West London

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Westminster Abbey

West London is a popularly, but informally and inexactly defined part of London, England. The area lies north of the River Thames and extends from its historic and commercial core of Westminster and the West End to the Greater London boundary, much of which is formed by the River Colne. The constituent districts of West London were traditionally part of Middlesex.

The area emerged from Westminster, an area just west of the City, which owed its importance to the consecration of Westminster Abbey and after that, the establishment of the Palace of Westminster.

The term West London is used to differentiate the area from other informal divisions of London, such as Central London, North London, East London and South London.[1]


West London had a gross value added of £34.4bn in 2007, around 20% of the gross value added of Greater London.[2][3] London Heathrow Airport is a major employer in West London, and the University of West London has more than 47,000 students.[4]


The development of the area began with the establishment of the Abbey on a site then called Thorney Island, the choice of site may in part relate to the natural ford which is thought to have carried Watling Street over the Thames in the vicnity[5]. Tradition dates the foundation to the 7th Century AD with written records dating back to the 960s or early 970s.[6] The Island and surrounding area became known as Westminster in reference to the church.

The Palace of Westminster subsequently developed, with Parliament being based there from its establishment in 1265. The presence of the centre of government as a distinct focus for growth, accompanied by the proximity of the City, ensured that western London was the fastest growing part of early London.

In 1720, John Strype’s ‘Survey of London’ described Westminster as one of the then four distinct areas of London;[7] in it he describes the City of London, Westminster (West London), Southwark (South London), and 'That Part beyond the Tower' (East London). The area now usually referred to as North London developed later.

A detailed copy of John Rocque's Map of London, 1741-5.

As well as the proximity of the centre of government, the West End was long favoured by the rich elite as a place of residence because it was usually upwind of the smoke drifting from the crowded City.[8] A further factor facilitating rapid growth in West London was the very large number of bridges linking the area to South London and the area beyond; by contrast, even today, there are no bridges east of Tower Bridge, partly as the river becomes wider as it heads east.

Like other areas of the capital, West London grew rapidly in the Victorian era as a result of railway-based commuting, a trend that continued in the twentieth century and was subsequently reinforced by motorcar-based commuting.

The size of London stabilised after the establishment of the Metropolitan Green Belt shortly after the Second World War.

Official designations[edit]

The term 'West London' has been used for a variety of formal purposes with the boundaries defined according to the purposes of the designation.

Planning Policy sub-region[edit]

London plan sub regions (2011).svg

The 2011 iteration of the London Plan[9] included an altered 'West' sub-region, to be used for planning, engagement, resource allocation and progress reporting purposes. It consists of the London Boroughs of Brent, Harrow, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hillingdon, Hounslow and the Richmond upon Thames. As well as including outer areas of West London, the sub-region also includes areas south of the river, not usually counted as part of West London; areas of the cross-river London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.

The 2004-2008 and 2008-2011 versions of the sub-region varied in their composition.

W postcode area[edit]

The W (Western) postcode area was introduced in 1857[10] to facilitate the distribution of mail. The postcode area is a sub-set of West London.

London Postal Region Map: The 'Western' district is a sub-set of West London


  1. ^ Evening Std article on social attitudes towards various areas of London https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/east-is-poor-west-is-posh-south-is-rough-and-north-is-intellectual-londoners-views-on-the-citys-9088834.html
  2. ^ West London Partnership: West London Economic Development Strategy and Implementation Plan. September 2007.
  3. ^ "West London Business". WestLondon.com.[dead link]
  4. ^ "The economic impact of the University of West London" (PDF; 850 MB). UWL.ac.uk. University of West London / Oxford Economics. May 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Loftie's Historic London (review)". The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art. 63 (1, 634): 271. 19 February 1887. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  6. ^ Page, William (1909). "'Benedictine monks: St Peter's abbey, Westminster', in A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark,". London. p. 433-457. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  7. ^ Link to Index of Strype's full work https://www.dhi.ac.uk/strype/tableOfcontent.jsp
  8. ^ Robert O. Bucholz and Joseph P. Ward: London: A Social and Cultural History, 1550–1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2012, p. 333
  9. ^ London City Hall. "Policy 2.5 Sub-regions"..
  10. ^ website on history of London Postcodes https://www.postalmuseum.org/discover/collections/postcodes/