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I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.

Civil War

Essex, London and the eastern counties backed Parliament in the English Civil War, but by 1648, this loyalty was stretched. In June 1648 a force of 500 Kentish Royalists landed near the Isle of Dogs, linked up with a small Royalist cavalry force from Essex, fought a battle with local parliamentarians at Bow Bridge, then crossed the River Lea into Essex.

The combined force, bolstered by extra forces, marched towards Royalist held Colchester, but a Parliamentarian force caught up with them just as they were about to enter the city's medieval walls, and a bitter battle was fought but the Royalists were able to retire to the security of the walls. The Siege of Colchester followed, but ten weeks' starvation and news of Royalist defeats elsewhere led the Royalists to surrender. [47]

Administrative history

Before the County Council

Before the creation of the county councils, county-level administration was limited in nature; lord-lieutenants replaced the sheriffs from the time of Henry VIII and took a primarily military role, responsible for the militia and the Volunteer Force that replaced it.

Most administration was carried out by justices of the peace (JPs) appointed by the Lord-Lieutenant of Essex based upon their reputation. The JPs carried out judicial and administrative duties such as maintenance of roads and bridges, supervision of the poor laws, administration of county prisons and setting the County Rate. [48] JPs carried out these responsibilities, mainly through quarter sessions, and did this on a voluntary basis.

At this time the county was sub-divided into units known as Hundreds. At a very early but unknown date, small parts of the county on the east bank of the Stort, near Bishops Stortford and Sawbridgeworth were transferred to Hertfordshire

County Councils

Essex County Council was formed in 1889. However, County Boroughs of West Ham (1889–1965), Southend-on-Sea (1914–1974) [49] and East Ham (1915–1965) formed part of the county but were county boroughs (not under county council control, in a similar manner to unitary authorities today). [50] 12 boroughs and districts provide more localised services such as rubbish and recycling collections, leisure and planning, as shown in the map on the right.

The north-west tip of Essex, the parishes of Great Chishill, Little Chishill and Heydon, were transferred to Cambridgeshire when the County Councils were created in 1889. Parts of a number of other parishes were also transferred at that time, and since.

Greater London established

The boundary with Greater London was established in 1965, when East Ham and West Ham county boroughs and the Barking, Chingford, Dagenham, Hornchurch, Ilford, Leyton, Romford, Walthamstow and Wanstead and Woodford districts as well as a part of Chigwell [50] were transferred to form the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest.

Two unitary authorities

In 1998, the boroughs of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock were separated from the administrative county of Essex after successful requests to become unitary authorities. [51] [52]

Administration and politics

Essex County Council

The county council governs the non-metropolitan county of Essex in England. It has 75 councillors, elected from 70 divisions, some of which elect more than one member, but before 1965, the number of councillors reached over 100. The council is currently controlled by the Conservative Party. [2] The council meets at County Hall in the centre of Chelmsford.

At the time of the 2011 census it served a population of 1,393,600, which makes it one of the largest local authorities in England. As a non-metropolitan county council, responsibilities are shared between districts (including boroughs) and in many areas also between civil parish (including town) councils. Births, marriages/civil partnerships and death registration, roads, libraries and archives, refuse disposal, most of state education, of social services and of transport are provided at the county level. [3]

The county council was formed in 1889, governing the administrative county of Essex. The county council was reconstituted in 1974 as a non-metropolitan county council, regaining jurisdiction in Southend-on-Sea; however, the non-metropolitan county was reduced in size in 1998 and the council passed responsibilities to Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Thurrock Council in those districts. For certain services the three authorities co-operate through joint arrangements, such as the Essex fire authority.

Composition of the Essex County Council in 2017 after the county election Results of the Essex County Council elections, 2017.svg
Composition of the Essex County Council in 2017 after the county election

At the 2013 County Council elections the Conservative Party retained overall control of the council, but its majority fell from twenty-two to four councillors. UKIP, Labour and the Liberal Democrats each won nine seats. Out of those three parties, UKIP gained the largest share of the county-wide vote, more than 10% ahead of Labour. [3] The Liberal Democrats remain as the official Opposition, despite winning fewer votes. [3] The Green Party gained two seats on the council, despite its overall share of the vote falling. The Independent Loughton Residents Association and the Canvey Island Independent Party both returned one member and an Independent candidate was also elected.

The 2017 County Council elections saw a county-wide wipeout of UKIP. The Conservative Party profited most from this loss, regaining many of the seats it had lost at the previous election. Labour, despite a slight rise in its share of the vote, had fewer councillors elected. The Liberal Democrats also saw a notable revival, but were unable to translate this into seats. The Conservatives retained firm control of the council. The next election will be in 2021.

Chelmsford, where the Rivers meet - - 2131508.jpg
Chelmsford, the county town of Essex
"Many Minds, One Heart"
Essex UK locator map 2010.svg
Coordinates: 51°45′N0°35′E / 51.750°N 0.583°E / 51.750; 0.583 Coordinates: 51°45′N0°35′E / 51.750°N 0.583°E / 51.750; 0.583
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region East
Established Ancient
Time zone UTC±00:00 (Greenwich Mean Time)
  Summer (DST) UTC+01:00 (British Summer Time)
Members of Parliament List of MPs
Police Essex Police
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant Jennifer Tolhurst [1]
High Sheriff Mrs Julie Fosh [2] (2020–21)
Area3,670 km2 (1,420 sq mi)
  Ranked 11th of 48
Population (2021)1,832,752
  Ranked 7th of 48
Density499/km2 (1,290/sq mi)
  • 90.8% White British
  • 3.6% Other White
  • 2.5% Asian
  • 1.3% Black
  • 1.5% Mixed
  • 0.3% Other
  • (2011)
2017 Essex County Council election
PartyVotes cast%Seats
Conservative 169,975112,229184,901Increase2.svg 72,67243.334.449.3Increase2.svg 14.9604256Increase2.svg14
Labour 42,33457,29063,470Increase2.svg 6,18010.816.416.9Increase2.svg 0.5196Decrease2.svg 3
Liberal Democrat 79,08535,65151,524Increase2.svg 15,87320.111.613.7Increase2.svg 2.11297Decrease2.svg 2
UKIP 18,18690,81229,796Decrease2.svg 61,0164.627.67.9Decrease2.svg 19.7090Decrease2.svg 9
Green 26,54715,18715,187Steady2.svg6.84.84.3Decrease2.svg 0.5021Decrease2.svg1
Independents5,8454,63112,506Increase2.svg 7,8751.50.62.4Increase2.svg 1.8012Increase2.svg 1
Residents for Uttlesford N/AN/A5,231Increase2.svgN/AN/A1.4Increase2.svg00*(1)0Decrease2.svg 1
Canvey Island Independents 1,6552,7773,654Increase2.svg 8770.40.91.0Increase2.svg 0.1112Increase2.svg1
Loughton Residents 2,7643,2862,824Decrease2.svg 4620.71.10.8Decrease2.svg 0.3111Steady2.svg
Tendring First 5,8664,0931,332Increase2.svg 2,7611.51.40.4Decrease2.svg 1.0000Steady2.svg
BNP 35,037909847Decrease2.svg 628.90.30.2Decrease2.svg 0.1000Steady2.svg
English Democrats 5,21283558Decrease2.svg 1641.30.30.0Decrease2.svg 0.3000Steady2.svg
TUSC N/A431N/ADecrease2.svgN/A0.1N/ADecrease2.svg000Steady2.svg
National Front N/A304N/ADecrease2.svgN/A0.1N/ADecrease2.svg000Steady2.svg

County Hall

The county council chamber and main headquarters is at the County Hall in Chelmsford. Before 1938, the council regularly met in London near Moorgate, which with significant parts of the county close to that point and the dominance of railway travel had been more convenient than any place in the county. [53] The County Hall, made a listed building in 2007, dates largely from the mid-1930s and is decorated with fine artworks of that period, mostly the gift of the family who owned the textile firm Courtaulds.

English region

Essex became part of the East of England Government Office Region in 1994 and was statistically counted as part of that region from 1999, having previously been part of the South East England region.

Essex Police

Essex Police covers the administrative county and the two unitary authorities. [54]

Youth councils

The Essex County Council also has a Youth Assembly, 75 members aged between 11 and 19 who aim to represent all young people in their districts across Essex. They decide on the priorities for young people and campaign to make a difference. [55] With this, some district and unitary authorities may have their own youth councils, such as Epping Forest, [56] Uttlesford [57] and Harlow. [58]

All these councillors are elected by their schools. The elections to the Young Essex Assembly occur in the respective schools in which the candidates are standing, likewise for the youth councils at a district and unitary level. These young people will then go on to represent their school and their parish/ward or (in the case of the Young Essex Assembly) their entire district.

The initiative seeks to engage younger people in the county and rely on the youth councillors of all status to work closely with schools and youth centres to improve youth services in Essex and help promote the opinions of Essex youth.[ citation needed ]

Local government

Borough and district level

The county of Essex is divided into 12 district and borough councils with 2 unitary authorities (Southend on Sea and Thurrock). The 12 councils manage housing, local planning, refuse collection, street cleaning, elections and meet in their respective civic offices. The local representatives are elected in parts in local elections, held every year. [59]

Town and parish level

Town and parish councils vary in size from those with a population of around 200 to those with a population of over 30,000. Annual expenditure can vary greatly, depending on the circumstances of the individual council. Parish and town councils (local councils) have the same powers and duties, but a town council may elect a town mayor, rather than a chairman, each year in May.

There are just under 300 town and parish councils within Essex. [59] These Councils have no statutory duties but can contribute to local life in a range of ways, such as maintaining allotments and open spaces, to crime prevention and providing recreation facilities. They can also influence other decision makers and can deliver services to meet local needs. Their powers and duties range

Town and parish councils have the right to become statutory consultees at both district and county level and, although the decision remains with the planning authorities, local councils can influence the decision-making process by making informed comments and recommendations. [59]

Westminster and the 2016 EU referendum

As of the 2019 general election, all 18 Essex seats are represented by Conservatives, all of them with absolute majorities (over 50% of the vote). There have previously been some Labour MPs: most recently, Thurrock, Harlow and Basildon in Labour's 2005 election victory. The Liberal Democrats until 2015 had a sizeable following in Essex, gaining Colchester in the 1997 general election.

Results of the 2017 and 2019 UK General Elections in Essex EssexParliamentaryConstituency2017Results2.png
Results of the 2017 and 2019 UK General Elections in Essex

The 2015 general election saw a large vote in Essex for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), with its only MP, Douglas Carswell, retaining the seat of Clacton that he had won in a 2014 by-election, and other strong performances, notably in Thurrock and Castle Point, but in the 2017 general election, UKIP's vote share plummeted by 15.6% while both Conservative and Labour rose by 9%. This resulted in Labour regaining second place in Essex, increasing their vote share across the county and cutting some Conservative majorities in areas that had been unaffected by the 1997 general election, namely Rochford and Southend East and Southend West.

In 2015, Thurrock was a three-way marginal, with UKIP, Labour and the Conservatives gaining 30%, 31% and 32% respectively. In 2017, the Conservatives held Thurrock with an increased share of the vote, but a smaller margin of victory. It was the constituency in which UKIP performed best in 2017, with 20% of the vote, while all other areas had been reduced to low single-figure vote shares. Several new MPs were elected in the 2017 election, with Alex Burghart, Vicky Ford, Giles Watling and Kemi Badenoch all replacing senior Conservative politicians Sir Eric Pickles, Sir Simon Burns, Douglas Carswell and Sir Alan Haselhurst, respectively.

At the 2019 general election, Castle Point constituency recorded the highest vote share for the Conservatives in the entire United Kingdom, with 76.7%. The most marginal constituency in the county is Colchester; however the Conservative Party still command a majority of over 9,400 votes.

In the 2016 EU referendum, 62.3% of voters in Essex voted to leave the EU, with all 14 District Council areas voting to leave, the smallest margin being in Uttlesford. [60]

2019 UK general election in Essex
PartyVotes cast%Seats
Conservative 436,758528,949577,118Increase2.svg 48,16949.659.064.8Increase2.svg 5.8171818Steady2.svg
Labour 171,026261,671189,471Decrease2.svg 72,20019.429.221.2Decrease2.svg 8.0000Steady2.svg
Liberal Democrat 58,59246,25495,078Increase2.svg 48,8246.65.110.6Increase2.svg 5.5000Steady2.svg
Green 25,99312,34320,438Increase2.svg 8,0953.01.32.3Increase2.svg 1.0000Steady2.svg
Independents6,9194,17910,224Increase2.svg 6,0450.70.41.1Increase2.svg 0.7000Steady2.svg
Monster Raving Loony N/AN/A804Increase2.svg 804N/AN/A0.09Increase2.svg 0.09000Steady2.svg
English Democrats 453289532Increase2.svg 2430.050.030.06Increase2.svg 0.03000Steady2.svg
SDP N/AN/A394Increase2.svg 394N/AN/A0.04Increase2.svg 0.04000Steady2.svg
Psychedelic FutureN/AN/A367Increase2.svg 367N/AN/A0.04Increase2.svg 0.04000Steady2.svg
YPP80110170Increase2.svg 600.000.010.02Increase2.svg 0.01000Steady2.svg
UKIP 177,75641,478N/ADecrease2.svg 41,47820.24.6N/ADecrease2.svg 4.6100Steady2.svg

Culture and community

Flag and coat of arms

Depiction of the first king of the East Saxons, AEscwine, his shield showing the three seaxes emblem attributed to him (from John Speed's 1611 Saxon Heptarchy) Erkenwin - John Speed.JPG
Depiction of the first king of the East Saxons, Æscwine, his shield showing the three seaxes emblem attributed to him (from John Speed's 1611 Saxon Heptarchy)

Both the Flag of Essex and the county's coat of arms comprise three Saxon seax knives (although they look rather more like scimitars), mainly white and pointing to the right (from the point of view of the observer), arranged vertically one above another on a red background (Gules three Seaxes fesswise in pale Argent pommels and hilts Or, points to the sinister and notches to the base). The three-seax device is also used as the official logo of Essex County Council; this was granted in 1932. [61]

The emblem was attributed to Anglo-Saxon Essex in Early Modern historiography. The earliest reference to the arms of the East Saxon kings was by Richard Verstegan, the author of A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence (Antwerp, 1605), claiming that "Erkenwyne king of the East-Saxons did beare for his armes, three [seaxes] argent, in a field gules". There is no earlier evidence substantiating Verstegan's claim, which is an anachronism for the Anglo-Saxon period seeing that heraldry only evolved in the 12th century, well after the Norman Conquest.

John Speed in his Historie of Great Britaine (1611) follows Verstegan in his descriptions of the arms of Erkenwyne, but he qualifies the statement by adding "as some or our heralds have emblazed". [61]

The Hay Wain by John Constable shows the Essex landscape on the right bank. John Constable The Hay Wain.jpg
The Hay Wain by John Constable shows the Essex landscape on the right bank.

Patron saint

The East Saxon royal house had converted the Christianity around 604 AD, but subsequently apostasised. In the mid 7th century, a new Christian king, Sigeberht the Good, requested help from the monks of Lindisfarne in promoting Christianity among his people.

St Cedd, an Irish trained Northumbrian monk, sailed south and established a chapel, dedicated to St Peter, on the site of the old Roman fort of Othona (modern Bradwell-on-Sea), a chapel which still stands. Cedd, who was well known for confronting political authority, filled the vacant position of Bishop of London – the Bishop of the East Saxons. The feast day of St Cedd, also known as Essex Day, is marked on the 26th October. [62]

County plant

The cowslip is the county plant of Essex. [63]

Cowslip, the county plant of Essex Primula veris 230405.jpg
Cowslip, the county plant of Essex


The county has its own Essex dialect, though this has lost ground to other forms so that it is now chiefly spoken in parts of the north and among older residents. It has been partially replaced by Received Pronunciation (RP) and Cockney, a form originally heavily influenced by the Essex dialect. [64]

The prevalence of Cockney, particularly in the south, is the result of the large-scale migration of East Londoners to Essex, the Cockney Diaspora, particularly after World War II. A blend of RP and Cockney is widely heard, and known as Estuary English. [65]


Essex is also home to the Dunmow Flitch Trials, a traditional ceremony that takes place every four years and consists of a test of a married couple's devotion to one another. A common claim of the origin of the Dunmow Flitch dates back to 1104 and the Augustinian priory of Little Dunmow, founded by Lady Juga Baynard. Lord of the Manor Reginald Fitzwalter and his wife dressed themselves as humble folk and begged blessing of the Prior a year and a day after marriage. The prior, impressed by their devotion, bestowed upon them a flitch of bacon. Upon revealing his true identity, Fitzwalter gave his land to the priory on condition that a flitch should be awarded to any couple who could claim they were similarly devoted.

By the 14th century, the Dunmow Flitch Trials appear to have achieved a significant reputation outside the local area. The author William Langland, who lived on the Welsh borders, mentions it in his 1362 book The Vision of Piers Plowman in a manner that implies general knowledge of the custom among his readers. [66]



The ceremonial county is home to two professional sides, Southend United and Colchester United with Metropolitan Essex home to three more - West Ham United, Leyton Orient and Dagenham & Redbridge.

Essex also has a number of other clubs which play below English football’s fifth tier. Billericay Town, Braintree Town, Chelmsford City and Concord Rangers all play in the National League South. The highest domestic trophy for non-league teams, the FA Trophy, has been won on three occasions by Essex teams: Colchester United (1992), Canvey Island (2001) and by Grays Athletic in 2006. The FA Vase has been won three times by Billericay Town in 1976, 1977 and 1979, and by Stansted in 1984.


Essex County Cricket Club became a first-class county in 1894. The county has won eight County Championship league titles; six of these were won during the dominant period between 1979 and 1992, with a gap of 25 years before the county's next titles in 2017 and 2019.

Other sports

The county is also home to the Romford Raiders and Chelmsford Chieftains ice hockey teams and the Essex Leopards basketball team. It is home to the amateur rugby league football teams the Eastern Rhinos and Brentwood Eels (Essex Eels). Defunct teams include the Essex Pirates basketball team, as well as speedway teams the Lakeside Hammers (formerly Arena Essex Hammers), the Rayleigh Rockets and the Romford Bombers.

During the 2012 London Olympics, Hadleigh Farm played host to the mountain bike races. London Stadium, which was the host of the games, is located within the historical Essex boundaries.

Essex has one horse racing venue, Chelmsford City Racecourse at Great Leighs. Horse racing also took place at Chelmsford Racecourse in Galleywood until 1935. The county has one current greyhound racing track, Harlow Stadium. Rayleigh Weir Stadium and Southend Stadium are former greyhound venues.

Team Essex Volleyball Club is Chelmsford's national league volleyball club. It has four teams which play in Volleyball England's national volleyball league. Its men's 1st team currently competes in the top division in the country, the Super 8s, while the women's 1st team competes one tier below the men. The club has a strong junior programme and trains at The Boswells School in Chelmsford.


Many famous sports stars have come from or trained in Essex. These have included swimmer Mark Foster; cricket stars Trevor Bailey, Nasser Hussain, Alastair Cook and Graham Gooch; footballers Peter Taylor, James Tomkins, Justin Edinburgh, Nigel Spink; tennis stars John Lloyd and David Lloyd; Olympic Gold-winning gymnast Max Whitlock; Olympic sailing champion Saskia Clark; World Champion snooker stars Stuart Bingham and Steve Davis; world champion boxers Terry Marsh, Nigel Benn and Frank Bruno; London Marathon winner Eamonn Martin; international rugby players Malcolm O'Kelly and Stuart Barnes; Formula 1 sports car drivers Johnny Herbert and Perry McCarthy.


The county is served by BBC East and ITV Anglia, but southern parts of Essex are also served by BBC London and ITV London.[ citation needed ]


Education in Essex is substantially provided by three authorities: Essex County Council and the two unitary authorities, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock. In all there are some 90 state secondary schools provided by these authorities, the majority of which are comprehensive, although one in Uttlesford, two in Chelmsford, two in Colchester and four in Southend-on-Sea are selective grammar schools. There are also various independent schools particularly, as mentioned above, in rural parts and the west of the county. [67] [68]

The University of Essex, which was established in 1963, is located just outside Colchester, with two further campuses in Loughton and Southend-on-Sea.

Anglia Ruskin University has a campus in Chelmsford. Lord Ashcroft International Business School, Faculty of Medical Science, Faculty of Science and Technology, Anglia Law School, Faculty of Health, Social Care & Education and School of Medicine are located in the campus area.

Writtle University College, at Writtle, near Chelmsford, offers both higher and further education in land-management subjects.


Over 14,000 buildings have listed status in the county and around 1,000 of those are recognised as of Grade I or II* importance. [69] The buildings range from the 7th century Saxon church of St Peter-on-the-Wall, to the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club which was the United Kingdom's entry in the 'International Exhibition of Modern Architecture' held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1932. Southend Pier is in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest pleasure pier in the world.

Places of interest

AP Icon.svg Abbey/Priory/Cathedral
UKAL icon.svg Accessible open space
Themepark uk icon.png Amusement/Theme Park
CL icon.svg Castle
Country parks.svg Country Park
EH icon.svg English Heritage
Forestry Commission
HR icon.svg Heritage railway
HH icon.svg Historic House
AP Icon.svg Places of Worship
Museum icon.svg
Museum icon (red).svg
Museum (free/not free)
NTE icon.svg National Trust
Drama-icon.svg Theatre
Zoo icon.jpg Zoo
Skyline of Southend-on-Sea Southend aerial 220608.jpg
Skyline of Southend-on-Sea

Notable people

Sister counties and regions

See also

Related Research Articles

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Scouting in East of England is about Scouting in the official region of East of England. It is largely represented by The Scout Association of the United Kingdom and some Groups of traditional Scouting including the Baden-Powell Scouts' Association.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grade II* listed buildings in Essex</span>

The county of Essex is divided into 14 districts. The districts of Essex are Harlow, Epping Forest, Brentwood, Basildon, Castle Point, Rochford, Maldon, Chelmsford, Uttlesford, Braintree, Colchester, Tendring, Thurrock, and Southend-on-Sea.


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  9. link to show the Dengie Peninsula in use and linking that to Hundred organisation
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  39. forest
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