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County of London

Coordinates: 51°30′N 0°06′W / 51.5°N 0.1°W / 51.5; -0.1
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County of London

County of London shown within England
 • 191174,816 acres (302.77 km2)
 • 196174,903 acres (303.12 km2)
 • 19114,521,685
 • 19613,200,484
 • 191160/acre
 • 196142/acre
 • OriginDistrict of the Metropolitan Board of Works
 • Created1889
 • Abolished1965
 • Succeeded byGreater London
StatusAdministrative and (smaller) ceremonial county
GovernmentLondon County Council
 • HQCounty Hall, Lambeth
Arms of London County Council
Coat of arms of London County Council
 • TypeParishes and districts (1889–1900)
Metropolitan boroughs (1900–1965)

Boroughs numbered 2–29 (1 is the City)

The County of London was a county of England from 1889 to 1965, corresponding to the area known today as Inner London. It was created as part of the general introduction of elected county government in England, by way of the Local Government Act 1888. The Act created an administrative County of London, which included within its territory the City of London. However, the City of London and the County of London formed separate ceremonial counties for "non-administrative" purposes.[1] The local authority for the county was the London County Council (LCC), which initially performed only a limited range of functions, but gained further powers during its 76-year existence. The LCC provided very few services within the City of London, where the ancient Corporation monopolised local governance.[1] In 1900, the lower-tier civil parishes and district boards were replaced with 28 new metropolitan boroughs. The territory of the county was 74,903 acres (303.12 km2) in 1961. During its existence, there was a long-term decline in population as more residents moved into the outer suburbs; there were periodic reviews of the local government structures in the greater London area and several failed attempts to expand the boundaries of the county. In 1965, the London Government Act 1963 replaced the county with the much larger Greater London administrative area.


The county occupied an area of just under 75,000 acres (30,351 ha) and lay within the London Basin.[2] It was divided into two parts (north and south) by the River Thames, which was the most significant geographical feature. It was bordered by the River Lea with Essex to the north-east, Kent to the south-east, Surrey the south-west and Middlesex to the north. The highest point was Hampstead Heath in the north of the county at 440 feet (134 m), which is one of the highest points in London. In 1900 a number of boundary anomalies were abolished. These included the loss of the Alexandra Park exclave to Middlesex, gaining South Hornsey in return, and the transfer of Penge to Kent.


Creation of the county[edit]

The Metropolis Management Act 1855 revolutionised and amalgamated much of local government across an identical, newly formed, area. This reform created an indirectly elected Metropolitan Board of Works which initially built and maintained infrastructure for the metropolis, including modern sanitation.[3] Over time the board gained more functions and became the de facto local authority and provider of new services for the London area. The board operated in those parts of the counties of Middlesex, Surrey and Kent that had been designated by the General Register Office as "the Metropolis" for the purposes of the Bills of Mortality.[3] This area had been administered separately from the City of London, which came under the control of the Corporation of London.

There had been several attempts during the 19th century to reform London government, either by expanding the City of London to cover the whole of the metropolitan area; by creating a new county of London;[4] or by creating ten municipal corporations matching the parliamentary boroughs of the metropolis.[5] These had all been defeated in Parliament, in part because of the agency power of the City Corporation.[6] Ultimately, the Local Government Act 1888 and the introduction of county councils in England provided the mechanism for creating a territory and authority encompassing the expanded London area. For expediency, the area of the metropolitan board was chosen for the new county, and no attempt was made to select new boundaries.[1] This area had been out of line with the expansion of London even in 1855.[3] For example, it anomalously omitted built-up and expanding areas such as West Ham, but included some sparsely populated areas on the metropolitan fringe.[3]

The City of London and the County of London each formed counties for "non-administrative" purposes, with a separate Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff for the county of London.[1] However, the administrative county, which corresponded to the area of control of the county council, also included the City of London. In practice, the county council had very little authority over the ancient City, with some powers over drainage, roads, fire brigade, embankment of the river and flood prevention.[1] In common with the rest of the country, the 1888 Act provided no reform of lower-tier authorities and the county was, initially at least, administered locally by a series of parish vestries and district boards.

County council[edit]

The local authority for the county was the London County Council (LCC). Initially, the LCC provided the services it had inherited from the Metropolitan Board of Works.[1] Eventually, however, it absorbed functions from ad-hoc agencies such the London School Board and Metropolitan Asylums Board. The council was initially based in Spring Gardens, but moved to a purpose-built County Hall in the 1930s. The housing policy of the council included provision of large housing estates outside the boundaries of the county, such as that at Becontree.[7]

Local government[edit]

In 1900, eleven years after its foundation, the London Government Act divided the County of London into 28 metropolitan boroughs. These replaced the ancient parish vestries and district boards as the second tier of local government.

County of London boroughs numbered in the information box on the right side:

Metropolitan Borough


No. on map

City of London City of London 1
Battersea Wandsworth 28
Bermondsey Southwark 8
Bethnal Green Tower Hamlets 6
Camberwell Southwark 10
Chelsea Kensington and Chelsea 29
Deptford Lewisham 11
Finsbury Islington 4
Fulham Hammersmith and Fulham 25
Greenwich Greenwich 14
Hackney Hackney 16
Hammersmith Hammersmith and Fulham 24
Hampstead Camden 20
Holborn Camden 3
Islington Islington 18
Kensington (Royal Borough) Kensington and Chelsea 23
Lambeth Lambeth 27
Lewisham Lewisham 12
Paddington Westminster 22
Poplar Tower Hamlets 15
Shoreditch Hackney 5
Southwark Southwark 9
St Marylebone Westminster 21
St Pancras Camden 19
Stepney Tower Hamlets 7
Stoke Newington Hackney 17
Wandsworth Lambeth, Wandsworth 26
Westminster (City) Westminster 2
Woolwich Greenwich, Newham 13

† Not a metropolitan borough.

Decline in population[edit]

Population fell after World War I and as recorded at each census until its 1965 demise. In 1901, the population was 4.5 million and by 1961 it had fallen to 3.2 million. Following the 1931 census, more of the population of "Greater London" (defined at the time as the Metropolitan Police District and City of London) lived outside the county than in it.[8] The following table illustrates the approximate population according to the census at various intervals:[9]

Year Central Area† Inner Ring‡ Second Ring§ County of London
Outer Ring# of
Greater London
1881 1,743,000 1,008,000 1,093,000 3,844,000 950,000[10]
1901 1,623,000 1,201,000 1,601,000 4,425,000 1,422,000[11]
1921 1,364,000 1,186,000 1,933,000 4,483,000 2,993,000[12]
1931 1,260,000 1,163,000 1,976,000 4,399,000 3,807,000[8]
1951 738,000 927,000 1,683,000 3,348,000 4,998,000[13]

†The City of London and the Metropolitan Boroughs of Bermondsey, Bethnal Green, Finsbury, Holborn, St Marylebone, St Pancras, Shoreditch, Southwark, Stepney and Westminster.

‡The Metropolitan Boroughs of Battersea, Chelsea, Islington, Kensington, Lambeth and Paddington.

§The Metropolitan Boroughs of Camberwell, Deptford, Fulham, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith, Hampstead, Lewisham, Poplar, Stoke Newington, Wandsworth and Woolwich.

#Defined as the area of the Metropolitan Police district outside the County of London.


London boroughs covering the area of the former County of London within modern Greater London

The county of London was abolished in 1965 and was replaced by the fivefold-sized Greater London, which took in nearly all of Middlesex, along with areas in Surrey, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire. Middlesex and Surrey had already been reduced in 1889 on the county's creation.[14] The area "that had been" has since been known statutorily as Inner London and an Inner London Education Authority operated in the area until 1990. The 28 metropolitan boroughs were merged to form 12 new Inner London boroughs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Robson 1939, pp. 80–92.
  2. ^ Natural England – London Basin Natural Area. Retrieved on 22 July 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Robson 1939, pp. 54–61.
  4. ^ County of London Bill, 1870
  5. ^ Municipal Boroughs (Metropolis) Bill, 1870
  6. ^ Robson 1939, pp. 71–79.
  7. ^ Robson 1939, pp. 168–169.
  8. ^ a b "London census – Decline in County Population". The Times. London. 27 July 1932. p. 7.
  9. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (1952). The Buildings of England – London, except the Cities of London and Westminster. Harmondsworth: Penguin. pp. 37–39.
  10. ^ "Some Results of the Census". The Times. London. 9 June 1891.
  11. ^ "London and the Outer Ring". The Times. London. 15 May 1901.
  12. ^ "Official Census Figures – London's Shrinkage". The Times. London. 24 August 1921.
  13. ^ "Census of England and Wales". The Times. 12 July 1951.
  14. ^ Redcliffe-Maud & Wood, B., English Local Government Reformed, (1974)

Works cited[edit]

  • Robson, William A. (1939). The government and misgovernment of London. London: Allen & Unwin. OCLC 504395625.

External links[edit]

51°30′N 0°06′W / 51.5°N 0.1°W / 51.5; -0.1