Hemel Hempstead shown within Hertfordshire
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|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||HEMEL HEMPSTEAD|
|Postcode district||HP1, HP2, HP3|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
|UK Parliament||Hemel Hempstead|
|List of places: UK • England • Hertfordshire|
Hemel Hempstead is a town in Hertfordshire, England, United Kingdom with a population of 81,143 at the United Kingdom Census 2001 (but now estimated at around 89,000 by Hertfordshire County Council). Developed after World War II as a new town, it has existed as a settlement since the 8th century. It is part of the district (and borough since 1984) of Dacorum and the Hemel Hempstead constituency.
The settlement was called by the name Henamsted or Hean-Hempsted, i.e. High Hempstead, in Anglo-Saxon times and in William the Conqueror's time by the name of Hemel-Amstede. The name is referred to in the Domesday Book as "Hamelamesede", but in later centuries it became Hamelhamsted. In old English, "-stead" or "-stede" simply meant a place, such as the site of a building or pasture, as in clearing in the woods, and this suffix is used in the names of other English places such as Hamstead and Berkhamsted.
Another opinion is that Hemel probably came from "Haemele" which was the name of the district in the 8th century and is most likely either the name of the land owner, or could mean "broken country".
Pre-World War II residents knew it affectionately as "Hempstead" whereas the majority of present day residents simply call it "Hemel".
The town may have given its name to the town of Hempstead, New York. Immigrants from Hemel Hemstead migrated to the area which is now Hempstead, New York, including the surrounding areas such as Roosevelt, in the late 17th century.
Hemel Hempstead on its present site is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as a vill, Hamelhamstede, with about 100 inhabitants. The parish church of St Mary's was built in 1140, and is recognised as one of the finest Norman parish churches in the county. The church features an unusual 200 feet (61 m) tall spire, added in the 12th century, one of Europe's tallest.
After the Norman conquest the land thereabouts was given to Robert, Count of Mortain, the elder half-brother of William the Conqueror, as part of the lands associated with Berkhamsted Castle. The estates passed through many hands over the next few centuries including Thomas Becket in 1162. In 1290 King John of England's grandson, the Earl of Cornwall, gave the manor to the religious order of the Bonhommes when he endowed the monastery at Ashridge. The town remained part of the monastery's estates until the Reformation and break-up of Ashridge in 1539.
In that same year the town was granted a Royal charter by King Henry VIII to become a Bailiwick with the right to hold a Thursday market and a fair on Corpus Christi Day. The first Bailiff of Hemel Hempstead was William Stephyns (29 December 1539). The King and Anne Boleyn are reputed to have stayed in the town at this time.
Unusually fine medieval wall paintings from the period between 1470 and 1500 were discovered in some cottages in Piccotts End, very close to Hemel Hempstead in 1953. This same building had been converted into the first cottage hospital providing free medical services by Sir Astley Cooper in 1827.
In 1581, a group of local people acquired lands - now referred to as Box Moor - from the Earl of Leicester to prevent their enclosure. These were transferred to trustees in 1594. These have been used for public grazing and they are administered by the Box Moor Trust.
Hemel's position on the shortest route between London and the industrial Midlands put it on the Sparrows Herne turnpike Toll road in 1762, the Grand Junction Canal in 1795 and the London and Birmingham Railway in 1837. However it remained principally an agricultural market town throughout the 19th century. In the last decades of that century development of houses and villas for London commuters began. The Midland Railway built a branch line connecting to its mainline at Harpenden in 1877 (see The Nicky Line). Hemel steadily expanded, but only became a borough on 13 July 1898. During World War II 90 high explosive bombs dropped on the town by the Luftwaffe. The most major incident was on 10 May 1942 when a stick of bombs demolished houses at Nash Mills killing 8 people. The nearby Dickinson factories which were used to produce munitions and were the target.
After World War II, in 1946, the government designated Hemel Hempstead as the site of one of its proposed New Towns designed to house the London Blitz displaced population of London where slums and bombsites were being cleared. On 4 February 1947 the Government purchased 5,910 acres (23.9 km2) of land and began work on the "New Town". The first new residents moved in during April 1949 and the town continued its planned expansion through to the end of the 1980s. Hemel grew to its present population of 80,000, with new developments enveloping the original town on all sides. The original part of Hemel is still known as the "Old Town".
Its geographical position, between London and the Midlands, acted again in the 1960s when the M1 motorway was routed just to the east of the town. This gave it a central position on the country's motorway network.
In the 1970s, the government abolished the Borough of Hemel Hempstead and the town was incorporated into Dacorum District Council along with Tring and Berkhamsted. The first chairman of that council was Chairman John Johnson (1913–1977). In the 1980s, Dacorum District Council successfully lobbied to be recognised as the successor for the Royal Charter establishing the Borough of Hemel Hempstead and thus regained the Mayor and its Aldermen and became Dacorum Borough Council. The political atmosphere of the town has changed significantly. Once a Labour Party stronghold, the town has seen an increase in Conservative Party voting in recent years, and the current Member of Parliament, Mike Penning, is Conservative.
There was a major explosion in the town at the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal, Buncefield at 6am on Sunday 11 December 2005. (See 2005 Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal fire). This was one of the largest explosions ever to occur in the UK, and the incident has been described as the biggest of its kind in peacetime Europe. The Maylands Avenue industrial estate was severely damaged and much of it needed to be demolished. Nearby residential districts of Adeyfield, Woodhall Farm, Highfield and Leverstock Green were also badly damaged and around 300 people made temporarily homeless. There were 41 people with minor injuries and two were seriously hurt. The only reason that no one was killed was because the explosion occurred before dawn on a Sunday.
Hemel Hempstead was announced as candidate No 3. for a New Town in July 1946, in accordance with the government's "policy for the decentralisation of persons and industry from London". Initially there was much resistance and hostility to the plan from locals, especially when it was revealed that any development would be carried out not by the local council but by a newly appointed government body, the Hemel Hempstead Development Corporation (later amalgamated with similar bodies to form the Commission for New Towns). However, following a public inquiry the following year, the town got the go-ahead. Hemel officially became a New Town on 4 February 1947.
The initial plans for the New Town were drawn up by architect G. A. Jellicoe. His view of Hemel Hempstead, he said, was “not a city in a garden, but a city in a park.” However the plans were not well-received by most locals. Revised, and less radical plans were drawn up, and the first developments proceeded despite local protests in July 1948. The first area to be developed was Adeyfield. At this time the plans for a double "magic" roundabout at Moor End were first put forward, but in fact it was not until 1973 that the roundabout was opened as it was originally designed. The first houses erected as part of the New Town plan were in Longlands, Adeyfield, and went up in the spring of 1949. The first new residents moved in early 1950.
At this time, work started on building new factories and industrial areas, to avoid the town becoming a dormitory town. The first factory was erected in 1950 in Maylands Avenue. As building progressed with continuing local opposition, the town was becoming increasingly popular with those moving in from areas of north London. By the end of 1951, there was a waiting list of about 10,000 wishing to move to Hemel. The neighbourhoods of Bennett's End, Chaulden and Warner's End were started. The Queen paid a visit shortly after her accession in 1952, and laid a foundation stone for a new church in Adeyfield - one of her first public engagements as Queen. The shopping square she visited is named Queen's Square, and the nearby area has street names commemorating the recent conquest of Everest, such as Hilary and Tenzing Road.
The redevelopment of the town centre was started in 1952, with a new centre based on Marlowes south of the old town. This was alongside a green area called the Water Gardens, designed by Jellico, formed by ponding back the River Gade. The old centre of the High Street was to remain largely undeveloped, though the market square closed and was replaced by a much larger one in the new centre. The former private estate of Gadebridge was opened up as a public park. New schools and roads were built to serve the expanding new neighbourhoods. New housing technology such as prefabrication started to be used from the mid-50s, and house building rates increased dramatically. Highfield was the next neighbourhood to be constructed. The M1 motorway opened to the east in 1959, and a new road connecting it to the town was opened.
By 1962, the redevelopment of the new town as originally envisaged was largely complete, though further expansion plans were then put forward. The nearby United States Air Force base of Bovingdon, which had served as the town's de facto airport, closed at this time, though private flying continued for a further seven years. Dacorum College, the library, new Police station and the Pavilion (theatre and music venue) were all built during the 1960s. The town seemed to attract its fair share of celebrity openings, with shops and businesses opened by Frankie Vaughan, Benny Hill, Terry-Thomas, and the new cinema was opened by Hollywood star Lauren Bacall. The last of the originally-planned neighbourhoods, Grovehill, began construction in 1967. However, further neighbourhoods of Woodhall Farm and Fields End were later built as part of the extended plans.
Like other first generation new towns, Hemel is divided into residential neighbourhoods, each with their own "village centre" with shops, pubs and services. Each neighbourhood is designed around a few major feeder roads with many smaller cul-de-sacs and crescents, intended to minimise traffic and noise nuisance. In keeping with the optimism of the early postwar years, much of the town features modernist architecture with many unusual and experimental designs for housing. Not all of these have stood the test of time. A significant issue was how to choose names for all the new roads. Many areas of the new town used themes eg fields, birds, rivers, poets, explorers, leaders, etc.
The main railway line between London Euston and the Midlands passes through Apsley and Hemel Hempstead railway stations a mile south of the town centre, as does the Grand Union Canal. These links, as well as the A41 trunk road, follow the course of the Bulbourne river valley. The New Town expansion took place up the valley sides and on to the plateau above the original Old Town. In the 1990s, a motorway-style bypass numbered A41 was built to the south and west of the town across the upland chalk plateau, which does not follow the lie of the land. Hemel Hempstead is also linked to the M1 motorway to the east. The M25 is a few miles to the south. To the north and west lie mixed farm and woodland with scattered villages, part of the Chiltern Hills. To the northwest lies Berkhamsted. To the south lies Watford and the beginnings of the Greater London conurbation. To the east lies St Albans, a historic cathedral and market town and now like Hemel Hempstead, part of the London commuter belt. Possibly the best view of Hemel Hempstead in its physical setting is from the top of Roughdown Common, a chalk hill to the south of the town, at TL 049 055.
|Average high °C (°F)||6
|Average low °C (°F)||3
|Precipitation mm (inches)||69.3
|Source:  23 May 2009|
The grand design for Hemel Hempstead newtown saw each new district centred around a parade or square of shops called a neighborhood centre. Other districts existed before the newtown as suburbs, villages and industrial centers and were incorporated into the town.
The Jarman Park Leisure centre was opened in 1994, containing eight film screens run by Empire Cinemas (previously Odeon Cinemas), ten pin bowling (Hotshots), an ice rink (Planet Ice, originally Silver Blades), a water park (Aqua Splash) and night clubs (Lava and Ignite). This development, and those of the adjacent McDonalds restaurant and Tesco superstore, were built on land originally donated to the town for recreational purposes. Land has also been reserved for a hotel, but to date (April 2009) this remains derelict. Replacement openspace was created to the east of the town, near Leverstock Green, Longdean Park and Nash Mills.
The former John Dickinson Stationery mills site, straddling the canal at Apsley, was redeveloped with two Retail parks, a Sainsbury supermarket, 3 low rise office blocks, housing, a mooring basin, and a hotel. A further office block is planned. Some buildings have been retained for their historic interest and to provide a home for the projected Paper Museum.
An indoor shopping mall was developed adjacent to the south end of the Marlowes retail area, and in 2005 the Riverside development designed by Bernard Engle Architects was opened, effectively extending the main shopping precinct towards the Plough roundabout. The new centre includes several outlets for national retailers including Debenhams, Starbucks, HMV, Waterstones, and more. These two developments have moved the "centre of gravity" of the retail centre away from the traditional market and the north end of Marlowes has become an area for secondary outlets.
Further extensive redevelopment of the northern end of Marlowes has recently (October 2007) been given the green light and is scheduled to be complete by 2013.
Isle of Man based residential developer Dandara is currently redeveloping the former Kodak headquarters into a residential development to be known as "Image".
Since the 2005 Buncefield fire the former Maylands Avenue factory estate, badly affected by the fire, has been re branded as Maylands Business Park and a 40 tonne sculpture by Jose Zavala called Phoenix Gateway placed on the first roundabout off the M1 to symbolise its renewall.
The now disused mill site at Nash Mills is to be redeveloped. Proposals have been publicised (2008) to build housing and community facilities, retain some historic buildings and use various watercourses as amenities.
A wide range of sports and physical activities are catered for within the town and its immediate locality. Most sports facilities in the town, and the wider borough, are provided through Sportspace (the operating name of Dacorum Sports Trust). They have operated several facilities including a Sports Centre, Swimming Pools and Running Track previously run by Dacorum Borough Council and others sited at schools, since April 2004. Dacorum Sports Trust is a non-profit company limited by guarantee and a registered charity managed by a Board of Trustees. Surpluses (profits) are reinvested into sports facilities.
Several of the various codes of "football" are played. Hemel Hempstead Town football club dates back to 1885 and now play in the Southern Football League Premier Division. Nicknamed The Tudors, they play at Vauxhall Road in the Adeyfield area of the town; this was the site of the former sports club for the employees of Brocks Fireworks. There are, of course, many amateur sides throughout the town.
The Camelot Rugby Club plays Rugby Union and it is one of the oldest clubs in England, being founded in 1919. The club's home ground is in Chaulden. Hemel Stags, founded in 1981, are the only rugby league team from the South of England to play in the Rugby League Conference National league.
Hemel Hempstead Town Cricket Club, founded in 1850, has a pitch and practice facilities at Heath Park, near the town centre. The Boxmoor Cricket Club, founded in 1857, have a ground nearby on Blackbirds Moor. At Leverstock Green, there is the eponymously named Leverstock Green Cricket Club.
Hemel Hempstead has several swimming clubs the most notable of which is Hemel Hempstead Swimming Club, the town also has FIFOLITS Swimming club and also boasts a swimming squad Dacorum Borough Swimming Squad which brings together the best swimmers in the Borough.
Dacorum Athletic Club is based at Jarmans Park. Hemel Hempstead Bowls Club has its greens at Gadebridge Park.
Leverstock Green Tennis Club provides courts and coaching for members and other courts are available in public parks. There are private indoor facilities at Hemel Indoor Tennis Centre at Abbot's Hill School, Nash Mills.
The local authority (Dacorum Borough Council) provides the infrastructure for several of the sports mentioned above. In addition, there is a sports centre at Boxmoor and shared public facilities at a number of secondary schools, provided via Sportspace. These provide multi-purpose courts (badminton, basketball, etc), gymnasia and swimming pools. There are also private, member only gymnasia.
There are two 18-hole golf courses just outside the south western edge of the town. One is in the grounds of Shendish Manor and the other, Little Hay is off Box Lane, on Box Moor Trust land. There is also a nine hole course (Boxmoor) also located on Box Lane.
There are six state maintained secondary schools in the town:
There are also independent (fee-paying) schools in, or adjacent, to the town:
In addition there is a West Herts College Campus based in the town centre.
In 2006, the local education authority has judged that there are too many primary school places in the town and has published proposals to reduce them. The options involved school amalgamations and closures. A list of schools taking children of primary age is at Primary schools in Dacorum.
Hemel Hempstead returns its own MP at Westminster. At the May 2005 General election the seat changed from Labour to Conservative. Mike Penning, (Conservative), was elected with a majority of 499, just over 1%. The previous MP was Tony McWalter, (Labour Co-operative), first elected 1997.
Hemel Hempstead, as part of the Borough of Dacorum, is twinned with:
Historically, the area was agricultural and was noted for its rich cereal production. The agricultural journalist William Cobbett noted of Hemel Hempstead in 1822 that "..the land along here is very fine: a red tenacious flinty loam upon a bed of chalk at a yard or two beneath, which, in my opinion, is the very best corn land that we have in England." By the 18th century the grain market in Hemel was one of the largest in the country. In 1797 there were 11 watermills working in the vicinity of the town.
The chalk on which Hemel is largely built has had commercial value and has been mined and exploited to improve farmland and for building from the 18th century. In the Highbarns area, now residential, there was a collapse in 2007 of a section of old chalk workings and geological studies have been undertaken to show the extent of these workings.
In the 19th century, Hemel was a noted brickmaking, paper manufacturing and straw-plaiting centre. In later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Hemel was also a noted watercress growing area, supplying 1/16th of the country's national demand - following development of the New Town, the watercress growing moved to nearby Berkhamsted and Tring. The cress beds were redeveloped as the modern-day Water Gardens.
Joseph Cranstone's engineering company was founded in 1798, and was responsible for much of the early street lighting in the town as well as it first gasworks. It became the Hemel Hempstead Engineering Company and stayed in business until World War II . In 1867 Cranstone's son built a steam powered coach which he drove to London, but which was destroyed in a crash on the return journey. A local Boxmoor pub commemorates the event.
In 1803 the first automatic papermaking machinery was developed in Hemel by the Fourdrinier brothers at Frogmore. Paper making expanded in the vicinity in the early nineteenth century and grew into the huge John Dickinson mills in the twentieth.
A traditional employer in the area was also Brock's, manufacturer of fireworks. The factory was a significant employer since well before World War II, and remained in production until the mid-1970s. The present-day neighbourhood of Woodhall farm was subsequently built on the site.
Significant historic local firms:
Hemel Hempstead has a mixture of heavy and light engineering companies and has attracted a significant number of information technology and telecommunications sector companies helped by its proximity to London and the UK motorway network. However, (and again in common with many new towns) it has a much narrower business base than established centres, particularly Watford and St Albans.
Significant firms with a local presence include:
Just east of the town is the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal (HOST), known locally as the Buncefield complex. This was a major hub on the UK oil pipeline network (UKOP) with pipelines to Humberside, Merseyside, and Heathrow and Gatwick airports radiating from here. This was destroyed by a huge explosion on 11 December 2005. See 2005 Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal fire.
Hemel is famous (or perhaps notorious) for its "Magic Roundabout" (officially called the Moor End roundabout, or "The Plough Roundabout" from a former adjacent public house), an interchange at the end of the new town (Moor End), where traffic from six routes meet. Traffic is able to circulate in both directions around what appears to be a main central roundabout (and formerly was such), with the normal rules applying at each of the six mini-roundabouts encircling this central reservation. It is a misconception that the traffic flows the 'wrong' way around the inner roundabout; as it is not in fact a roundabout at all, and as such no roundabout rules apply to it. It was the first such circulation system in Britain.
Hemel claims to have the first purpose built multi-storey car park in Britain. Built in 1960 into the side of a hill in the Marlowes shopping district, it features a giant humorous mosaic map of the area by the artist Rowland Emett.
The new town centre is laid out alongside landscaped gardens and water features formed from the River Gade known as the Watergardens designed by G.A. Jellicoe. The main shopping street, Marlowes, was pedestrianised in the early 1990s.
Hemel also was home of one of the first community based television stations West Herts TV which later became Channel 10.
For many years the lower end of Marlowes featured a distinctive office building built as a bridge-like structure straddling the main road. This building was erected on the site of an earlier railway viaduct carrying the Hemel to Harpenden railway, known as The Nicky Line. When the new town was constructed, this part of the railway was no longer in use and the viaduct demolished. The office building, occupied by BP, was designed to create a similar skyline and effect as the viaduct. In the early 1980s it was discovered that the building was subsiding dangerously and it was subsequently vacated and demolished. Adjacent to BP buildings was a unique double-helix public car park. The lower end of Marlowes was redeveloped into the Riverside shopping complex, which opened on 27 October 2005. Retailers taking residence at the Riverside complex, include Debenhams and HMV.
A few hundred metres away, overlooking the 'Magic Roundabout', is Hemel's tallest building; the 19-storey Kodak building. Built as the Kodak company's UK HQ the tower was vacated in 2005. It was then temporarily reoccupied in 2006 after the Buncefield explosion destroyed Kodaks other Hemel offices. It is now being converted into 434 apartment homes.
The national headquarters of the Boys' Brigade is located at Felden Lodge, near Hemel.
A series of 10m high blue steel arches called the Phoenix Gateway has been installed on the roundabout closest to the Hemel Hempstead junction of the M1 motorway. The aim is to regenerate the town after the Buncefield explosion with a striking piece of commercial art. It is Funded by the East of England Development Agency.
Notable people associated with the town in order of birth date:
Pie in the Sky (a BBC police drama) was filmed here. At one point, the site for the restaurant was a florist but is currently a shop selling Dolls Houses. A nearby restaurant changed its name to Pie in the Sky for a short time while the series was popular.
The Old Bell pub in Hemel old town has parts built in 1615 but is on the site of even older inns. Contains some unusual French wallpaper dating back to 1821, which has been cleaned by the V & A Museum.
This 1971 office block formed Kodak's European HQ until closed in 2006. It is now (2008) being converted into flats. In the foreground are the River Gade flowing through Heath Park. A sign for the "Magic Roundabout" is on the right.
Apsley Lock Marina, Hemel Hempstead, built in 2003.
The Church of St. Mary's (1871) stands above the modern Sainsburys supermarket in Apsley.
Northeast side of The Magic Roundabout, Hemel Hempstead. The "roundabout" is a series of 6 mini roundabouts spaced around a larger closely looped circulation system.
"How historic treasures have devalued a house", Sunday Times, 12 November 2000 by Chris Partridge; p. 15
Hemel Hempstead is a town in Hertfordshire. It has population of around 80,000. Developed after World War II as a new town, it has existed as a settlement since the 8th century.
The town is served by the M1 and M41 motorways.
By train, it is 35 minutes away from London (Euston Station). Trains go about every 20 minutes to and from Hemel on Monday to Friday, and about every 30 minutes on weekends. Check the National Rail  website or the Silverlink  website before you go, as sometimes (especially on weekends) there is engineering work and trains are replaced by busses. Travelling is cheaper on weekdays after 9:30am. Cheapest ticket for a single person is a Day Travelcard, which is around £14.- and gets you into London and is valid for all Underground lines all day.
By Coach: there are coaches to and from London and other towns as well as various airports. National Express  coaches go direct to Luton, Heathrow and Stansted airports. To go to/from Gatwick airport, best go by train; you will have to change once, in Watford. For London City airport, you will have to go to London by train, then take the Underground.
There are local busses from the station to town centre; apart from that, everything in town is in walking distance.
It is worth noting all Hertfordshire buses offer an 'Explorer' ticket which permits a maximum of 2 adults, 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult with 3 children to unlimited travel for £7. It is often worth doing as it can save money even if you are on your own.
Old town has few nice houses, including the Old Town Hall. Hemel is famous (or perhaps notorious) for its "Magic Roundabout", an interchange where traffic from six routes meet. Railway fans can see the occasional small landmark that hints at where The Nicky Line used to run, connecting Hemel to Harpenden.
Wander up the Grand Union Canal, pass a few locks, and after about 15 minutes you will come to a pub called "The three horseshoes". It dates back to the 16th century, and in summer you can enjoy your beer sitting outside by the canal.
Hemel has a leisure centre, known as "Jarman Park". It has a large Empire cinema, Ice Skating, Tenpin Bowling/American Pool, a fun swimming pool and slides, Pubs & Clubs, and a hughe Tesco's. Nearby there is also a dry ski slope. In the pedestrian zone ("The Marlowes") you will find "Quasar", a laser gaming area.
The new town centre consists largely of a pedestrian shopping zone, called The Marlowes. Most shops are open until 5pm, many also on Sundays.
Hemel has a good choice of restaurants, pubs that serve food and take-aways.
One pub to mention apart from the above "The Three Horseshoes" is the "Full House" in the town centre (on the corner of the Marlowes and Combe Street). Belonging to the Weatherspoon chain of pubs, it is situated in the building of the old cinema, and the decor is something to see!
There are many other pubs, too, of course.
There are many guest houses, a few B&B's (usually £25.- upwards), and a few hotels. Here's a list of the hotels closest to town centre:
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park is only 10 miles from here.
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HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, a market-town and municipal borough in the Watford parliamentary division of Hertfordshire, England, 25 m. N.W. from London, with a station on a branch of the Midland railway from Harpenden, and near Boxmoor station on the London and North Western main line. Pop. (1891) 9678; (1901) 11,264. It is pleasantly situated in the steepsided valley of the river Gade, immediately above its junction with the Bulbourne, near the Grand Junction canal. The church of St Mary is a very fine Norman building with Decorated additions. Industries include the manufacture of paper, iron founding, brewing and tanning. Boxmoor, within the parish, is a considerable township of modern growth. Hemel Hempstead is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 7184 acres.
Settlements in the neighbourhood of Hemel Hempstead (Hamalamstede, Hemel Hampsted) date from pre-Roman times, and a Roman villa has been discovered at Boxmoor. The manor, royal demesne in 1086, was granted by Edmund Plantagenet in 1285 to the house of Ashridge, and the town developed under monastic protection. In 1539 a charter incorporated the bailiff and inhabitants. A mayor, aldermen and councillors received governing power by a charter of 1898. The town has never had parliamentary representation. A market on Thursday and a fair on the feast of Corpus Christi were conferred in 1 539. A statute fair, for long a hiring fair, originated in 1803.
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The town began as an Anglo Saxon village at the junction of two river valleys in the Chiltern Hills. The local area grew very good corn (wheat) and by Tudor times the village became a market where grain and straw were sold. The town also had many water mills to grind the corn. Local people also earned money by plaiting the straw to be made into hats.
From about 1800 the town changed as the Industrial revolution took place. It is located on the shortest route between London and the Birmingham. As trade between these two cities increased, a canal and a railway were built that passed very close to the town. Some of its water mills were changed from grinding corn to places where paper was made by machine. Some of these grew into giant paper making factories.
After the Second World War in the 1940s the government in London wanted to build lots of new homes for people who had had their homes destroyed by bombs in the war. It decided to build some new towns where houses could be built in an ideal environment. Hemel Hempstead was chosen to be one of these towns. Many new districts were built during the 1950s and 1960s all around the old town of Hemel Hempstead. It grew into a middle size town of over 80,000 people.
Many new industries came to the town helped by money from the government and because it is located where important motorways cross each other.
Hemel Hempstead became world famous for a brief time in 2005 when an oil depot in the town at Buncefield exploded causing a big toxic smoke cloud to cover all the surrounding areas. Millions of pounds in damage was done, but fortunately no lives were lost.