A morning in the home counties

That morning was November 11th, when the morning name was home counties.

A first stab, from Wikipedia:

(#1) The former administrative counties (1889—1965) surrounding London (names of those bordering London in boldface): 1. Buckinghamshire 2. Hertfordshire 3. Essex 4. Berkshire 5. Middlesex (now entirely absorbed within London) 6. Surrey 7. Kent 8. Sussex.

The home counties are the counties of England that surround London (although several of them do not border it). The counties generally included in the list are Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. Other counties more distant from London — such as Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire — are also sometimes regarded as home counties due to their proximity to London and their connection to the London regional economy.

As is standard for region names, the boundaries of the region are unclear, and there are different delimitations for different purposes. The Wikipedia article continues:

The origin of the term “home counties” is unknown and no exact definition exists, making their composition a matter of constant debate.

The earliest use of the term cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1695. Charles Davenant, in An essay upon ways and means of supplying the war, wrote, “The Eleven Home Counties, which are thought in Land Taxes to pay more than their proportion, viz. Surry [sic] with Southwark, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgshire, Kent, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk, Berks, Bucks, and Oxfordshire.”

Later definitions have tended to be more narrow and Bacon’s Large Scale Atlas of London and Suburbs(revised edition c. 1912) includes Berkshire, Buckingham, Essex, Hertford, Kent, Middlesex and Surrey in the “maps of the home counties”.

The term is sometimes understood to mean those counties which, on their borders closest to London, have been partly subsumed into London. Indeed, the former county of Middlesex has been almost wholly within London since 1965 as have parts of Hertfordshire and Surrey, although the name Middlesex still exists in various incarnations.

The third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (2010) defines the term as “the English counties surrounding London, into which London has extended. They comprise chiefly Essex, Kent, Surrey, and Hertfordshire.” Parts of all of those historic counties are, since 1965, officially within London, although no part of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire or Sussex is. The county of Sussex is also wholly outside, and Berkshire almost wholly outside, the route of the M25 motorway which is often treated as an unofficial perimeter of Greater London and some definitions of the home counties mention that those counties are not always included amongst the home counties, or that the term has been extended to include them.

Theories sometimes mentioned for the origin of the term include the idea that the home counties were where the wealthy of London had second homes, the counties that members of parliament returned to after the end of business, or the counties in which regular commuters into London lived.

Whether they originally coincided with region borders or not, major highways often create boundaries — locally, between neighborhoods; then, between sociocultural regions of various sizes — simply because they create powerful barriers to the easy movement of people.

On the M25, from Wikipedia:

The M25 or London Orbital Motorway is 117 miles (188 km) long encircling almost all of Greater London, England (with the exception of North Ockendon). An ambitious concept to build four concentric ring roads around London was first mooted in the 1960s. A few sections of the outer two rings were constructed in the early 1970s, but the plan was abandoned and the sections were later integrated to form a single ring which became the M25, aka London Ring Road, finally completed in 1986.

(#2) A map of the M25, with notable towns located on it

Starting at the top and moving clockwise (towns outside the motorway are asterisked):

Enfield (now in London, historically in Middlesex)

Romford (now in London, historically in Essex)

Dartford (in Kent)

Bromley (now in London, historically in Kent),

*Sevenoaks (in Kent),

Croydon (now in London, historically in Surrey),

*Redhill (in Surrey)

Epsom (in Surrey)

Kingston (now in London, historically in Surrey)

*Guildford (in Surrey)

Richmond (now in London, historically in Surrey)

Harrow (now in London, historically in Middlesex)


One Response to “A morning in the home counties”

  1. chrishansenhome Says:

    Middlesex is still quite often seen in many contexts. Freemasonry and its side orders still (mostly) have a Province of Middlesex, which covers areas north of inner London.

    I have often seen the spelling “Surry” for Surrey in ecclesiastical writings (such as old parish magazines). One of the chalices in our parish’s Vestry safe is inscribed with the name of “St Matthew’s, Newington, County of Surry”.

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