1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Middlesex

MIDDLESEX, a south-eastern county of England, bounded N. by Hertfordshire, E. by Essex, S.E. by the county of London, S. by Surrey, and W. by Buckinghamshire. The area is 283.3 sq. m., and, excepting Rutland, the county is the smallest in England. The area outside the county of London, or extra metropolitan area, with which this article is mainly concerned, is 233.8 sq. m. It lies entirely in the basin of the river Thames, which forms its southern boundary. On the east it is separated from Essex by the Lea, the largest northern tributary of the Thames. The other rivers, in order westward, are the Brent, the Crane or Yedding Brook, and the Colne. The waters of several streams are collected in the artificial Brent reservoir near Hendon, from which the Brent flows with a circuitous course to the Thames at Brentford. The Crane, rising in the high ground near Harrow-on-the-Hill, joins the Thames at Isleworth; and the Colne, which rises on the elevated plain between Hatfield and St Albans (Hertfordshire), traverses a flat valley on the western boundary of the county, where it divides into several channels, and joins the main river at Staines. The highest ground, exceeding 400 ft. at several points, and reaching 503 ft. above Stanmore, is found along the northern boundary, in a line from Stanmore through Elstree, Chipping Barnet and Potter's Bar. Two well-marked lines of heights, detached from the main line, project southward, the eastern from Whetstone through Finchley and Highgate to Hampstead, where, within the county of London, a height of 443 ft. is found on Hampstead Heath; the western being the isolated elevation on which stands Harrow-on-the-Hill. The hills skirting the Lea valley, in the neighbourhood of Enfield, are abrupt, though of no great elevation. Elsewhere the country is very slightly undulating or quite fiat, as along the banks of the Thames and Lea. The Thames, however, beautifxes its immediate neighbourhood, and rich sylvan scenery is not wanting in the higher districts. The greater part of the county was formerly densely forested and sparsely populated, and the name of Enfield Chase, a royal preserve in the north-east, still recalls this condition. In modern times the visible influence of London has spread over practically the entire county. Villages have grown into populous suburbs; large institutions, for which sites adjacent to rather than within the metropolis have been found preferable, are numerous, and the development of suburban railway communications has brought fresh ground within reach of builders.

Geology.-The county lies entirely within the structural basin of the Thames, and, as in the neighbouring counties, the general slope of the ground and dip of the strata is towards the south-east. South of an irregular line passing from Uxbridge, north of Hayes, by Hanwell and Ealing to Hyde Park and east of a similar line from the upper side of the Park to Tottenham and on from that point to Enfield, the only visible deposits are the gravels, loams, brick earths and sands laid down in former times by the Thames, with contributions by the Lea and the Colne. These alluvial deposits rise gradually northward from the Thames and westward from the Lea, in a series of gentle terraces. The earliest portions of London were built upon these terraces, because while they were dry at the surface, water could be obtained by sinking shallow wells. The alluvium has yielded many Hint implements and the bones of the mammoth, bear and rhinoceros, reat elk and other extinct forms. The loams are dug for bricks am? the gravel for ballast, &c., about West Drayton, Southall, Enfield and Tottenham.

The London clay, a marine deposit, is bluish where it has not been turned brown by exposure to the weather. It underlies all the river deposits and rises to the surface north and east of the alluvial boundary indicated above. It gives rise to the undulating grassy country round Harrow, Chipping Barnet and Elstree. Below the London clay are the more sandy Reading beds, they may be seen at Harefield and at South Mimms; inliers occur at Pinner and Ruislip. Chalk is only visible on the side of the Colne valley at Harefield, where it is quarried, and at South Mimms. Formerly, the sandy and pebbly Bagshot beds covered all the London clay area, but now only isolated patches remain, such as those on the top of Harrow, Hampstead and Highgate hills. Long after the Bagshot beds were laid down the country was covered by a variety of glacial deposits; such are the pebble gravels of Stanmore Heath and the district north of Barnet, the clay and sand of Finchley, Muswell Hill and Southgate, the chalky boulder clay to be seen at Finchley, Southgate and Potter's Bar. Several deep borings in the London basin prove the existence, beneath the chalk, of beds which do not crop out in Middlesex. The most interest in is that at Meux's Brewery, Tottenham Court Road (about 1146 ft.), which passes through the following formations: gravel and clay, 21 ft.; London clay, 64 ft.; Reading beds, 51 ft.; Thanet sand, 21 ft.; chalk, 655 ft.; upper green sand, 28 ft.; gault, 160 ft.; lower green sand, 64 ft.; Devonian rocks, 80 ft.[1]

Industries, etc.-The climate of some of the high-lying districts is particularly healthy. Little more than one-half the total area of the county is under cultivation; and the grain crops, greatly decreasing, are insignificant. The soil in the north and north-west is heavy, poor clay; but the rich alluvial soil of the Thames Valley is specially suitable for market gardens. On the outskirts of London much land now built over was formerly devoted to market gardening. The number of livestock decreases; in fact, agriculture as a whole has slowly to give place to extension of building. Industries are extensive and varied. The county is naturally, in view of the proximity of London, closely intersected with railways, the following companies, from east to west and south, affording communications: Great Eastern, Great Northern, Midland, London & North-Western, Metropolitan, Great Central, Metropolitan District, Great Western, London & South-Western. Moreover, in some parts the tramway system has been extended over a wide area from London; thus Uxbridge, in the extreme west of the county, is so served. The principal canals are the Grand Junction, running west from Brentford to the Colne Valley, and thence northward; with a branch (the Paddington Canal) connecting it with the Regent's Canal in London; and, in the east, the Lea navigation.

Population and Administration.—The area of the ancient county is 181,320 acres, with a population in 1871 of 2,539,765; in 1891 of 3,251,671; and in 1901 of 3,585,323. At the time of the Domesday Survey the population of Middlesex, exclusive of London, was 2302. The extra-metropolitan area is 149,668 acres, with a population in 1901 of 798,738. The part of the ancient county transferred to the county of London under the Local Government Act 1888 was g,484 acres in extent, and 771 acres were then transferred to Hertfordshire; while under the London Government Act 1899 the southern part of Hornsey was transferred to London. The area of the administrative county is 148,700 acres. The county contains six hundreds. The municipal boroughs are Ealing (pop. 33,031), Hornsey (72,056). The urban districts are Acton (37,744), Brentford (15,171), Chiswick (29,809), Edmonton (46,899), Enfield (42,738), Feltham (5280), Finchley (22,126), Friern Barnet (11,566), Greenford (819), Hampton (6813), Hampton Wick (2606), Hanwell (10,438), Harrow-on-the-Hill (10,220), Hayes (3000), Hendon (22,450), Heston and Isleworth (30,863), Kingsbury (757), Ruislip-Northwood (3850), Southall Norwood (13,200), Southgate (14,993), Staines (6688), Sunbury-on-Thames (4544), Teddington (14,037), Tottenham (102,541), Twickenham (20,991), Uxbridge (8585), Wealdstone (5901), Wembley (4519), Willesden (114,811), Wood Green (34,233). The county is in the jurisdiction 0 the central criminal court, and the whole extra-metropolitan county is within the metropolitan police district, the name of “ Greater London " covering it. There are one court of quarter sessions and eight petty sessional divisions. The number of civil parishes is 60. Middlesex (extra-metropolitan) is wholly in the diocese of London, excepting a small portion in that of Oxford, and includes 153 ecclesiastical parishes or districts, wholly or in part. The extra-metropolitan parliamentary divisions, each returning one member, are Enfield, Tottenham, Hornsey, Harrow, Uxbridge, Brentford and Ealing.

History.—The district which is now Middlesex was colonized in the 6th century by an offshoot of the East Saxon tribe, and derived its name from its position between the kingdoms of the East and West Saxons. In a charter dated 704 Middlesex is mentioned by name as a dependency of Essex, but soon after it acknowledged the supremacy of Mercia, and from 748 onwards the Mercian council was held at London, and from 780 onwards at Brentford. In the 9th century Middlesex formed part of the Danelagh, and in 993 Anlaf the Dane came with 93 ships to Staines. The only reference to Middlesex in the Saxon Chronicle occurs in 1011, when it was again overrun by the Danes. The Conqueror's march upon London was preceded by a general devastation of the surrounding country, the effects -of which are illustrated in the Domesday Survey by the diminution in land values. At this time the district north of London formed the vast forest of Middlesex, the greater part of which was disafforested in the reign of Henry III. Enfield had woodlands for 2000 pigs; Ruislip for 1500 pigs; and Kingsbury, Hillingdon and Hendon for 1000 pigs each. Vineyards are mentioned at Holborn, Colham, Kempton and Kensington; fishponds at Harmondsworth and Harefield produced each 1000 eels.

As a shire Middlesex probably originated about the time of the frith of 886, when it is described as the land dependent upon London, and in 912 is referred to as “London and the land which owed obedience thereto.” During the Saxon period the extensive manors held by the church of Canterbury, the bishop of London and his canons of St Paul's, and the abbey of Westminster were held as independent franchises, the courts for St Paul's being held at Stepney and Fulham, for Westminster at Westminster and Staines, and for Canterbury at Harrow. By charter of Henry I. (confirmed by Stephen and Henry II.) the citizens of London held Middlesex at farm for £300, with power to elect a sheriff from among their number, and by charter from John the shrievalty of both London and Middlesex was granted to the mayor and citizens in fee. By charter of 1242 the common pleas for the county of Middlesex were ordered to be held at the stone cross in the Strand. Under a charter of 1447 the lord mayor was authorized to nominate one of the city aldermen as justice of the peace for Middlesex. The six modern hundreds of Edmonton, Elthorne, Gore, Isleworth, Ossulston, and Spelthorne have been scarcely changed since the Domesday Survey, except that Isleworth was then Honeslaw (Hounslow), while in the 12th century hidage a. hundred of “ Mimes ” is mentioned, corresponding with the Domesday hundred of Edmonton. Middlesex has always been included in the diocese of London. The archdeaconry of Middlesex, which includes part of Essex, is mentioned in II 51, but the Middlesex portion was not subdivided into rural deaneries until 1857, when the deaneries of Fulham, Ealing, Uxbridge, Staines, Hampton, Enfield, Harrow and St Pancras were created. The deaneries of Chelsea, Hammersmith, Hampstead, Hornsey, Kensington, Paddington, St Marylebone, Westminster and Willesden were created later, but Staines was abolished. In 121 5 Middlesex was ravaged by William, earl of Salisbury, and Falkes de Breauté, and in the same year at Runnimede near Staines John was forced to issue the, Magna Carta. In the Civil War of the 17th century Middlesex supported the Parliamentary cause, joining in 1642 with Hertfordshire and Essex in a petition that the Votes of the bishops and popish lords might be disallowed in the House of Lords, and that the forts and castles of the kingdom might be placed in such hands as the Parliament could confide in. Sir Denzil Hollis was defeated by the Royalists at Brentford in 1642, and in 1645 a fruitless treaty between Charles I. and the Parliament was concluded at Uxbridge. Brentford had famous election contests in 1768 and 1769. The woollen and leather industries flourished in Middlesex in Norman times. London was the great place of slaughter, and hides were tanned at Enfield. Bricks were also manufactured from early times, and Heston was noted for its wheat. Paper was extensively manufactured in the 17th century, and much distress was caused in 1636 by a decree prohibiting the purchase of old rags for the Middlesex paper-mills for fear of the plague. In 1640 the manufacturers of mohair yarn in Middlesex appealed against a bill prohibiting the wearing of material made of the said yarn during the winter season. In 1655 a certificate of a hundred master tanners and other traders of Middlesex approved an invention for converting raw hides into leather by means of new liquor, with or without oak-bark.

Middlesex returned two members to parliament in 1295. (For the representation of London, see London.)

See John Norden, Speculum Britanniae: the firste parte, an historicall and chorographicall description of Middlesex (London, 1593; reprinted 1637 and 1723); Daniel Lysons, The Environs of London (1792–1796); Victoria County History, Middlesex.

  1. See “Geology of Part of the London Basin,” Mem. Geol. Survey, 2 vols.; “Soils and Subsoils,” ditto; Proceedings of the Geologists Association. A large model of the geology of London is exhibited in the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street, London.