Where is Middlesex?
When we talk of Middlesex where do we mean?
The County, the Province or the Tribal Lands?
It’s possible you didn’t even realise there is a choice!
We do know that anyone who says Middlesex ‘doesn’t exist’ is talking out their hat.
The assumption that because the County Council was abolished Middlesex is abolished is fanciful – did Middlesex not exist before 1889? For that is the very recent date the Middlesex County Council was formed. And as you will read and learn, nothing could be further from the truth.
MIDDLESEX COUNTY COUNCIL 1889 – 1965
Let’s nail the fallacy once and for all for the County of Middlesex is uniquely different to the Middlesex County Council they are not one of the same and never were.
The Middlesex County Council is the smallest of all four Middlesexes and the shortest lived. Formed for local government purposes only at the same time as all other County Councils in 1889 the MCC was abolished in 1965.
Just like Berkshire, Middlesex is no longer a local authority.
The county council area is GREEN on the map.
COUNTY OF MIDDLESEX 890 AD – NOW
The area of the County of Middlesex is a thousand years older than the MCC and was established towards the end of the 9th Century.
It embraced the heart of the Province of Middlesex with its three very natural boundaries, the Rivers Lea, Thames and Colne and one artificial, the Grimsdyke to the north.
King Alfred created a County that stretched from Uxbridge and Staines to Potters Bar and Poplar.
It is the GREEN PLUS RED area on the map.
KINGDOM OF MIDDLESEX Saxon Invasions
The Kingdom of Middlesex may be very new to you but it is indeed much older than both the County and more ancient than the County’s council by a millennium and more.
The Province is first mentioned in a charter of King Offa, ruler of the West Anglian kingdom of Mercia concerning the transfer of land “in Twickenham in the province of Middlesex”.
Province was used to denote an independent kingdom, so Middlesex at one period was separated from its Saxon and Anglian neighbours. Its boundaries followed the Rivers Lea and Colne right up to their upper waters where they almost meet at Hatfield. The Thames is the southern border and the western boundary is the Colne.
It is the GREEN, RED & VIOLET area on our map.
Following victory over the West Saxons in AD 584 the BLUE areas was added to the north and west of the Province.
THE MIDDLE SAXON LANDS First settled by the Britons (Celts)
The Middle Saxons lands are older than all of the above.
Caught in between warring Saxon kingdoms to the East and West – Essex and Wessex – the Middle Saxon population were a combination of Romans and the British Catuvellauni who were fought out of their lands by the invading Angles and Saxons as well as the Saxons from both the rival West and East Saxons who fought to control Middlesex.
The indigenous population allied to fight the invading Danes who called this area Middleland. Middlesex covered the area from the Chiltern Hills in the west to the River Lea in the east and the northern boundary would have met somewhere the hills met the river’s source near Luton. The Thames guarded the south as ever.
The tribal lands are YELLOW.
Hertfordshire. The word shire is very simple to translate. It means shorn off from a larger district in this case Middlesex. Yes, the town of Hertford is originally the most northern point of Middlesex and a very important ecclesiastical town, a synod was held there September 24th 674 AD. Hertfordshire is first mentioned as a County in 1011 AD.
Surrey. This area is a bone of contention. Surrey means southern region or the people to the south. Historians are certain it is the southern region of a much bigger kingdom. In this case Middlesex. But Surrey was equally fair game for the South Saxons and the Jutes of Kent. It is now generally accepted that Surrey was the southern region of Middlesex as far as the North Downs and beyond that was conjoined to Sussex.
Buckinghamshire. Another County shorn off from a bigger unit. In this case the south-east corner below the Chilterns is part of the Kingdom of Middlesex.
21st Century. The Government are keen to bring in regional government for England. This will almost certainly mean the abolition of all County Councils, so from Herts to Surrey everyone will end up in the same boat as Berks and Middlesex.
It is possible that with the current review the regions of England will be based on the kingdoms and provinces of the Anglo-Saxons.
Already Northumbria is a working entity once again, from tourism to the police the name is back in business, add to this Wessex reborn as a royal title, name of the water supply company and a football league, Mercia from a radio station to a police authority. East Anglia already a region in its own right, Kent and Sussex – well we rest our case.
Some local authorities have gone back to their Saxon roots with Dacorum and Spelthorne both the titles of modern day boroughs.
Some of the Main Sources:
- Ordnance Survey
- The Dark Ages of Britain//Sir Montagu Sharpe
- Middlesex in British, Roman and Saxon Times//English Place Name Society
- the County of Middlesex//Anglo Saxon Chronicle//Writings of the Venerable Bede//The Writings of St Dunstan
- The Real Counties of Britain – Russell Grant
- Kings & Kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England – Barbara Yorke.