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Middlesex (England)

Last modified: 2020-11-07 by rob raeside
Keywords: middlesex | swords (white) | seaxes | crown |
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[Flag of Middlesex] image by Jason Saber, 6 July 2009

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Introduction: The Lost County of Middlesex

The following article appeared in My London News: West London on August 17, 2020. It was written by Lucy Skoulding as "The remarkable story of the lost county of Middlesex and what remains of it."
Here it is in a slightly edited version:

In administrative and political terms the county of Middlesex no longer exists. Yet it seems to be all around to Londoners. For example, there is Middlesex University and Middlesex County Cricket Club. Middlesex has a coat of arms that can still be found displayed around the city. It was once a county in England, although the second smallest. It was established by the Anglo-Saxons and officially existed right up until 1965. The Anglo-Saxon period of British history spans 450 AD until the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Ancient Middlesex was made up of a huge proportion of the London we know today when it was originally formed. Originally, it was known as the six 'hundreds', essentially six huge districts, which were called Edmonton, Elthorne, Gore, Hounslow/Isleworth, Ossulstone and Spelthorne. It essentially spanned all the way round from Teddington in today's South West London, through much of West and North London, right around to Millwall and Whitechapel. Its southern boundary was the River Thames, with the rivers Lea and Colne forming natural boundaries to its east and west. At one time the ancient Forest of Middlesex spanned a lot of the county. When it was broken up, many of its districts became part of Greater London, while a few others were sucked into neighbouring counties.

The City of London became a county in its own right in the thirteenth century, but many areas around it, like Westminster, Holborn and Kensington were still in Middlesex. Then the Local Government Act of 1894 paired the county down, dividing it into four main districts and including the following areas we know today.

It all began in around 1889 when about 20 per cent of the historic county of Middlesex and about a third of its population was swallowed by the new administrative county of London. It should have been a forewarning of what was to come, but the next few decades would see Middlesex governed by Middlesex County Council. The City of London was still very separate to Middlesex at this point. But as time went on, London began taking over more and more of ancient Middlesex. The interwar years saw suburban London expanding even further due to improvements in public transport and new industries forming. Then after the Second World War the population was in steady decline in the administrative counties of London and inner Middlesex, while it was growing in outer parts of Middlesex. It was not long later, in 1965, after the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London, that almost all of Middlesex became incorporated into Greater London, with the remaining areas absorbed by surrounding counties.

While Middlesex doesn't officially exist anymore, many people still say they live there or refer to it as a place. Plus, as mentioned, there are plenty of organisations and establishments that still use the Middlesex name.

This is one of the best summaries of what happened to Middlesex I've found.
Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020

The Flag of Middlesex

The Flag Registry describes the flag as "the traditional flag of Middlesex, the county that forms the central and north-west parts of Greater London. The seal is the symbol of the Saxons and the Saxon crown was added in 1909 to differentiate the arms and flag from those of Essex." The flag is a banner of the arms of the former Middlesex County Council, abolished in 1965.
Jason Saber, 6 July 2009

Middlesex Guildhall Flag

[Middlesex Guildhall Flag] image by Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020
Image based on this photo.

In past years on "Middlesex Day," this flag (which places the shield of the old Middlesex County Council centered on a white field), was displayed on the former Middlesex Guildhall (now the United Kingdom Supreme Court building).
Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020

Middlesex County Flag - 1953

[1953 reported Flag of Middlesex] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 22 October 2010
Image based on this illustration in the 1953 volume of "The Book Of Flags" by Campbell and Evans.

This flag with a cross of St. George superimposed a red shield containing three golden (=yellow) scimitars is identified as the Middlesex County Flag (reported 1953).
Source: Campbell and Evans (1953); p.48
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 22 October 2010

Middlesex County Council Flag - 1915

[Middlesex County Council Flag 1915] image by Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020
Image based on this illustration from "Flags Of The world" by W.J.Gordon (1915).

This flag is illustrated in Gordon's "Flags Of The world" as the Middlesex County Council Flag. It is of interest because it does not have the crown that was added to the shield in 1910 above the three "seaxes." (In old English seaxe is the word for "Saxon knife") It would take over 25 years for the crown to begin to appear on their flags for some undiscovered reason.
It should also be noted that in heraldry, the seaxe is a charge consisting of a curved sword with a notched blade, appearing, for example, as in the arms of our former Middlesex county.
Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020

Middlesex County Council Arms
County Shield

[Middlesex, England, Arms] image located by Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020

Official Blazon:

  • Gules three Seaxes fessewise in pale proper pommelled and hilted Or points to the sinister and cutting edge upwards in chief a Saxon Crown of the last.
  • Origin/meaning: The arms are based on the traditional arms of the Kingdom of the East and Middle Saxons, as used by Essex County Council.
    In the case of Middlesex, a Saxon crown was added at the time of the grant.
The arms were officially granted in 1910.
Source: Heraldry of the World: Middlesex.
Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020

Middlesex County Council Coat of Arms

[Middlesex County Council Arm] image by Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020.

The Middlesex County Council was the principal local government body in the county of Middlesex from 1889 to 1965. During that time they used this coat of arms. Under the London Government Act 1963 the the Middlesex County administrative responsibilities were transferred to the Greater London Council, and Middlesex ceased to be.
The blazon of the County Council arms are identical to those above on the general arms shield.
Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020

Middlesex County Council Logo

[Middlesex County Council logo] image located by Pete Loeser, 6 July 2009.

The logo of the Middlesex County Council normally contained the county arms and the words "Middlesex County Council" as illustrated here. It is not used as the historic county of Middlesex has been effectively consumed by the ceremonial county of Greater London.
Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020

Middlesex University - Logos and Flags

[flag of middlesex]     [flag of middlesex] images located by Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020.

Middlesex University London (MDX) is a public research university in Hendon, in north-west London. The name of the university is taken from its location within the historic county boundaries of Middlesex. The university's history can be traced to 1878 when its founding institute, St Katharine's College, was established in Tottenham as a teacher training college for women. Having merged with several other institutes, the university was consolidated in its current form in 1992. The newer logo makes it clear that the university is now in Greater London.
Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020

School Shield

[Flag of Middlesex] image located by Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020.

Middlesex County Cricket Club

[Flag of Middlesex] image by Pete Loeser, 6 July 2009
Image based on this photo.

Middlesex County Cricket Club is one of eighteen first-class county clubs in England and Wales. The club was founded in 1864 but a club has existed competing in cricket since the early 18th century. The club plays its home games at Lord's Cricket Ground in St John's Wood.
Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020

Middlesex Regiment

[Flag of the Middlesex Regiment] image by Pete Loeser, 6 July 2009.

The Middlesex Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army between 1881 and 1966. The regiment was named the Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment). They inherited their nickname, the "Die-hards", from the 57th Regiment of Foot (West Middlesex), which later became the 1st Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. The 57th gained its name during the Peninsular War at the Battle of Albuera in 1811. Their commander Colonel Inglis had his horse shot from under him and fell severely wounded. With his forces outnumbered by the French, he rallied his men with "Die hard, 57th. Die hard!" They fought holding their postion against the French. "Albuhera" became their principal battle honor and was placed on their Middlesex Regiment's colors.
This flag is not their colors, but a commercially made flag for those who wanted to shown their support for the regiment and its service.
Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020

Wembley Home Guard Battalion - 1940

[Wembley Home Guard Battalion 1940] image located by Pete Loeser, 6 July 2009

Found in the London Metropolitan Archives was this information: "The Home Guard was first raised in May, 1940, on a semi-civilian basis in close association with the Police force, and was originally known as the Local Defence Volunteers. It was organized in companies, grouped in zones, corresponding to the Police districts. In Middlesex there were four zones. In July, 1940, companies were organized in battalions, and after August, 1940; this semi-civilian force became known as the Home Guard. The following January, officers were given commissions and proper military status, and the force was brought under direct military control. In 1942, service in the Home Guard became compulsory. Early in 1943, zones were renamed Sectors. In the County of Middlesex there were 33 battalions, with a flotilla on the River Thames."
Their flag consists of a pair of crossed seaxes (notched swords) underneath a Saxon crown within a shield. The shield is on a background of red and black. The seaxes and the Saxon crown are the old emblems of the crest of Wembley and these in turn are drawn from the crest of Middlesex, which consists of 3 parallel seaxes under the Saxon crown.
Pete Loeser, 31 October 2020