Stafford is the county town of Staffordshire in England. It lies in the north-west Midlands, between Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent. The population of Stafford in 1991 was 60,915, the surrounding borough has a population of about 120,000.
The town boasts a castle, a top-ranking house, a handful of historical and media notables, some exotic road traffic and an unusually soggy centre.
The original settlement was on an island in the middle of the marshes of the River Sow, a tributary of the Trent. There is still a large area of marshland adjacent to the town centre and both 1947 and 2000 saw floods. In the year 913 Stafford was fortified by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, to keep out the Danes. Stafford Castle was built on a nearby hilltop late in the 11th century. It has been rebuilt twice since but now only 19th century ruins remain atop the impressive earthworks. Night-time illumination creates a landmark for motorists on the M6 motorway, below.
Famous people from Stafford include the 17th century author of The Compleat Angler, Izaak Walton and the 18th century playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who was also the local MP. Also, the 1853 Lord Mayor of London, Thomas Sidney, was born in the town. More recently Stafford was the birthplace of Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey and where stand-up comedian Dave Gorman was brought up. Ozzy Osbourne lived nearby.
In the main shopping street, Greengate Street, lies the Elizabethan Ancient High House, the largest timber-framed town house in England.
A major product of the town since 1903 has been heavy electrical engineering, particularly power station transformers, exported around the world. The works have been successively owned by Siemens, English Electric, GEC, GEC Alsthom, Alstom and most recently Areva. Every so often a delivery takes to the roads. Each transformer weighs several hundred tons and so a sort of road train is used. The weight is spread by an 160-wheel cradle, pulled by an 8-wheel drive FAUN Goliath tractor unit and pushed by two more.