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Romford is a large suburban town in northeast Londonmarker, England and the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Haveringmarker. It is located northeast of Charing Crossmarker and is one of the major metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan. It was historically a market town in the county of Essex and formed the administrative centre of the liberty of Havering, until it was dissolved in 1892. Good road links and the opening of the railway station in 1839 were key to the development of the town and the economic history of Romford is underpinned by a shift from agriculture to light industry and more recently to retail and commerce. As part of the suburban growth of London in the 20th century, Romford significantly expanded and increased in population, becoming a municipal boroughmarker in 1937 and has formed part of Greater Londonmarker since 1965. It now forms one of largest commercial, retail, entertainment and leisure districts outside central London and has a developed night time economy.


Romford (parish) population
1881 9,050
1891 10,722
1901 13,656
1911 16,970
1921 19,442
1931 35,918
1941 war #
1951 76,580
1961 114,584
# no census was held due to war
source: UK census


Romford is first recorded in 1177 as Romfort, which is formed from 'rūm' and 'ford' and means "the wide or spacious ford". The naming of the River Rom is a local 'back-formation' from the name of the town; and the river is elsewhere known as the Beam. The ford most likely existed on the main London to Colchester road where it crossed that river.

Economic development

The town developed in the Middle Ages on the main road to London and the regionally significant Romford Marketmarker was established in 1247. The early history of Romford and the immediate area is agricultural and it is recorded as being the location of a number of mills used to grid corn. The area was a focus of the leather industry from the 15th to the early 19th centuries and there is record of a wide range of industries such as cloth making, weaving, charcoal burning, metal working and brewing. Communications played an important part in its development; the main road to London was maintained by the Middlesex and Essex Turnpike Trust from 1721 and Romford became a coaching town in the 18th century. Several failed attempts were made in the early 19th century to connect the town to the Thames via a Romford Canal. Initially intended to transport agricultural products to London and later intended to serve growing industrial sites in Romford, only two miles of canal were constructed and the canal company were unable to reach the town.

The development of the town was accelerated by the opening of the railway station in 1839 which stimulated the local economy and was key to the development of the Star Brewerymarker. Initially Eastern Counties Railway services operated between Mile Endmarker and Romford, with extensions to Brentwood and to Shoreditch in 1840. A second station was opened on South Street in 1892 by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway on the line to Upminster and Grays, giving Romford a rail connection to Tilbury Docksmarker. The two stations were combined into one in 1934. Light industry slowly developed, reaching a peak in the 1970s with a number of factories on the edge of town, such as the Roneo Vickers office machinery company, Colvern manufacturers of wireless components, May's Sheet Metal Works and brush manufacturers Betterware. Suburban expansion increased the population and reinforced Romford's position as a significant regional town centre. The Liberty Shopping Centremarker was constructed in the 1960s and has been recently modernised and supplemented with further shopping centres throughout the town, including The Mallmarker, opened in 2006; and the The Brewery, opened in 2000 on the site of the old Star Brewery.

Local government

Romford formed a chapelry in the large ancient parish of Hornchurchmarker in the Becontree hundred of Essex; it included Collier Row, Harold Woodmarker, and Noak Hill. Through ancient custom the area enjoyed special status and a charter in 1465 removed the parish from the Becontree hundred and the county of Essex and it instead formed the independent liberty of Havering. Over time the vestry of Romford chapelry absorbed the local powers that would usually be held by the parish authorities and in 1849 Romford became a separate parish within the liberty. Improvement commissioners were set up in 1819 for paving, lighting, watching, and cleansing of the marketplace and main streets. As the town grew this arrangement became ineffective at controlling sanitation and in 1851 a local board of health was set up for the parish; although its area was reduced in 1855 to cover only the town. The remainder of the parish became part of the Romford rural sanitary district in 1875. These changes and the introduction of the Romford Poor Law Union in 1836 eroded the powers of the liberty and it was finally abolished in 1892 and reincorporated into Essex.

The Local Government Act 1894 reformed local government and created the Romford Urban Districtmarker and Romford Rural Districtmarker to replace the local board and sanitary district; and the Romford parish was split into Romford Urban and Romford Rural along the lines of the urban district. In 1900 the parish was recombined and the urban district expanded to cover all of the former area of the historic chapelry, except for Noak Hillmarker which remained in the rural district and had become a parish in its own right in 1895. The enlarged urban district formed part of the London Traffic Area from 1924 and the London Passenger Transport Area from 1933. The suburban expansion of London caused an increase in population during the 1930s and the urban district was expanded further in 1934, taking in the parishes of Havering-atte-Bowermarker and Noak Hill. It was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Romfordmarker in 1937. In 1965 the municipal borough was abolished and its former area was combined with that of Hornchurch Urban Districtmarker; it was again removed from Essex and since then has formed the northern part of the London Borough of Haveringmarker in Greater Londonmarker.

Suburban expansion

There was early expansion in the 1840s in the area currently occupied by the Waterloo estate, and then known as New Romford, where 200 cottages were built. To the east of the market place from 1850 middle class suburban housing was constructed with a much larger area of built-over to the south of the railway from 1851. Through a gradual process of selling off former manors, houses were built radiating from the town in all directions for about a mile. More significant growth occurred between 1910 and 1911 with the construction of Gidea Park Garden Suburbmarker, which included Raphael Parkmarker and Gidea Park railway stationmarker. Large sections of land to the north of the town at Collier Rowmarker were developed in the interwar period and after World War II, the London County Council built the Harold Hillmarker estate to the north east from 1948 to 1958.

The right to supply electricity to the town was secured by the County of London Electricity Supply Company in 1913. Initially power was generated within the Star Brewery site, with the supply switching to Barking Power Stationmarker in 1925. Gas supply began in 1825 with gas works of constructed by 1938. Following the Telegraph Act 1899 Romford became part of the Post Office London telephone area and the Romford exchange was recorded as having 240 subscribers in 1916. The town water supply initially came from the Havering Well, and 1859 a new public well and pump was built at the east end of the market. The South Essex Waterworks Company started installing mains water supply in 1863 and had offices in South Street. By 1905 its supply was serving Ilford, Collier Row, Ardleigh Greenmarker, Brentwoodmarker, and Hornchurch. Sewage works were installed by the local board at Oldchurch in 1862, with further works built in Hornchurch in 1869.


Romford constituency in Greater London
The Romford UK Parliament constituencymarker consists of the Havering wards of Brooklands, Havering Park, Mawneys, Pettits, Romford Town, and Squirrel's Heath. In 2001 it had a population of 76,323. The current MP is Andrew Rosindell, a native of the town. Romford forms part of the Havering and Redbridge London Assembly constituency and the London European Parliament constituency. Each ward elects three councillors to Havering London Borough Council. From the next UK general election the constituency will also include the Hylands ward. The councillors elected in 2006 were: Brooklands – 3 Conservative; Havering Park – 2 Conservative and 1 Collier Row and Mawneys Residents Association; Mawneys – 3 Conservative; Pettits – 3 Conservative; Romford Town – 3 Conservative; Squirrel's Heath – 3 Conservative after 2007 by-election; and Hylands – 3 Conservative.


Map of Romford and its environs
The town centre is about above sea level on a gravel terrace rising from the River Thames. The north of the town has developed on London Clay and is situated as much as above sea level. The town centre is for the most part contained within a ring road formed of St Edwards Way, Mercury Gardens, Thurloe Gardens, Oldchurch Road and Waterloo Road. The market place and much of South Street and the High Street are pedestrianised. The railway cuts through the town from east to west on a viaduct, with the bulk of the central Romford area to its north. The River Rom flows through the town in underground channels and joins the Thames after flowing through Hornchurch; elsewhere along its course it is known as the River Beam and forms part of the strategic waterways Blue Ribbon Network. Romford has formed part of the continuously built-up area of London since the 1930s and is contiguous with Rush Greenmarker to the west, Collier Rowmarker to the north, Gidea Parkmarker to the east and Hornchurchmarker to the south east. The Romford post townmarker covers all of the former municipal borough and extends over a much wider area, including parts of Barking and Dagenhammarker and Epping Forest. Climate data for Romford is taken from the nearest weather station at Greenwichmarker, around south west of the marketplace:


Romford compared (2001 Census)
Statistic Romford
Brooklands Havering London England
Ethnic group
White 12,247 11,987 213,421 5,103,203 44,679,361
Asian 388 374 4,088 866,693 2,248,289
Black 234 389 3,139 782,849 1,132,508
Mixed 200 161 2,298 226,111 643,373
Chinese/Other 131 113 1,302 193,235 435,300
Total 13,200 13,024 224,248 7,172,091 49,138,831
Density(/hectare) 46.05 31.00 19.97 45.62 3.77
Households 5,829 5,361 91,722 3,015,997 20,451,427
The Havering committee area for Romford is defined as the wards of Romford Town and Brooklands. Demographic data is produced by the Office for National Statistics for these wards. In 2001 the population of Romford Town was 13,200 and Brooklands was 13,024, giving a total population of 26,224. In contrast, the approximate population of the area within the 2005 Romford Urban Strategy was estimated to be 36,500. 71.52% in Romford Town and 70.48% in Brooklands report their religion as Christian, compared to 76.13% for Havering, 58.23% in London and 71.74% in England. 15.71% in Romford Town and 16.62% in Brooklands report having no religion, compared to 13.18% in Havering, 15.76% in London and 14.59% in England.


Romford is recognised in the London Plan as one of eleven regionally significant metropolitan centres in Greater London, with a considerable catchment area. The total commercial floorspace in the town was in 2002, of which is retail space and is offices. The retail space is growing and in 2005 consisted of . The retail economy is complemented by a central business district close to the railway station, where the offices of employers such as Aon are located. Employment in the town centre was categorised in 2002 as approximately 40% commercial office, 40% comparison retail, 10% hospitality, 5% public sector, 2.5% service retail and 2.5% arts and entertainment. Compared to the similar east London areas of Ilford, Stratford and Barking, there is more comparison retail and commercial office employment in Romford and less public sector work. The total turnover of £413,395,000 in 2002 for Romford was larger than any other comparable town centre in east London and approximately 70% came from the commercial office businesses. There is a developed night time economy, greater than in any other metropolitan centre in Greater London, with of cinemas, theatres and concert hall space; of bars and pubs; of cafes and restaurants; and of fast food and take away venues. The night time economy is almost as significant as the day economy with around 12,000 visit to Romford during the day and 11,000 visit to pubs, clubs and bars at night.


Romford railway station
The town is served by Romford railway stationmarker on the Great Eastern Main Line in Travelcard Zone 6. Trains calling at the station are operated by National Express East Anglia and are primarily of the high-frequency stopping Liverpool Streetmarker-Shenfieldmarker service. There are also a limited number of outer-suburban express services to Southend-on-Sea and Clacton, mostly during off-peak times. A branch line shuttle on the Romford to Upminster Line connects Romford to Emerson Parkmarker and Upminstermarker. Romford is a hub of the London Buses network with services to Canning Townmarker, Stratfordmarker, Leytonstonemarker and Dagenhammarker as well as feeder services from the large nearby housing developments at Collier Rowmarker and Harold Hillmarker. There are night bus services to Stratford, Harold Hill and Paddington. Romford town centre has a very high Public Transport Accessibility Level score of 6. The trunk A12 roadmarker passes to the north of Romford while the A118 road from Stratford connects with it at Gallows Cornermarker at the start of the A127 road to Southend. It is planned that the Liverpool Street-Shenfield service will become part of Crossrail and there is a proposal that Romford will be served by a future extension of the East London Transit.


Welcome sign at Roneo Corner with the coat of arms and motto of Havering London Borough Council
Havering Council's urban strategy aims to make Romford a cultural destination, whilst recognising that Hornchurch forms the main cultural hub of the borough with a large theatre and arts spaces. As a former market and coaching town, Romford is well served by public houses and two that are located in the market place are listed buildings. The market and adjacent streets also form a conservation area. Mass entertainment facilities in the town include Romford Greyhound Stadiummarker, one of the few remaining dog racing tracks in London; a 16 screen multiplex cinema; and Romford Ice Arenamarker, which is home to the local Romford Raiders ice hockey team. There is also a Romford F.C.marker associated with the town. The town is strongly associated with the electronic music group Underworld.

Romford's position as a focus for electronic music production was reinforced by the presence of the Strictly Underground and Suburban Base record labels, with Suburban Base developing from the Boogie Times record store. According to a Billboard article in 1992, Romford-produced dance music formed part of a trend favouring suburban and provincial "bedroom" record labels to those in central London. The local newspapers for the town and the borough of Havering are Romford Recorder, Romford and Havering Post and Romford Yellow Advertiser.

See also


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