Fifty years ago, at the end of March 1965, the Home Counties nudged a lot closer to central London than they do today. Those living to the east of the River Lea were still in Essex, including everyone in Stratford and Walthamstow. Residents of Bexleyheath and Orpington were still very much in Kent, while the population of Wimbledon and Richmond belonged wholly to Surrey. Meanwhile Middlesex still existed as a crescent-shaped swathe to the northwest of the capital, including the suburbs of Acton, Golders Green and Tottenham. Middlesex was an ancient county of Saxon origins, bounded by the Colne and Lea, with parliamentary representation since the 13th century. By the 20th century it was one of the smallest counties in England, behind London and the Isle of Wight in terms of area, and with its own administrative HQ on Parliament Square. And fifty years ago today it only had one more day to go.
Fifty years ago tomorrow, on 1st April 1965, Greater London was born. This enlarged administrative area extended the old County of London by including almost all of Middlesex, plus large chunks of Essex, Surrey and Kent. Potters Bar in Middlesex escaped, transferring to Hertfordshire, while Barnet Urban District switched the other way from Herts to London. Essex had already lost control over West Ham and East Ham, long since unitary authorities, while Kent surrendered only a small fraction of its land. Surrey found itself in the most awkward situation, with its county council now based extraterritorially across the border in Kingston upon Thames. All in all more than fifty boroughs and districts from the shires found themselves in Outer London overnight. Here's an overview of what ended up where.
Redbridge = Ilford + Wanstead and Woodford + Dagenham (part) + Chigwell (part)
Population 1965: 248,000 / Population 2015: 288,000 Ilford: The ornate Renaissance style town hall on the High Road, begun in 1901, has been retained as Redbridge's town hall. Wanstead and Woodford: The council used to meet on the High Road, South Woodford, their ceremonial mace presented by local MP Winston Churchill. Dagenham: "The boundary between Redbridge and Barking shall be such as the Minister may by order determine on or near the general line of Billet Road." Chigwell: Only 81 acres of Chigwell Urban District, around Hainault, transferred to London in 1965 (the remainder stayed in Essex).
Havering = Romford + Hornchurch
Population 1965: 246,000 / Population 2015: 242,000 Romford: Upgraded to a municipal borough in 1937, its competition-winning art deco town hall is still used by Havering council. Hornchurch: In 1965 this was one of the most populous urban districts in England. The council's offices were at Langton's, an 18th century mansion, which became the new borough's register office.
Barking = Barking (part) + Dagenham (part)
Population 1965: 170,000 / Population 2015: 194,000
Renamed Barking and Dagenham in 1980 Barking: Barking's Town Hall was built overlooking the abbey as late as 1958, and thankfully got more than seven years of use. Dagenham: Combining Barking with Dagenham very sensibly brought the Becontree estate under a single administration. The long low art decotown hall (opened in 1937) has become the Barking and Dagenham Civic Centre, and thankfully won't now be sold off as a new school.
Newham = West Ham + East Ham + Barking (part) + Woolwich (part)
Population 1965: 254,000 / Population 2015: 318,000 West Ham: In 1901 over a quarter of a million people lived in West Ham, making it the ninth most populous district in England. It was governed from an Italian GothicTown Hall in Stratford, built in 1869. East Ham: West Ham plus East Ham equals New Ham, geddit? East Ham's St-Pancrassy town hall now serves as Newham Town Hall. Barking: "The boundary between Newham and Barking shall be such as the Minister may by order determine on or near the general line of the River Roding and Barking Creek." Woolwich: Until the 19th century these two tiny detached parts of Woolwich were usually described as 'Woolwich in the parts of Essex'. Read more here.
Bexley = Bexley + Erith + Crayford + Chislehurst and Sidcup (part)
Population 1965: 215,000 / Population 2015: 237,000 Bexley: At the start of the 20th century the Council offices moved to Broadway, Bexleyheath. Erith: Erith's Town Hall became Bexley's Town Hall in 1965, until councillors moved out to a new civic centre in Bexleyheath in 1980. Crayford: The 100-year-oldTown Hall (and library site) is beingtransformed (in two phases) into 188 new homes, a new library, "modern community facility", health centre and shops. Chislehurst and Sidcup: Mostly the Sidcup bit, to the north of the A20.
Bromley = Bromley + Beckenham + Orpington + Penge + Chislehurst and Sidcup (part)
Population 1965: 301,000 / Population 2015: 318,000 Bromley: The former Bromley Town Hall, opened on Tweedy Road in 1907, was built "in neo-Wren style using red brick with stone quoins and window dressings". Beckenham: Beckenham's last town hall, built in 1932 opposite St George's Church, is now a pizza restaurant. Orpington: Created as an urban district in 1934 from parts of the abolished hinterland of Bromley Rural District, which explains Greater London's largest concentration of remote villages. Penge: Up until 1866 Penge was officially part of Battersea, a detached hamlet no less. Chislehurst and Sidcup: Mostly the Chislehurst bit, to the south of the A20.
Sutton = Beddington and Wallington + Carshalton + Sutton and Cheam
Population 1965: 166,000 / Population 2015: 196,000 Beddington and Wallington: The council was initially based at 37 Manor Road (now an Indian restaurant), before opening a newTown Hall on Woodcote Road, Wallington, in 1934. It was still used for council meetings until 1977. Carshalton: The former town hall on The Square, Carshalton, became the local library (but was sold off in 2011). Sutton and Cheam: The borough's Municipal Offices opened on the High Street in 1902, but were demolished in the 1970s (Wilkinsons now stands on the site).
Merton = Mitcham + Merton and Morden + Wimbledon
Population 1965: 185,000 / Population 2015: 203,000 Was nearly called: Morden Mitcham: Founded in 1915, this local government district has now been extinct for the same amount of time as it existed. Merton and Morden: After World War II the council moved into Morden Hall in Morden Hall Park, now a post-Whitbread husk. Merton's modern civic centre rises nearby above Crown Lane. Wimbledon: The original Town Hall was on The Broadway, replaced by a new buildingon the corner of Queen's Road in 1931.
Kingston Upon Thames = Kingston upon Thames + Malden and Coombe + Surbiton
Population 1965: 145,000 / Population 2015: 167,000 Kingston-upon-Thames: This ancient borough received its charter in 1484, its royal title confirmed by George V in 1927. The council governed from the quaint Market House until 1935, and then from the Guildhall, designed by Maurice Webb. Unlike its modern successor, the pre-1965 borough had hyphens. Malden and Coombe: Because the borough was incorporated in 1936, its civic mace had the rare distinction of carrying the arms of King Edward VIII. Surbiton: The parish of Chessington was added in 1933, nabbed from Epsom.
Richmond Upon Thames = Barnes + Richmond + Twickenham
Population 1965: 180,000 / Population 2015: 192,000 Barnes: Before the war the HQ of this urban district was a Georgian house at 123 Mortlake High Street. Upgraded to a municipal borough in 1932, you can watch two minutes of the Charter Day celebrations here. Richmond: The old town hall near Richmond Bridge, opened in 1893, now houses the Information and Reference Library, the Local Studies Collection, the Museum of Richmond and the Riverside Gallery. Twickenham: In 1926 the urban district council purchased York House, a statelyhome by the Thames, which remains the council's ceremonial hub. Except hang on, the Municipal Borough of Twickenham was in Middlesex, not Surrey, and there's no way I'm going to get through all of Middlesex in today's post. Time for a 50-year-old break.