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Hertfordshire County Council designates Watford, along with Stevenage, to be its major sub-regional centre.
Several head offices of national companies and multi-nationals are based in Watford.
The Watford subdivision of the Greater London Urban Area, which includes much of the neighbouring districts, had a total population of 120,960 in the 2001 census.
Watford Borough Council is the local authority, with a directly elected mayor as head.
Consequently, although the road and canal follow the easier valley route, the railway company was forced to build an expensive tunnel under Leavesden to the north of the town.
The land-owning interests permitted the canal to follow closely by the river Gade, but the prospect of smoke-emitting steam trains drove them to ensure the railway gave a wide berth to the Cassiobury and Grove estates.Connections with the Grand Junction Canal (from 1798) and the London and Birmingham Railway (from 1837) allowed the town to grow more rapidly, with paper-making mills, such as John Dickinson and Co.at Croxley, influencing the development of printing in the town which continues today.The town developed along a road running uphill from a ford of the River Colne.The land belonged to St Albans Abbey until the 16th century.