Middlesex is one of the 39 historic counties of England and the second smallest (after Rutland). When county councils were introduced in England in 1889 part of Middlesex was used to form the County of London and the remainder formed the administrative county of Middlesex.

By 1965 urban London had further expanded and almost all of the original area was incorporated into Greater London. Middlesex is still used informally as an area name and may be included in some postal addresses.

Early history

Traditional county of Middlesex
- Total
- % Water
Ranked 38th
? %
County town London
Chapman code MDX

The name means middle Saxons and refers to the reputed ethnic origin of its inhabitants. Its first recorded use was in A.D 704 as Middleseaxan. Geographically, Middlesex included the City of London, which has been self-governing since the thirteenth century, and the city of Westminster. The highest point is the High Road by Bushey Heath at 504 feet.

Division into hundreds

Middlesex was recorded in the Domesday Book as being divided into the six hundreds of Edmonton, Elthorne, Gore, Hounslow (later Isleworth), Ossulstone and Spelthorne. Settlement was divided as follows:

Edmonton Hundred - Edmonton - Enfield - Monken Hadley - South Mimms - Tottenham

Elthorne Hundred - Cowley - Cranford - Greenford - Hanwell - Harefield - Harlington - Harmondsworth - Hayes - Hillingdon - Ickenham - New Brentford - Northolt - Norwood - Perivale - Ruislip - Uxbridge - West Drayton

Gore Hundred - Edgware - Great Stanmore - Harrow-on-the-Hill - Hendon - Kingsbury - Little Stanmore - Pinner

Isleworth Hundred - Heston - Isleworth - Twickenham

Ossulstone Hundred - Acton - Bloomsbury - Bow - Bromley - Chelsea - Chiswick - Clerkenwell - Ealing - Finchley - Friern Barnet - Fulham - Hackney - Hammersmith - Hampstead - Minories - Hornsey - Kensington - Mile End - Paddington - Poplar - Ratcliffe - Shadwell - Shoreditch - Spitalfields - Holborn - St Pancras - Stepney - Wapping - West Twyford - Whitechapel - Willesden

Spelthorne Hundred - Ashford - East Bedfont - Feltham - Hampton - Hampton Wick - Hanworth - Laleham - Littleton - Shepperton - Staines - Stanwell - Sunbury - Teddington

During the 17th Century Ossulstone Hundred 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.

Market towns

Before the expansion of London, the following places were market towns (as of 1850):-

N.B. The south-eastern part of the county was served by the daily market at Westminster.

Modern history

Introduction of county councils

Middlesex shown within England
Status: administrative county
ceremonial county
HQ: Middlesex Guildhall
Created: 1889
Abolished: 1965
Succeeded by: Greater London

The north western suburbs of London steadily covered large parts of Middlesex, especially following the coming of the railways. In 1889, under the Local Government Act 1888, much of the area to the south east became part of the County of London. The remainder of the county came under the control of Middlesex County Council except for the parish of Monken Hadley which became part of Hertfordshire.

The Act also provided that the part of Middlesex in the administrative county of London should be "severed from [Middlesex], and form a separate county for all non-administrative purposes".

The area under the control of London County Council was divided in 1899 into metropolitan boroughs which were merged in 1965 to form the following present-day boroughs:


The remainder of the county was initially divided into rural districts and urban districts.

The rural districts were Hendon, South Mimms, Staines, Uxbridge. Because of increasing urbanisation these had all been abolished by 1934. Urban districts had been created, merged, and many had gained the status of municipal borough by 1965. Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Hendon, Heston and Isleworth, Tottenham, Wembley, Willesden and Twickenham had all, according to the 1961 census, reached a population of greater than 100,000, which would usually have entitled them to seek county borough status. If granted to all these boroughs, it would have reduced the population of the administrative county of Middlesex by over half, to just shy of a million. The districts in 1965 were:

Acton MB Potters Bar UD
Brentford and Chiswick MB Ruislip-Northwood UD
Ealing MB Southall MB
Edmonton MB Southgate MB
Enfield MB Staines UD
Feltham UD Sunbury-on-Thames UD
Finchley MB Tottenham MB
Friern Barnet UD Twickenham MB
Harrow MB Uxbridge MB
Hayes and Harlington UD Wembley MB
Hendon MB Willesden MB
Heston and Isleworth MB Wood Green MB
Hornsey MB Yiewsley and West Drayton UD

Creation of Greater London

Arms of Middlesex County Council
Arms of Middlesex County Council

After 1889 the growth of London did not cease and the county became almost entirely urbanised by its suburbs. Many of the boroughs in the area were demanding independence from Middlesex County Council as county boroughs, which if granted would have left Middlesex County Council controlling an area with three distinct and unconnected fragments - in the west, the south-east and the north of the county.

Instead, in 1965, nearly all the remainder of Middlesex became part of Greater London and formed the new London boroughs of:

The remaining areas were Potters Bar Urban District which became part of Hertfordshire, while Sunbury-on-Thames Urban District and Staines Urban District became part of Surrey.

Recent changes

In 1974 the three urban districts that had been transferred to Hertfordshire and Surrey were abolished and became the districts of Hertsmere (part only) and Spelthorne respectively.

In 1995 the village of Poyle was transferred from Spelthorne to the Berkshire borough of Slough.


Middlesex is still used in the names of organisations based in the area such as Middlesex County Cricket Club and Middlesex University. In 2003, an early day motion with two signatures, noted 16 May is the anniversary of the Battle of Albuera and in recent years has been celebrated as Middlesex Day. An event to recognise and celebrate the historic county.

The River Thames, River Lee and the River Colne are all boundaries of the traditional county and historically the banks of River Thames in London were known as the "Middlesex Bank" and "Surrey Bank". Although no longer used in central London, it still occurs in the area around Richmond upon Thames and Twickenham where the river bends in such a way as to make north or south unclear.

The urbanisation and declining importance of the county was lamented in the later works of John Betjeman, the Poet Laureate, and featured in the televised readings Metroland. As part of a 2002 marketing campaign, the plant conservation charity Plantlife chose the Wood Anemone as the county flower.

A judicial Middlesex commission area existed, consisting of the boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Harrow, Hillingdon and Hounslow. This was abolished on July 1, 2003.

Former postal county

Middlesex is also defined by the Royal Mail to be a former postal county. The postal county was much smaller than the traditional and administrative counties as a large part of Middlesex was part of the London postal district. The postal county included the village of Denham, which was for all other purposes in Buckinghamshire but included in the post town of Uxbridge and therefore the postal county of Middlesex; conversely Hampton Wick was not included in the Middlesex postal county as it was served by post towns based in Surrey. This gave rise to the misnomer that Hampton Court Palace was located in Surrey.

The former postal county consisted of two unconnected areas and comprised the following post towns:


Since the Royal Mail no longer require the use of counties as part of an address it is now possible to include Middlesex as part of any address, including those in the London postal district. The Royal Mail's 'alias file', a supplement to the Postcode Address File, contains postally-not-required details such as the former postal and traditional county for every address in the UK.


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