Flag of Middlesex.svgMiddx arms.png
FlagCoat of arms
Middlesex Brit Isles Sect 5.svg
Historic extent of Middlesex
 • 1801/1881734 km2 (181,320 acres)[1]
 • 1911601.8 km2 (148,701 acres)[2]
 • 1961601.7 km2 (148,691 acres)[2]
Area transferred
 • 1889Metropolitan parishes to County of London
 • 1801818,129[1]
 • 18812,920,485[1]
 • 19111,126,465[2]
 • 19612,234,543[2]
 • 180111 inhabitants per hectare (4.5/acre)
 • 188140 inhabitants per hectare (16.1/acre)
 • 191119 inhabitants per hectare (7.6/acre)
 • 196137 inhabitants per hectare (15/acre)
 • Preceded byKingdom of Essex
 • OriginMiddle Saxons
 • CreatedIn antiquity
 • Abolished1965
 • Succeeded byGreater London
StatusCeremonial county (until 1965)
Administrative county (1889–1965)
Chapman codeMDX[notes 1]
GovernmentMiddlesex Quarter Sessions (until 1889)[notes 2]
Within The Metropolis:
Metropolitan Board of Works (1855–1889)
Middlesex County Council (1889–1965)
 • HQsee text
 • TypeHundreds (ancient)
Districts (1835–1965)

Middlesex (s/; abbreviation: Middx) is an historic county in south-east England. It is now entirely within the wider urbanised area of London. Its area is now also mostly within the ceremonial county of Greater London, with small sections in other neighbouring ceremonial counties. It was established in the Anglo-Saxon system from the territory of the Middle Saxons, and existed as an official unit until 1965. The historic county includes land stretching north of the River Thames from 3 miles (5 km) east to 17 miles (27 km) west of the City of London with the rivers Colne and Lea and a ridge of hills as the other boundaries. The largely low-lying county, dominated by clay in its north and alluvium on gravel in its south, was the second smallest county by area in 1831.[3]

The City of London was a county in its own right from the 12th century and was able to exert political control over Middlesex. Westminster Abbey dominated most of the early financial, judicial and ecclesiastical aspects of the county.[4] As London grew into Middlesex, the Corporation of London resisted attempts to expand the city boundaries into the county, which posed problems for the administration of local government and justice. In the 18th and 19th centuries the population density was especially high in the southeast of the county, including the East End and West End of London. From 1855 the southeast was administered, with sections of Kent and Surrey, as part of the area of the Metropolitan Board of Works.[5] When county councils were introduced in England in 1889 about 20% of the area of Middlesex, along with a third of its population, was transferred to the new County of London and the remainder became an administrative county governed by the Middlesex County Council[6] that met regularly at the Middlesex Guildhall in Westminster, in the County of London. The City of London, and Middlesex, became separate counties for other purposes and Middlesex regained the right to appoint its own sheriff, lost in 1199.

In the interwar years suburban London expanded further, with improvement and expansion of public transport,[7] and the setting up of new industries. After the Second World War, the population of the County of London[8] and inner Middlesex was in steady decline, with high population growth continuing in the outer parts.[9] After a Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London, almost all of the original area was incorporated into an enlarged Greater London in 1965, with the rest transferred to neighbouring counties.[10] Since 1965 various areas called Middlesex have been used for cricket and other sports. Middlesex was the former postal county of 25 post towns.

The County of Middlesex


Map of Middlesex, drawn by Thomas Kitchin, geographer, engraver to H.R.H. the Duke of York, 1769.


The name means territory of the middle Saxons and refers to the tribal origin of its inhabitants. The word is formed from the Anglo-Saxon, i.e. Old English, 'middel' and 'Seaxe'[11] (cf. Essex, Sussex and Wessex). In an 8th-century charter the region is recorded as Middleseaxon[12][13][not in citation given] and in 704 it is recorded as Middleseaxan.[14]


The Saxons derived their name from seax, a kind of knife for which they were known. The seax has a lasting symbolic impact in the English counties of Essex and Middlesex, both of which feature three seaxes in their ceremonial emblem. Their names, along with those of Sussex and Wessex, contain a remnant of the word "Saxon".

Early settlement

There were settlements in the area of Middlesex that can be traced back thousands of years before the creation of a county.[15] Middlesex was formerly part of the Kingdom of Essex[16][17] It was recorded in the Domesday Book as being divided into the six hundreds of Edmonton, Elthorne, Gore, Hounslow (Isleworth in all later records),[18] Ossulstone and Spelthorne. The City of London has been self-governing since the thirteenth century and became a county in its own right, a county corporate.[notes 3] Middlesex also included Westminster, which also had a high degree of autonomy. Of the six hundreds, Ossulstone contained the districts closest to the City of London. During the 17th century it was divided into four divisions, which, along with the Liberty of Westminster, largely took over the administrative functions of the hundred. The divisions were named Finsbury, Holborn, Kensington and Tower.[19] The county had parliamentary representation from the 13th century. The title Earl of Middlesex was created twice, in 1622 and 1677, but became extinct in 1843.[20]

Economic development

The economy of the county was dependent on the City of London from early times and was primarily agricultural.[4] A variety of goods were provided for the City, including crops such as grain and hay, livestock and building materials. Recreation at day trip destinations such as Hackney, Islington, Highgate and Twickenham, as well as coaching, inn-keeping and sale of goods and services at daily[clarification needed] shops and stalls to the considerable passing trade provided much local employment[21] and also formed part of the early economy. However, during the 18th century the inner parishes of Middlesex became suburbs of the City and were increasingly urbanised.[4] The Middlesex volume of John Norden's Speculum Britanniae (a chorography) of 1593 summarises:

This is plentifully stored, as it seemeth beautiful, with many fair and comely buildings, especially of the merchants of London, who have planted their houses of recreation not in the meanest places, which also they have cunningly contrived, curiously beautified with divers[e] devices, neatly decked with rare inventions, environed with orchards of sundry, delicate fruits, gardens with delectable walks, arbours, alleys and a great variety of pleasing dainties: all of which seem to be beautiful ornaments unto this country.[22]

Similarly Thomas Cox wrote in 1794:

We may call it almost all London, being chiefly inhabited by the citizens, who fill the towns in it with their country houses, to which they often resort that they may breathe a little sweet air, free from the fogs and smoke of the City.[23]

In 1803 Sir John Sinclair, president of the Board of Agriculture, spoke of the need to cultivate the substantial Finchley Common and Hounslow Heath (perhaps prophetic of the Dig for Victory campaign of World War II) and fellow Board member Middleton estimated that one tenth of the county, 17,000 acres (6,900 ha), was uncultivated common, capable of improvement.[24] However William Cobbett, in casual travel writing in 1822, said that "A more ugly country between Egham (Surrey) and Kensington would with great difficulty be found in England. Flat as a pancake, and until you come to Hammersmith, the soil is a nasty, stony dirt upon a bed of gravel. Hounslow Heath which is only a little worse than the general run, is a sample of all that is bad in soil and villainous in look. Yet this is now enclosed, and what they call 'cultivated'. Here is a fresh robbery of villages, hamlets, and farm and labourers' buildings and abodes."[25] Thomas Babington wrote in 1843, "An acre in Middlesex is worth a principality in Utopia"[26] which contrasts neatly with its agricultural description.

The building of radial railway lines from 1839 caused a fundamental shift away from agricultural supply for London towards large scale house building.[27] Tottenham, Edmonton and Enfield in the north developed first as working-class residential suburbs with easy access to central London. The line to Windsor through Middlesex was completed in 1848, and the railway to Potters Bar in 1850; and the Metropolitan and District Railways started a series of extensions into the county in 1878. Closer to London, the districts of Acton, Willesden, Ealing and Hornsey came within reach of the tram and bus networks, providing cheap transport to central London.[27]

After World War I, the availability of labour and proximity to London made areas such as Hayes and Park Royal ideal locations for the developing new industries.[27] New jobs attracted more people to the county and the population continued to rise, reaching a peak in 1951.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Middlesex
Ænglisc: Middelseaxe
العربية: ميدلسكس
asturianu: Middlesex
беларуская: Мідлсекс
български: Мидълсекс
brezhoneg: Middlesex
català: Middlesex
Cebuano: Middlesex
čeština: Middlesex
Cymraeg: Middlesex
dansk: Middlesex
Deutsch: Middlesex
español: Middlesex
Esperanto: Middlesex
euskara: Middlesex
français: Middlesex
Frysk: Middelseks
Gaeilge: Middlesex
한국어: 미들섹스
हिन्दी: मिडलसेक्स
íslenska: Middlesex
italiano: Middlesex
Latina: Middelsexia
нохчийн: Мидлсекс
norsk: Middlesex
norsk nynorsk: Middlesex
occitan: Middlesex
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਮਿਡਲਸੈਕਸ
polski: Middlesex
português: Middlesex
română: Middlesex
русский: Мидлсекс
Scots: Middlesex
Simple English: Middlesex
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Middlesex
suomi: Middlesex
svenska: Middlesex
Türkçe: Middlesex
українська: Міддлсекс
اردو: مڈلسیکس