Watford is a town and borough in Hertfordshire, England, 15 miles north-west of London, on the River Colne. Initially a small market town, the Grand Junction Canal encouraged the construction of paper-making mills, print works, and breweries. While industry has declined in Watford, its location near London and transport links has attracted several companies to site their headquarters in the town. Cassiobury Park is a public park that was once the manor estate of the Earls of Essex.
The town developed next to the River Colne on land belonging to St Albans Abbey. In the 12th century, a charter was granted allowing a market. The Grand Junction Canal in 1798 and the London and Birmingham Railway in 1837 resulted in Watford's rapid growth, with paper-making mills such as John Dickinson at Croxley, influencing the development of printing in the town. Two brewers, Benskins and Sedgwicks, amalgamated and flourished in the town until their closure in the late 20th century. Hertfordshire County Council designates Watford to be a major sub-regional centre.
Watford is a major regional centre in the northern home counties. Hertfordshire County Council designates Watford and Stevenage to be its major sub-regional centres, heading its list of preferred sites for retail development.
The High Street is the main focus of activity at night having a high concentration of the town's bars, clubs and restaurants. The primary shopping area is the Harlequin Shopping Centre, a large purpose-built indoor mall with over 140 shops, restaurants and cafes which is very popular (it was one of top 20 places to shop in the UK in 2019).
The town contains the head offices of a number of national companies such as J D Wetherspoon, Camelot Group, Bathstore, and Caversham Finance (BrightHouse). Watford is also the UK base of various multi-nationals including Hilton Worldwide, Total Oil, TK Maxx, Costco, JJ Kavanagh and Sons, Vinci and Beko. Both the 2006 World Golf Championship and the 2013 Bilderberg Conference, took place at The Grove hotel.
Watford has a population of over 287,000 people.