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The County of London was a county of England from 1889 to 1965, corresponding to the area today known as Inner London. It was created as part of the general introduction of elected county government in England, by way of the Local Government Act 1888. The Act created an administrative County of London, which included within its territory the City of Londonmarker. However, the City of London and the County of London formed separate counties for "non-administrative" purposes. The local authority for the county was the London County Council (LCC), who performed initially only a limited range of functions, but gained further powers during their 76 year existence. The LCC provided very few services within the City of London, with the ancient Corporation monopolising local governance there. In 1900 a reform of the local government in the county replaced the lower-tier civil parishes and district boards with 28 new metropolitan boroughs. The territory of the county was in 1961. During its existence there was a long-term decline in population through extraterritorial suburban growth; with periodic reviews of the local government structures in the greater Londonmarker area and several failed attempts to expand the boundaries of the county. In 1965, the London Government Act 1963 was enacted and the county was replaced by the much larger Greater Londonmarker administrative area.


The county occupied an area of just under and lay within the London Basin. It was divided into two parts (north and south) by the River Thames, which was the most significant geographic feature. It bordered Essex to the north east, Kent to the south east, Surrey the south west and Middlesex to the north. The highest point was Hampstead Heathmarker in the north of the county at , which remains one of the highest points in London. In 1900 a number of boundary anomalies were abolished. These included the loss of the Alexandra Parkmarker exclave to Middlesex, gaining South Hornseymarker in return, and the transfer of Pengemarker to Kent.


Creation of the county

The local government arrangements in London had last been reformed in 1855. This reform created an indirectly elected Metropolitan Board of Works which initially provided basic infrastructure services for the metropolitan area. Over time the board gained more functions and became the de-facto local authority and provider of new services for the London area. The board operated in those parts of the counties of Middlesexmarker, Surreymarker and Kentmarker that had been designated by the General Register Office as "the Metropolis" for the purposes of the Bills of Mortality. This area had been administered separately from the City of London, which came under the control of the Corporation of London.

There had been several attempts during the 19th century to expand the City of London to cover the whole of the metropolitan area. These had all been defeated in Parliament, in part because of the agency power of the City Corporation. Ultimately, the Local Government Act 1888 and the introduction of county councils in England provided the mechanism for creating a territory and authority encompassing the expanded London area. For expediency, the area of the metropolitan board was chosen for the new county and no attempt was made to select new boundaries. This area had been out-of-touch with the expansion of London even in 1855. For example, it anomalously omitted built-up and expanding areas such as West Ham, but included other sparsely populated areas on the metropolitan fringe.

The City of London and the County of London each formed counties for "non-administrative" purposes, with a separate Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff for the county of London. However, the administrative county, which corresponded to the area of control of the county council, also included the City of London. In practice, the county council had very little authority over the ancient City, with some powers over drainage, roads, fire brigade, embankment of the river and flood prevention. In common with the rest of the country, the 1888 Act provided no reform of lower tier authorities and the county was, initially at least, locally governed by a series of parish vestries and district boards.

County council

The local authority for the county was the London County Council (LCC). Initially, the LCC provided the services it had inherited from the Metropolitan Board of Works. However, it eventually absorbed functions from ad-hoc agencies such the London School Board and Metropolitan Asylums Board. The council was initially based in Spring Gardensmarker, but moved to a purpose built County Hallmarker in the 1930s. The housing policy of the council included provision of large housing estates outside the boundaries of the county, such as that at Becontreemarker.

Local government

In 1900, eleven years after its foundation, the London Government Act divided the County of London into 28 metropolitan boroughs. These replaced the ancient parish vestries and district boards as the second tier of local government.

County of London boroughs numbered in the information box on the right side:

  1. City of Londonmarker (not a metropolitan borough)

  1. Westminstermarker
  2. Holbornmarker
  3. Finsburymarker
  4. Shoreditchmarker
  5. Bethnal Greenmarker
  6. Stepneymarker
  7. Bermondseymarker
  8. Southwarkmarker
  9. Camberwellmarker
  10. Deptfordmarker
  11. Lewishammarker
  12. Woolwichmarker
  13. Greenwichmarker
  14. Poplarmarker
  15. Hackneymarker
  16. Stoke Newingtonmarker
  17. Islingtonmarker
  18. St Pancrasmarker
  19. Hampsteadmarker
  20. St Marylebonemarker
  21. Paddingtonmarker
  22. Kensingtonmarker
  23. Hammersmithmarker
  24. Fulhammarker
  25. Wandsworthmarker
  26. Lambethmarker
  27. Batterseamarker
  28. Chelseamarker

Decline in population

The county had a declining population throughout its life. In 1901 the population was 4.5 million and by 1961 it had fallen to 3.2 million. Following the 1931 census more of the population of "Greater London" (defined at the time as the Metropolitan Police District and City of London) lived outside the county than in it. The following table illustrates the approximate population according to the census at various intervals:

Year Central Area† Inner Ring‡ Second Ring§ County of London
Outer Ring# of
Greater London
1881 1,743,000 1,008,000 1,093,000 3,844,000 950,000
1901 1,623,000 1,201,000 1,601,000 4,425,000 1,422,000
1921 1,364,000 1,186,000 1,933,000 4,483,000 2,993,000
1931 1,260,000 1,163,000 1,976,000 4,399,000 3,807,000
1951 738,000 927,000 1,683,000 3,348,000 4,998,000

†The City of London and the Metropolitan Boroughs of Bermondsey, Bethnal Green, Finsbury, Holborn, St Marylebone, St Pancras, Shoreditch, Southwark, Stepney and Westminster.

‡The Metropolitan Boroughs of Battersea, Chelsea, Islington, Kensington, Lambeth and Paddington.

§The Metropolitan Boroughs of Camberwell, Deptford, Fulham, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith, Hampstead, Lewisham, Poplar, Stoke Newington, Wandsworth and Woolwich.

#Defined as the area of the Metropolitan Police district outside the County of London.


The county was abolished in 1965 and was replaced by the much larger Greater Londonmarker, which took in nearly all of Middlesex, along with areas previously in Surreymarker, Kentmarker, Essex and Hertfordshiremarker. The area that had formed the county was henceforth known as Inner London and an Inner London Education Authority operated in the area until 1990. The 28 metropolitan boroughs were merged to form 12 new Inner London boroughs.


  1. Natural England - London Basin Natural Area. Retrieved on 22 July 2009.
  2. London census - Decline in County Population, The Times, July 27, 1932, p.7
  3. Niklaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England - london, except the Cities of London and Westminster, Harmondsworth, 1952 pp.37 - 39
  4. Some Results of the Census, The Times, June 9, 1891
  5. London and the Outer Ring, The Times, May 15, 1901
  6. Official Census Figures - London's Shrinkage, The Times, August 24, 1921
  7. Census of England and Wales, The Times, July 12, 1951
  8. Redcliffe-Maud & Wood, B., English Local Government Reformed, (1974)

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