Southern England

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Southern England
South of England
Super-region of England
The South
In this image, official definitions of Southern England are illustrated as yellow.
In this image, official definitions of Southern England are illustrated as yellow.
Sovereign state
10 largest Settlements in order of population
 • Total62,042 km2 (23,955 sq mi)
 • Total27,945,000
 • Density450/km2 (1,200/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Rural
Time zoneGMT (UTC)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)

Southern England, or the South of England, also known as the South, is an area of England consisting of its southernmost part, with cultural, economic and political differences from the Midlands and the North. The area includes Greater London, the South East, the West Country (or the South West), and the East (sometimes referred to as East Anglia). The distinction between the south and rest of England and Great Britain is sometimes referred to as the north–south divide. With a population of nearly 28 million; and an area of 62,042 square kilometres (23,955 sq mi), the south accounts for roughly 40% of the population of the United Kingdom and approximately 25% of its area.


For official purposes, the UK government does not refer to the Southern England as a single entity, but the Office for National Statistics divides UK into twelve regions. In England, the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber make up the North ("centre-north"); the West Midlands and East Midlands (as well as Wales) make up the Midlands ("centre-south") and the rest of England make up the South.[1]

Culturally speaking, the majority of people think that the South consists of the South West (87%), South East (92%), Greater London (88%) and to lesser extent the East of England (57%).[2] However, 35% of people surveyed placed the East of England as part of the Midlands. Generally people in the North tend to put the East of England in the South more than people in the South or Midlands.[citation needed]


The South has a land border with the English Midlands and a sea border with France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The South is generally more low-lying than the North. There are a number of notable hill ranges, such as the Cotswolds and the Chilterns. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset form a peninsula extending towards the Atlantic.

London is the largest city in the South of England and is the capital of the United Kingdom. The London Metropolitan Area has a population of 14.2 million (2019), making it the largest metropolitan area in Europe.[3]




English is the native language of the English people and the main language spoken in the South.

The South of England has a dialect and accent distinct from that of other parts of the UK. Due to the prominence of the South in media and politics, Standard British English is largely based on the English spoken in the South. For example, the standard British accent, Received Pronunciation, is very similar to the educated speech of London, Oxford and Cambridge.[4]


Cornish is a revived language and is an important part of the identity and culture of the Cornish people.[5]


People often apply the terms "southern" and "south" loosely, without deeper consideration of the geographical identities of Southern England. This can cause confusion over the depth of affiliation between its areas. As in much of the rest of England, people tend to have a deeper affiliation to their county or city. Thus, residents of Essex are unlikely to feel much affinity with people in Oxfordshire. Similarly, there is a strong distinction between natives of the south-west and south-east. The broadcaster Stuart Maconie has noted that culturally "there's a bottom half of England [...] but there isn't a south in the same way that there's a north".[6]


Map of districts in England and Wales shaded by life expectancy.
Life expectancy at birth in England and Wales 2012 to 2014. Lighter colours indicate longer life expectancy.

One major manifestation of the North–South divide is in health and life expectancy statistics.[7] All three Northern England statistical regions have lower than average life expectancies and higher than average rates of cancer, circulatory disease and respiratory disease.[8][9] The South of England has a higher life expectancy than the North, however, regional differences do seem to be slowly narrowing: between 1991–1993 and 2012–2014, life expectancy in the North East increased by 6.0 years and in the North West by 5.8 years, the fastest increase in any region outside London, and the gap between life expectancy in the North East and South East is now 2.5 years, down from 2.9 in 1993.[9] Furthermore, all such figures represent an average – affluent northern towns such as Harrogate have higher life expectancies than less affluent areas of the South such as Southampton or Plymouth.


The South of England has a number of world-renowned universities, such as the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and many Russell Group universities, such as Imperial College London, University of Exeter and the London School of Economics.



The sport of rugby experienced a schism in 1895 with many teams based in Yorkshire, Lancashire and surrounding areas breaking from the Rugby Football Union and forming their own League. The disagreement that led to the split was over the issue of professional payments, and "broken time" or injury payments. There is a perception that league is the code of rugby played in the north, whilst union is the code played in the south. One of the biggest derbies in Southern England is the West Country derby (Bath v Gloucester).[10]


The South Coast Derby is used to describe football matches played mainly between Portsmouth Football Club and Southampton Football Club.

However, in Portsmouth's absence from top flight football, AFC Bournemouth and Brighton and Hove Albion – based about 30 miles (48 km) and 60 miles (97 km) from Southampton respectively – gained promotion to the Premier League, with some media outlets marketing fixtures against them as a South Coast derby;[11][12][13]

Other major derbies in Southern England are West Country derbies and London derbies.[14][15]



Southern England consists of four regions: the East of England, London, South East and South West.

Ceremonial counties[edit]

In many definitions, Southern England includes many counties on/near the English Channel. Ceremonial counties are:





  • Essex
  • Norfolk
  • Suffolk

Those Counties that compose the West Country consider themselves to be of a distinctive area and history somewhat separate to "Southern Counties", and similarly, East Anglia has a distinctive history and regional identity.

The northern boundary is generally taken to correspond to an imaginary line from the Severn Estuary in the West to the Wash in the East (or expressed in terms of towns, from Gloucester to King's Lynn).

Historic counties[edit]

The historic counties ceased to be used for any administrative purpose in 1899 but remain important to some people, notably for county cricket.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "United Kingdom, NUTS 2013" (PDF). Eurostat.
  2. ^ "What regions make up the North and South of England? | YouGov". Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  3. ^ "Eurostat - Data Explorer". 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  4. ^ Robinson, Jonnie. "Received Pronunciation". British Library. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  5. ^ "Funding boost to safeguard Cornish language announced". GOV.UK. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  6. ^ Maconie, Stuart (2007). Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North. Ebury Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-09-191022-8.
  7. ^ Kirk, Ashley (15 September 2015). "Life expectancy increases to 81 years old - but north-south divide remains". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  8. ^ Ellis, Amy; Fry, Robert (2010). "Regional health inequalities in England" (PDF). Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 January 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  9. ^ a b Olatunde, Olugbenga (4 November 2015). "Life Expectancy at Birth and at Age 65 by Local Areas in England and Wales: 2012 to 2014". Office of National Statistics. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Gloucester v Bath: The legend of the West County derby". BBC Sport. 11 April 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  11. ^ AFC Bournemouth: What should we call the derby between Cherries and Southampton?, Bournemouth Daily Echo, 30 October 2015
  12. ^ Southampton snatch equaliser against Brighton in the south coast derby but remain in the relegation zone, The Independent, 31 January 2018
  13. ^ Bournemouth against Southampton the “other” South Coast Derby, Vital Football, 18 October 2018
  14. ^ "London derbies ranked on ferocity of rivalry, including Tottenham v Arsenal and West Ham v Chelsea". TalkSport. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  15. ^ "The 10 biggest rivalries in London football". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 February 2017.