A brief history of one of England's most historic Counties

The greatest concentration of those with the James surname in the 19th century was in south Wales and the border marches thereof, and strangely enough, the County of Middlesex. Our branch of the James family still does reside in the area once covered by the County of Middlesex, and we have done so for a few generations now.

So where exactly is Middlesex you may ask, as it cannot be found on any modern maps that include the counties of England?

Well in fact, the county no longer exists as a political entity, although it hasn’t completely disappeared and traces of it can be found. In the part of old County of Middlesex in which I reside, there are still a few County markers to be seen. Some of these are maintained by the new London Borough as historical points of interest, whilst others unfortunately, are slowly crumbling to the twin assaults of mother nature and old father time.

There is of course the Middlesex County Cricket Club, Middlesex University and the North Middlesex Hospital to offer an echo of the past. There are also areas of Greater London that used Middlesex as a county address until recently. The county part of postal addresses have now become redundant with the advent of new systems used by the Royal Mail, but most people still use this identifier on their letters and parcels.

The geographical location of Middlesex within England

Middlesex is an ancient place and the name actually means, ‘The land of the Middle Saxons’. Its first recorded use was in 704AD as Middleseaxan. The days of the county were numbered however, by the rapid expansion of the metropolis of London in the 19th century and its continual construction encroachments upon the rural acres of Middlesex.

It was the growth of the railways after 1840 that led to the swift development of the county as a residential suburb of London. The new availability of local labour also brought in industry and by 1951, the population of the county reached its peak. At one point in time, the County of Middlesex extended right down to the City of London but by 1900, much of this area, covering some 30,000 acres in all, had been transferred to the old County of London, which existed from 1889 - 1965.

Middlesex, due to its domination by London, does not have an historic county town within its borders. In 1889, even the Middlesex County Council, which took over the administrative duties of the Quarter Sessions in 1889, was based at the Middlesex Guildhall, in Westminster. This was in the County of London, and thus outside the council's area of jurisdiction.

Traces of the County of Middlesex can still be found in the London Boroughs formed from it in 1965

Following the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London, Parliament enacted the London Government Act 1963, which came into force on 1st April 1965.

The Act abolished the administrative counties of Middlesex and London and most of the old County of Middlesex was transferred to a new Greater London Authority, with the remaining parts of the old county being given to Hertfordshire, Surrey and Berkshire.

The sections of the now defunct County of Middlesex that became part of Greater London formed the new London Boroughs of, Barnet (part only), Brent, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond upon Thames (part only). It was a huge political re-alignment.

Some of the last vestiges of Middlesex agricultural land - now protected by the Green Belt

In many ways it was sad to see the disappearance of such an historic political entity, and somehow the new London Boroughs just don’t seem to afford the same kind of geographical reference point for people, or engender the same sense of loyalty and belonging. Rutland made a return to the political scene when the last County boundary changes occurred, so who knows, maybe Middlesex might one day rise once again like a mythical phoenix, from the ashes of a bloated Greater London conurbation? It would be nice to see the return of such an old friend.

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