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MIDDLESEX

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"MIDDLESEX, the metropolitan county of England, including London. It forms part of the valley of the Thames, on the bank of which it is situated, and of the geological tertiary basin of London, being bounded on the N. by the hills of Hertfordshire, on the E. by Essex, from which it is divided by the river Lea; on the S. and S.E. by Surrey, and a very small part of Kent, from both which it is divided by the river Thames; and an the W. by Buckinghamshire, from which it is divided by the river Colne. It extends between 51° 23' and 57° 42' N. lat., and between 2' E. long., and 32' W. long. It is the smallest of all the English counties except Rutland, containing only 282 square miles, or 180,136 statute acres. Its form is irregular, stretching from the Lea near Waltham Abbey in the N.E., to the Thames opposite Chertsey in the S.W. 28 miles, and in the opposite direction from near South Mimms in the N.W., to the Isle of Dogs in the S. E., an extreme breadth of 18 miles.

It is much built over, containing in 1861 no fewer than 279,153 inhabited houses, 13,379 uninhabited, and 3,451 public buildings. In amount of population it is exceeded by Lancashire alone, and in density of population far exceeds any other county, having about 7,000 inhabitants to the square mile. According to the census of 1801, the population, including that part of the metropolis which is locally within its limits, amounted to 818,129; in 1851, to 1,886,576; and in 1861, to 2,206,485, showing an increase of 319,909 in the last decennial period. Its surface, which is now so richly cultivated, comprising above 150,000 acres of arable, meadow, and pasture, besides gardens and orchards, was formerly a barren wilderness. In the earliest period of authentic history the northern part of the county was a vast forest, connected with those of Epping and Waltham on the E., and Windsor Forest on the W.; extending also northwards to Enfield Chase, and southwards to the fenny lands without the walls of London, still designated by the names of Moorfields and Finsbury, or Fensbury. The whole of this forest was abundantly stocked with deer, and other wild animals, many of which survived till the 16th century, and solitary remnants of which may still be occasionally met with in the less frequented districts, and small patches of primeval wood which have never been grubbed up. At this time the Thames not being, as at present, kept within its channel by artificial embankments, frequently overflowed the lower grounds, and occasionally changed its bed, as shown by the irregular deposition of gravel in various places, and the uniform covering of loam which is found above it. From the original Iberians, or Britons, whose bone and stone implements are occasionally turned up, the country appears to have been invested at a very early time by the Belgic tribe of the Tranovantwys, "the people beyond the stream," so called by the southern Britons from the situation of their country to the N. of the wide expanse of water then formed by the Thames. At the time of the Roman invasion (B.C. 64), this people, whose name was corrupted by Cęsar into Trinobantes, possessed two considerable cities, or fortified places; one occupying the eminence between the Thames and the Fleet brook, now the centre of modern London, and the other Camalodunum, or Colchester, in Essex, then the most important of the two stations. Owing to their intestine divisions the Trinobantes were unable to maintain a lengthened resistance, and were the first to submit to the Roman arms. After the complete subjugation of the island, this county was included in the division Flavia Cęsariensis, and the British town of Londinium, formed into the Roman settlement of Augusta, even then a place of great importance, though not dignified with the name of a colony. The Romans had another station, Sulloniacę, in this county, at Brockley Hill, between Edgware and Elstree, and, according to some antiquaries, also Pontes; but this last was more probably in Berkshire. Until very recently, traces of Roman camps were visible in Hornsey Wood Fields, near Islington, at Stanmore, and at Shepperton, near the place where Cęsar crossed the Thames. These camps were formed to guard the line of Roman road, one of which, the ancient Watling Street, ran from Dowgate on the N. bank of the Thames, along the line of the modern Watling-street to Aldersgate, and thence in a north-westerly direction through Sulloniacę (Brockley-hill) to Verulamium (St. Alban's); another, the Ermine Street, ran from Londinium northward by the camp at Islington to Enfield, thence diverging to Clay-hill, and so into Hertfordshire. A third Roman road led from Londinium, in the line of the present great western road, by Pontes, into Surrey and Berkshire, while another led eastward, along Old-street, through Bethnal-green, to Old Ford where it crossed the Lea into Essex. These Roman roads, diverging from Augusta, formed the highway of commerce and civilisation, and laid the basis of the after prosperity of the great city of London. This county was one of the earliest conquests of the Saxons, who planted it about the middle of the 6th century, and then named it Middle-Seaxe, or the territory of the Middle Saxons, from its relative situation to the three more powerful surrounding kingdoms of the East, West, and South Saxons, to the first of which it was a dependence for near three centuries, till the whole country was united under Egbert. In the division of the kingdom under Alfred, while the neighbouring counties of Essex and Herts were included in the Danelagh, Middlesex was retained as part of the English territory, and placed under the Alderman of Mercia. It has subsequently been the scene of the most eminent events, including the decisive battle of Barnet, but these belong not to the provincial but to the general history of England. Although an inland shire, Middlesex enjoys most of the advantages of a maritime province, being washed for 40 miles of its southern boundary by the tidal river of the Thames, which communicates with the North Sea and the English Channel. This noble stream, now the highway of commerce, bearing on its peaceful waters forests of masts, the property of all nations, derives its name from the Iberian language which was spoken on its shores before the first settlements of the Belgic Britons had dis-placed the primitive inhabitants. Its banks are in general low, and in some places even marshy, but much of the overflowed lands has been reclaimed, and within the last few years gigantic works for the embankment of the N. and S. sides of the river have been undertaken in connection with the metropolitan main drainage, which has been executed at the cost of several millions, and comprehends above 65 miles of tunnel, carried for the most part under streets and buildings in defiance of the most arduous difficulties conceivable. Above the port of London, the river is crossed by many bridges, connecting this county with Surrey, as London, Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster, Vauxhall, Battersea, New, Battersea, Old, Putney, Hammersmith Suspension, Kew, Richmond, Kingston, Hampton Court, Chertsey, and Staines, besides Walton, now in ruins, and several railway bridges, which last are stupendous structures, connecting the railway systems of the N. and S. of England. There is also a tunnel under the Thames at Rotherhithe, excavated by Brunel from 1825 to 1843. Up to London Bridge the Thames is navigable for sea-going vessels of the largest tonnage, and the space between that bridge and the junction of the Lea forms the port of London, which has above half the whole commerce of England. The river in its upper part above the port of London, is only navigable for small steamers and barges, and requires locks to keep up the water, the lowest of which is at Teddington, between Kingston and Richmond bridges. The other rivers are the Lea, which touches the county below Waltham Abbey, and tracing the eastern boundary, joins the Thames at Blackwall. It is made navigable in its whole course by a series of artificial cuts. On the channels of the Lea, which are not used for navigation, are several mills. The Colne, which traces the western boundary, is only partially navigable, frequently flowing in several channels like the Lea, which enclose a number of islands, and turn many mills. Two channels from this river communicate with the Thames, one at Hampton Court, the other between Shepperton and Sunbury, while a third stream joins the Cran near the powder-mills at Hounslow. The Brent, which is a considerable stream, having a course of near 20 miles, rises just within the northern border of the county between the Hampstead and Stanmore hills, and after crossing a corner of Hertfordshire, flows by Finchley and Hanwell to the Thames at Brentford, where it has been made navigable for barges in its lower part. The Cran, or Yeddingbrook, rises between Harrow and Pinner, and after a circuitous course of 20 miles, in which it turns the powder-mills at Cranford, joins the Thames at Isleworth. The New River, an artificial cut made in the reign of James I. for the supply of pure water to the metropolis, enters the county on the N. side between Enfield and Cheshunt, and runs nearly parallel to the Lea, in a very winding course, to the spacious reservoirs at Hornsey, where it is allowed to filter, and thence conveyed by covered ducts to reservoirs in various parts of London. Until a recent period there were many other streams of more or less note, as the Fleet, formerly navigable to Holborn. Bridge, the Walbrook, Langbourn, and Bayswater, but these are now converted into water-courses, and swallowed up by the metropolitan sewers. The principal canal is the Grand Junction, which enters the county from the N.W., and following the valley of the Colne to West Drayton, thence turns to the E. and crossing the Cran, joins the Brent near Hanwell, coinciding with the channel of that river till it joins the Thames at Brentford. From this canal at Bull Bridge, near Cranford, an important branch, called the Paddington canal, branches off to the E., and, passing through the central part of the county, terminates in the Paddington basin, where the Regent's canal continues the water communication along the N. and E. sides of the metropolis, by the Regent's Park, Islington, Hackney, Mile-End, and the Commercial-road, to the Thames at Limehouse. This last is nearly 9 miles long, and has several short branch cuts or basins in its course. The whole rain-shed of the county is carried off by the Thames, into which the other rivers and streams discharge their waters, the surface having a general inclination from the borders of Hertfordshire, where a range of hills rises about 400 feet above the level of high water in the river. The principal elevations are those of Hampstead, Highgate, Brockley, Hendon, Highwood, Harrow, and Barnet. The three first, though not more than 400 feet above sea level, are the highest in the county, and command extensive prospects. The vast plain skirting the road on the S. from Brentford, through Hounslow, to Longford, is nearly an entire flat, about 10 feet higher than the level of high water in the Thames; as is also the plain between Staines and Twickenham, while an extensive tract of meadow and pasture land, lying on the banks of the river Lea, is frequently flooded in winter, and sometimes in summer; and the whole of the Isle of Dogs, containing 500 acres, is below high water, and would be overflowed by every tide, were it not for the security of its banks. Notwithstanding the large proportion of low and marshy ground in the vicinity of the metropolis, the climate is remarkably healthy, owing to the greater part of the soil being naturally dry, and the more moist situations being well drained, which prevents the waters from becoming stagnant. Another cause of the dryness and freshness of the air is said to be the fires and furnaces of London, in which no less than 3,000,000 tons of coal are annually consumed. The air being thus rarefied by heat, constantly ascends, carrying off the noxious vapours, and making way for a fresh supply to come in from every side. This causes that refreshing breeze which is experienced on Primrose-hill, and other eminences in the immediate vicinity of the metropolis. The valley of the Thames is likewise remarkable for the rarity of severe thunder storms, and the mildness of the winds, which seldom blow with sufficient violence to shake the grain out of the ripe ears of the standing corn. The prevailing winds are from the S.W. and N.E., which blow alternately about ten months of the whole year; and when the wind changes through the E. to the S., it is generally accompanied by heavy falls of rain. The hills to the N. shelter the more fertile lands in the plain from the effects of the biting N.E. winds in the spring, and render the climate well adapted for the production of every kind of agricultural produce, particularly vegetables and fruits, for which the London market furnishes an unlimited demand. Almost the whole of the land not built over in the parishes of Brentford, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Deptford, and Isleworth, is laid out in orchards, market-gardens, and nursery-grounds, about 3,000 acres of orchard running along the river towards Twickenham, The next most profitable farming is grass land, which affords two good crops every year, and lets from £4 to £6 per acre. The value of hay so near the metropolis is very great, and the abundant supply of labour enables the farmer to take advantage of a few days of fine weather to secure his crop. The most extensive meadows are to the S.W. and E. about London, the Isle of Dogs, and along the banks of the Thames, where the fattening of cattle and the feeding of stock for the London market are extensively carried on. The marsh pastures on the banks of the Lea, bordering on Essex, are reckoned good for recruiting the strength of horses when they require rest and green fodder after having been over worked. Grass lambs and Dorset house lambs are bred for the early season, but not so much as formerly. There are no particular breeds of cattle and horses peculiar to Middlesex, but the short-horned and Alderney cows are largely kept for milk and calves;- and cart and riding horses of superior strength and action are reared for the market. A considerable number of pigs and hogs is purchased by the distillers and millers to fatten; and round Uxbridge rabbits are extensively bred. The arable portion of the county lies chiefly along the banks of the Colne, on the borders of Buckinghamshire, and between the line of the Great Western railway and the Thames. The chief crops are wheat, barley, peas, beans, turnips, and clover for fodder. The farms are in general from 100 to 200 acres, but in the N.W. part of the county, including what was formerly Hounslow Heath, the holdings are more extensive, sometimes occupying from 300 to 1,200 acres. They are held on lease of 14 or 21 years, and every improvement in the management of the soil is readily adopted. The labourers' wages average from 12s. to 15s. per week, and the land lets from £2 to £3 per acre. Some of the farmhouses are old, timbered structures, but, in general the farm-buildings and implements are of the best description. The system of cultivation is greatly modified by the short distance from an inexhaustible source of manure, and vast tracts of land formerly barren, have recently been reclaimed, as Hounslow Heath, Finchley Common, and Enfield Chase. The Isle of Dogs, formerly overflowed by the tides, is now secured by banks, and is reputed to be the richest grazing land in the county. It is divided and drained by ditches, which communicate with the Thames at low water by means of sluices. The soil, when improved, may be described as consisting of a fertile sandy loam, intermixed with shells, flints, and gravel, on a substratum of blue or London clay, which prevails throughout the county. In a few places, as at Hampstead, Highgate, Muswell Hill, and Harrow, Bagshot sand occurs, containing fossils; and on the borders of Herts and Bucks the plastic clay crops out from beneath the London clay, as at Enfield Chase and Harefield, near Uxbridge. The thickness of the London clay varies from 45 to 240 feet, and rests upon a stratum of plastic clay of similar thickness. On several of the hills, where the soil is naturally thin and unproductive, as at Hampstead, Muswell Hill, and Highgate, the ground is nevertheless of great value on account of the fine situations for building. The mineral productions of this county are few, but the upper stratum is admirably adapted for the manufacture of bricks and tiles, which are made to an enormous extent, particularly in the districts of the W. and N.W. of London, where thousands of acres of the surface are dug out to a depth of from 4 to 10 feet. The average yield is 1,000,000 bricks to the acre for every foot in depth, and the profit from £4,000 to £20,000 per acre. After the brick earth has been used, the land is again levelled, ploughed, and laid down in grass, and by the aid of London manure, is converted into excellent arable land. The manufactures are chiefly connected with the metropolis, and include silk weaving, which is extensively carried on in the parishes of Spitalfields, Shoreditch, and Bethnal Green, employing about 12,000 hands; clock and watch making at Clerkenwell, employing 4,000; cotton spinning, 1,200; woollen and worsted mills, 257; also the gunpowder mills at Twickenham, known as the Hounslow Mills; the ordnance small-arms factory at Enfield; extensive distilleries in the vicinity of London, which yield a revenue equal to that of all other distilleries in Great Britain; the breweries, too, are of great extent, as are also the soap and candle factories, chemical works, naval stores, &c. But these have been already described in connection with London (which see). Besides the prodigious amount of the imports and exports of the port of London, innumerable small cargoes of coal, grain, malt, and merchandise of various descriptions are conveyed to the towns and villages by means of the inland barges on the Thames and the Lea. The river navigation, however, above the port of London, has recently declined owing to the more rapid transmission of goods by rail, so that some fears are entertained as to the feasibility of maintaining the locks in the upper portion of the stream. The London, and North-Western railway commences at Euston-square, and, after passing through a tunnel at Primrose-hill, traverses about sixteen miles of the country in a north-westerly direction by Willesden, Sudbury, Harrow, and Bushy, to Watford in Herts. The Great Western railway has its London terminus at Paddington, and traverses thirteen miles of this county by Ealing, Hanwell, and Southall, to West Drayton. The Great Northern has its terminus at King's Cross, and runs for fourteen miles by Hornsey and Barnet, to Hadley. The Great Eastern railway intersects only a small angle of the county, commencing at Shoreditch, and passes by Mile-End and Bow, across the Lea into Essex, whence the Cambridge section re-enters Middlesex near Tottenham, and continues just within its boundary to Waltham, throwing off a branch line near Edmonton to Enfield. The Midland Counties railway is now being continued to London, having previously used the Great Northern line to King's Cross. Besides the main lines, there are other short connecting lines and extensions, as the Metropolitan, Blackwall, North London, and West London extension, which facilitate the transmission of passengers and goods into the centre of London, which has now established its rank as the grand centre of railway concentration and radiation to the whole empire. Second only in importance to the railways are the numerous roads, which radiate from the metropolis as a common centre to all parts of the kingdom, occupying a considerable part of the surface of this small county. The principal lines of road follow the direction of the old Roman ways. The south-western road proceeds along the old Silchester way to Brompton, and, passing by Brentford and Hounslow, crosses the Thames into Surrey near Staines, the ancient Pontes, finally leading to Salisbury and Exeter. Another section branches off near Hyde Park-corner, and crosses the Thames at Putney Bridge, going to Portsmouth; while a third section, branching from it at Hounslow, crosses the Colne at Colnebrook, and ultimately leads to Bath and Bristol. The north-western road proceeds along the old Watling Street, leaving London by Hyde Park-corner, and passes by Kilburn, Edgware, and Brockley Hill, the ancient Sulloniacę, whence Watling Street turns off to St. Alban's, but the modern road continues through Stanmore to Watford in Hertfordshire. The north-eastern road proceeds along the old Ermine Street, leaving London at Shoreditch, and passes by Tottenham, Edmonton, and Enfield Wash, into Hertford and Cambridge shires. Between these two last-named lines of road runs the Great North road, which leaves London by Islington, and passes through Highgate and Barnet to South Mimms in Hertfordshire. The Oxford and Birmingham road leaves Oxford-street at Hyde Park-corner, and, passing through Acton, Hanwell, and Uxbridge, crosses the Come in Buckinghamshire. The main eastern road commences from Cornhill, and follows the line of the old Roman way, by Whitechapel church to Bow Bridge, where it crosses into Essex, going to Romford, the ancient Durolitum, and to Colchester, the Roman Colonia. Another section of the same road leaves London by Shoreditch Church, and passing through Hackney, crosses the Lea at Lea Bridge, into Essex. The southern and south-eastern roads proceed from Middlesex by the metropolitan bridges through Surrey. Besides these main roads there are others of little less consequence, as the Harrow road, passing through Paddington and Harrow to Rickmansworth; the Edgware-road, commencing at Hyde Park-corner, and passing through Paddington and Edgware to St. Alban's, where it joins the Great North road; the "Green Lanes," leading by Stoke Newington and Winchmore Hill to Enfield. Along all these roads, for at least ten miles out of London, numerous scattered villas and genteel residences, surrounded by gardens and lawns, have been erected for the convenience of wealthy citizens; and on a near approach rows and terraces of houses line either side of the way, interspersed with plantations of flowering shrubs and flower gardens. Besides the metropolis, the great centre of attraction, there is throughout this county no great town or centre of population, though Brentford is considered the county town for the election of members of parliament and coroners for the county. The other market towns are Uxbridge and Staines for Corn, and Southall for cattle and sheep, also South Mimms and Barnet, celebrated for its horse and cattle fair. The other small towns or important villages are Edgware, Enfield, and Hounslow, formerly market towns, Acton, Bayswater, Bedfont, Bow, Bromley St. Leonard's, Brompton, Camden Town, Chelsea, Chiswick, Clapton, Dalston, Ealing, Edmonton, Finchley, Fulham, Hadley, Hackney, Hammersmith, Hampstead, Hampton, with the royal palace of Hampton Court, Harefield, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Hendon, Highgate, Hornsey, Isleworth, Islington-including Ball's Pond, Canonbury, Highbury, and Holloway, which are portions of the parish-Kensington, Kentish Town, Kilburn, Pinner, Poplar, Ruislip, Southgate, Stepney, Great Stanmore, Teddington, Tottenham, Twickenham, and Winchmore Hill. But all these places may be considered as suburban to the metropolis, "to which the whole county, indeed, forms, as it were, but a small demesne, filled with splendid mansions, comfortable seats, and elegant villas, and laid out in gardens, pastures, and enclosures of all sorts for its convenience and support." The metropolis contains the chief seats of the crown, legislature, government, ecclesiastical authorities, and a university; but a full description of these will be found under the article LONDON. The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum, by two sheriffs chosen by the City of London, 33 deputy-lieutenants, and about 320 magistrates, besides police magistrates. It returns fourteen members to parliament in the place of eight before the Reform Bill, viz: four for the City of London two for the City of Westminster, two each for the new boroughs of Finsbury, Marylebone, and the Tower Hamlets, and two for the county at large, for which last the place of election is Brentford, and the polling-places Bedfont, Bethnal Green, Enfield, Edgware, Hammersmith, Hampstead, King's Cross, London (City), Mile-End, Uxbridge, and Westminster. For civil purposes it is divided into six hundreds, viz: Edmonton in the north-eastern part of the county, Elthorne in the W., Gore in the N., Isleworth in the S., Spelthorn in the S.W., and Ossulstone in the S. and E., this last being further divided into the Finsbury, Holborn, Kensington, London, and Tower divisions. Exclusive of the 105 parishes comprised within the cities of London and Westminster, there are 90 parishes and 23 extra parochial places or liberties, some of which belong to the Duchy of Lancaster or the Lieutenant of the Tower of London, who exercise separate jurisdiction. The City of London forms a county of itself, with independent jurisdiction, as does also the City of Westminster. But for the more important criminal causes all are under the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court, at the Old Bailey, London, which sits monthly. Less heinous criminal offences are tried at the Sessions House, Clerkenwell, where also the county gaol and House of Correction are situated, also a separate court sits eight times a year at the Guildhall for the City of London, which is under the police jurisdiction of its own aldermen. The parts adjacent to the metropolis are watched by the metropolitan police, and have police offices and stipendiary magistrates, but the remainder of the county is under the police jurisdiction of the county magistrates. The City of London has a body of police of its own, under the direction of the lord mayor and court of aldermen, and the metropolitan police are under the jurisdiction of two commissioners. It is included in the home military district, and for civil suits is within the immediate jurisdiction of the superior courts sitting in the metropolis. For ecclesiastical purposes it is wholly within the diocese of London, and is divided between the archdeaconries of London and Middlesex, comprising the rural deaneries Ealing, Enfield, Fulham, Hampton, Harrow, St. Pancras, Staines, and Uxbridge. The numerous churches and magnificent public buildings within the county will be described under London, Westminster, or the parishes in which they are situated. The public parks include Hyde Park, St. James's, Regent's Park, and Victoria, with the cemeteries of Abney Park, East London, Kensington, Kensal Green, and Highgate. The royal palaces are Buckingham, St. James's, Kensington, and Hampton Court, with Bushy Park. Besides the royal palaces and a vast number of magnificent residences in the metropolis, there are numerous seats in this county distinguished for grandeur or elegance, as Fulham Palace, of the Bishop of London; Chiswick, of the Duke of Devonshire; Sion House, of the Duke of Northumberland; Richmond Gardens, Whitehall, of the Duke of Buccleuch; Osterley Park, of the Earl of Jersey; Bentley Priory, of the Marquis of Abercorn; Rose Bank, of the Marquis of Londonderry; Caen Wood, of the Earl of Mansfield; Gunnersbury, of Baron Rothschild; and Strawberry Hill, formerly the residence of the accomplished Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford; Holland House, of Lord Holland; Harefield Place, where Milton acted his Comus; and Wyer Hall at Tottenham; these three last named mansions are considered remarkably perfect specimens of ancient domestic architecture. The remains of antiquity include foundations of ancient Roman buildings, part of the walls of ancient London, Roman and British camps, implements, coins, religious houses, and bridges. [See article London.]-In various parts of the county are springs of mineral water, some of which have been in great repute for their medicinal properties, as Acton, Bagnigge and Sadler's Wells, Clerkenwell, Hampstead, Hoxton, Tottenham, and White Conduit House; but none of them are now much frequented, except perhaps Hampstead, which is strongly chalybeate."

[Description(s) from "The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland" (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]
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