Image source: Flag Institute

Author: John Taylor

To celebrate Middlesex Day which took place on 16 May, John Taylor shares some facts about Middlesex.

The county lies within the London Basin, and three rivers provide most of its boundaries, the Thames in the south, the Lea to the east and the Colne to the west, whilst a line of hills forms the northern boundary with Hertfordshire. The history of Middlesex indicates there were settlements in the area that can be traced back thousands of years. Its name means ‘territory of the middle Saxons’. It has its roots in the Province of the Kingdom of Essex, although the extent of the territory is not clear, but it probably occupied at least the area of the current county and much of Hertfordshire. This link to Essex endured through the Diocese of London, which was re-established in 604, and its boundaries continued to be based on the Kingdom of Essex until the nineteenth century. Early government for the county was possibly established in the 10th century. The City of London was a county corporate from the 12th century and was able to exert political control over Middlesex, including the right to appoint the Sheriff of Middlesex, and the county’s assizes were held at the Old Bailey, London. Middlesex had parliamentary representation from the 13th century.

Local government was run by the parish vestries of householders who often met in the church vestry. The Local Government Act of 1888 created 62 county councils in England and Wales, and therefore about 20% of the historic county of Middlesex was incorporated into the new administrative County of London. In 1894 administration for the county was divided into four rural districts and thirty-one urban districts. Outside the metropolitan area Middlesex remained largely rural until the middle of the 19th century, when along with the arrival of the railway, there was a shift away from agriculture towards large scale house building. After World War 1, the availability of labour and proximity to the capital made the county ideal for developing new industries, including the location of facilities for the growing film industry. New jobs attracted more people, to the area and the population continued to rise reaching a peak in 1951 of over two million. The Greater London Government Act of 1963 created a new body covering more of London rather than just the inner part of the capital. The Act abolished the administrative counties of Middlesex and London, and in April 1965 nearly all of the area of the historic county of Middlesex became part of the new Greater London. Sunbury on Thames Urban District and Staines Urban District became administratively parts of Surrey.

The county’s name has been retained for many institutions, including Middlesex County Cricket Club, Middlesex County Rugby Union, and Middlesex University.

Many famous people were born in the county including, Jimmy Page, Sir Elton John, Sir David Attenborough, Michelle Ryan, Anthony Horowitz, Julia McKenzie, and Clive Anderson. Former Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman published several poems about the county, and many were featured in the 1973 television documentary Metroland.

The Middlesex flag has a red background, three swords/machetes and a gold crown above.

“An acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia” quotation by Thomas Babington Macaulay.

About the author:

“My home town was Molesey in Surrey, and for the last 45 years, I have been living with my wife in Walton-on-Thames. We have two daughters and three grandchildren. I retired from employment a few years ago, having worked in various occupations, but mainly in administrative roles, both in the government and private sector.

About five years ago, as a hobby, I began writing articles for local magazines. Generally of historic interest. I choose the articles myself and these range from The history of ‘The Trolley Bus and Green Line Bus service,’ The history of Bushy Park’, ‘The Bridges of Hampton Court,’ ‘Local Reservoirs,’ ‘The Great Storm’,’ Legendary islands of the Thames’, ’The Festival of Britain’, ‘Waterloo Station’, and several other articles. I have usually written about three or four each year.

Due to other commitments this year, I have only written one published article and that was about ‘The County of Middlesex.’ If possible I will start writing again later in the year.”