Home counties

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Counties surrounding London (1889 borders) 1. Buckinghamshire, 2. Hertfordshire, 3. Essex, 4. Berkshire, 5. Middlesex, 6. Surrey, 7. Kent, 8. Sussex and County of London (yellow). (This map uses the Historic County borders)

The Home Counties are the counties of South East England and the East of England that surround London, not including the capital city itself. The counties generally included in the list are Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey as well as Sussex (although this county does not border London). Other counties more distant from London, such as Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Oxfordshire are also sometimes included in the list due to their close proximity to the capital for commuters and the wider connection to the regional economy. Nevertheless no exact definition of the term exists and the composition of the home counties remains a matter of debate. Many towns and villages within the home counties form part of the London commuter belt from which it is practical to commute to work in the capital. As such, the Home Counties is the wealthiest region in the UK with the highest house prices and GDP per capita outside Inner London.

First known use of the term[edit]

The first use of the term "Home Counties" cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1695. Charles Davenant, in An essay upon ways and means of supplying the war, wrote, "The Eleven Home Counties, which are thought in Land Taxes to pay more than their proportion, viz. Surry [sic] with Southwark, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgshire, Kent, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk, Berks, Bucks, and Oxfordshire."[1]

Definitions[edit]

The term is sometimes understood to mean those counties which, on their borders closest to London, have been partly subsumed into London. Indeed, the former county of Middlesex has been almost wholly within London since 1965, as have parts of Hertfordshire and Surrey,[2] although the name Middlesex still exists in various incarnations. The third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (2010) defines the term as "the English counties surrounding London, into which London has extended. They comprise chiefly Essex, Kent, Surrey, and Hertfordshire."[3] Parts of all of those counties are now effectively within London, though no part of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire or Sussex is. The county of Sussex is also wholly outside, and Berkshire almost wholly outside, the route of the M25 motorway which is often treated as an unofficial perimeter of Greater London,[citation needed] and some definitions of the home counties mention that those counties are not always included amongst the home counties,[4] or that the term has been extended to include them.[5]

Other theories sometimes mentioned for the origin of the term include the idea that the counties were where the wealthy of London had second homes, the counties that Members of Parliament returned to after the end of business, or the counties in which regular commuters into London lived.

Character[edit]

The home counties are often characterized as middle class, prosperous and right-wing in contrast to the more traditional working class, left-wing regions in Northern England. One 1987 reference book described their public image as being "inhabited on the whole by "nice", comfortable, and conformist middle-class people".[6] The county of Surrey has been described as possessing quintessential home counties characteristics of "a comfortable plasticized commuterland with respectable villas and neatly mown lawns interspersed with patches of mild scenery".[7] In fiction, Margot and Jerry Leadbetter of the television sitcom The Good Life, set in Surbiton, represent a typical home counties suburban couple.

Economy[edit]

The home counties as a whole are significantly more prosperous than other regions in the United Kingdom. The towns of Amersham, Gerrards Cross and Beaconsfield, all in Buckinghamshire, being ranked as the top three most expensive in the country in one 2008 survey of average house prices.[8] The area is so large, however, that it also includes a number of areas of deprivation such as Margate, Hastings and parts of Slough.[citation needed]

In official use[edit]

The term Home Counties North in a 2013 postmark on a letter posted from the Luton, Bedfordshire area.

Although there is no one official definition of the term, it has frequently been used in legislation and by official bodies. In the twentieth century, for instance as follows: (the table includes all the areas mentioned above, plus Dorset, Hampshire, and Middlesex):

County 1851 Post Office Directory[9] 1908 Home Counties Division 1920 London and Home Counties Electricity District 1924 London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee 1926 The Home Counties (Music and Dancing) Licensing Act 1938 Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act 1948 Home Counties Brigade 1995 Valuation Office Rating Manual
Bedfordshire Yes
Berkshire Yes (part) Yes Yes Yes
Buckinghamshire Yes (part) Yes (part) Yes Yes Yes
Cambridgeshire Yes (part)
Dorset Yes (part)
Essex Yes Yes (part) Yes (part) Yes Yes
Hampshire Yes
Hertfordshire Yes Yes (part) Yes (part) Yes Yes
Kent Yes Yes Yes (part) Yes (part) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Middlesex Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Absorbed into London 1965
Oxfordshire Yes (part)
Surrey Yes Yes Yes (part) Yes (part) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sussex
(East & West)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Quoted in Oxford English Dictionary.
  2. ^ Brewers Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. 16th edition. London: Cassell, 1999, p. 769. ISBN 0304350966
  3. ^ "Home Counties" in Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford University Press, 2010. www.oxfordreference.com Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  4. ^ The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981, p. 180. ISBN 0192129708
  5. ^ Brewer’s, p. 583.
  6. ^ Urdang, Laurence. (1987) Names & nicknames of places and things. London: Grafton, p. 146. ISBN 0246132469
  7. ^ Urdang, 1987, p. 278.
  8. ^ Britain's richest towns: 10 - 1 The Telegraph, 19 April 2008.
  9. ^ 1851 Post Office Directory of the Six Home Counties covered Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex.

External links[edit]