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Flag of Essex Arms of Essex County Council
Flag Coat of arms
Essex within England
Essex shown within England
Coordinates: 51°45′N 0°35′E / 51.75, 0.583Coordinates: 51°45′N 0°35′E / 51.75, 0.583
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region East
Established Ancient
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant John Petre
High Sheriff Nicholas Charrington
Area 3,670 km2 (1,420 sq mi)
 – Ranked 11th of 48
Population (2006 est.) 1,729,200
 – Ranked 7th of 48
Density 471 /km2 (1,220 /sq mi)
Ethnicity 96.8% White
1.2% S. Asian
2% Other
Non-metropolitan county
County council Essex County Council
Executive Conservative
Admin HQ Chelmsford
Area 3,465 km2 (1,338 sq mi)
 – Ranked 11th of 27
Population 1,361,200
 – Ranked 2nd of 27
Density 392 /km2 (1,020 /sq mi)
ISO 3166-2 GB-ESS
ONS code 22
GSS code E10000012
Unitary authorities
Councils Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
Thurrock Council
Essex Ceremonial Numbered
Districts of Essex
Unitary County council area
  1. Harlow
  2. Epping Forest
  3. Brentwood
  4. Basildon
  5. Castle Point
  6. Rochford
  7. Maldon
  8. City of Chelmsford
  9. Uttlesford
  10. Braintree
  11. Colchester
  12. Tendring
  13. Thurrock
  14. Southend-on-Sea
Members of Parliament List of MPs
Police Essex Police
Time zone GMT (UTC0)
– Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)

Essex /ˈɛsɪks/ is a county in England, 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, Sussex and Wessex) 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 and most of what later became Hertfordshire as its territory was later restricted to lands east of the River Lea.[1] 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 changes before the Norman conquest the Kingdom of Essex was subsumed into the Kingdom of England and Essex became a county.

County-wide administration

Essex County Council was formed in 1889. However County Boroughs of West Ham (1889–1965), Southend-on-Sea (1914–1974)[2] and East Ham (1915–1965) formed part of the county but were unitary authorities (not under county council control).[3] 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[3] 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 (numbered 13 and 14 on the map to the right).[4][5]

Essex Police covers the administrative county and the two unitary authorities.[6] 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.


The village of Finchingfield in north Essex

Southend aerial 220608

Skyline of Southend-on-Sea

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.


Industry is largely limited to the south of the county, with the majority of the land elsewhere being given over to agriculture. Harlow is a centre for electronics, science and pharmaceutical companies. Chelmsford has been an important location for electronics companies, such as the Marconi Company, since the industry was born and is also the location for a number of insurance and financial services organisations, as well as being the home of the soft drinks producer Britvic. Basildon is home to New Holland Agriculture's European headquarters and Brentwood is home to the Ford Motor Company's British HQ. Debden near Loughton is home to a production facility for British and foreign banknotes.

Other businesses in the county are dominated by mechanical engineering including but not limited to metalworking, glassmaking and plastics and the service sector. Colchester is a garrison town, and the local economy is helped by the Army's personnel living there. Basildon is the location of State Street Corporation's United Kingdom HQ International Financial Data Services, and remains heavily dependent on London for employment, due to its proximity and direct transport routes. Southend-on-Sea is home to the Adventure Island theme park and is one of the few still growing British Seaside resorts, benefiting from direct, modern rail links from Fenchurch Street railway station and Liverpool Street station (placing housing in high demand, especially for financial services commuters), which thereby maintains the town's commercial and general economy.

Parts of Eastern Essex suffer from high levels of deprivation, with one of the most highly deprived wards being the less used port of Clacton.[7] In the Indices of deprivation 2007, Jaywick was identified as the most deprived Lower Super Output Area in Southern England.[8] Unemployment was estimated at 44% and many homes were found to lack severely basic amenities. The Brooklands and Grasslands area of Jaywick were found to be the third most deprived area in England; two areas in Liverpool and Manchester rated higher. In contrast, however, West and South West Essex is one of the most affluent parts of Eastern England, forming part of the London commuter belt. Here there is a large middle class and the area is widely known for its private schools. In 2008, The Daily Telegraph found Brentwood and Ingatestone to be the 19th and 14th richest towns in the UK respectively.[9]


General Election 2010 : Essex
Conservative Liberal Democrats Labour UKIP BNP Others Green English Democrats Christian People's Alliance Christian Party Turnout
Overall Number of seats in 2010
Conservative Liberal Democrats Labour UKIP BNP Others Green English Democrats Christian People's Alliance Christian Party
17 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


London STN

London Stansted Airport, in the north west of the county

The main airport in Essex is London Stansted Airport, serving destinations in Europe, North Africa and Asia.[10] The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government formed in May 2010 has agreed not to allow a further runway until a set time period, so curtailing the operator's ambitions for expansion. London Southend Airport, once one of Britain's busiest airports, opened a new runway extension, terminal building and railway station in March 2012.[11] The station is on the Shenfield to Southend Line, with a direct link to the capital. Southend offers scheduled flights to Ireland, the Channel Islands and multiple destinations in Europe. Essex has several smaller airfields, some of which owe their origins to military bases built during World War I or World War II, giving pleasure flights or flying lessons; examples include Clacton Airfield, Earls Colne Airfield, and Stapleford Aerodrome.

The Port of Tilbury is one of Britain's three major ports, while the port of Harwich links the county to the Hook of Holland and Esbjerg, Denmark (a service to Cuxhaven, a port on the Elbe estuary in Germany was discontinued in December 2005). Plans have been approved to build the UK's largest container terminal at Shell Haven in Thurrock and although opposed by the local authority and environmental and wildlife organisations, it now seems increasingly likely to be developed.[12][13][14]


Queen Elizabeth II Bridge spanning the Thames from West Thurrock, Essex, to Dartford, Kent

East of the Dartford Road Crossing to Dartford, Kent, across the Thames Estuary a ferry for pedestrians to Gravesend, Kent operates from Tilbury during limited daily hours and ferries for pedestrians operate across some of Essex's rivers and estuaries during spring and summer. The M25 and M11 motorway both cross the county in the extreme south and west, enabling regular commuting to/from parts of the county with Kent, Hertfordshire and Cambridge. The A127 and A13 trunk roads are important radial routes connecting London and the M25 to the south of Essex. The A12 runs across the county from the south west to the north east and not only carries traffic within Essex but also traffic between London and Suffolk, east Norfolk and the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich.

Rail goods have several ports and dedicated lines.[15]

Much of Essex lies within the London commuter belt. Abellio Greater Anglia (which is run by Abellio the international arm of Nederlandse Spoorwegen) is the key railway operator in the county providing commuter services into London Liverpool Street and regional services throughout the East of England. The main railway routes in Essex include:

  • Three lines from the City of London to Southend-on-Sea: two operated by c2c from Fenchurch Street railway station (one route via Tilbury) and by Abellio Greater Anglia from Liverpool Street station;
  • The Great Eastern Main Line from Liverpool Street to Suffolk and Norfolk as well as the international port at Harwich International;
  • The West Anglia Main Line from Liverpool Street to London Stansted Airport and onward to Cambridgeshire.

The southernmost part of Epping Forest district is served by the London Underground Central line. The routes operated by Abellio Greater Anglia were operated by National Express East Anglia and were previously branded as 'One'. Branch lines include:

South Essex Rapid Transit is a proposed public transport scheme which would provide a fast, reliable public transport service in and between Thurrock, Basildon and Southend.[17]


Education in Essex is substantially provided by three authorities being Essex County Council and the two unitary authorities, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock. In all there are some 90 state secondary schools provided by these authorities, the majority of which are comprehensive, although one in Uttlesford, two in Chelmsford, two in Colchester and four in Southend-on-Sea are selective grammar schools. There are also various Independent Schools particularly, as mentioned above, in rural parts and the west of the county.[18][19]

The University of Essex, which was established in 1963, is located just outside Colchester, with two further campuses in Loughton and Southend-on-Sea. University Campus Suffolk, with a main campus in Ipswich and five centres in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, is a joint venture between University of Essex and University of East Anglia. Anglia Ruskin University was awarded university status in 1992 and has campuses in Chelmsford and Cambridge.


Erkenwin - John Speed

Depiction of the first king of the East Saxons, Æscwine, his shield showing the three seaxes emblem attributed to him (from John Speed's 1611 Saxon Heptarchy)

The County's coat of arms comprises three Saxon seax knives (although looking rather more like scimitars) arranged on a red background (Gules three Seaxes fessewise in pale Argent pomels and hilts Or points to the sinister and cutting edges upwards); the three-seax device is also used as the official logo of Essex County Council having been granted as such in 1932.[20] The emblem was attributed to Anglo-Saxon Essex in Early Modern historiography. The earliest reference the arms of the East Saxon kings was by Richard Verstegan, the author of A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence (Antwerp, 1605), claiming that "Erkenwyne king of the East-Saxons did beare for his armes, three [seaxes] argent, in a field gules". There is no earlier evidence substantiating Verstegan's claim, which is an anachronism for the Anglo-Saxon period seeing that heraldry only evolved in the 12th century, well after the Norman conquest. John Speed in his Historie of Great Britaine (1611) follows Verstegan in his descriptions of the arms of Erkenwyne, but he qualifies the statement by adding "as some or our heralds have emblazed".[20]

John Constable The Hay Wain

The Hay Wain by John Constable shows the Essex landscape on the right bank.

Essex is also home to the Dunmow Flitch Trials, a traditional ceremony that takes place every four years and consists of a test of a married couple's devotion to one another. A common claim of the origin of the Dunmow Flitch dates back to 1104 and the Augustinian Priory of Little Dunmow, founded by Lady Juga Baynard. Lord of the Manor Reginald Fitzwalter and his wife dressed themselves as humble folk and begged blessing of the Prior a year and a day after marriage. The Prior, impressed by their devotion bestowed upon them a flitch of bacon. Upon revealing his true identity, Fitzwalter gave his land to the Priory on the condition a flitch should be awarded to any couple who could claim they were similarly devoted. By the 14th century, the Dunmow Flitch Trials appear to have achieved a significant reputation outside the local area. The author William Langland, who lived on the Welsh borders, mentions it in his 1362 book The Vision of Piers Plowman in a manner that implies general knowledge of the custom among his readers.[21]

Essex has become associated with the derogatory stereotype, 'Essex girl' and the political stereotype 'Essex man'. The association has been amplified in popular culture through the reality television series 'TOWIE' (The Only Way Is Essex), which has attracted criticism for its stereotyping.

The Essex dialect, an accent related to the Suffolk dialect, was formerly prevalent in the county but is now mostly replaced by Estuary English.


Over 14,000 buildings have listed status in the county, and around 1000 of those are recognised as of Grade I or II* importance.[22] The buildings range from the 7th century Saxon church of St Peter-on-the-Wall, to the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club which was the United Kingdom's entry in the "International Exhibition of Modern Architecture" held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1932.

Places of interest[]

AP Icon Abbey/Priory/Cathedral
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Themepark uk icon Amusement/Theme Park
CL icon Castle
Country Park Country Park
EH icon English Heritage
FC icon Forestry Commission
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Museum (free)
Museums (free/not free)
National Trust National Trust
Zoo icon Zoo
  • Abberton Reservoir
  • Ashdon (The site of the ancient Bartlow Hills and also a claimant to the location of the Battle of Ashingdon)
  • Ashingdon (The site of the Battle of Ashingdon in 1016), near Southend, with its isolated St Andrews Church and site of England's earliest aerodrome at South Fambridge
  • Audley End House and Gardens, Saffron Walden HH icon
  • Brentwood Cathedral AP Icon
  • Clacton-On-Sea
  • Chelmsford Cathedral AP Icon
  • Colchester Castle CL icon Museum icon (red)[23]
  • Colchester Zoo Zoo icon
  • Colne Valley Railway HR icon
  • Cressing Temple
  • East Anglian Railway Museum Museum icon (red)
  • Epping Forest
  • Epping Ongar RailwayHR icon
  • Finchingfield (Considered the most beautiful village in England and home of the author Dodie Smith)
  • Frinton-on-Sea
  • Great Bentley File:Forestry commission logo.svg, which has the largest village green in England
  • Hadleigh Castle
  • Harlow New Town
  • Hedingham Castle, between Stansted and Colchester, to the north of Braintree CL icon
  • Ingatestone Hall, Ingatestone, between Brentwood and Chelmsford
  • Kelvedon Hatch (Secret Nuclear Bunker)
  • Loughton, by Epping Forest and having a London Underground Central line tube station
  • Maldon historic market town, close to Chelmsford and the North Sea, and site of the Battle of Maldon
  • Mangapps Railway Museum HR icon Museum icon (red) (Burnham-on-Crouch)
  • Marsh Farm Country Park (South Woodham Ferrers)
  • Mersea Island, birdwatching and rambling resort with one settlement, West Mersea
  • Mistley Towers, Manningtree, between Colchester and Ipswich, near Alton Water.
  • Mountfitchet Castle CL icon, Stansted
  • North Weald Airfield
  • Orsett Hall Hotel, Prince Charles Avenue, Orsett near Chadwell St Mary
  • St Peter-on-the-Wall AP Icon
  • Saffron Walden Museum icon (red) CL icon EH icon
  • Southend Pier
  • Thames Estuary Accessible open space
  • Tilbury Fort EH icon
  • Thaxted, south of Saffron Walden
  • University of Essex (Wivenhoe Park, Colchester)
  • Waltham Abbey AP Icon

Notable persons[]

Sister counties and regions[]

See also[]

Notes and references[]

  1. ^ Vision of Britain – Essex ancient county boundaries map
  2. ^ Vision of Britain – Southend-on-Sea MB/CB
  3. ^ a b Vision of Britain – Essex admin county (historic map)
  4. ^ Essex County Council – District or Borough Councils
  5. ^ OPSI – The Essex (Boroughs of Colchester, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock and District of Tendring) (Structural, Boundary and Electoral Changes) Order 1996
  6. ^ OPSI – The Essex (Police Area and Authority) Order 1997
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ "Britain's richest towns: 20 – 11". The Daily Telegraph (London). 18 April 2008. 
  10. ^ Cheap flights from London Stansted to Sharm El Sheikh. (2013-02-17). Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  11. ^ Topham, Gwyn (5 March 2012). "London Southend airport: flying under the radar (and to the left of the pier)". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  12. ^ Portswatch: Current Port Proposals: London Gateway (Shell Haven). Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  13. ^ Thurrock Council. (2003-02-26). Shell Haven public inquiry opens. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  14. ^ Dredging News Online. (2008-05-18). Harbour Development, Shell Haven, UK. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  15. ^ Ordnance survey website
  16. ^ Association of Train Operating Companies – official timetables
  17. ^ "FAQ". 
  18. ^ Essex County Council. (2006). Secondary School Information. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  19. ^ Independent Schools Directory. (2009). Independent Schools in Essex. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  20. ^ a b Robert Young. (2009). Civic Heraldry of England and Wales. Essex. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  21. ^ Dunmow Flitch Trials website. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  22. ^ Bettley, James. (2008). Essex Explored: Essex Architecture. Essex County Council. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  23. ^ "Colchester Castle Museum-Index". Retrieved 23 April 2010. 

[23] Essex Coast Walk. Peter Caton 2009. ISBN 978-1848761162

External links[]

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This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Essex. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.