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Middlesex

Middlesex was one of the smallest, oldest, and strangest of counties. The southern border was the Thames, from Staines to the Isle of Dogs. It was divided from Buckinghamshire in the west by the river Colne and from Essex in the east by the river Lea. Much of the western part was drained by the river Crane and its tributaries from Pinner to Isleworth and by the river Brent, starting near Barnet. The northern boundary with Hertfordshire ran roughly along the ridge of the watersheds of the Colne and Brent, adjusted in the Middle Ages to take account of manorial ownership.

In Roman times it formed part of the territory of the Trinovantes and their competitors the Cassivellauni. Very soon after the Roman arrival, Londinium developed as by far the largest town and the seat of government and this dictated the subsequent history of the area. Watling Street, the great road to the north-west, bisected the county from Tyburn to Elstree: Ermine Street, the road to York, ran just inside the eastern border, from Tottenham to Cheshunt. Since, until the opening of the M25, all the great routes radiated to and from London, crossing the county was not easy, and Palmer's Green in the east had little contact with Staines in the west, nor Enfield with Uxbridge.

That part of the territory which survived as Middlesex was probably too small to sustain an independent kingdom, unlike Sussex, Essex, and Wessex. But the existence of Surrey (the south land) suggests a brief Middle Saxon kingdom straddling the Thames. The importance of London meant that there was strong competition from neighbouring kingdoms. By the 6th cent. the area seems to have formed a province of Essex, and by the 8th it had been taken over by Mercia. In the later 9th cent., after the struggle between Alfred and the Danes, the region became part of Wessex. By then it was a recognized shire.

The development of Middlesex as a county was stunted by the influence of London in the south-east. It fell naturally into the diocese of London, founded in 604. In the 12th cent. the city of London was given the right to appoint the sheriff of Middlesex and the assizes were held at the Old Bailey. Though the original area was thinly populated, with forests in Enfield Chase, marshes in the east, and poor thin soil in the west, in the course of time it became one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The influence of London was so overwhelming that few Middlesex towns grew to any size. Apart from Westminster, none had their own parliamentary representation. Economically too, the shire was totally dependent upon London, and from an early period became a scene of market gardens and gentlemen's parks, of which Hampton Court (royal), Sion House (Northumberland), Osterley (Child), and Cannons (Chandos) were the most celebrated.

By 1700, London had half a million inhabitants, by 1800 nearly a million. At that time, setting aside towns like Edmonton, Chelsea, and Hammersmith, which were already London suburbs, the largest towns in the shire were Enfield with 6,000 people and Isleworth with 4,000, Uxbridge 2,100, Hendon 1,900, Staines 1,700, and Brentford 1,400. Of the six hundreds into which the county was divided, Spelthorne, Elthorne, Gore, Edmonton, and Isleworth had a total of 55,000 inhabitants, while the sixth, Ossulston, where the growth of London had taken place, had well over 750,000.

The political absorption of the county by London gathered pace in the 19th cent. The growth of the railway network brought another leap forward by the capital. In 1888 a considerable portion of south-east Middlesex, including Highbury, Hampstead, and Hammersmith, was sliced off to form part of the new county of London. In 1965, in another reorganization, the county disappeared altogether, most going to Greater London, but Staines and Sunbury moving to Surrey and Potters Bar to Hertfordshire.

J. A. Cannon

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Middlesex

Middlesex Former county of se England, adjoining London. The area was settled by the Saxons in the 5th century. Throughout history it was overshadowed by London. In 1888, it became an administrative county, losing much of its area to London. In 1965, most of the county was absorbed into Greater London, the remainder going to Surrey and Hertfordshire.

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Middlesex (former county, England)

Middlesex, former county adjoining London, SE England. In 1965 the county was principally reorganized into the Greater London boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, and Richmond upon Thames.

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Middlesex (city, United States)

Middlesex, borough (1990 pop. 13,055), Middlesex co., N central N.J.; inc. 1913. The borough has diversified manufacturing industries that include the production of adhesives, plastics, and chemicals.

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Middlesex

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