London, England, United Kingdom

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Greater London Category page

LONDON is the capital and largest city of the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London , London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits.


Expanding London

Until the Stuart period in early 17th century 'London' was simply the City of London and the small area immediately around it. From this period the initial expansion is mainly westwards, the wealthier residents preferring the more rural aspects of the area away from the dirty city. When Charles I acceded to the throne in 1625, aristocrats began to inhabit the West End in large numbers. In addition to those who had specific business at court, increasing numbers of country landowners and their families lived in London for part of the year simply for the social life. This was the beginning of the "London season". Lincoln's Inn Fields was built about 1629. The piazza of Covent Garden, designed by England's first classically trained architect Inigo Jones followed in about 1632. The neighbouring streets were built shortly afterwards, and the names of Henrietta, Charles, James, King and York Streets were given after members of the royal family.

The plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666 changed London forever. Many aristocratic residents never returned, preferring to take new houses in the West End, where fashionable new districts such as St. James's were built close to the main royal residence, which was Whitehall Palace until it was destroyed by fire in the 1690s, and thereafter St. James's Palace. The rural lane of Piccadilly sprouted courtiers mansions such as Burlington House. Thus the separation between the middle class mercantile City of London, and the aristocratic world of the court in Westminster became complete.

The East End, that is the area immediately to the east of the city walls, also became heavily populated in the decades after the Great Fire. London's docks began to extend downstream, attracting many working people who worked on the docks themselves and in the processing and distributive trades. These people lived in Whitechapel, Wapping, Stepney and Limehouse, generally in slum conditions.

Whilst London continued to expand administration outside the City of London remained with Middlesex, Essex, Surrey and Kent under the ancient Hundreds and Parish system.

The 18th century was a period of rapid growth for London, reflecting an increasing national population, the early stirrings of the Industrial Revolution, and London's role at the centre of the evolving British Empire.

During the 19th century, London was transformed into the world's largest city and capital of the British Empire. Its population expanded from 1 million in 1800 to 6.7 million a century later.

The urbanised area continued to grow rapidly, spreading into Islington, Paddington, Belgravia, Holborn, Finsbury, Shoreditch, Southwark and Lambeth. Towards the middle of the century, London's antiquated local government system, consisting of ancient parishes and vestries, struggled to cope with the rapid growth in population. In 1855, the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) was created to provide London with adequate infrastructure to cope with its growth.

Administration in London

Until 1835 and the Municipal Corporations Act, the small, ancient and self-governing City of London was unreformed by legislation covering the other major city corporations and did not expand into the growing metropolitan area surrounding it. The area that is currently Greater London was administered by parishes and hundreds in the counties of Middlesex, Essex, Kent, Surrey and Hertfordshire, with very little co-ordination between them. Special areas such as the Liberty of Westminster were exempt from county administration.
From 1855 and the Metropolis Management Act - The Metropolitan Board of Works was created to provide the infrastructure needed in the area now known as Inner London, its members were nominated by the vestries and boards.
From 1889 and the Local Government Act - The County of London is created from the area of responsibility of the Metropolitan Board of Works. A London County Council shares power with the boards and vestries. The City of London is outside of its scope. Croydon and West Ham (and later East Ham) become county boroughs outside the County of London but also outside the control of the newly formed Surrey and Essex county councils.
From 1894 and the next Local Government Act - The rest of England, including the area around the County of London and the county boroughs (but not within it), is divided into urban districts and rural districts. In the Greater London area they become consolidated over the next 70 years into municipal boroughs and urban districts with no rural districts remaining. Many districts later become populous enough to apply for county boroughs status, but are rejected. A Royal Commission on the Amalgamation of the City and County of London attempts to facilitate the merger of the City and County of London, but fails.
From 1900 and the London Government Act - Metropolitan boroughs were created within the County of London and functions are shared with the London County Council. The vestries, boards and liberties in the area are abolished. (This is the true ending of the old systems in London).
From 1965 and the next London Government Act - An enlarged Greater London replaced the County of London, Middlesex County Council, the county boroughs and all local government districts within around a 12-mile radius. The mostly strategic Greater London Council shares power with the 32 London boroughs and the City of London.
From 1986 and the later London Government Act - The Greater London Council was abolished and the London boroughs work as unitary authorities with strategic functions organised by joint boards and quangos. A residual Inner London Education Authority remains for the inner area, but is abolished during a national reform of education.
From 2000 and the Greater London Authority Act - The regional Greater London Authority, consisting of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly assumed a strategic function, sharing power with the London boroughs and the City of London.[1]

London Parish Records (Church of England)

Most of modern London falls within the Diocese of London in the Province of Canterbury.

Historically the diocese covered a large area north of the Thames and bordered the dioceses of Norwich and Lincoln to the north and west. The present diocese covers 177 square miles (460 km2) and 17 London boroughs, covering most of Greater London north of the River Thames and west of the River Lea. This area covers nearly all of the historic county of Middlesex. It includes the City of London in which lies its cathedral, St Paul's, and also encompasses Spelthorne which was formerly in Middlesex but is now part of Surrey.

Essex formed part of the diocese until 1846 when the county became part of the Diocese of Rochester (and later changed again to the Diocese of St Albans and is now in the Diocese of Chelmsford).[2]

Most of these records are held by the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA)

LMA holds records of more than 700 Anglican churches in the London and Middlesex areas. The types of records held vary from parish to parish, with some parishes only depositing registers of baptisms, marriage and burials. Other parishes, however, have deposited a great deal more and the types of records include vestry minutes, churchwarden accounts, parish poor rate and early workhouse material, parish magazines, plans, photographs and other ephemera.

For those interested in parish records, researchers should be aware that for certain areas of London, the LMA will not be the likely place records would be deposited. For those interested in the parish registers of the ancient City of London within the walls, these will be found at the Guildhall Library. Similarly churches within the ancient city of Westminster will deposit their records at the City of Westminster Archives. This will include parishes such as St Martin in the Fields, St James Piccadilly, St Clement Danes and St George Hanover Square. The final areas that would not deposit their records at the LMA are the modern London Boroughs that prior to the formation of the Greater London Council in 1964 would have been part of the former counties of Essex, Kent and Surrey. For each of these areas researchers should consult either their local borough archive or the respective ancient county record office.[3]

London Birth, Marriage, and Deaths (GRO)

GRO records were kept from 1837.
Records for the City of London are under London City (District) Records for London run until 1965 (County). A List of Registration Districts and their relevnt years can be found here
Records for Greater London start from June 1965 (County). A List of Registration Districts and their relevant dates can be found here
Records for Middlesex run until 1965 (County). A List of Registration Districts and their relevant dates can be found here
Records for Surrey continue to today (County). A List of Registration Districts and their relevant dates can be found here
Records for Kent continue to today (County). A List of Registration Districts and their relevant dates can be found here
Records for Essex continue to today (County). A List of Registration Districts and their relevant dates can be found here
Records for Hertfordshire continue to today (County). A List of Registration Districts and their relevant dates can be found here

Census Records for London

The Census records until 1861 do not recognise 'London' as a County. See Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, or Essex. From 1871 censuses do include the County of London, with many central parishes included - these increase as time progresses. For those not included see Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, or Essex.

London Today

London Boroughs

London boroughs are the thirty-two principal subdivisions of the administrative area of Greater London and are each governed by a London borough council.

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Historic London
Historic London

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