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Essex is a county in the East of England. It borders Greater London to the south west, Hertfordshire by the River Stort to the west, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk by the River Stour to the north and Kent by the River Thames to the south.
Essex is a county in the East of England which originated as the ancient Kingdom of Essex and one of the seven kingdoms, or heptarchy, that went on to form the Kingdom of England.
The name Essex derives from the Kingdom of Essex or Kingdom of the East Seaxe which was founded around 500 AD, occupying territory to the north of the River Thames and east of the River Lee.
In 825 AD it became part of the Kingdom of Wessex and was later ceded under the Treaty of Wedmore to the Danelaw control of the Kingdom of East Anglia. In 991 AD the Battle of Maldon resulted in complete defeat for the Anglo-Saxons against the Vikings and led to the poem The Battle of Maldon.
The county was divided into the hundreds of:
Much of the development of the county was caused by the railway. By 1843 the Eastern Counties Railway had connected Bishopsgate station with Brentwood and Colchester and by 1884 the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway had connected Fenchurch Street railway station in the City of London to Grays, Tilbury, Southend-on-Sea and Shoeburyness. The railways were built primarily to transport goods but unintentially created the holiday resorts of Southend, Clacton and Frinton-on-Sea.
County councils were created in England in 1888. Essex County Council became based in Chelmsford. Its control did not cover the entire county. The suburbs of East Ham and West Ham were created as county boroughs independent of county council control.
Much of Essex is protected from development near to its boundary with Greater London because of the greenbelt laws created after the war. In 1949 the new towns of Harlow and Basildon were created. These developments were intended to address the cronic housing shortage in London but were not intended to become dormitory towns, rather it was hoped the towns would form an economy independent of the capital. Furthermore the railway station at Basildon, with a direct connection to the City, was not opened until 1974 after pressure from residents. The proximity of London and its economic magnetism has caused many places in Essex to become desirable places for workers in the City of London to live.
As London grew in the east places such as Barking and Romford were given greater autonomy from Essex and created as municipal boroughs. In 1965 the London Borough of Newham, London Borough of Waltham Forest, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, London Borough of Redbridge and the London Borough of Havering were created and transfered from Essex to Greater London.
In 1998 the boroughs of Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea were given unitary authority status and ceased to be under county council control. They remain part of the ceremonial county.
Population and Settlement
Because of its proximity to London and the economic magnetism which that city exerts, many of Essex's settlements function as dormitory towns or villages where London workers raise their families. Essex is known for being the origin of the political term Essex man, and of the Essex girl joke. Essex has recently overtaken Lancashire as England's most populous county.
The pattern of settlement in the county is diverse. The London Green Belt has effectively prevented of the further sprawl of the metropolis 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 but since much expanded. Part of the south east of the county, already containing the major population centres of Southend and Thurrock, is within the Thames Gateway and designated for further development. To the north of the Green Belt, with the exception of major towns such as 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. Colchester in the north east of the county is Britain's oldest recorded town, dating back to Roman times, and has a rich history. A book has been recently published called '350 miles: An Essex Journey' by photographer Jason Orton and writer Ken Worpole, detailing a journey by foot and bicycle along the full length of the distinctive Essex coastline (ExDRA 2005).
Transport, Commerce and Industry
The Lakeside Shopping Centre at Thurrock was one of England's first out-of-town shopping centres; it remains popular despite congestion on the nearby M25 motorway and direct competition from Bluewater Shopping Centre.
Essex also contains Stansted Airport and several smaller aerodromes that have evolved from bomber or fighter bases constructed during World War II.
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. Despite the road crossing to Dartford in Kent across the River Thames, a pedestrian ferry to Gravesend, Kent still operates from Tilbury during limited hours.
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, while Basildon is home to the Ford Motor Company and many related businesses. Chelmsford has been an important location for electronics companies since the industry was born, and is also the location for a number of insurance and financial services organisations, and is the home of the soft drinks producer Britvic. Other businesses in the county are dominated by light engineering and the service sector.
Places of Interest
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