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A profile of the great country of England!

Within these pages you will find information pertaining to many cities, towns, villages and settlements accross the great nation of England. You will find businesses, classified ads, Community Bulletin Boards, Calendars of Events, Schools, Churches, Non-Profit Organizations, Recreational ideas and activities, local government information, regional and local history, listings of residents, photos and much, much, more!

So choose your county and enjoy!

This Week's Featured County: Norfolk

Norfolk is a low-lying county in East Anglia in the east of southern England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and with Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast, including The Wash. The county town is Norwich, located at 52°37'59N, 1°17'38E. Norfolk is the fifth largest ceremonial county in England, with an area of 5,371 sq km (2,074 sq mi).

Of the 34 non-metropolitan English counties, Norfolk is the seventh most populous, with a population of 816,500. However, as a largely rural county it has a low population density, 152 people per square kilometre, making it 25th highest by population density. This is reflected in Norfolk's economy which is dominated by agriculture and tourism. One of England's National Parks, The Broads, lies partly within the county, and historical buildings, such as the centre of Norwich, also contribute to tourism.

England

England is the largest and most populous constituent country of the United Kingdom, occupying most of the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain. It shares land borders with fellow home nations Scotland, to the north, and Wales, to the west. Elsewhere, it is bordered by the sea.

England is named after the Angles, one of a number of Germanic tribes believed to have originated in Angeln in Northern Germany, who settled in England in the 5th and 6th centuries. It has not had a distinct political identity since 1707, when Great Britain was established as a unified political entity; however, it has a legal identity separate from those of Scotland and Northern Ireland, as part of the entity "England and Wales". England's largest city, London, is also the capital of the United Kingdom.

The name "England" is often used incorrectly to refer to the entire United Kingdom by those unfamiliar with the complicated statutory makeup of the nation. This can sometimes cause annoyance or offence amongst those Britons who do not come from England.

English Flag
(Flag of England)
England Coat of Arms
(England's Coat of Arms)
Royal Motto: Royal motto (French): Dieu et mon droit
(Translated: "God and my right")
Anthem: None officially (See below)

England Location
England's Location

England Location in United Kingdom
England's Location in the United Kingdom

Capital London
Largest city London
Official languages English
Area
Total
Ranked 1st UK
130,395 km²
Population
Mid 2004.
Density

50.1 million
Ranked 1st UK 384/km²
Currency Pound sterling (£) (GBP)
Time zone
Summer
UTC / (GMT)
UTC +1 (BST)
Ethnicity (Census 2001) 90.92% White
4.57% South Asian
2.3% Black
1.31% Mixed
0.89% Chinese
Religion Church of England: 31,500,000
Roman Catholic: 5,000,000
Muslim: 1,600,000
Methodist: 1,400,000
Hindu: 559,000
Sikh: 336,000
Jewish: 267,000
Eastern Orthodox: 250,000
Baptists: 140,000
Mormons: 100,000-200,000
Rastafari: 100,000
Unification 927 by
Athelstan
National flower rose (red, white)
Patron saint St George

History

England has been inhabited for at least 500,000 years, although the repeated Ice Ages made much of Britain uninhabitable for extended periods until as recently as 20,000 years ago. Stone Age hunter-gatherers eventually gave way to farmers and permanent settlements, with a spectacular and sophisticated megalithic civilisation arising in western England some 4,000 years ago. It was replaced around 1,500 years later by Celtic tribes migrating from Western and continental Europe, mainly from France. These tribes were known collectively as "Britons", a name bestowed by Phoenician traders — an indication of how, even at this early date, the island was part of a Europe-wide trading network.

The Britons were significant players in continental politics and supported their allies in Gaul militarily during the Gallic Wars with the Roman Republic. This prompted the Romans to invade and subdue the island, first with Julius Caesar's raid in 55 BC, and then the Emperor Claudius' conquest in the following century. The whole southern part of the island — roughly corresponding to modern day England and Wales — became a prosperous part of the Roman Empire. It was finally abandoned early in the 5th century when a weakening Empire pulled back its legions to defend borders on the Continent.

Unaided by the Roman army, Roman Britannia could not long resist the Germanic tribes who arrived in the 5th and 6th centuries, enveloping the majority of modern day England in a new culture and language and pushing Romano-British rule back into modern-day Wales and western extremities of England, notably Cornwall and Cumbria. Others emigrated across the channel to modern-day Brittany, thus giving it its name and language (Breton). But many of the Romano-British remained in and were assimilated into the newly "English" areas.

The invaders fell into three main groups: the Jutes, the Saxons, and the Angles. As they became more civilised, recognisable states formed and began to merge with one another. (The most well-known state of affairs being the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy.) From time to time throughout this period, one Anglo-Saxon king, recognised as the "Bretwalda" by other rulers, had effective control of all or most of the English; so it is impossible to identify the precise moment when the Kingdom of England was unified. In some sense, real unity came as a response to the Danish Viking incursions which occupied the eastern half of "England" in the 8th century. Egbert, King of Wessex (d. 839) is often regarded as the first king of all the English, although the title "King of England" was first adopted, two generations later, by Alfred the Great (ruled 871–899).

The principal legacy left behind in those territories from which the language of the Britons were displaced is that of toponyms. Many of the place-names in England and to a lesser extent Scotland are derived from celtic British names, including London, Dumbarton, York, Dorchester, Dover and Colchester. Several place-name elements are thought to be wholly or partly Brythonic in origin, particularly bre-, bal-, and -dun for hills, carr for a high rocky place, coomb for a small deep valley.

Until recently it has been believed that those areas settled by the Anglo-Saxons were uninhabited at the time or the Britons had fled before them. However, genetic studies show that the British were not pushed out to the Celtic fringes – many tribes remained in what was to become England. Capelli's findings strengthen the research of Steven Bassett of Birmingham University; his work during the 1990s suggests that much of the West Midlands was only very lightly colonised with Anglian and Saxon settlements.

Some school histories of England begin with the Norman Conquest in 1066, and the numbering system used for English monarchs treats that event as a blank slate from which to count. (For example, the Edward I who reigned in the 13th century was not the first king of England of that name, only the first since the conquest). But although he unquestionably engineered a pivotal moment in the country's history, William the Conqueror did not "found" or "unify" the country; a well-established English kingdom had already existed for several centuries.

The Norman conquest of England, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry
The Norman conquest of England, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry

Rather, William took over a pre-existing England and gave it an Anglo-Norman administration and nobility who, retaining proto-French as their language for the next three hundred years, ruled as custodians over English commoners. Although the language and racial distinctions faded rapidly during the middle ages, the class system born in the Norman/Saxon divide persisted longer — arguably with traces lasting to the modern day.

While Old English continued to be spoken by common folk, Norman feudal lords significantly influenced the language with French words and customs being adopted over the succeeding centuries evolving to a Romance-Germanic hybrid of Middle English widely spoken in Chaucer's time.

England came repeatedly into conflict with Wales and Scotland, at the time an independent principality and an independent kingdom respectively, as its rulers sought to expand Norman power across the entire island of Britain. The conquest of Wales was achieved in the 13th century, when it was annexed to England and gradually came to be a part of that kingdom for most legal purposes, although in the modern era it is more usually thought of as a separate nation (fielding, for example, its own athletic teams). Norman power in Scotland waxed and waned over the years, with the Scots managing to maintain a varying degree of independence despite repeated wars with the English. Although it was on the whole only a moderately successful power in military terms, England became one of the wealthiest states in medieval Europe, due chiefly to its dominance in the lucrative wool market.

The failure of English territorial ambitions in continental Europe prompted the kingdom's rulers to look further afield, creating the foundations of the mercantile and colonial network that was to become the British Empire. The turmoil of the Reformation embroiled England in religious wars with Europe's Catholic powers, notably Spain, but the kingdom preserved its independence as much through luck as through the skill of charismatic rulers such as Elizabeth I. Elizabeth's successor, James I was already king of Scotland (as James VI); and this personal union of the two crowns into the crown of Great Brittaine was followed a century later by the Act of Union 1707, which formally unified England, Scotland and Wales into the Kingdom of Great Britain. This later became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801 to 1927) and then the modern state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1927 to present)

Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,—
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.


William Shakespeare
Richard II (Act 2, Scene 1)

The English are great lovers of themselves, and of everything belonging to them; they think that there are no other men than themselves, and no other world but England; and whenever they see a handsome foreigner, they say that 'he looks like an Englishman', and that 'it is a great pity that he should not be an Englishmen'.

 


Venetian ambassador to England
Early 16th century
Charlotte Augusta Sneyd
Italian Relations of England (p. 20)

Politics

Since the promulgation of the 1284 Statute of Rhuddlan and the Acts of Union 1536-1543, Wales has shared a legal identity with England as the joint entity of England and Wales. The Act of Union with the Kingdom of Scotland in 1707 created the Kingdom of Great Britain, subsuming England, Wales and Scotland into a single political entity. Scotland, along with Northern Ireland, retains separate legal systems and identities. The duchy of Cornwall also retains some unique rights.

All of Great Britain has been ruled by the government of the United Kingdom since that date, although in 1999 the first elections to the newly created Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales left England as the only part of the Union with no devolved assembly or parliament. As all legislation for England is passed by Parliament at Westminster there are some complaints about the ability of non-English Members of Parliament to influence purely English affairs. This apparent anomaly has been highlighted by both English and non-English politicians, often those opposed to devolution, and has become popularly known as the West Lothian question.

Administratively, England is something of an anomaly within the UK. Unlike the other three nations, it has no local parliament or government and its administrative affairs are dealt with by a combination of the UK government, the UK parliament and a number of England-specific quangos, such as English Heritage. There are calls from some for a devolved English Parliament and from others for the dissolution of the UK and an independent England.

The current Labour government favoured the establishment of regional administration, claiming that England was too large to be governed as a sub-state entity. A referendum on this issue in North East England on 4 November 2004 decisively rejected the proposal.

Some criticised the English regional proposals for not decentralising enough, saying that they amounted not to devolution, but to little more than local government reorganisation, with no real power being removed from central government. The English regions would not even have had the limited powers of the Welsh Assembly, much less the tax-varying and legislative powers of the Scottish Parliament. Rather, power was simply re-allocated within the region, with little new resource allocation and no real prospects of Assemblies being able to change the pattern of regional aid. Responsibility for regional transport was added to the proposals late in the process. This was perhaps crucial in the North East, where resentment at the Barnett Formula, which delivers greater regional aid to adjacent Scotland, was a significant impetus for the North East devolution campaign. There has also been a campaign for a Cornish assembly along Welsh lines by groups such as Mebyon Kernow, which recently collected 50,000 signatures in support.

Some eurosceptics believe that the establishment of English regions as administrative entities is designed to undermine the concept of English nationhood and more easily fit England into a European federal model.

Conventionally the national capital of England is London, although technically it would be more exact to call London the capital of "England and Wales" given England's lack of a distinctive political identity separate from the Principality. Winchester served as the country's first national capital until some time in the late 11th century after the Norman Conquest. The City of London became England's commercial capital, while the City of Westminster (where the royal court was located) became the political capital. These roles have, broadly speaking, been maintained to the present day.

Subdivisions

Historically, the highest level of local government in England was the county. These divisions had emerged from a range of units of old, pre-unification England, whether they were Kingdoms, such as Essex and Sussex; Duchies, such as Yorkshire, Cornwall and Lancashire or simply tracts of land given to some noble, as is the case with Berkshire. Until 1867, they were subdivided into smaller divisions called hundreds.

These counties all still exist in, or near to, their original form as the traditional counties. In many places, however, they have been heavily modified or abolished outright as administrative counties. This came about due to a number of factors.

The fact that the counties were so small meant, and still means, that there was no regional government able to coordinate an overarching plan for the area. This was especially true in the metropolitan areas surrounding the cities, as the county lines were usually drawn up before the industrial revolution and the mass urbanisation of England.

The solution was the creation of large metropolitan counties centred on cities. These were later broken up, with several other counties, into unitary authorities, unifying the county and district/borough levels of government.

London is a special case, and is the one region which currently has a representative authority as well as a directly elected mayor. The 32 London boroughs and the Corporation of London remain the local form of government in the city.

Other than Greater London, the official regions are:

  • North East England
  • North West England
  • Yorkshire and the Humber
  • West Midlands
  • East Midlands
  • East of England
  • South West England
  • South East England

Outside London the regions have very little power and are not accountable to elected representatives; regional authority is placed in the hands of unelected assemblies. If, as now seems unlikely, regions opt to replace these bodies with elected assemblies, local government in England will remain as variable and, some might say, as confusing as ever.

Geography

England comprises the central and southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain, plus offshore islands of which the largest is the Isle of Wight. It is bordered to the north by Scotland and to the west by Wales. It is closer to continental Europe than any other part of Britain, divided from France only by a 38 km (24 statute mile or 21 nautical mile) sea gap.

Most of England consists of rolling hills, but it is more mountainous in the north with a chain of low mountains, the Pennines, dividing east and west. The dividing line between terrain types is usually indicated by the Tees-Exe line. There is also an area of flat, low-lying marshland in the east, much of which has been drained for agricultural use.

The list of England's largest cities is much debated because in British English the normal meaning of city is "a continuously built-up urban area"; these are hard to define and various other definitions are preferred by some people to boost the ranking of their own city. London is by far the largest English city. Manchester and Birmingham vie for second place. A number of other cities, mainly in the north of England, are of substantial size and influence. These include: Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, Bristol and Sheffield Using the standard U.S. city limits definition of a city the top six are: Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Liverpool and Manchester. Note that London is not on this list (Greater London is a region and the City of London is tiny), and that one of the two candidates for the status of England's "second city", Manchester, is down in sixth. In the UK, this method of ranking cities is generally used only by people whose own city is promoted by it.

The Channel Tunnel, near Folkestone, links England to the European mainland. The English/French border is halfway along the tunnel.

The highest temperature ever recorded in England is 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) on August 10, 2003 in Kent. The lowest temperature ever recorded in England is -26.1 °C (-15 °F) on January 10, 1982 in Shropshire.

Major rivers

  • Thames
  • Severn
  • Trent
  • Humber
  • Yorkshire Ouse
  • Tyne
  • Mersey
  • Dee
  • Avon

Major Conurbations

The largest cities in England are much debated but according to the urban area populations (continuous built up areas) these would be the 15 largest conurbations. (Population figures taken from 2001 census)

  • Greater London (8,278,251)
  • West Midlands (2,284,093)
  • Greater Manchester (2,244,931)
  • Leeds/Bradford (1,499,465)
  • Tyneside (879,996)
  • Liverpool (816,216)
  • Nottingham (666,358)
  • Sheffield (640,720)
  • Bristol (551,066)
  • Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton (461,181)
  • Portsmouth (442,252)
  • Leicester (441,213)
  • Bournemouth/Poole (383,713)
  • Reading (369,804)
  • Teeside (365,323)

Economy

The Economy of England is the largest of the four economies of the United Kingdom.

England is one of the world’s most highly industrialized countries. Its products include a variety of goods, ranging from sewing needles to earth- moving equipment. It is a leading shipbuilding country and an important producer of textiles and chemical products. Automobiles, locomotives, and aircraft are among England’s other important industrial products.

Since the 1980s the financial services sector has played an increasingly greater role in the English economy and the City of London is amongst the world's largest financial centres, on a par with New York City and Tokyo. Banks, insurance companies, commodity and futures exchanges are heavily concentrated in the City.

The service sector of the economy as a whole is now the largest sector in England, with manufacturing and primary industries in decline. The only major secondary industry that is growing is the construction industry, fueled by economic growth provided mainly by the growing services, administrative and financial sector.

The British Pound Sterling is the official currency of England and the central bank of the United Kingdom, the Bank of England, is located in London.

Economic History

In medieval times (c. 11th Century-15th Century) the wool trade was the major industry of England and the country exported wool to Europe. Many market towns and ports grew up on the industry. Poor infrastructure hampered the development of large scale industry. This changed when the canals and railways began to be built, in the late 18th Century and early 19th Century.

England became the world's first industrialised nation, with the industrial revolution taking place in the late 18th Century. This was also the age of British overseas expansion, where England relied upon colonies (such as America, Canada, or Australia) to bring in resources such as cotton and tobacco. English factories then processed the goods and sold them on in both the quickly growing domestic market or abroad. Cities grew and large industrial centres were established, especially in the Midlands and North England.

Heavy industries, such as coal mining, steel production and ship building, declined in England during the second half of the 20th Century and were replaced by service industries and hi-tech industries, such as the computer and pharmacutical industries.

Today England is one of Europe's wealthiest nations and is the wealthiest of the four nations that make up the UK (GDP per capita).

Economic Sectors

Agriculture and fishing

Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanised, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with only 1% of the labour force. It contributes around 2% of GDP. Around two thirds of production is devoted to livestock, one third to arable crops. Agriculture is heavily subsidised by the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy and it is not known how large a sector it would be if free market rules applied. The GDP from the farming sector is argued by some to be a small return on the subsidies given.

The main crops that are grown are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, sugar beets, fruits and vegetables. The livestock that is raised is cattle and sheep. In the drier east, farmers raise wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and sugar beets. Apples are grown in the west. Cornwall and the nearby Isles of Scilly, that have the mildest climate and longest growing season in England, raise winter vegetables, fruits, and flowers for the London Market.

England is one of the world’s leading fishing nations. Its fleets bring home fish of every kind, ranging from sole to herring. Kingston upon Hull, Grimsby, Fleetwood, Great Yarmouth, and Lowestoft are among the coastal towns that have large fishing industries.

Investing and banking

England's capital is London. The City of London is London's major financial district, and one of the world's leading financial centres. The city is where the London Stock Exchange, as well as many other exchanges, are based.

Service industries, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, account by far for the largest proportion of GDP and employ around 70% of the working population.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing continues to decline in importance. In the 1960s and 70s manufacturing was a significant part of England's economic output. However a lot of the heavy manufacturing industry was government run and had failed to respond to world markets. State industries were sold off and over the 20th century many closed as they were unable to compete. For example in 2005 the country's last volume car maker, the MG Rover Group, went into administration after failing to come to agreement with the SIAC group of China to form a joint venture that might have saved the company. England is left with a very small domestic manufacturing sector, though British companies world wide continued to have a role in the sector through foreign investment. Closure of English factories and movement of manufacturing to Eastern Europe and the "Far East" in search of lower costs (especially through lower wages and less strict employment laws) continues to benefit share-holders but not the UK economy as a whole.

Tourism

Tourism is the 6th largest industry in the UK, contributing 76 billion pounds to the economy. It employs 1,800,000 full-time equivalent people — 6.1% of the working population (2002 figures). The largest centre for tourism is London, which attracts millions of international tourists every year.

Currency

The currency of England is the Pound Sterling, or British pound. The central bank of the United Kingdom, where interest rates are set and monetry policy is carried out, is the Bank of England in London.

There is considerable debate as to whether the UK should join the Euro currency, which would replace the Pound. The relatively good economic performance has complicated the Blair government's efforts to make a case for Britain to leave the Pound Sterling and join the Euro. The British Prime Minister has pledged to hold a public referendum if membership meets Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown's "five economic tests". The tests are:

  1. Are business cycles and economic structures compatible with European interest rates on a permanent basis?
  2. If problems emerge, is there sufficient flexibility to deal with them?
  3. What impact would entry into the Euro have on the UK's financial services industry?
  4. Would joining the Euro create better conditions for firms making long-term decisions to invest in Britain?
  5. Would joining the Euro promote higer growth, stability and a lasting increase in jobs?

When assessing the tests, Gordon Brown concluded that while the decision was close, the United Kingdom should not yet join the Euro. In particular, he cited fluctuations in house prices as a barrier to immediate entry. The tests will be reassessed in the future. Public opinion polls show that a majority of Britons are opposed to joining the single currency at this time. The same polls point towards stronger opposition to the Euro in England than in the other UK nations.

Regional Variation

The strength of the English economy varies from region to region. GDP, and GDP per capita is highest in London. The following table shows the GDP (2002) per capita of England as a whole and each of the nine regions.

Rank Place
GDP per capita
in Euros
  England
24 503
1 London
40 068
2 South East
27 104
3 East of England
23 325
4 South West
23 052
5 West Midlands
22 123
6 East Midlands
21 892
7 North West
21 878
8 Yorkshire and the Humber
21 832
9 North East
19 249

Two of the 10 economically strongest areas in the European Union are in England. Inner London is number 1 with a €66 761 GDP per capita (315% above EU average); Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire are number 7 with a €34 251 GDP per capita (162% above EU average).

Although being in South West England, which is the 4th strongest region in England, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (combined into a NUTS:3 region for statistical purposes) is the weakest area in England, with a GDP per capita of €15 366 per capita, or 73% of the EU average of €21 170.

Demographics

England is both the most populous and the most ethnically diverse nation in the United Kingdom with around 49 million inhabitants, of which roughly a tenth are from non-White ethnic groups. It is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, second only to the Netherlands.

This population is made up of, and descended from, immigrants who have arrived over millennia. The principal waves of migration have been in c. 600 BC (Celts), the Roman period (garrison soldiers from throughout the Empire), 350–550 (Angles, Saxons, Jutes), 800–900 (Vikings, Danes), 1066 (Normans), 1650–1750 (European refugees and Huguenots), 1880–1940 (Jews), 1950— (Caribbeans, Africans, South Asians), 1985— (citizens of European Community member states, East Europeans, Iranians, Kurds, refugees).

The general prosperity of England as the largest partner of the UK, has also made it a destination for economic migrants particularly from Ireland and Scotland. This segment of English homogeneous society continues to create a diverse and dynamic language that is widely used internationally. The other image of foreign ethnic components in England is still mostly seen as a legacy of the British Empire; especially the Commonwealth of Nations.

English Identity

The simplest view is that an English person is someone who is from England and holds British nationality, regardless of his or her racial origin. However, it is quite commonplace to hear inhabitants of England refer to themselves as "British" rather than "English"; centuries of English dominance within the United Kingdom has created a situation where to be English is, as a linguist would put it, an "unmarked" state, (i.e. a British person, institution, custom, city, etc. is assumed English unless specified otherwise). The English frequently include their neighbours in the general term "British" while the Scots and Welsh, proud of their separate identities, tend to be more forward about referring to themselves by one of those more specific terms. Although currently a part of England, a notable percentage of those living in Cornwall feel similarly, considering themselves Cornish first. One significant exception is in Northern Ireland, where the Unionist community tend to identify very strongly as "British" (Republicans living in the province are more likely to consider themselves "Irish"), and there is not a "Northern Ireland" or "Northern Irish" identity to the same extent as there is (e.g.) a Scottish one.

A person, therefore, using the term "English" to describe him or herself (regardless of personal history) may be going out of his or her way to do so; hence he or she may also be seen (rightly or wrongly, and not necessarily pejoratively) as nationalistic. While Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Cornish patriotism are widely exhibited, specifically English patriotism has often been viewed with suspicion, and most English people feel more comfortable identifying themselves with Britain as a whole. However, this may be to avoid being seen as bullies by their neighbours. The extent to which specifically English patriotism is linked to a right-wing xenophobic agenda has also generated discomfort. The appropriation of English symbols by racist far-right organisations such as the National Front made many people uncomfortable with expressions of Englishness. In recent years, English identity has recently been a topic of debate in the national press, with many English people trying to "reclaim" the term and the flag from the far-right.

The success of the England football team in the early 21st Century has seen a revival of the use of the "St George's Cross" and it now seems that efforts to reclaim the flag from the far right are being successful. While it has not yet replaced the "Union Flag" its use is far, far greater than at the end of the 20th Century.

Many English people who have spent a lot of time overseas fall into the habit of referring to themselves as "English". It is the most recognisable designation by speakers of many languages, especially where their own language uses a similar word. Even in other English-speaking countries, people are often perplexed by concepts of "British" or the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

All these distinctions are only possible because there is no "English citizenship" or legal definition of Englishness. Moreover, the hazy understanding many people have of the distinction between "England" and "Britain" compounds the confusion. If in doubt, refer to an "English" person as "British", since this will be correct even if not as precise.

Languages

As its name suggests, the English language, today spoken by hundreds of millions of people around the world, originated as the language of England, where it remains the principal tongue today (although not officially designated as such). An Indo-European language in the Germanic family, it is closely related to Scots, Frisian and Low Saxon. As the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms merged into England, "Old English" emerged; some of its literature and poetry has survived.

Used by aristocracy and commoners alike before the Norman Conquest (1066), English was displaced in cultured contexts under the new regime by the Norman French language of the new Anglo-French aristocracy. Its use was confined primarily to the lower social classes while official business was conducted in a mixture of Latin and French. Over the following centuries, however, English gradually came back into fashion among all classes and for all official business except certain traditional ceremonies. (Some survive to this day.) But Middle English, as it had by now become, showed many signs of French influence, both in vocabulary and spelling. During the Renaissance, many words were coined from Latin and Greek origins; and more recent years, Modern English has extended this custom, being always remarkable for its far-flung willingness to incorporate foreign-influenced words.

The law does not recognise any language as being official, but English is the only language used in England for general official business. The other national languages of the UK (Welsh, Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic) are confined to their respective nations, and only Welsh is treated by law as an equal to English (and then only for organisations which do business in Wales).

The only non-Anglic native spoken language in England is the Cornish language, a Celtic language spoken in Cornwall, which became extinct in the 19th century but has been revived and is spoken in various degrees of fluency by around 3,500 people. This has no official status (unlike Welsh) and is not required for official use, but is nonetheless supported by national and local government under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Cornwall County Council has produced a draft strategy to develop these plans. There is, however, no programme as yet for public bodies to actively promote the language. Scots is spoken by some adjacent the Anglo-Scottish Border.

Most deaf people within England speak British sign language (BSL), a sign language native to Britain. The British Deaf Association estimates that 70,000 people throughout the UK speak BSL as their first or preferred language, but does not give statistics specific to England. Like Cornish, BSL has no official status, but has been granted a degree of recognition by the government. The BBC broadcasts several of its programmes with BSL interpreters.

Different languages from around the world, especially from the former British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations, have been brought to England by immigrants. Many of these are widely spoken within ethnic minority communities, including Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Chinese and Vietnamese. These are often used by official bodies to communicate with the relevant sections of the community, particularly in big cities, but this occurs on an "as needed" basis rather than as the result of specific legislative ordinances.

Other languages have also traditionally been spoken by minority populations in England, including Romany.

Despite the relatively small size of the nation, there are a large number of distinct English regional accents. Those with particularly strong accents may not be easily understood elsewhere in the country.

Beowulf is one of the oldest surviving epic poems in what is identifiable as a form of the English language.
Beowulf is one of the oldest surviving epic poems in what is identifiable as a form of the English language.

Nomenclature

The country is named after the Angles, one of several Germanic tribes who settled the country in the 5th and 6th centuries.

There are two distinct linguistic patterns for the name of the country. The majority of European languages use names akin to "England":

  • "England" (Danish, German, Swedish, Norwegian)
  • "Engeland" (Dutch)
  • "Inglismaa" (Estonian)
  • "Angleterre" (French)
  • "Inghilterra" (Italian)
  • "Inglaterra" (Spanish, Portuguese, Galician)
  • "Anglia" (Hungarian, Polish, Romanian)
  • "Anglija" (Russian, Slovene, Lithuanian)
  • "Engleska" (Croatian, Serbian)
  • "Englanti" (Finnish)

The Celtic names are quite different, deriving from the languages of tribes existing throughout the British Isles, often for thousands of years before even the Romans arrived:

  • "Bro-Saoz" (Breton)
  • "Pow Sows" (Cornish)
  • "Sasana" (Irish)
  • "Sasainn" (Scottish Gaelic)
  • "Lloegr" (Welsh), but "Saeson" for the inhabitants.
  • "Sostyn" (Manx Gaelic)

Yet more linguistic diversity was contributed by the Saxons, another Germanic tribe which arrived at about the same as the Angles.

"England" is sometimes mistakenly used to refer to the entire United Kingdom, the island of Great Britain, or the British Isles. This may offend people from other parts of the UK. Frequently the English use the less-specific "Britain" or "the UK", even when "England" is technically correct.

Alternative names include:

  • the slang "Blighty", from the Hindustani "bila yati" meaning "foreign"
  • "Albion", an ancient name popularised by Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy in the 1st century. Supposedly referring to the white (Latin alba) cliffs of Dover, this term has also been interpreted as a relative of Alba, today the Scots Gaelic name for Scotland. Whatever its origins, "Albion" originally referred to the whole island of Great Britain and is still sometimes seen that way today — but is more often used for England.
  • More poetically, England has been called "this sceptred isle...this other Eden" and "this green and pleasant land", quotations respectively from the poetry of William Shakespeare (in Richard II) and William Blake (And did those feet in ancient time).

The inhabitants of England are the English. The slang terms sometimes used for them include "Sassenachs" (from the Scots Gaelic), "Limeys" (in reference to the citrus fruits carried aboard English sailing vessels to prevent scurvy) and "Pom/Pommy" (used in Australian English and New Zealand English), but these may be perceived as offensive.

Symbols and Insignia

The two traditional symbols of England are the St. George's cross (the English flag) and the Three Lions coat of arms (see above), both derived from the great Norman powers that formed the monarchy – the Cross of Aquitaine and the Lions of Anjou. The three lions were first definitely used by Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) in the late 12th century (although it is also possible that Henry I may have bestowed it on his son Henry before then). Historian Simon Schama has argued that the Three Lions are the true symbol of England because the English throne descended down the Angevin line.

A red cross acted as a symbol for many Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. It became associated with St George and England, along with other countries and cities (such as Georgia, Milan and the Republic of Genoa), which claimed him as their patron saint and used his cross as a banner. It remained in national use until 1707, when the Union Flag (which English and Scottish ships had used at sea since 1606) was adopted for all purposes to unite the whole of Great Britain under a common flag. The flag of England no longer has much of an official role, but it is widely flown by Church of England properties and at sporting events. (Paradoxically, the latter is a fairly recent development; until the late 20th century, it was commonplace for fans of English teams to wave the Union Flag, rather than the St George's Cross).

The rose is widely recognised as the national flower of England and is used in a variety of contexts. Predominantly, this is a red rose (which also symbolises Lancashire), such as the badge of the English Rugby Union team. However, a white rose (which also symbolises Yorkshire) or a "tudor rose" (symbolising the end of the War of the Roses) may also be used on different occasions.

The Three Lions badge performs a similar role for the English national football team and English national cricket team.

The logo of the England national football team combines the Three Lions with the Tudor rose.
The logo of the England national football team combines the Three Lions with the Tudor rose.

National Anthems

Although England does not have an official anthem of its own, the following are widely regarded as English national hymns:

  • "Jerusalem:" Words by William Blake, Music by Hubert Parry
  • "I Vow to Thee, My Country": Words by Cecil Spring-Rice, Music by Gustav Holst
  • "Land of Hope and Glory": Words by A C Benson, Music by Edward Elgar (although this refers to all of Great Britain, not only England)
  • "Nimrod": Music by Edward Elgar

"God Save The Queen" (the national anthem for the UK as a whole) is usually played for English sporting events (e.g. football matches), although "Land of Hope and Glory" has also been used as the English anthem for the Commonwealth Games. "Rule Britannia" despite being a song about Britain as a whole was often used for the English national football team when they play against another of the home nations but more recently "God Save The Queen" has been used by both the rugby and football teams. Many believe that English teams should use their own anthems, most popular of which is the use of "Jerusalem".

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