Home counties

Home Counties
Country United Kingdom
Constituent country England
RegionEast of England
South East England
CountiesUsually includes:

Often includes:

Sometimes added:

Time zoneUTC0 (Greenwich Mean Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (British Summer Time)
The former geographic counties (1889–1965) surrounding London: 1. Buckinghamshire 2. Hertfordshire 3. Essex 4. Berkshire 5. Middlesex (now part of Greater London) 6. Surrey 7. Kent 8. Sussex. (County of London shown in yellow)

The home counties are the counties of England that surround London. The counties are not precisely defined but Buckinghamshire and Surrey are usually included in definitions[1] and Berkshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent are also often included.[1][2] Other counties further from London — such as Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, East Sussex and West Sussex — are not normally regarded as home counties,[1][2] although on occasion may be thought of as such due to their proximity to London and their connection to the London regional economy.

Since the origin of the term "home counties" is uncertain and no exact definition exists, their composition is a matter of debate.


The origin of the term "home counties" is uncertain. Marcus Crouch, writing in 1975, thought that it derived from the Home Counties Circuit of courts that since at least the 18th century had surrounded London. Looking further back, he suggested that it included the counties in which, since Tudor times, it has been possible for civil servants and politicians to have their country homes and still be able to travel into London without excessive delay when they were needed.[3] A distant Anglo-Saxon origin has also been speculated.


The Home Counties Magazine, 1899, a magazine "of the "topography of London, Middlesex, Essex, Herts, Bucks, Berks, Surrey, and Kent"

The earliest use of the term cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1695. Charles Davenant, in An essay upon ways and means of supplying the war, wrote, "The Eleven Home Counties, which are thought in Land Taxes to pay more than their proportion, viz. Surry [sic] with Southwark, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgshire, Kent, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk, Berks, Bucks, and Oxfordshire."[Note 1]

Later definitions have tended to be more narrow and Bacon's Large Scale Atlas of London and Suburbs (revised edition c. 1912) includes Berkshire, Buckingham, Essex, Hertford, Kent, Middlesex and Surrey in the "maps of the home counties".[4]

In reviewing S. P. B. Mais's The Home Counties (Batsford The Face of Britain series, 1942), Norah Richardson noted that "the home counties" was a term in constant use but hard to define, but that Mais's definition of "the five counties around London County - Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent and Surrey" could not be improved upon.[5]

The term is sometimes understood to mean those counties which, on their borders closest to London, have been partly subsumed into London. Indeed, the former county of Middlesex has been almost wholly within London since 1965 as have parts of Kent, Hertfordshire and Surrey,[6] although the county continues to exist as a cultural and historic entity.[7][8]

The third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (2010) defines the term as "the English counties surrounding London, into which London has extended. They comprise chiefly Essex, Kent, Surrey, and Hertfordshire."[9] Parts of all of those historic counties are, since 1965, officially within London, although no part of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire or Sussex is. The county of Sussex is also wholly outside, and Berkshire almost wholly outside, the route of the M25 motorway, which is often treated as an unofficial perimeter of Greater London, and some definitions mention that those counties are not always included amongst the home counties,[10] or that the term has been extended to include them.[11]

A survey in 2019 by YouGov found that Buckinghamshire, Surrey and Berkshire were the most widely recognised as being in the home counties. Somewhat less well recognised were Hertfordshire, Kent and Essex. Few people considered Sussex (or the ceremonial counties of East and West Sussex) to be part of the home counties and relatively few people included Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire or Hampshire.[1]


The home counties have been characterised as being "inhabited on the whole by 'nice', comfortable, and conformist middle-class people" (1987)[12] exemplified by the county of Surrey which has been described as possessing quintessential home counties characteristics of "a comfortable plasticized commuterland with respectable villas and neatly mown lawns interspersed with patches of mild scenery".[13] In fiction, the character of Margot Leadbetter in the BBC sitcom The Good Life, set in Surbiton, formerly in Surrey, has been described by The Spectator as "a Home Counties Conservative to her fingertips", as have the characters of the Dursleys in the Harry Potter books.[14]

Marcus Crouch, however, has made the point that the home counties have been more affected by migration from within and without the United Kingdom than any other region of the country, making them the most cosmopolitan region of England and meaning that there is no typical home counties inhabitant. One result of this diversity, he argues, is that local loyalties are shallower in the home counties than in, for instance, Yorkshire or parts of Scotland where there has been less population mobility.[15]


Marcus Crouch has identified one of the principal characteristics of the home counties as being a shared chalk geology that is broadly mirrored north and south of the Thames.[16]


The home counties are some of the wealthiest in Britain with the towns of Virginia Water, Esher and Weybridge, all in Surrey, ranked in one 2019 survey as having some of the highest average house prices in the country.[17] However, a 2011 report described the perception that South East England, the official region of England in which most of the home counties are located, was universally wealthy as inaccurate and noted that 500,000 people in the region lived in areas that were within the 20% most deprived areas in the country with deprivation concentrated in coastal areas such as Margate (Kent) and Hastings (East Sussex). Significant areas of deprivation were also found in the urban areas of south Hampshire and Slough.[18]

In official use

The term "Home Counties North" in a 2013 postmark on a letter posted from the Luton, Bedfordshire, area.

Multiple definitions of the term have been used in legislation and by official bodies. In the twentieth century, for instance, as follows: (the table includes all the areas mentioned above):

  • 1908: The Home Counties Division of the Territorial Force comprised units recruiting in Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
  • 1920: The London and Home Counties Electricity District consisted of the counties of London and Middlesex; and parts of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey.
  • 1924: The London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, covering the London Traffic Area: London, Middlesex, and parts of Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, and Surrey.
  • 1926: The Home Counties (Music and Dancing) Licensing Act regulated activities in all parts of Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey within 20 miles of the City of London or City of Westminster.
  • 1938: Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act limited development in parts of Middlesex, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Essex, Berkshire, and Hertfordshire.
  • 1948: The Home Counties Brigade was formed to administer the infantry regiments of the City and County of London, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey, and Sussex.
County1851 Post Office Directory[Note 2]1908 Home Counties Division1920 London and Home Counties Electricity District1924 London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee1926 Home Counties (Music and Dancing) Licensing Act1938 Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act1948 Home Counties Brigade1995 Valuation Office Rating Manual
BerkshireYes (part)YesYesYes
BuckinghamshireYes (part)Yes (part)YesYesYes
CambridgeshireYes (part)
DorsetYes (part)
EssexYesYes (part)Yes (part)YesYes
HertfordshireYesYes (part)Yes (part)YesYesYes
KentYesYesYes (part)Yes (part)YesYesYesYes
MiddlesexYesYesYesYesYesYesYesCeremonial county dissolved in 1965
OxfordshireYes (part)
SurreyYesYesYes (part)Yes (part)YesYesYesYes

See also

  • Bibliography of the home counties
  • London commuter belt
  • Metro-land
  • Suburbia


  1. ^ Quoted in Oxford English Dictionary.
  2. ^ 1851 Post Office Directory of the Six Home Counties covered Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex.


  1. ^ a b c d "Which counties make up the Home Counties?". YouGov. 23 October 2019. Retrieved 8 June 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Home Counties" in Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford University Press, 2010. www.oxfordreference.com Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  3. ^ Crouch 1975, pp. 13–14
  4. ^ Stanford, William. (1912) (Ed.) Bacon's Large Scale Atlas of London and Suburbs. London: George Washington Bacon. In Ann Sunders (Ed.) (2007) The A to Z of Edwardian London. London: London Topographical Society.ISBN 0-902087-53-3
  5. ^ Richardson, Norah (27 October 1944). "The Home Counties by S. P. B. Mais". Journal of the Royal Society of Arts. 92 (4677): 633. JSTOR 41362144.
  6. ^ Brewer's 1999, p. 769
  7. ^ "Celebrating the historic counties of England". GOV.UK. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  8. ^ "County Definitions". British County Flags. 2 April 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Home Counties" in Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford University Press, 2010. www.oxfordreference.com Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  10. ^ The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1981. p. 180. ISBN 0-19-212970-8. {{cite encyclopedia}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ Brewer's 1999, p. 583
  12. ^ Urdang 1987, p. 146
  13. ^ Urdang 1987, p. 278
  14. ^ Cook, William (14 April 2015). "The Good Life – how a 70s sitcom became a Tory lodestar". The Spectator. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  15. ^ Crouch 1975, p. 18
  16. ^ Crouch 1975, pp. 14–15
  17. ^ Power, Gabriel (18 February 2019). "The UK's Most Expensive Towns". The Week.
  18. ^ Kingston upon Thames (2011). "Deprivation and Public Sector Reliance in the South East" (PDF). South East England Councils. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2015.


  • Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (16th ed.). London: Cassell. 1999. ISBN 0-304-35096-6.
  • Crouch, Marcus (1975). The Home Counties. The Regions of Britain series. London: Robert Hale. ISBN 0-7091-4869-0.
  • Urdang, Laurence (1987). Names & nicknames of places and things. London: Grafton. p. 146. ISBN 0-246-13246-9.

External links

Media files used on this page

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Buckinghamshire flag
Flag of Surrey.svg
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The flag of the historic county of Surrey
Hertfordshire flag. The county flag of Hertfordshire registered by the Flag Institute
County Flag of Oxfordshire.svg
Author/Creator: JimmyGuano, Licence: CC0
The County Flag of the County of Oxfordshire, as flown at County Hall in Oxford. Own work, based on evidence of its design from the following sources: [1] and [2] and the following to verify that it is indeed the official flag flown alongside the Union Jack at County Hall: [3], [4]
Royal Mail Home Counties North postmark 2013 from Luton, Beds..jpg
Royal Mail Home Counties North postmark 2013 on a letter posted from the Luton, Bedfordshire area. Stamp is British 2013 Christmas stamp Madonna and Child (c.1520), Francesco Granacci.
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Flag of Essex
The County Flag of Kent
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Flag of East Sussex
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The newly registered flag of Berkshire
The Home Counties Magazine Vol. I 1899 cover.jpg
The Home Counties Magazine Vol. I 1899 cover
County Flag of Hampshire.svg
The Flag of Hampshire
Bedfordshire's Flag.svg
The flag for the county of Bedfordshire, officially recognised by the Flag Institute of 11th September 2014. Slightly different to the original flag of Bedfordshire County Council from which the design is based.