Historical description of Middlesex, England

Map of Middlesex

Middlesex, an inland county within the basin of the Thames, bounded on the N by Herts, on the E by Essex, on the SE by Kent, on the S and the SW by Surrey, and on the W by Bucks. Its outline is very irregular, but may be described as that of a parallelogram extending from E to W with two quadrilateral projections on the NE and SW. The boundary is traced along all the E by the river Lea, along all the SW, the S, and the SE by the river Thames, and along most of the W by the river Colne. The length from NE to NW is 28 miles, the greatest breadth 17 1/2, the circuit is 104 (40 of which are along the course of the Thames), and the area is 181,301 acres, and its population 3,251,671. With the exception of Rutland it is the smallest county in England, but in its population it is only exceeded by one other county, viz., Lancashire. Part of the surface is low and level, most is undulating, without heights lofty enough to be called hills; the SE portion is all occupied by the main body and many outskirts of the metropolis, and the portion northward thence rises in elevation from about 200 to about 400 feet above sea-level. Few parts, except in some artificial sense, can be termed picturesque, but a large proportion abounds with ornature, and the chief eminences command extensive and very pleasing views. The principal streams besides those on the boundaries are the New river, the Old river, the Brent, and the Cran. The rocks or geognostic formations over almost the entire area are lower eocene, chiefly London clay; they are extensively overlaid or mixed with alluvial gravel, and have been found to contain great numbers of fossils.

The soil is variously clayey, sandy, and gravelly, and has in most parts been worked into a fertile loam by manuring and culture. Most farms average about 100 acres, but many comprise from 200 to 600 acres. Meadow lands form a large aggregate, and usually yield two crops of good hay. The chief crops on the ploughed lands are wheat, with good returns; barley, about 20 bushels per acre; green pease, 10 to 50 sacks; grey pease, 30 bushels; beans, 30 bushels; potatoes, turnips, and clover. About 9000 acres are disposed in market gardens, and about 4500 in orchards. Osiers and willows are grown in some parts for basketmakers. Shorthorned, Holderness, Ayrshire, and Alderney cows are bred for the metropolitan dairies; draught and riding horses, of mixed breeds and superior strength and action, are reared for the market; and pigs, in connection with the refuse of distilleries and other establishments, are purchased for fattening. The rural economy as a whole differs widely from that of any average agricultural county, makes comparatively small produce of corn or flax, and figures most in the supply of vegetables, fruit, herbage, and milk to the metropolis.

The manufactures are chiefly within the metropolitan portions, and have substantially been noticed in our article LONDON. The canals are the Paddington, the Regent's, and about 17 miles of the Grand Junction; and the railways are the numerous ones radiating northward, westward, and south-westward from the metropolis, and noticed in our article on LONDON.

According to the census returns issued in 1893, the chief occupations of the people of the county were:—Professional, 16,613 males and 10,562 females; domestic, 3826 males and 50,000 females ; commercial, 35,058 males and 958 females ; agricultural, 15,663 males and 996 females; fishing, 49 males; industrial, 83,016 males and 16,125 females; and "unoccupied," including retired business men, pensioners, those living on their own means, and others not specified, 41,789 males and 155,603 females, or a total in the county of 196,014 males and 234,244 females. The number of men employed in the leading industries was as follows:—Agricultural labourers, 5302; general labourers, 12,647; gardeners and nurserymen, 8883; carpenters and joiners, 5242; and bricklayers, 3982. The chief occupations of women were —domestic service, with a total of 37,709; millinery and dressmaking, 7209. There were also in the county 367 blind persons, 400 deaf, 234 deaf and dumb, and 4847 mentally deranged. The above figures are exclusive of the registration county of London.

The ancient or geographical county of Middlesex includes metropolitan parishes north of the Thames (except North Woolwich), which now form part of the administrative county of London. The ancient county, exclusive of the metropolitan parishes, is divided for parliamentary purposes into the following seven divisions:—The Enfield Division (acreage, 28,467 ; population, 84,414), the Tottenham Division (4642, 97,174), the Hornsey Division (6423, 77,744), the Harrow Division (33,849, 96,727), the Ealing Division (9312, 70,748), the Brentford Division (13,945, 69,804), the Uxbridge Division (53,179, 67,789).

The administrative county has an area of 149,046 acres and a population of 560,012, and it contains fifty entire civil parishes and parts of two others. The ancient county contains, exclusive of those parishes now in the county of London, 122 ecclesiastical parishes or districts, and parts of eleven others, all of which, with the exception of part of Stanwell parish, which is in the diocese of Oxford, are in the diocese of London. The county of Middlesex does not contain a county borough. The administrative county of Middlesex does not contain a municipal borough. The petty sessional divisions are those of Brentford, Edmonton, Highgate, Gore, Willesden, South Mimms, Spelthorne, Uxbridge, and the administrative county has one court of quarter sessions. With the exception of the City of London, which has a separate police force,the county of Middlesex is wholly within the Metropolitan Police District and the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court. The City of London forms a county of itself, with independent jurisdiction; the City of Westminster has independent jurisdiction, the Duchy of Lancaster has within it several domains, and the lieutenant of the Tower of London has a separate jurisdiction. The unions are those of Brentford, Edmonton, Hampstead, Hendon, Staines, and Uxbridge. The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum, and a county council consisting of 18 aldermen and 54 councillors. The council meets at the Guildhall, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster, S.W.

The territory now forming Middlesex was inhabited by the ancient British Trinobantes, fell readily under the Roman power at the second invasion by Cæsar, was included by the Romans in their Flavia Cæsariensis, was traversed by their Watling Street, their Ermine Street, and their road to Staines; formed for about three centuries a part of the Saxon kingdom of Essex, and took its name of Middlesex (originally Middel Sexe), signifying "Middle Saxons," from being surrounded by the territories of the East Saxons, the South Saxons, and the West Saxons. Its history and its antiquities, with slight exceptions, are entirely identical with those of London, so that any notice of them additional to what has been taken in our article of LONDON would be superfluous.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5