Stafford facts for kids
Stafford town centre
|Population||68,472 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||ST16, ST17, ST18, ST19, ST20, ST21|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
Stafford (//) is the county town of Staffordshire, in the West Midlands of England. It lies approximately 16 miles (26 km) north of Wolverhampton, 18 miles (29 km) south of Stoke-on-Trent and 24 miles (39 km) north-west of Birmingham. The population in 2001 was 63,681 and that of the wider borough of Stafford 122,000, the fourth largest in the county after Stoke-on-Trent, Tamworth and Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Stafford means 'ford' by a 'staithe' (landing place). The original settlement was on dry sand and gravel peninsula that provided a strategic crossing point in the marshy valley of the River Sow, a tributary of the River 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.
It is thought Stafford was founded in about 700 AD by a Mercian prince called Bertelin who, according to legend, established a hermitage on the peninsula named Betheney or Bethnei. Until recently it was thought that the remains of a wooden preaching cross from this time had been found under the remains of St Bertelin's chapel, next to the later collegiate Church of St Mary in the centre of the town. Recent re-examination of the evidence shows this was a misinterpretation – it was a tree-trunk coffin placed centrally in the first, timber, chapel at around the time Æthelflæd founded the burh, in 913 AD. The tree-trunk coffin may have been placed there as an object of commemoration or veneration of St Bertelin.
Already a centre for the delivery of grain tribute during the Early Middle Ages, Stafford was commandeered in July 913 AD by Æthelflæd, Lady of Mercia and daughter of King Alfred the Great, after the death of her father and of her husband, Æthelred, then ealdorman of Mercia in 911, in order to construct a burh there. This new burh was fortified and provided with an industrial area for the centralised production of Roman-style pottery ("Stafford Ware") which was supplied to the chain of West Midlands burhs.
She and her younger brother King Edward the Elder of Wessex, both children of King Alfred the Great and Ealhswith, wife of Æthelred, ealdorman of the Angles of Mercia, were attempting to complete their father King Alfred the Great's programme of unifying England into a single kingdom. Æthelflæd was a formidable military leader and tactician, and she sought to protect and extend the northern and western frontiers of her overlordship of Mercia against the Danish Vikings, by fortifying burhs, including Tamworth and Stafford in 913, and Runcorn on the River Mersey in 915 among others, while King Edward the Elder concentrated on the east, wresting East Anglia and Essex from the Danes. Anglo-Saxon women could play powerful roles in society; Æthelflæd's death effectively ended the relative independence of Mercia. Edward the Elder of Wessex took over her fortress at Tamworth and accepted the submission of all who were living in Mercia, both Danish and English. In late 918 Aelfwynn, Æthelflæd's daughter, was deprived of her authority over Mercia and taken to Wessex. The project for the unification of England took another step forward.
Stafford was one of Æthelflæd's military campaign bases and extensive archaeological investigations, and recent re-examination and interpretation of that evidence now shows her new burh was producing, in addition to the Stafford Ware pottery, food for her army (butchery, grain processing, baking), coinage and weaponry, but apparently no other crafts and there were few imports.
The Lady of Mercia, Æthelflæd, ruled Mercia for five years after the death of her father and husband, dying in Tamworth in 918.
At around this time the county of Staffordshire was formed. Stafford lay within the Pirehill hundred.
In 1069, a rebellion by Eadric the Wild against the Norman conquest culminated in the Battle of Stafford. Two years later another rebellion, this time led by Edwin, Earl of Mercia, culminated in Edwin's assassination. This meant his lands were distributed amongst the followers of William the Conqueror. Robert de Tonei was granted the manor of Bradley and one third of the king's rents in Stafford. The Norman conquest in Stafford was therefore particularly brutal, and resulted not only in the imposition of a castle, but in the destruction and suppression of every other activity except the intermittent minting of coins for about a hundred years.
Stafford Castle was built by the Normans on the nearby hilltop to the west in about 1090. It was first made of wood, and later rebuilt of stone. It has been rebuilt twice since, and the ruins of the 19th century gothic revival castle on the earthworks incorporate much of the original stonework.
Redevelopment began in the late 12th century, and while the church, the main north-to-south street (Greengate) and routes through the late Saxon industrial quarter to the east remained, in other ways the town plan changed. A motte was constructed on the western side of the peninsula, overlooking a ford, and facing the site of the main castle of Stafford, on the hill at Castle Church, west of the town. Tenements were laid out over the whole peninsula and trade and crafts flourished until the early 14th century, when there was another upset probably associated with the plague of Black Death, which was followed in the mid 16th century by another revival.
In 1206 King John granted a Royal Charter which created the borough of Stafford. In the Middle Ages Stafford was a market town, mainly dealing in cloth and wool. In spite of being the shire town, Stafford required successive surges of external investment from the time of Æthelflæd to that of Queen Elizabeth I.
When James I visited Stafford, he was said to be so impressed by the town's Shire Hall and other buildings that he called it 'Little London'.
Charles I visited Stafford shortly after the out-break of the English Civil War. He stayed for three days at the Ancient High House. The town was later captured by the Parliamentarians, while a small-scale battle was fought at nearby Hopton Heath. Stafford later fell to the Parliamentarians, as did Stafford Castle, following a six-week siege. The town's most famous son is Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler, who was a staunch Royalist.
In 1658 Stafford elected John Bradshaw, the man who judged the trial of King Charles I, to represent the town in Parliament. During the reign of Charles II, William Howard, 1st Viscount Stafford became implicated in the Popish Plot, in which Titus Oates whipped up anti-Catholic feelings with his claims that there was a plot to have the king killed. Lord Stafford was among those accused; he was unfortunate to be the first to be tried, and was beheaded in 1680. The charge was false and over five years later, on 4 June 1685, the bill of attainder against him was reversed.
The town was represented in Parliament by the famous playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan in the 18th century. During the same era, the town's mechanised shoe industry was founded, the most well-known factory owner being William Horton. The industry gradually died out, with the last factory being redeveloped in 2008.
In 1837 the Grand Junction Railway built the first railway line (part of the line from Birmingham to Warrington) and railway station in the town; at Warrington this linked, via another line, with the Liverpool-to-Manchester railway. Birmingham provided the first connection to London. Other lines followed; Stafford became a significant junction and this helped attract a number of industries to the town.
On 31 March 2006 the Queen visited the town to join in the 800th anniversary civic celebrations.
In 2013 Stafford celebrated its 1,100th anniversary year with a number of history-based exhibitions, while local historian Nick Thomas and writer Roger Butters were set to produce the two-volume 'A Compleat History of Stafford' (sic).
The Elizabethan Ancient High House in the town centre is the largest timber-framed town house in England. It is now a museum, with changing exhibitions.
Stafford Castle was built by the Normans on the nearby hilltop to the west in about 1090, replacing the post-Conquest fort in the town. It was first made of wood, and later rebuilt of stone. It has been rebuilt twice since, and the ruins of the 19th century gothic revival castle crowning the earthworks incorporate much of the original stonework. The castle has a visitor centre, with audio visual displays and hands-on items. There is also a recreated medieval herb garden and Shakespeare productions take place in the castle grounds each summer. The castle forms a landmark for drivers, as it is highly visible from the M6 motorway.
The oldest building now in Stafford is St Chad's Church, dating back into the 12th century. The main part of the church is richly decorated. Carvings in the church's archways and pillars may have been made by a group of stonemasons from the Middle East who came to England during the Crusades. A great deal of the stonework was covered up during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the church took on a neo-classical style. In the early 19th century restoration, work was carried out on the church and the Norman decoration was rediscovered. The church hosts "Timewalk", a computer generated display which relates the journey of history and mystery within the walls of the church.
St Mary's, the collegiate church formerly linked to St Bertelin's chapel, was completely rebuilt in the early 13th century in a cruciform layout with an aisled nave and chancel typical of the period. It has an impressive octagonal tower, once topped by a tall steeple, which can be picked out in Gough's plan shown above. The church was effectively two churches in one, divided by a screen, with the parish using the nave and the collegiate canons using the chancel. St Mary's was restored in 1842 by Giles Gilbert Scott.
The Shire Hall Gallery was built in 1798 as a court house and office of the Mayor and Clerk of Stafford. It houses the Art Gallery, which shows changing exhibitions. It also contains a café and previously the town's library until its recent move to Staffordshire Place. The Shire Hall used to be the town's court house, and is a Grade II listed building. It still retains two courtrooms. One of them is open to the general public and has a permanent exhibition showing the history of the building and details of some high-profile cases that were heard there. An old 'holding cell' is also open to public viewing.
The Shugborough Hall country estate is 4 miles (6.4 km) outside town. It previously belonged to the Earls of Lichfield, and is now owned by the National Trust and maintained by the leaseholder, Staffordshire County Council. The 19th century Sandon Hall is 5 miles (8.0 km) northeast of Stafford. It is set in 400 acres (1.6 km2) of parkland, and is the seat of the Earl of Harrowby. Weston Hall stands 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Stafford, in the Trent valley, with a large park and it was once part of the Chartley estate. It is believed that the main part of the hall was built around 1550 as a small dower house, however the architectural evidence suggests that it is Jacobean. Weston Hall was extended in 1660 into a three-gable structure with high-pitched roofs.
Stafford Gatehouse Theatre is the town's main entertainment and cultural venue. The Met Studio within the Gatehouse is a dedicated venue for stand-up comedy and alternative live music. There is an art gallery in the Shire Hall. Staffordshire County Showground, just outside the town, is the venue for many national and local events. There is an annual Shakespeare Festival at Stafford Castle that has attracted many notable people, including Frank Sidebottom and Ann Widdecombe.
Victoria Park, opened in 1908, is a 13 acre (53,000 m2) Edwardian riverside park with a play park, bowling green, bird cages and greenhouses; Victoria Park has recently undergone a major redevelopment in places, incorporating a new children's play area, new sand and water jet area which has replaced the previous open-air paddling pool and also a brand new bmx/skateboard area. Stafford is also home to a 9 hole golf course near the town centre.
The three screen Apollo Cinema, showing mainstream releases, is in the centre of town. Stafford Film Theatre is based at the Gatehouse Theatre, and shows independent and alternative films. There is also a tenpin bowling alley at Greyfriars Place. The new Stafford Leisure Centre opened in 2008 on Lammascote Road.
Nightlife in the town consists of smaller bar and club venues such as Casa, the Grapes, the Picture House, and the nightclub Couture / Noir et Blanc, most of which are in walking distance of each other. There is a big student patronage, with coaches bringing students from Stoke-on-Trent, Cannock, and Wolverhampton.
As with the rest of the British Isles Stafford experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. The nearest Met Office weather station is at Penkridge, about 5 miles to the south.
|Climate data for Stafford 101m asl, 1971-2000|
|Average high °C (°F)||6.5
|Average low °C (°F)||1.0
|Precipitation mm (inches)||62.7
Stafford railway station was once a major hub on the railway network, but the suspension of passenger services on the Stafford to Uttoxeter line in 1939 and Beeching's closure of the Stafford to Shrewsbury Line in 1964 completely halted east-west traffic through Stafford. The years up to 2008 saw cross-country trains stopping at Stafford less frequently. Since the CrossCountry trains franchisee change, more CrossCountry trains are now stopping at Stafford railway station. Stafford railway station is still a stop for a number of Virgin Trains services on the West Coast Main Line enabling easy commuting to London (Euston) and Liverpool. CrossCountry trains operate a regular service to Stoke-on-trent and Manchester Piccadilly normally every 30 Mins during the weekdays; Since December 2008 London Midland have operated a service stopping at Stafford which also serves Crewe and London and also a Birmingham - Liverpool Lime Street service which departs Stafford Station normally every 30 mins during the weekdays. At least one train each way between Birmingham New Street and Crewe is operated by Arriva Trains Wales.
Junctions 13 (Stafford South & Central) and 14 (Stafford North) of the M6 motorway provide access to the town, therefore the major cities of Birmingham and Manchester and beyond are easily reached. The A34 road runs through the centre of the town, linking it to Stone and Stoke-on-Trent to the north and Cannock and the West Midlands conurbation to the south. The A518 road connects Stafford with Telford to the south west and Uttoxeter to the north east, and therefore is the main route to the major theme park at Alton Towers. The A449 runs south from the town centre and connects with the nearby town of Penkridge and Wolverhampton. Finally, the A513 runs east from Stafford to the local towns of Rugeley and Lichfield.
The majority of bus services in Stafford and area are provided by Arriva Midlands, and the company also operates services to Lichfield, Cannock and Wolverhampton. From late April 2015 National Express West Midlands introduced a new service between Wolverhampton and Stafford. Services to Stone and Stoke-on-Trent are handled by First PMT and Bakerbus. D&G Bus and a number of smaller operators serve rural locations
Stafford is served by five large taxi companies: Aerobright's, Anthony's AJ's, Kaminski Hire, Westside and SmartCars. 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.
Although a significant number of people living and working within Stafford speak with distinctly Black Country or Stoke-on-Trent accents, there exists a very distinctive Staffordian accent, spoken by most residents, that sounds like a weaker cousin of the East Midlands family of accents. The famous stand-up comedian, author, broadcaster and Stafford native Dave Gorman has a typically Staffordian accent.
The Stafford accent may be distinguished from that of the more southern parts of Staffordshire heading towards the West Midlands, where the accent is more Black Country-influenced. The accent of Stafford is more influenced by Stoke-on-Trent, to varying extents, but less broad and perhaps more "watered-down." Those who live in Stafford tend to believe they have a more "neutral" accent, or perhaps no accent at all, but the influence of Stoke-on-Trent and nearby Stone sets it apart and distinguishes itself from more southern Staffordshire.
The Stafford knot
- An estate which is next to Weeping Cross, and many people get confused between these two estates. It is found by heading towards Rugeley and Cannock from Stafford Town Centre, or from Uttoxeter past Weston Road High School and through Baswich lanes. It has a Co-Op as a convenience store, and a hairdresser. It also has a church with a graveyard.
- Burton Manor
- Castle House Gardens
- Castle House Drive
- An estate built on the wetlands off Newport Road in the early 1990s, to the displeasure of many protesters. The roads are named after famous athletes of the time (Gunnell Close, Christie Drive etc.)
- An estate of terraced cottages, built in the 1830s and 1840s for the influx of railway workers into the town. The estate used to have a church, St Thomas's, but this was demolished in the 1970s and replaced by the new church in Doxey. The offices of Staffordshire Newsletter now occupy the site. Castletown is changing rapidly, with the demolition of Stafford Arms and the building of new executive flats heralding a new era on the estate.
- The Crossings
- A new estate built on the former site of Stychfields, in the grounds of the Alstom factory. It also includes a new retail park.
- Coton Fields
- 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 1963-64. West Way is the longest street in Highfields, carving its way through the entire estate. Many of the streets in the '60s expansion of Highfields were named after poets and playwrights (Shakespeare Road, Masefield Drive, Coleridge Drive, Keats Avenue, Tennyson Road, Binyon Court, etc.) Of the older roads, the longest is Bagot's Oak, so called because of a large oak tree that was in the road. Much of the original estate was built on Preston's Farm land, and one of the bus services was still called 'Highfields Farm until recently. Two residential tower blocks once stood on Milton Grove, named Binyon Court and Brooke Court. Brooke Court was primarily used as student housing, and was subsequently demolished in 1998 to make way for a new housing development. Binyon Court underwent renovations and was renamed the Keep.
- Hyde Lea
- King Edward Court
- Kingston Hill
- Manor Estate
- Meadowcroft Park
- Moss Pit
- Moss Pit is situated in southern Stafford, approximately one mile from Junction 13 of the M6 motorway; areas include the Pippins, the Chestnuts and Scholar's Gate.
- 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 (Parkside Primary School) on the estate and access to Sir Graham Balfour School which has been totally rebuilt in 2001. Some of the school grounds were sold off when the old school was demolished to build "the Oaks" housing estate which is adjacent to Parkside. There is also a precinct of shops and the northern terminus of the number 10 bus route (Parkside - Trinity Fields - Stone Road - Stafford town centre). The Parkside estate was built in the 1970s and has a selection of different types of housing: detached, semi-detached, flats and modern terraced housing.
- Rising Brook
- Rickerscote many 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, Boulton's Farm, Devil's Triangle and the Metal Bridge. The local drinking houses are the Rickerscote Arms(now closed), known to the old school as the Alpine, and before that, The Plough and Trumpet... and further into the estate there is the Post Office Social Club.
- Rowley Park
- 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 development programme to upgrade the exteriors of the blocks of flats and the development of new houses on Exeter Street alongside new flats on Sidney Avenue.
- 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.
- St. George's
- A new housing development close to the St George's Hospital. The main throughway is St. George's Parkway. The housing is a mixture of modern buildings of various types, including a modern interpretation of a Georgian crescent. Work has recently begun on restoring the old St. George's Hospital building (disused since 1995) into luxury flats.
- Tillington, Staffordshire
- Trinity Fields
- The Oaks
- The Oaks a new estate that is off the A34 near Sir Graham Balfour School extreme north of Stafford.
- Walton on the Hill
- Walton on the Hill is located to the south of Stafford bordering Milford. Walton High School is specialist science school.
- Weeping Cross
- Weeping Cross is an estate on the east side of Stafford. It is easily found by heading up Radford Bank, towards Rugeley and Cannock. It also holds Leasowes Primary School and St Anne's Catholic Primary School. Weeping Cross also has a local pub, the Lynton Tavern (now closed), a clinic with nearby pharmacy, a library and a row of convenient shops. The number one bus runs every 30 minutes around the estate.
- Western Downs
- 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' can be found in Western Downs along with the 'Rainbow Park' on Clarendon Drive, and the 'Dome Park' on Torridge Drive. Until the council built a play area they were the main footballing locations on the estate. The number nine bus route also covers Western Downs.
- A large estate with a ring road that joins onto the A34 road. The estate was built around the 1970s and housed a lot of the Stafford police force as the Staffordshire Police HQ was / is located on the opposite side of the A34 road.
- Alton Towers
- Cannock Chase
- Great Haywood
- Heath Hayes and Wimblebury
- Little Haywood
- Newport, Shropshire
- Shugborough Hall
- Trentham Gardens
Stafford is twinned with:
- Belfort, France
- Dreieich, Germany
- Tarragona, Spain
- Stafford, Virginia, USA
- Skarżysko-Kamienna, Poland
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