Towns of Essex
Manor Trading Estate
South Woodham Ferrers
IG7 IG9 IG10
CM13, CM14, CM15
SS13, SS14, SS15, SS16
Frinton on sea
Walton on the Naze
CO1, CO2, CO3, CO4
RM15, RM16, RM17, RM18, RM20
SS0, SS1, SS2, SS3, SS9
Essex is a county in England, immediately north-east of London. It borders the counties of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent across the estuary of the River Thames to the south and London to the south-west. The county town is Chelmsford, which is the only city in the county. Essex occupies the east of the pre-England Kingdom of Essex. As well as rural areas, the county also includes the Lakeside Shopping Centre, London Stansted Airport and the new towns of Basildon and Harlow.
The name Essex originates in the Anglo-Saxon period of the Early Middle Ages and has its root in the Old English Ēastseaxe (i.e. the “East Saxons”), the eastern kingdom of the Saxons (cf. Middlesex and Sussex) during the Heptarchy. Originally recorded in AD 527, Essex occupied territory to the north of the River Thames, incorporating all of what later became Middlesex (which probably included Surrey) and most of what later became Hertfordshire. Its territory was later restricted to lands east of the River Lea. Colchester in the north east of the county is Britain’s oldest recorded town, dating back to before the Roman conquest, when it was known as Camulodunum and was sufficiently well-developed to have its own mint. In AD 824, following the Battle of Ellandun, the kingdoms of the East Saxons, the South Saxons and the Kentish were absorbed into the kingdom of the West Saxons, uniting Saxland under King Alfred’s grandfather Egberht. In changes before the Norman conquest the East Saxons were subsumed into the Kingdom of England and, following the Norman conquest, Essex became a county.
During the medieval period, much of the area was designated a Royal forest, including the entire county in a period to 1204, when the area “north of the Stanetreet” was disafforested. Gradually, the areas subject to forest law diminished, but at various times included the forests of Becontree, Chelmsford, Epping, Hatfield, Ongar and Waltham.
Essex County Council was formed in 1889. However County Boroughs of West Ham (1889–1965), Southend-on-Sea (1914–1974) and East Ham (1915–1965) formed part of the county but were unitary authorities (not under county council control). 12 boroughs and districts provide more localised services such as rubbish and recycling collections, leisure and planning, as shown in the map on the right.
Parish-level administration – changes
A few Essex parishes have been transferred to other counties. Before 1889, small areas were transferred to Hertfordshire near Bishops Stortford and Sawbridgeworth. At the time of the main changes around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries; parts of Helions Bumpstead, Sturmer, Kedington and Ballingdon-with-Brundon were transferred to Suffolk and Great Chishill, Little Chishill and Heydon were transferred to Cambridgeshire. Later, part of Hadstock, part of Ashton and part of Chrishall were transferred to Cambridgeshire and part of Great Horkesley went to Suffolk and several other small parcels of land were transferred to all those counties.
The boundary with Greater London was established in 1965 when East Ham and West Ham county boroughs and the Barking, Chingford, Dagenham, Hornchurch, Ilford, Leyton, Romford, Walthamstow and Wanstead and Woodford districts were transferred to form the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest. Essex became part of the East of England Government Office Region in 1994 and was statistically counted as part of that region from 1999, having previously been part of the South East England region.
Two unitary authorities
In 1998 the boroughs of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock were granted autonomy from the administrative county of Essex after successful requests to become unitary authorities Essex Police covers the administrative county and the two unitary authorities. The county council chamber and main headquarters is at the County Hall in Chelmsford. Before 1938 the council regularly met in London near Moorgate, which with significant parts closer to that point and the dominance of railways had been more convenient than any place in the county. It currently has 75 elected councillors. Before 1965, the number of councillors reached over 100. The County Hall, made a listed building in 2007, dates largely from the mid-1930s and is decorated with fine artworks of that period, mostly the gift of the family who owned the textile firm Courtaulds.
The highest point of the county of Essex is Chrishall Common near the village of Langley, close to the Hertfordshire border, which reaches 482 feet (147 m). The ceremonial county of Essex is bounded to the south by the River Thames and its estuary (a boundary shared with Kent); to the southwest by Greater London; to the west by Hertfordshire with the boundary largely defined by the River Lea and the Stort; to the northwest by Cambridgeshire; to the north by Suffolk, a boundary mainly defined by the River Stour; and to the east by the North Sea.
The pattern of settlement in the county is diverse. The Metropolitan Green Belt has effectively prevented the further sprawl of London into the county, although it contains the new towns of Basildon and Harlow, originally developed to resettle Londoners following the destruction of London housing in World War II, since which significantly developed and expanded. Epping Forest also acts as a protected barrier to the further spread of London. Because of its proximity to London and the economic magnetism which that city exerts, many of Essex’s settlements, particularly those on or within short driving distance of railway stations, function as dormitory towns or villages where London workers raise their families.
Part of the south east of the county, already containing the major population centres of Basildon, Southend and Thurrock, is within the Thames Gateway and designated for further development. Parts of the south west of the county such as Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell are contiguous with Greater London neighbourhoods and so for some purposes these are included in the statistical unit the Greater London Urban Area. A small part of the south west of the county (Sewardstone), is the only settlement outside Greater London to be covered by a postcode district of the London post town (E4). To the north of the green belt, with the exception of major towns such as Colchester and Chelmsford, the county is rural, with many small towns, villages and hamlets largely built in the traditional materials of timber and brick, with clay tile or thatched roofs. This region tends to have more similarities with East Anglia than the southern and western parts of the county.
Hertfordshire < ESSEX > North Sea