1902 Encyclopedia > Middlesex


MIDDLESEX, an inland county in the south-east of England, lying between 51° 25' and 51° 40' N. lat., and between 0° and 0° 36' W. long. On the south it is divided from Surrey and Kent by the Thames, on the east from Essex by the Lea, on the west from Buckinghamshire by the Colne, and on the north from Hertfordshire by a partly artificial and very irregular line. Although with the ex-ception of Rutland it is the smallest county in England, its population is exceeded by that of Lancashire only. Its total area is 181,317 acres, of which 2592 acres are common or waste lands. The longest straight line that can be drawn in the county is one of nearly 28 miles from the north-eastern extremity near Waltham Abbey to the south-western at Staines. From north to south in the broadest part the distance is about 15 miles.

Surface and Geology.—The greater portion of the county is flat, although there are sufficient undulations to allow of a proper drainage of the land. A range of hills runs along the Hertfordshire border by Barnet, Elstree, Stanmore, and Pinner, averaging 400 feet in height; another range occupies the ground just north of London by Hornsey, Highgate, and Hampstead; Harrow occupies an isolated eminence between the two ranges.

The county lies entirely within the basin of the Thames, and the London Clay extends over a large portion of the surface. This formation stretches from the mouth of the estuary of the Thames to the neighbourhood of Marl-borough. It attains its greatest breadth (little short of 30 miles) in the neighbourhood of London, and extends north-ward until it is lost beneath the drift of Suffolk and Norfolk. The following is a table of the various beds of rock which occur at the surface, with their greatest thickness (in feet) in the district :_—
Alluvium (recent river deposits) 15
Post-Pliocene Tertiaries.
Post-glacial beds (brick-earth, gravel, &c.) 50
Glacial drift (boulder clay, gravel, &c.) 80
Eocene Tertiaries.
Lower Bagshot sands 100
London Clay 420
Woolwich and Reading beds 90
Chalk with flints 800

Chalk comes to the surface in so very few places that it is scarcely worth mention. It is seen near Harefield and on the north-west side of South Mimms. The depth from the surface to the chalk varies greatly in different parts of the county. This has been proved by the borings for wells; thus at Isleworth the depth is 400 feet and at Hampstead 378, while at Ruislip it is 76 feet and at Pinner only 60. The Reading beds (plastic clays) are brought to the sur-face at Windsor. They follow roughly the course of the river Colne from the north of Uxbridge along the flank of the hills north-eastward, but are sometimes cut back south-ward along small side valleys. An outlying mass is exposed at Pinner. The Bagshot sands, consisting of gravel and sand permeable to water, once stretched over the whole extent of the London Clay, but they are now to be found only on the high grounds at Hampstead, High-gate, and Harrow. A corner of the main mass enters the south-west corner of the county near Littleton. Beds of brick-earth occur in the drift between West Drayton and Uxbridge.

Several deep borings in the London basin prove tha existence beneath the chalk of beds which do not crop out in Middlesex. Three of these are in the county; and the most interesting is that at Meux's Brewery, Tottenham Court Road (about 1146 feet), which passes through the following formations :—gravel and clay, 21 feet; London Clay, 64 feet; Reading beds, 51 feet; Thanet sand, 21 feet; chalk, 655 feet; Upper Greensand, 28 feet; gault, 160 feet; Lower Greensand, 64 feet; Devonian, 80 feet.

Rivers and Canals.—The Thames is very tortuous in the 44 miles of its course from Staines to Blackwall, and makes a remarkable bend at the eastern limit of the county where it forms the so-called Isle of Dogs. The width at Staines is 200 feet, at Chiswick opposite Barnes 340 feet, at Hammersmith 525 feet, at Fulham 820 feet, at Westmin-ster Bridge 1100 feet, but at London Bridge it is less than 800 feet; above the junction of the Lea at the Isle of Dogs the width is 1350 feet. The ordinary rise of the tide at London Bridge is 16 feet, and the tide-way ends at Ted-dington. The port of London begins below London Bridge, and the channel for from 2 to 3 miles is called the Pool. The Colne from Hertfordshire enters Middlesex at the north-western corner of the county. It then runs south, joining the Thames at Staines, and in its course divides Middlesex from Buckinghamshire for 15 miles. After the river leaves Uxbridge it divides out into several small channels. The Lea from Hertfordshire enters Middlesex at the north-eastern corner of the county near Waltham Abbey. It runs south, dividing Middlesex from Essex for 15 miles, and falls into the Thames at Bow Creek. Several branches flow off from the river during its course. The Brent from Hertfordshire enters Middlesex near Finchley. It takes a circuitous direction southward through the middle of the county by Hendon, Kingsbury, Twyford, Greenford, and Hanwell to the town of Brentford, where it unites with the Thames. Where the river crosses the Edge-ware Road (about 3 miles south of the town of Edgeware) it is expanded by artificial means into an extensive reser-voir. The Cran (or Yedding Brook) rises in the district between Harrow and Pinner and flows under Cranford Bridge; it crosses Hounslow Heath, and bends round to Twickenham and Isleworth, where in a divided stream it falls into the Thames.

There were several other small streams in the neighbour-hood of London which have left their mark in the names of places, but which are now merely sewers, such as the Wallbrook, the Westbourn, the Tyburn, the Fleet river, &c. The last-mentioned, which runs into the Thames near Blackfriars Bridge, was formerly navigable as far as Holborn Bridge; but, the Fleet Ditch, as it was then called, having become in the last century a dangerous nuisance, the lord mayor and citizens were empowered by Act of Parliament to arch it over. The work was commenced in 1734, and in 1737 Fleet market, occupying the site of the space from Holborn Bridge to Fleet Bridge, was opened to the public. The New River, an artificial water-course con-structed by Sir Hugh Myddelton in the reign of James I. to supply London with water, runs through the county from north to south a little to the west of the river Lea. It derives its waters from the springs of Amwell and Chadwell, : increased by a cut from the Lea, in the neighbourhood of i Ware, and enters Middlesex from Hertfordshire about 2 ! miles north of Enfield. It passes Enfield, Tottenham, | Hornsey, and Stoke Newington, and is received into the I reservoir in Clerkenwell known as the New River Head.
The Grand Junction Canal leaves the Thames at Brentford, proceeds in a westerly direction by way of Hanwell and Cranford to West Drayton; thence in a northerly direction it follows the valley of the Colne. It passes Uxbridge, and after leaving the county takes its further course by Rickmans worth through Hertfordshire. The Paddington Canal leaves the Grand Junction Canal at Cranford, and passes Northolt, Apperton, Twyford (where it is carried over the Brent by an aqueduct), and Kensal Green. At Paddington it joins the Regent's Canal, which passes the north of Regent's Park, and after proceeding through the eastern portions of London joins the Thames at Limehouse. The Regent's Canal is joined to the river Lea by means of Sir George Duckett's Canal, and thus there is a through communication from the north-eastern corner of the county to the south-eastern corner, thence from east to west, and northward to the north-west corner.

Climate, Soil, Agriculture, &c.—The climate of the county is equable and good, and the shelter of the northern hills makes the air mild. Highgate, Hampstead, and some other parts are supposed to be specially healthy, and are recommended for invalids by the medical profession.

The heavy poor clay in the north and north-western por-tion of Middlesex is chiefly covered with permanent grass. In some parts it has been made fit for arable cultivation by the addition of chalk, lime, and ashes. The rich deposits from the Thames have formed a soil which when well manured is specially suitable for market gardens. From its nearness to London the district has long been famous for high farming, and the divisions devoted to different kinds of farming are well marked. The greater part of Gore and Ossulston hundreds, portions of Spel-thorne and Edmonton hundreds, and a strip down the western side of Elthorne hundred are devoted to meadow and pasture. The arable land is chiefly found on the western side, and between the Great Western Railway and the Thames. It is also to be seen in the north-western district. With the constant increase of London, houses have encroached upon the fields, and most of the market gardens which were situated in the neighbourhood of Islington and Hackney have disappeared. The strip of land by the Thames from Brentford to Chelsea was given up almost entirely to market gardens, but Fulham is fast being built over.

According to the returns for 1882, the area occupied by grain and green crops, grass, &c, was 116,470 acres. Of this amount, 16,337 acres were under corn crops (wheat, 6410; barley, 3083; oats, 3895; and beans and pease, 2636); 13,451 under green crops (including potatoes, 3019; turnips, 1539; mangolds, 1692; cabbage, &c., 118S); 3025 under clover and grasses sown in rotation; and 82,782 under permanent pasture. Orchards occupied 3419 acres; market gardens, 6900; nursery grounds, 447; and woods, 2382. In the same year the horses numbered 5939 (4188 used for agri-cultural purposes); cattle, 23,283 (cows, 15,390); sheep, 23,916; and pigs, 12,035.

The following were the landowners in the county (exclusive of London) at the time of the Domesday survey:—the king, the arch-bishop of Canterbury, the bishop and canons of London, the abbeys of Westminster and Holy Trinity at Caen, the nunnery of Barking, the Earls Roger and Morton, Geoffrey de Mannevele, Ernulf de Hesding, Walter Eitz Other, Walter de St Walery, Richard Eitz Gilbert, Robert Gernon, Robert Fafiton, Robert Fitz Roselin, Robert Blund, Roger de Rames, William Fitz Ansculf, Edmund de Salisbury, Aubrey de Vere, Ranulf Fitz Ilger, Derman, Countess Judith, and the king's almoners.

In 1873, according to the Return of Owners of Land, the total number of owners in the county (also exclusive of London) was 11,881, of whom 9006 owned less than an acre. The extent of lands (including common or waste lands) is given as 145,605. The gross estimated rental was £1,611,655. Sixteen owners each pos-sessed over 1000 acres. The crown owned 2382 acres (annual value £5503); the duchy of Lancaster, 2273 acres (£4492) ; Ecclesi-astical Commissioners, 1308 acres (£46,519) ; All Souls' College, Oxford, 1813 acres (£4724); Christ Church, Oxford, 1132 acres (£1635) ; and King's College, Cambridge, 1097 (£1084).

Many villages of Middlesex, especially those near to London, were formerly famous for their mineral springs. Some places are still supplied with water from wells ; but the Barnet, the East Middlesex, the Grand Junction, the West Middlesex, and the New River Water Companies serve a large part of the county.

Manufactures and Trade.—There is little to remark with regard to the manufactures of the county outside of London. Brick-making and tile-making have always flourished, and malting, distilling, and soap-making are favourite industries. Gunpowder mills exist at Twickenham and Bedfont. The market-towns for corn are Uxbridge, Brentford, and Staines, for cattle and sheep Southall. A horse and cattle fair is held at South Mimms and Barnet.
Railways and Roads.—As London is the centre of the railway system of England, it is evident that many of the lines must run through Middlesex. For similar reasons it is well provided with roads.

Population.—The total population of Middlesex was 2,539,765 in 1871 and 2,920,485 in 1881, or excluding the seven metropolitan boroughs lying within the county 276,028 in 1871 and 394,089 in 1881. Most of the towns and villages have largely increased, during the period between 1871 and 1881 ; the populations of Acton and Tottenham have more than doubled, and. Chiswick, Ealing, Edmonton, and Willesden have almost doubled. Of the larger places the least increase has been at Brentford, which numbered 10,271 in 1871, and reached 11,808 in 1881. At the time of the Domesday survey the population of Middlesex, exclusive of London, was 2302.

Government.—Unlike other counties, Middlesex has no high sheriff appointed by the sovereign. It is subject to the City of London, and one of the sheriffs appointed by the lord mayor is sheriff for Middlesex. When Henry I. came to the throne he gave the city an extensive charter, and one of the privileges either granted or confirmed by the king was the perpetual sheriffwick of Middlesex.

The whole of the county is included in the diocese of London, and is divided between the archdeaconries of London and Middlesex. When Henry VIII. created the bishopric of Westminster he allotted the whole county (the parish of Fulham alone excepted) for its diocese. Edward VI., however, dissolved the bishopric in the fourth year of his reign.
The county is divided into six hundreds, which remain the same as they were at the time of the Domesday survey, except that the name of one has been changed:— Ossulston(Osulvestane D.^Edmon-ton (Delmetone D.), Gore (Gara D.), Elthorne (Heletorne or Helethorne D.), Spelthorne (Speletorne or Spelethorne D.), Isle-worth (Honeslaw D., i.e., Hounslow). The division into hundreds is now merely a name, and a record of a former system of local government.

There are thirty-two poor-law unions, but the unions beyond London are only eight in number, viz., Brentford, Edmonton, Fulham, Hackney, Hampstead, Hendon, Staines, Uxbridge.

The majority of hospitals are in London, but there is a training hospital at Tottenham, St John's Hospital at Twickenham, and cottage hospitals at Enfield, Ealing, Hayes, Hillingdon, Sudbury, and Teddington. The Royal India Lunatic Asylum is at Ealing, and the two county asylums at Colney Hatch and Hanwell.

The county is within the jurisdiction of the central criminal court and also of the metropolitan police (with the exception of the City).

Parliamentary Representation. —There are nine constituencies in Middlesex, returning nineteen members, viz., two for the county, four for the City of London, two for each of the boroughs of West-minster, Finsbury, Marylebone, the Tower Hamlets, Chelsea, and Hackney, with one for the university of London.

In the parliament of 1295 Middlesex was represented by two-members ; in 1298 London sent two members as well as the county. For the parliament of 1320 and subsequent parliaments London elected four members, but it does not appear that all were allowed to sit. From the 15th century, however, the city has always sent four members to parliament. In 1547 Westminster first sent her two members, and from that time until 1832 the only seats were those for the county and the two boroughs. In 1832 the boroughs of Finsbury, Marylebone, and Tower Hamlets were added, and in 1866 the boroughs of Chelsea and Haekney and the university of London.

History.—-The district now included in Middlesex was largely occupied by forest up to a comparatively recent period, and its population must always have been very sparse. A few prehistoric remains have been discovered at various times,—bones of the elephant, hippopotamus, deer, &c, at Old Brentford, elk horns near Chelsea Hospital, fossil teeth, fish, fruit, &c, at Highgate, and quite recently, in 1879, while the foundations were being dug out for Drummond's New Bank at Charing Cross, a large number of prehistoric animal remains. Flint instruments have also been found to cover a considerable area. During the British period the district is supposed to have been inhabited by the Trinobantes, but the late Dr Guest affirms that the valley of the Lea was the western | boundary of that tribe. In answer to the question—What became of the district between the Lea and the Brent ? this great authority states that the district was merely a march of the " Catuvellauni," a common through which ran a wide trackway, but in which was neither town, village, nor inhabited house. Dr Guest also declares that the boundaries of the Catuvellaunian state, a central kingdom formed or much extended by Cassivellaunus, can be traced in part along the northern limit of Middlesex by following an earthwork called Grimesditch "from Brockley Hill to the woodland of the Colne Valley and thence to the Brent, and down the Brent to the Thames." Some earthworks and encampments still exist which are attributed to the Britons.

When the country was under Roman rule great improvements, due to the growing importance of Londinium, were made in this district. Several roads in connexion with the city must have been constructed, more especially the great northern and eastern roads. Dr Guest does not believe that the present Watling Street could have had any connexion with the Watling Street which came down the Edgeware Road, passed along by Park Lane, and crossed the Thames at Westminster. In the Antonine Itinerary mention is made of three stations, viz., Londinium, Sulloniacae, and Pontes. Sulloniacae is now Brockley Hill ; Pontes is supposed by Stukeley to mean Staines, but Horsley held that it was intended for Old Windsor, and others supported the claims of Colnbrook and Long-ford. Boman camps have been found in many parts of the county, and Dr Stukeley supposed that the Brill, near St Pancras, was the site of the battle between Boadicea and the Roman legions wdiich has left a slight record in the name of Battle Bridge. The Roman remains found at different times are too numerous to mention here in detail. Coins, urns, and tiles were found at Enfield, a sepulchral urn at Hampstead, and numerous gold coins and ornaments at Bentley Priory, Great Stanmore, in 1781.

Cowey Stakes, about a furlong west of Walton Bridge, is supposed to be the locality of the ford by which Julius Cresar crossed the Thames. Caesar makes special mention of the sharp stakes which he had to encounter, and Bede says that the remains of the stakes were to be seen in his day. Camden was the first to fix upon this as the spot where Caesar crossed, and he is supported by Dr Guest, but the identification is not undisputed. Although a ford existed here as late as 1807, and stakes were found up to the end of the 18th century, it has been affirmed that they were placed in their position with another object than to oppose an enemy's progress. Roman remains have been found at Shepperton near Halliford, at the Middlesex end of the ford. A vase was dug up in 1817, and the remains of a Roman cemetery have also been discovered.

As to the earliest Saxon occupation we are left very much to con-jecture, and the name itself is somewhat of a puzzle. It is evident that no tribe could have obtained the name of Middle Saxons until after the settlement of the districts on each side of it by the East and the West Saxons. As Middlesex was for a period dependent upon the kingdom of Essex, it is probable that the name did not come into use until London had become a Saxon city, although there is reason to believe that previously Saxon settlements had been made on several places by the river and elsewhere. Bede tells us that London was in the hands of King Sseberct in 604, and was then the chief town of Essex. Just a century afterwards—that is, in 704 —the king of the East Saxons granted away land at Twickenham, showing that Middlesex was then dependent upon Essex. It is worthy of note that the two districts now forming the counties in which London and Southwark are situated were separated from the kingdoms to which they originally belonged probably on account of the importance of the city of London and the borough of Southwark, Middlesex from the kingdom of Essex and Surrey or the South Ridge (A.-S. SutS-rige) from the kingdom of Kent.

Middlesex appears never to have been independent. The admini-strative shire was let to the men of London and their heirs to be held in farm of the king and his heirs, and '' the subject shire has to submit to the authority of the sheriffs chosen by the ruling city."

Middlesex is only once mentioned in the Saxon Chronicle, under date 1011, where it is noticed as one of the districts overrun by the Danes. One manuscript (A. Winchester) mentions the Middle Saxons as receiving the true faith under their alderman Peada in 653 ; but this is evidently a mistake of the scribe, for the fact is taken from Bede, and he writes Middle Angles, as do the other MSS. of the Chronicle.

The Saxons appear to have settled over a large portion of the district, and for the purpose of settlement they must have made considerable clearings in the vast forest of Middlesex. There seems to be good reason for believing that previous to their coming the roads passed through waste lands. By the time of Edward the Confessor a large proportion of the present towns and villages were in existence. Mr Elton, in his Origins of English History, mentions a curious fact with relation to the tenures wdiich prevailed in some of these places. He alludes to a ring of manors encircling ancient London where the custom of Borough English or junior right was prevalent. He then goes on to point out that in this cluster of manors there are several varieties of the custom:—" Its benefit in Islington and Edmonton was confined to the youngest son ; at Ealing, Acton, and Isleworth it extended to the brothers and male collateral heirs ; and in a great number of instances the privilege was given to females as well as to males in every degree of relation-ship. These variations are of no very great importance, the custom being modified in all parts of the country by the rule that special proof must be given of any extension of that strict form of Borough English for the benefit of the younger son of which alone the courts have cognizance. But it is of the greater interest to observe that in several places near London ' it is the custom for the land to descend to the youngest, if it is under a particular value of five pounds, but if it is worth more, it is parted among all the sons' (First Real Property Commission Evidence, p. 254)."

The great forest of Middlesex continued long after the Norman Conquest, and even as late as the reign of Elizabeth portions of it still existed quite close to London. Fitz Stephen, the monk of Canterbury and secretary of Thomas a Becket, mentions in his interesting description of London the immense forest with its densely wooded thickets, and its coverts of game, stags, fallow deer, boars, and wild bulls. A few years after Fitz Stephen's death, in the reign of Henry III. (1218), the forest was disafforested, and some of the wealthy citizens took the opportunity of purchasing land and building upon it. Matthew Paris, in his life of the twelfth abbot of St Albans, describes the woods contiguous to the Watling Street between London and St Albans as almost impenetrable, and so much infested by outlaws and by beasts of prey that the numer-ous pilgrims who travelled along the Roman road to the shrine of Albanus were exposed to imminent danger.

There is little further history that can be told of Middlesex. There are many interesting incidents connected with some of the places, but corporate life has been crushed out of the county by the greatness of London. Not a single place except London has grown into importance, and nowhere outside of London is there a building of first-rate interest. The villages on the Thames early began to increase in size on account of the convenience of locomotion supplied by the river. It is only since the extension of the railway system that the villages to the north and north-west of London have grown in size, and this growth has been mainly due to the building of houses for the use of the Londoners.

Bibliography.—John N orden, Speculum Britannise: the first parte, an historien'; and chorographicall discription of Middlesex, 4to, London, 1593, reprinted in 1637 and 1723; John Bowack, The Antiquities of Middlesex, parts 1 and 2, folio, London, 1705-6; Ric. Newcourt, Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense, 2 vols, folio, London, 1708; Rev. Thomas Cox, Magna Britannia et Ilibernia, antigua et nova, 6 vols. 4to, London, 1720 (vol. iii. contains Middlesex); A Description of the County of Middlesex, 8vo, London, 1775; Rev. Daniel Lysons, The Environs of London, 4 vols. 4to, London, 1792-96 (vols, ii., iii., and supplement, 1811, contain Middlesex); John Middleton, General View of the Agriculture of Middlesex, 4to, London, 1793; Peter loot, General View of the Agriculture of Middlesex, 4to, London. Í794; John Middleton, View of the Agriculture of Middlesex, 8vo, London, 1798, second edition, 1807 ; Rev. D. Lysons. An Historical Account of those Parishes in the County of Middlesex which are not described in The Environs of London, 4to, London, 1800; G. A. Cooke, Modern British Traveller, 12mo, London, 1802-10 (vol. xii. contains Middlesex); E. W. Brayley, Rev. Joseph Nightingale, and J. Norris Brewer, "London and Middlesex," in Beauties of England and Wales, 5 vols. 8vo, London, 1810-16; Rev. William Bawdwen, A Translation of the Record called Domesday, so far as relates to the Counties of Middlesex, Hertford, Buckingham, Oxford, and Gloucester, 4to, Doncaster, 1812; other publications concerning the Domesday of Middlesex are facsimile, folio, Southampton, 1861; a literal extension of the Latin text, folio, London, 1S62; Wm. Ryley and Hy. Dethick, The Visitation of Middlesex begun in 1663, folio, Salisbury, 1820; William Pinnock, The History and Topography of Middlesex, 12mo, London, 1824 (vol. 3 of Pinnock's County Histories); W. Smith, Delineations of the County of Middlesex, 8vo, London, 1834; Samuel Tymms, A Compendious Account of Middlesex and London and Westminster (Camden's Britannia epitomized and continued, vol. vii.), London, 1843; J. H. Sperling, Church Walks in Middlesex, being an Ecclesiologist's Guide to that County, 12mo, London, 1849; The Beauties of Middlesex, being a particular description of the principal seats of the nobility and gentry in the County of Middlesex, 8vo, Chelsea, 1850; The Counties of England (No. 1, Middlesex), 8vo, London, 1855 ; Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archxological Society, 8vo, 1860-82: James E. Halting. The Birds of Middlesex, 8vo, London, 1866; Henry Trimen and W. T. Thiselton Dyer, Flora of Middlesex, 8vo, London, 1869; William Hughes, The Geography of Middlesex for the use of schools, 12mo, London, 1872; William Lawson, Collins s County Geographies (Middlesex), 8vo, 1872; The Geography of the Counties of Pin gland and Wales (No. 10, Middlesex), 8vo, Manchester, 1S72; W. E. Baxter, The Domesday Book for the County of Middlesex, being that portion of a Return of Owners of Land in England and Wales in 1873 which refers to Middlesex, 4to, Lewes, 1877. (H. B. W.*)


"Lecture on the Origin of London," Athenxnm, 1SG6, No. 2022.
Freeman, Norman Conquest, vol. v. (1876J p. 46S.
In the above passage from the Chronicle, where the districts overrun hy the
Danes in 1011 are enumerated, the shires, which took their names from their chief towns, are distinctly marked off from the districts which took their names from the peoples who inhabited them. Of the latter there are, besides the Middle Saxons, the East Angles, the Kentings, and the South Saxons. Middlesex is styled an administrative shire, because it was not historically a shire, but only one for the purposes of administrative organization. Of the present forty counties twenty-eight are and twelve are not shires. Wessex was divided into six
shires, and Mercia into eighteen, with the subsequent addition of Rutland, taken

(it is believed) from Northamptonshire. Yorkshire was taken from Northumbrian Lancashire from Cumbria, and, last of all, Monmouthshire from Wales, by an Act of Henry VIII.'s reign.
4 Pp. 188-89, and note.
5 Mr Corner gives the number of instances he has found at sixteen.

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