Created by John Speede c.1610
17th Century Middlesex was by far the richest county in the country. It was one of the few counties not relying on farming for economic survival. The old map features the 1st 'aerial' views of London & Westminster.
Middlesex attracted large numbers of courtiers and government officials who established grand county residences, particularly along the North bank of the river Thames. Fine land and easy access . .
50 x 37.3cms (19.5" x 14.5") ___________________________________________________________________________________________
|Old Map of Middlesex||£7.95 ($12.90 US Dollars)|
. . to the great river had resulted in an almost continuous occupation from Hampton Court to the city of London. Speede's old map contains town plans of Westminster and London and depicts the cathedrals of St. Peter and St. Paul the latter, interestingly showing the repaired lantern after loosing its spire in 1651 before restoration by Inigo Jones during the 1630's. This old map makes an excellent reference for family history research.
from an article circa 1950
With the creation of the administrative County of London, Middlesex lost nearly all its wealth, its history and its interest. It still retains the shadow of its ancient possession of London by continuing its local government from the beautiful Middlesex Guildhall in Westminster. But it has become, after Rutland, the smallest of the English counties in area, and it has very little of the natural beauty that is still Surrey's despite suburbanization. It is certain that few Londoners know where London ends and Middlesex begins.
Observing the old map, the south-east the county starts on the Thames just below Chiswick, and continues upwards to Staines, where the Colne flows into the Thames. The Colne is the county's boundary with Buckinghamshire, from Staines to Harefield. From there Middlesex borders Hertfordshire eastward by way of Pinner and Mill Hill, where the boundary makes a sharp switch north to South Mimms and then east again to the Lea, which divides Middlesex from Essex. Middlesex continues down the Lea to Stoke Newington. From there it touches London westward to Golders Green, and then southward along the borders of Hampstead, Paddington and Hammersmith to the Thames. Large and typically London districts have been left within the county, and hundreds of thousands of the inhabitants of Tottenham, Willesden, Acton and Ealing would be surprised, and possibly annoyed, if they were told they are not citizens of that anything but mean city. Middlesex is London's poor relation.
It has an area of 148,691 acres and a population of over 2 1/4 millions, which means that almost the whole area of the county is taken up in providing living and working space (for those who do not work in London) for its overmany inhabitants. Between the wars, the population increased by approximately eight hundred thousand, and in consequence the few remaining villages became completely urbanized. For example, Kenton, near Harrow, had a population of about two hundred in 1914. In 1938, its population was twenty-five thousand. Greenford, east of Uxbridge, with a tiny church that could barely hold two hundred persons, has increased in population from one thousand to fifty thousand. There is practically no 'real country' to use Beach Thomas's phrase, left in Middlesex except in the areas round Harefield in the north-west and round Stanwell farther south. The increase in population has been due to some extent to the general tendency of the Londoner to trek from the city for his home. Finchley, Hendon, Edgware, Harrow, Pinner and Ealing are residential suburbs, the refuges of the season-ticket holders. But Middlesex has been industrialized more than suburbanised. Tottenham is a factory town. Acton is the home of London's laundries. Hanwell has motor works. Southall is a railway town with many factories. The railway at Hayes, which twenty years ago was bordered by an orchard, is now bordered by an ugly gramophone works. Even West Drayton, at the extreme west of the county, which until very recent years was still a country town, is an industrial centre. The consequence is that, unlike Surrey, Middlesex mainly owes its increased population to the growing local demand for labour, and this means that it has a far smaller number of the leisured, the well-to-do and the retired.
A fine Old City Plan of Westminster is featured within the map.
Hampstead Garden Suburb
The most interesting of the well-to-do settlements in Middlesex is the Hampstead garden suburb in the Hendon area. The suburb has been enthusiastically described as "a delightful rural town of twenty thousand people." It has none of the cheap ugliness of the jerry-built dormitory towns that were allowed to disfigure the metropolitan outskirts after the First World War. Its houses and its churches were designed by distinguished architects. It is comely and spacious, with gardens and lawns and avenues of trees, "trimmed like hatboxes." But it is not a rural town or any other sort of town; for a town is a place where men work as well as rest, and where men of many avocations mix and act together. In the perfect garden city the well-to-do are segregated in depressingly symmetrical prosperity. For all its superficial charm, the garden suburb is a warning for the planners. What is needed are community centres not class colonies.
Exploring Middlesex west from Chiswick, the little village of Strand-on-the Green at the foot of Kew Bridge, once a settlement of Thames fishermen, is interesting, since it has somehow contrived to keep its detached character. Up the river is Twickenham, where Pope lived in a villa, bought with the money that he received for his translation of Homer, where Horace Walpole lived on Strawberry Hill, where Fielding wrote Tom Jones and Dickens wrote Oliver Twist. From Twickenham and its neighbour Hampton the view of Richmond Hill across the river is perhaps the loveliest in Middlesex.
Hampton Court detailed on the old map, is the county's chief historic possession. Built by Cardinal Wolsey, who spent there his few years of ostentatious power, it became the favourite residence of Henry VIII, and the birthplace of Edward VI. Mary Tudor spent her honeymoon with the dreary-souled, plotting Philip of Spain at Hampton Court. Here Shakespeare acted before Scottish Jamie. Dutch William commissioned Christopher Wren to add Fountain Court to the Tudor building. This is one of the very few good things that this country owes to the imported sovereign, who introduced the English people to gin and stabilized the power of money in the national economy by sponsoring the Bank of England. Hampton Court contains interesting pictures and matchless tapestries, with its maze for the amusement of the general public, its great vine and its gorgeous herbaceous border which, backed by a Wren wall, is perhaps the most beautiful of all English flowerbeds. Still following the Thames, one remembers that Thomas Love Peacock, the novelist, Shelley's friend and executor and the father-in-law of George Meredith, lived at Shepperton, and Matthew Arnold was born and was buried at Laleham. The broad Laleham Reach is the Thames at its Middlesex best.
The Romans built four of the main roads that run from London, west, north-west and north across Middlesex. The most southerly of the Roman roads passes by way of Chiswick, Brentford and Hounslow to cross the Thames at Staines. At Hounslow there is a loop, which leads to Slough in Buckinghamshire to cross the river at Maidenhead. Brentford, with a hideous great gasometer and a mean and narrow High Street, was a ghastly traffic bottleneck before the construction of the Great West Road. This road, one of the first bypasses, is lined by modern factories, many of which prove that a factory need not be an eyesore.
Hounslow Heath, once famous for its highwaymen, is now market gardens and chemical and soap factories. Near Hounslow is Stanwell, which, as I have said, is one of Middlesex's two remaining villages. A second road runs through Willesden, Harrow and Pinner. Gladstone Park on Dollis Hill at Willesden has its name from the fact that the Liberal statesman spent his quiet week-ends as the guest of Lord Aberdeen at Dollis Hill House long before Chequers became the Prime Ministers' retreat. Crowds of Londoners used to flock to watch Gladstone on a Sunday morning going to and from St. Mary's Church, Neasden Lane, where he always read the lessons at Mattins whenever he was at Dollis Hill. This evidence of popularity, which seriously disturbed his devotions, caused Gladstone considerable annoyance. Mark Twain was another occasional visitor. Harrow is now a great suburban district which has absorbed a dozen villages, and has a population of two hundred thousand. But the view of Windsor and of the high ground of Surrey and Kent from the top of Harrow Hill, where the spire of St. Mary's is four hundred feet above the sea, remains. The noble record of Harrow School is a great county possession, and the old town itself has kept a good deal of what has been called its "cloistered air." St. Mary's was consecrated in 1094, and a small part of the Norman foundation remains.
Harrow School was founded in the reign of Elizabeth by John Lyon, a yeoman, who left lands to a corporation "for a free grammar school for the poor, for poor scholars at the universities, and the repairing highways." As has happened with many other of England's miscalled "public schools," the intention of the founder has been largely ignored, and Harrow has become famous as the school for the sons of the prosperous and the privileged. It has been the school of six of England's Prime Ministers - of Percival, Aberdeen, Robert Peel, whom Queen Victoria first disliked and afterwards came to trust, of "Old Parn (Lord Palmerston), whom she always detested. Stanley Baldwin and Winston Churchill; of Sheridan the dramatist and Shaftesbury the philanthropist, and of Manning, the great churchman, who was the ally of the London dockers when they struck in the eighties for "a tanner an hour," who is Harrow's one Cardinal. There are portraits and busts of its worthies in comely halls and rooms in the school. But Harrow is properly proudest of Byron, who wrote the earliest of his poems sitting on John Peachey's tombstone at St. Mary's. Byron lazy, lazily lay Hid from lessons and game away; Dreaming poetry all alone up-in-top of the Peachy Stone. W. S. Gilbert lived and died at Grim's Dyke, Harrow Weald, a quarrelsome man, famous as the librettist of the Savoy operas and the writer of lyrics, as Maurice Baring contended, comparable to those of Herrick. The one most often in my mind, as I grow old, is: Is life a boon? If so, it must befall That death. whene'er he call, Must call too soon!
The Edgware Road from Hendon to Edgware, up the steep Brockley Hill near Stanmore, is the Roman Watling Street. There is a legend, almost certainly unfounded, that Handel was moved to write "The Harmonious Blacksmith" after sheltering from a storm in a forge at Edgware. The Prince Regent, the Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and Louis XVIII of France met to discuss the future of Europe at Bentley Priory at Stanmore when it was believed that Napoleon was safely tucked away in the island of Elba. During the war Bentley was the headquarters of Fighter Command of the R.A.F.
Highgate Hill, where Whittington turned again to be Lord Mayor of London, is the most famous of the northern heights. Here are buried in strange post-mortem neighbourliness Herbert Spencer, the philosopher of individualism, who might have married George Eliot had she been better looking, and Karl Marx, the philosopher of revolutionary Socialism. George Morland painted many of his pictures at the Bull Inn at Highgate, and at Highgate lived Leigh Hunt, whom Dickens lampooned in Bleak House. Shortly before their deaths, Coleridge, a man of nearly fifty, had his one meeting with Keats, then twenty-six, 'a loose slack not well-dressed youth,' at Highgate Hill, and nearly two hundred years before, two other poets, Milton and Andrew Marvell, often met there.
In the extreme east of the county, Enfield, one of the last places in England where there was a yearly fair for the engagement of farm servants, carters, to indicate their craft, coming with their whips, labourers with a spade and woodmen with a bill, and Edmonton, where John Gilpin finished his famous ride, are associated with Charles Lamb, the 'most lovable Londoner of them all' He went to live in Enfield with his sister Mary, when he retired from the East India Office and became a superannuated man. He was visited by Leigh Hunt and Tom Hood, by Coleridge and Wordsworth. But the super-cockney hated the country. He wrote to Wordsworth 'Let no native Londoner imagine that health and rest and occupation, interchange of converse and recreative study can make the country anything better than altogether odious and detestable' In 1833 the Lambs moved to Edmonton, and there a year later the gentle Elia died.
Middlesex, the mother of London, has come to be its unconsidered dependant. As is common with most poor relations, it has little character of its own. No one dreams of saying of a man that he has distinctive Middlesex qualities, as we say that a man is 'very Yorkshire'. Middlesex has lost most of its wealth and most of its beauty. But, here and there in tucked-away corners, some of the beauty is still to be found, and the Little Home County has rich memories of great events for which it provided the scene, and of great men who lived and died within its borders.
By SIDNEY DARK Circa 1950