does in Bovingdon, just south-west of Hemel Hempstead. The chalk that is the bedrock of much of the county provides an aquifer that feeds streams and is also exploited to provide water supplies for much of the county and beyond. Chalk has also been used as a building material and, once fired, the resultant lime was spread on agricultural land to improve fertility. The mining of chalk since the early 18th century has left unrecorded underground galleries that occasionally collapse unexpectedly and endanger buildings.

Fresh water is supplied to London from Ware, using the New River built by Hugh Myddleton and opened in 1613. Local rivers, although small, supported developing industries such as paper production at Nash Mills.

Hertfordshire affords habitat for a variety of flora and fauna. One bird common in the shire is the Royston crow, which is the eponymous name of the regional newspaper, the Royston Crow published in Royston.

Urban areas

In November 2013, the uSwitch Quality of Life Index listed Hertfordshire as the third-best place to live in the UK.


Ashridge 2007-09-01 035
Ashridge house
The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban
St Albans Abbey
University of Hertfordshire building 1
University of Hertfordshire
Trees and Bluebells, Dockey Wood, Ashridge - - 1516118
Bluebells in Dockey Wood
The Making of Harry Potter 29-05-2012 (7528994480)
The Warner Bros. Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour at Leavesden

Below is a list of notable visitor attractions in Hertfordshire:

Main national footpaths

  • The Ridgeway
  • Icknield Way
  • Grand Union Canal Walk
  • Harcamlow Way
  • Hertfordshire Way

Intra-county notable footpaths

  • Hertfordshire Chain Walk


M25-M1 intersection near Hemel Hempstead
Junction of the M1 and M25 near Hemel Hempstead
700110 - London Blackfriars 3T13
Govia Thameslink Railway provide frequent train services through Hertfordshire on the Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line
Bridge 168, Grand Union Canal, Watford - - 464942
Bridge 168 on the Grand Union Canal

Hertfordshire is a home county with many towns forming part of the London commuter belt and has some of the principal roads in England including the A1, A1(M), A41, A414, M1, M11, and the M25.

Four principal national railway lines pass through the county:

A number of other local rail routes also cross Hertfordshire:

  • the London to Aylesbury Line from London Marylebone runs via Rickmansworth and Chorleywood
  • the Abbey Line, a local line from Watford to St Albans Abbey
  • the Cambridge Line, a branch of the East Coast line which runs via Royston and Letchworth to Cambridge

Three commuter lines operated by Transport for London enter the county:

Stansted Airport and Luton Airport are both within 10 miles (16 km) of the county's borders. The commercial airfield at Elstree is for light aircraft.

The Grand Union Canal passes through Rickmansworth, Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring.


Rooks Nest House, Stevenage
Rooks Nest House, Stevenage, typical of many local cottages

Hertfordshire is the location of Jack Worthing's country house in Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest.

Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice is primarily set in Hertfordshire. Topographical scholars place the town of Meryton either as Hertford or Hemel Hempstead, based on how far Mr Collins travels on the post from Watford, in either an easterly or westerly direction. The former location places the Bennet family home Longbourn as the town of Ware.

The location of Mr Jarndyce's Bleak House in Charles Dickens's Bleak House is near St. Albans in Hertfordshire.

The eponymous residence in E. M. Forster's novel, Howards End was based on Rooks Nest House just outside Stevenage. In the novel, Forster describes Hertfordshire as "England at its quietest".

George Orwell based his book Animal Farm on the village of Wallington, Hertfordshire where he lived between 1936 and 1940. Manor Farm and The Great Barn both feature in the novel.


Hatfield Business Park
View of one of the buildings at Hatfield Business Park, currently the headquarters of EE

This is a table of trends of regional gross value added of Hertfordshire at current basic prices with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 11,742 96 3,292 8,354
2000 18,370 77 4,138 14,155
2003 20,937 82 4,348 16,507

Hertfordshire has the main operational and/or headquarters UK site of some very large employers. Clockwise from north:

In Stevenage (a subsidiary of: BAE Systems, Airbus and Finmeccanica) MBDA, develops missiles. In the same town, Airbus (Defence & Space Division) produces satellites.

Hatfield was where de Havilland developed the first commercial jet liner, the Comet. Now the site is a business park and new campus for the University of Hertfordshire. This major employment site notably hosts EE, Computacenter and Ocado groceries and other goods e-commerce.

Welwyn Garden City hosts Tesco's UK base, hosts the UK Cereal Partners factory and in pharmaceuticals it hosts Roche UK's headquarters (subsidiary of the Swiss Hoffman-La Roche). GlaxoSmithKline has plants in Ware and Stevenage.

Hemel Hempstead has large premises of Dixons Carphone.

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA), the trade association for UK pharmacies, is based in St Albans.

Kings Langley has the plant-office of Pure, making DAB digital radios.

Watford hosts national companies such as J D Wetherspoon, Camelot Group, Bathstore, and Caversham Finance (BrightHouse). It is also the UK base of multi-nationals Hilton Worldwide, Total Oil, TK Maxx, Costco, JJ Kavanagh and Sons, Vinci and Beko. The 2006 World Golf Championship and the 2013 Bilderberg Conference, took place at The Grove hotel. Warner Bros. owns and runs its main UK base since the 2000s, Warner Studios, in Leavesden, Watford.

Rickmansworth hosts Skanska.


In 2012, the canoe and kayak slalom events of the 2012 Summer Olympics took place in Waltham Cross, Broxbourne.


Vicarage Road 2015
Vicarage Road stadium in Watford

As of the 2021–22 season, there are four professional football teams in Hertfordshire: Watford F.C., Stevenage F.C., Arsenal W.F.C. and Boreham Wood F.C.

Since 1922, Watford play their home games at Vicarage Road. The club joined the Football League in 1920 as a founding member of the Third Division and first played in the First Division of English football in 1982, finishing as runners-up to champions Liverpool. Watford currently play in the Premier League following a recent promotion from the Championship at the end of the 2020–2021 season.

Stevenage F.C. was formed in 1976 as Stevenage Borough and have played at Broadhall Way since 1980. Stevenage was the first club to win a competitive match at the new Wembley Stadium, beating Kidderminster Harriers 3–2 in the 2007 FA Trophy Final. The club currently play in the EFL League Two and have been managed by former player Alex Revell since February 2020.

Arsenal F.C., whilst based at the Emirates Stadium in the London Borough of Islington, has long held a training ground in the county. Until 1999, it held the London Colney University of London facility, until it built a new purpose-built compound adjacent to it. Watford FC currently utilises the old Arsenal training area as its training facility.

Arsenal W.F.C. play at Meadow Park in Borehamwood. The club was formed in 1987 and have played in the FA Women's Super League since its inaugural season in 2011.

Hertfordshire has many semi-professional and amateur clubs. The highest placed are Hemel Hempstead Town and St Albans City, who play one division lower in the National League South.


Rugby league

Hemel Stags are a rugby league team based in Hemel Hempstead. Hemel Stags have played at Pennine Way Stadium since the club's founding in 1981. Until 2018, the club played in league 1, the third tier of the British rugby league system, and now compete in the Conference League South.

Rugby union

The Hertfordshire Rugby Football Union is the governing body for rugby union in Hertfordshire and is responsible for any interested parties involved in rugby.

Tring Rugby play matches at Cow Lane, Tring. The first XV currently play in the London & South East Premier, a level 4 league.


St George's School
St George's School

Hertfordshire has 26 independent schools and 73 state secondary schools. The state secondary schools are entirely comprehensive, although 7 schools in the south and southwest of the county are partially selective (see Education in Watford). All state schools have sixth forms, and there are no sixth form colleges. The tertiary colleges, each with multiple campuses, are Hertford Regional College, North Hertfordshire College, Oaklands College and West Herts College. The University of Hertfordshire is a modern university based largely in Hatfield. It has more than 23,000 students.

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