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Ceremonial county in England (use Q21272241 for administrative non-metropolitan county)

Top 10 Essex related articles

"Many Minds, One Heart"
Coordinates: 51°45′N 0°35′E / 51.750°N 0.583°E / 51.750; 0.583Coordinates: 51°45′N 0°35′E / 51.750°N 0.583°E / 51.750; 0.583
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
Time zoneUTC±00:00 (Greenwich Mean Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+01:00 (British Summer Time)
Members of ParliamentList of MPs
PoliceEssex Police
Ceremonial county
Lord LieutenantJennifer Tolhurst[1]
High SheriffMrs Julie Fosh[2](2020–21)
Area3,670 km2 (1,420 sq mi)
 • Ranked11th of 48
Population (mid-2019 est.)1,832,752
 • Ranked7th of 48
Density499/km2 (1,290/sq mi)
Ethnicity90.8% White British
3.6% Other White
2.5% Asian
1.3% Black
1.5% Mixed
0.3% Other
Non-metropolitan county
County councilEssex County Council
Admin HQChelmsford
Area3,465 km2 (1,338 sq mi)
 • Ranked9th of 26
 • Ranked2nd of 26
Density431/km2 (1,120/sq mi)
ISO 3166-2GB-ESS
ONS code22
GSS codeE10000012
Unitary authorities
CouncilsSouthend-on-Sea Borough Council
Thurrock Council

Districts of Essex
Unitary County council area
  1. Uttlesford
  2. Braintree
  3. Colchester
  4. Tendring
  5. Harlow
  6. Epping Forest
  7. City of Chelmsford
  8. Maldon
  9. Brentwood
  10. Basildon
  11. Rochford
  12. Castle Point
  13. Southend-on-Sea
  14. Thurrock

Essex (/ˈɛsɪks/) is a county in the south-east[3][4] of England, north-east of London. One of the home counties, it borders 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, the only city in the county. For the purposes of government statistics, Essex is placed in the East of England region.

There are four definitions of the extent of Essex, the widest being the ancient county. Next largest is the former postal county, followed by the ceremonial county with the smallest being the administrative county – the area administered by the County Council, which excludes the two unitary authorities of Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea and the areas administered by the Greater London Authority.

The ceremonial county occupies the eastern part of what was, during the Early Middle Ages, the Kingdom of Essex. As well as rural areas, the county also includes London Stansted Airport, the new towns of Basildon and Harlow, Lakeside Shopping Centre, the port of Tilbury and the borough of Southend-on-Sea.

Essex Intro articles: 16

Physical geography and boundaries

The ceremonial county of Essex is bounded by Kent, south of the Thames Estuary; Greater London to the south-west; Hertfordshire, broadly west of the River Lea and the Stort ; Cambridgeshire to the northwest; Suffolk broadly north of the River Stour; with the North Sea to the east.


The county of Essex has four definitions; the Ancient, Ceremonial, Administrative and Postal Counties.

The Ancient County of Essex, and its constituent Hundreds
The Administrative County is coloured pink, the Ceremonial County includes both pink and yellow areas.
The five eastern boroughs of Metropolitan Essex

Ancient County

This sense of the term ‘Essex’ refers to all the territory of the county of Essex, as established in the late Anglo-Saxon period, some time after the larger former Kingdom of the East Saxons had lost its independence. The Ancient County includes areas such as the three north-western parishes transferred to Cambridgeshire at the time of the creation of the administrative counties in 1889, and Metropolitan Essex (the five London boroughs east of the Lea) transferred in 1965.

The ancient county also includes Thurrock and Southend, which became unitary authorities in 1998.

Ceremonial County

The Ceremonial County is the area represented by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex. It excludes the areas transferred in 1889 and 1965, but includes the unitary authorities of Thurrock and Southend which separated from the Administrative County in 1998.

Administrative County

The Administrative County is the area for which Essex County Council has responsibility. The administrative county was formed in 1889, and has reduced in size since that time. The administrative county excludes Metropolitan Essex, Thurrock, Southend and the much smaller areas transferred in 1889.

Postal County

The Postal County of Essex was a term in use by the Royal Mail until 1996,[5] intended to facilitate the sorting of mail by assisting the differentiation of similar Post Towns.

The Postal County was a collection of post towns approximating to the Ancient and Ceremonial County areas. There were two main distinctions, the first that the Postal County of Hertfordshire extended deep into west Essex, with Stansted isolated as an exclave of postal Essex. The other was that the eastern part of Metropolitan Essex, broadly speaking east of the Roding, was part of the Essex Postal County with the area to the west of the Roding part of the Eastern division of the London Post Town. Sewardstone in the Epping Forest District is also part of the London Post Town, using the E4 post code. Postal Counties were abolished in 1996, but Post Towns are still used.

Metropolitan Essex

The term applies to areas that are part of both Essex and London; the five east London boroughs of Newham, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, and Havering. These areas are part of the Ancient County of Essex, but not the Administrative or Ceremonial County. The eastern part of Metropolitan Essex (roughly east of the Roding) was part of the former Postal County of Essex. The area west of the Roding was, and is, part of the Eastern division of the London Post Town.


The deep estuaries on the east coast give Essex, by some measures, the longest coast of any county.[6] These estuaries mean the county's North Sea coast is characterised by three major peninsulas, each named after the Hundred based on the peninsula:

A consequence of these features is that the broad estuaries defining them have been a factor in preventing any transport infrastructure linking them to neighbouring areas on the other side of the river estuaries, to the north and south.

Highest point

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).

Essex Physical geography and boundaries articles: 23

Human and economic geography

The county's infrastructure is shaped by its physical geography and proximity to London. Together, these influences both stimulate and constrain the Essex economy.


A high proportion of the population, especially in the south, work outside the county, commuting to London and elsewhere by rail and by road. These London-based jobs are often well paid and complement the contribution made by the employers based within Essex.

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; it is also the location for a number of insurance and financial services organisations and, until 2015, was the home of the soft drinks producer Britvic. Basildon is home to New Holland Agriculture's European headquarters and Basildon 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 modern and direct rail links from Fenchurch Street railway station and Liverpool Street station (so that housing is in high demand, especially for financial services commuters), which maintains the town's commercial and general economy.

Parts of eastern Essex suffer from high levels of deprivation; one of the most highly deprived wards is in the seaside town of Clacton.[10] In the Indices of deprivation 2007, Jaywick was identified as the most deprived Lower Super Output Area in Southern England.[11] Unemployment was estimated at 44% and many homes were found to lack very basic amenities. The Brooklands and Grasslands area of Jaywick was found to be the third-most deprived area in England; two areas in Liverpool and Manchester were rated more deprived. In contrast, mid, west and south-west Essex is one of the most affluent parts of eastern England, forming part of the London commuter belt. There is a large middle class here and the area is widely known for its private schools. In 2008, The Daily Telegraph found Ingatestone and Brentwood to be the 14th- and 19th-richest towns in the UK respectively.[12]

Settlement patterns

The pattern of settlement in the county is diverse. The areas closest to London are the most densely settled, though the Metropolitan Green Belt has prevented the further sprawl of London into the county. The Green Belt was initially a narrow band of land, but subsequent expansions meant it was able to limit the further expansion of many of the commuter towns close to the capital. The Green Belt zone close to London includes many prosperous commuter towns, as well as the new towns of Basildon and Harlow, originally developed to resettle Londoners after the destruction of London housing in the Second World War; they have since been significantly developed and expanded. Epping Forest also prevents the further spread of the Greater London Urban Area. As it is not far from London, with its economic magnetism, many of Essex's settlements, particularly those near or within short driving distance of railway stations, function as dormitory towns or villages where London workers raise their families. In these areas a high proportion of the population commute to London, and the wages earned in the capital are typically significantly higher than more local jobs. Many parts of Essex therefore, especially those closest to London, have a major economic dependence on London and the transport links that take people to work there.

The village of Finchingfield in north Essex

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 therefore form part of 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). With the exception of major towns, such as Colchester, Chelmsford and Southend-on-Sea, 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.

Essex Human and economic geography articles: 40


Much of Essex lies within the London commuter belt, with radial transport links to the capital an important part of the area's economy. There are nationally or regionally important ports and airports and these also rely on the Essex infrastructure, causing an additional load on the local road and rail links.


Essex's railway routes to London are, running clockwise:

  1. Harwich and its port. The nearby port of Felixstowe in Suffolk is served by a separate branch.
  2. The Sunshine Coast Line linking Colchester to the seaside resorts of Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze via the picturesque towns of Wivenhoe and Great Bentley.
  3. Braintree.
  4. Branch from Marks Tey to Sudbury (Suffolk) and villages in-between.
  5. In the densely populated south, there is a branch to Southend Victoria, the Rochford Peninsula and several south Essex towns. This branch has a sub-branch – the Crouch Valley Line – linking Wickford to the remote Dengie Peninsula, including Burnham-on-Crouch and Southminster.[13]
  • Like the Southend Victoria branch, the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway also serves Southend (Southend Central), the Rochford Peninsula and many towns in the densely populated south of the county. The London terminus is Fenchurch Street and heading eastward from Barking, the line separates into three, which later merge back into one by the time the railway reaches Pitsea.

The Essex Thameside franchise is operated by c2c. The Greater Anglia routes (both the West Anglia and Great Eastern Main Line and their branches) are operated by Greater Anglia.


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

Essex has six main strategic routes, five of which reflect the powerful influence exerted by London.

The M25 is London's orbital motorway which redistributes traffic across the London area. It includes the Dartford Road Crossings, over the Thames Estuary, linking Essex to Kent.

There are four radial commuter routes into the capital:

The A120 is a major route heading west from the ports of Harwich and Felixstowe (Suffolk) and, like the A12, the route was in use during the Roman period and, in part at least, before then.

Ports and waterborne transport

The Port of Tilbury is one of Britain's three major ports and has proposed a major extension onto the site of the former Tilbury power stations.[14] The port of Harwich has passenger and freight services to the Hook of Holland and a freight service to Europoort. A service to Esbjerg, Denmark ceased in September 2014[15] and earlier a service to Cuxhaven in Germany was discontinued in December 2005.

The UK's largest container terminal London Gateway at Shell Haven in Thurrock partly opened in November 2013; final completion date is yet to be confirmed.[16] The port was opposed by the local authority and environmental and wildlife organisations.[17][18][19]

The ports have branch lines to connect them to the national rail network. These freight movements conflict with the needs of commuter passenger services, limiting their frequency and reliability.[20]

East of the Dartford Road Crossing to Dartford in Kent, across the Thames Estuary, a pedestrian ferry to Gravesend, Kent operates from Tilbury during limited daily hours; there are pedestrian ferries across some of Essex's rivers and estuaries in spring and summer.


Stansted Airport, in the north west of the county

The main airport in Essex is Stansted Airport, serving destinations in Europe, North Africa and Asia.[21] The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, formed in May 2010, 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.[22] It has a station on the Shenfield to Southend Line, with a direct link to London.

Southend Airport has 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; these include Clacton Airfield, Earls Colne Airfield and Stapleford Aerodrome.

Essex Transport articles: 55


Essex evolved from the Kingdom of the East Saxons, a polity which is likely to have its roots in the territory of the Iron Age Trinovantes tribe.[23]

Iron Age

Essex corresponds, fairly closely, to the territory of the Trinovantes tribe. Their production of their own coinage marks them out as one of the more advanced tribes on the island, this advantage (in common with other tribes in the south-east) is probably due to the Belgic element within their elite. Their capital was the oppidum (a type of town) of Colchester, Britain's oldest recorded town, which had its own mint. The tribe were in extended conflict with their western neighbours, the Catuvellauni, and steadily lost ground. By AD 10 they had come under the complete control of the Catuvellauni, who took Colchester as their own capital.[24]


The Roman invasion of AD 43 began with a landing on the south coast, probably in the Richborough area of Kent. After some initial successes against the Britons, they paused to await reinforcements, and the arrival of the Emperor Claudius. The combined army then proceeded to the capital of the Catevellauni-Trinovantes at Colchester, and took it.

Claudius held a review of his invasion force on Lexden Heath where the army formally proclaimed him Imperator. The invasion force that assembled before him included four legions, mounted auxiliaries and an elephant corps – a force of around 30,000 men.[25] At Colchester, the kings of 11 British tribes surrendered to Claudius.[26]

Colchester became a Roman Colonia, with the official name Colonia Claudia Victricensis ('the City of Claudius' Victory'). It was initially the most important city in Roman Britain and in it they established a temple to the God-Emperor Claudius. This was the largest building of its kind in Roman Britain.[27][28]

The establishment of the Colonia is thought to have involved extensive appropriation of land from local people, this and other grievances led to the Trinovantes joining their northern neighbours, the Iceni, in the Boudiccan revolt.[29] The rebels entered the city, and after a Roman last stand at the temple of Claudius, methodically destroyed it, massacring many thousands. A significant Roman force attempting to relieve Colchester was destroyed in pitched battle, known as the Massacre of the Ninth Legion.

The rebels then proceeded to sack London and St Albans, with Tacitus estimating that 70–80,000 people were killed in the destruction of the three cities. Boudicca was defeated in battle, somewhere in the west midlands, and the Romans are likely to have ravaged the lands of the rebel tribes,[30] so Essex will have suffered greatly.

Despite this, the Trinovantes identity persisted. Roman provinces were divided into civitas for local government purposes – with a civitas for the Trinovantes strongly implied by Ptolemy.[31] Christianity is thought to have been flourishing among the Trinovantes in the fourth century, indications include the remains of a probable church at Colchester,[32] the church dates from sometime after 320, shortly after the Constantine the Great granted freedom of worship to Christians in 313. Other archaeological evidence include a chi-rho symbol etched on a tile at a site in Wickford, and a gold ring inscribed with a chi-rho monogram found at Brentwood. [33]

The late Roman period, and the period shortly after, was the setting for the King Cole legends based around Colchester.[34] One version of the legend concerns Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The legend makes her the daughter of Coel, Duke of the Britons (King Cole) and in it she gives birth to Constantine in Colchester. The legend is at variance with historic facts as they are now known, but it is likely that Constantine, and his father, spent time in Colchester during their years in Britain.[35]

Anglo-Saxon Period

St Peters Chapel, Bradwell. Established by St Cedd, the patron saint of Essex around 662, built on the site of the abandonded Roman fort of Othona.

The name Essex originates in the Anglo-Saxon period of the Early Middle Ages and has its root in the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) name Ēastseaxe ("East Saxons"), the eastern kingdom of the Saxons who had come from the continent and settled in Britain. Excavations at Mucking have demonstrated the presence of Anglo-Saxon settlers in the early fifth century, however the way in which these settlers became ascendent in the territory of the Trinovantes is not known. Studies suggest a pattern of typically peaceful co-existence, with the structure of the Romano-British landscape being maintained, and with the Saxon settlers believed to have been in the minority.[36]

The first known king of the East Saxons was Sledd in 587, though there are less reliable sources giving an account of Aescwine (other versions call him Erkenwine) founding the kingdom in 527. The early kings of the East Saxons were pagan and uniquely amongst the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms traced their lineage back to Seaxnēat, god of the Saxons, rather than Woden. The kings of Essex are notable for their S-nomenclature, nearly all of them begin with the letter S.

The Kingdom of the East Saxons included not just the subsequent county of Essex, but also Middlesex (including the City of London), much of Hertfordshire and at times also the sub-Kingdom of Surrey. The Middlesex and Hertfordshire parts were known as the Province of the Middle Saxons since at least the early eighth century but it isn’t known if the province was previously an independent unit that came under East Saxon control. Charter evidence shows that the Kings of Essex appear to have had a greater control in the core area, east of the Lea and Stort, that would subsequently become the county of Essex. In the core area they granted charters freely, but further west they did so while also making reference to their Mercian overlords.

The early kings were pagan, together with much and perhaps by this time all of the population. Sledd’s son Sebert converted to Christianity around 604 and St Pauls Cathedral in London was established. On Seberts death in 616 his sons renounced Christianity and drove out Mellitus, the Bishop of London. The kingdom re-converted after St Cedd, a monk from Lindisfarne and now the patron saint of Essex, converted Sigeberht II the Good around 653.

In AD 824, Ecgberht, the King of the Wessex and grandfather of Alfred the Great, defeated the Mercians at the Battle of Ellandun in Wiltshire, fundamentally changing the balance of power in southern England. The small kingdoms of Essex, Sussex and of Kent, previously independent albeit under Mercian overlordship, were subsequently fully absorbed into Wessex.

The later Anglo-saxon period shows three major battles fought with the Norse recorded in Essex; the Battle of Benfleet in 894, the Battle of Maldon in 991 and the Battle of Assandun (probably at either Ashingdon or Ashdon) in 1016. The county of Essex was formed from the core area, east of the Lea,[37] of the former Kingdom of the East Saxons in the 9th or 10th centuries and divided into groupings called Hundreds. Before the Norman conquest the East Saxons were subsumed into the Kingdom of England.

After the Norman Conquest

Having conquered England, William the Conqueror initially based himself at Barking Abbey, an already ancient nunnery, for several months while a secure base, which eventually became the Tower of London could be established in the city. While at Barking William received the submission of some of England’s leading nobles. The invaders established a number of castles in the county, to help protect the new elites in a hostile country. There were castles at Colchester, Castle Dedingham, Rayleigh, Pleshey and elsewhere. Hadleigh Castle was developed much later, in the thirteenth century.

After the arrival of the Normans, the Forest of Essex was established as a Royal forest, however, it is important to note that at that time, the term[38] was a legal term. There was a weak correlation between the area covered by the Forest of Essex (the large majority of the county) and the much smaller area covered by woodland. An analysis of Domesday returns for Essex has shown that the Forest of Essex was mostly farmland, and that the county as a whole was 20% wooded in 1086.[39]

After that point population growth caused the proportion of woodland to fall steadily until the arrival of the Black Death, in 1348, killed between a third and a half of England’s population, leading to a long term stabilisation of the extent of woodland. Similarly, various pressures led to areas being removed from the legal Forest of Essex and it ceased to exist as a legal entity after 1327,[40] and after that time Forest Law applied to smaller areas: the forests of Writtle (near Chelmsford), long lost Kingswood (near Colchester),[41] Hatfield, and Waltham Forest.

Waltham Forest had covered parts of the Hundreds of Waltham, Becontree and Ongar. It also included the physical woodland areas subsequently legally afforested (designated as a legal forest) and known as Epping Forest and Hainault Forest).[42]


In 1588 Tilbury Fort was chosen as the focal point of the English defences against King Philip II’s Spanish Armada, and the large veteran army he had ordered to invade England. The English believed that the Spanish would land near the Fort,[43] so Queen Elizabeth’s small and relatively poorly trained forces gathered at Tilbury, where the Queen made her famous speech to the troops.

"I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field."

Civil War

Essex, London and the eastern counties backed Parliament in the English Civil War, but by 1648, this loyalty was stretched. In June 1648 a force of 500 Kentish Royalists landed near the Isle of Dogs, linked up with a small Royalist cavalry force from Essex, fought a battle with local parliamentarians at Bow Bridge, then crossed the River Lea into Essex.

The combined force, bolstered by extra forces, marched towards Royalist held Colchester, but a Parliamentarian force caught up with them just as they were about to enter the city’s medieval walls of Colchester, and a bitter battle was fought but the Royalists were able to retire to the security of the city walls. The Siege of Colchester followed, but after ten weeks starvation and news of Royalist defeats elsewhere led the Royalists to surrender.[44]

Essex History articles: 79