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

Sometimes included:

Time zoneUTC+00:00 (Greenwich Mean Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+01:00 (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 Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent and Surrey are usually included in definitions as they border London.[1][2] Other counties slightly further from London – such as Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, East Sussex and West Sussex – are not always 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.


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 had surrounded London since at least the 18th century. 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]


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, Cambridgeshire, Kent, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk, Berks, Bucks, and Oxfordshire."[4]

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".[5]

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.[6]

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,[7] although the county continues to exist as a cultural and historic entity.[dubiousdiscuss][8][9]

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."[10] 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,[11] or that the term has been extended to include them.[12]


The home counties have been characterised as being "inhabited on the whole by 'nice', comfortable, and conformist middle-class people" (1987)[13] exemplified by the county of Surrey which has been described as possessing quintessential home counties characteristics of "a comfortable plasticised commuterland with respectable villas and neatly mown lawns interspersed with patches of mild scenery".[14] 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".[15]

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.[16]


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.[17]


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.[18] 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.[19]

In official use

"Home Counties North" mail centre (in Hemel Hempstead) franked on a letter in 2013

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):

County 1851 Post Office Directory[Note 1] 1908 Home Counties Division 1920 London and Home Counties Electricity District 1924 London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee 1926 Home Counties (Music and Dancing) Licensing Act 1938 Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act 1948 Home Counties Brigade 1995 Valuation Office Rating Manual
Bedfordshire Yes
Berkshire Yes (part) Yes Yes Yes
Buckinghamshire Yes (part) Yes (part) Yes Yes Yes
Cambridgeshire Yes (part)
Dorset Yes (part)
Essex Yes Yes (part) Yes (part) Yes Yes
Hampshire Yes
Hertfordshire Yes Yes (part) Yes (part) Yes Yes Yes
Kent Yes Yes Yes (part) Yes (part) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Middlesex Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Ceremonial county dissolved in 1965
Oxfordshire Yes
Surrey Yes Yes Yes (part) Yes (part) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sussex Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

See also


  1. ^ 1851 Post Office Directory of the Six Home Counties covered Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex.


  1. ^ a b "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. ^ Davenant, Charles (1695). An Essay upon Ways and Means of Supplying the War. London: Jacob Tonson. p. 77.; quoted in "Home Counties". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Brewer's 1999, p. 769
  8. ^ "Celebrating the historic counties of England". GOV.UK. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  9. ^ "County Definitions". British County Flags. 2 April 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  10. ^ "Home Counties" in Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford University Press, 2010. www.oxfordreference.com Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  11. ^ "Home Counties". The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1981. p. 180. ISBN 0-19-212970-8.
  12. ^ Brewer's 1999, p. 583
  13. ^ Urdang 1987, p. 146
  14. ^ Urdang 1987, p. 278
  15. ^ Cook, William (14 April 2015). "The Good Life – how a 70s sitcom became a Tory lodestar". The Spectator. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  16. ^ Crouch 1975, p. 18
  17. ^ Crouch 1975, pp. 14–15
  18. ^ Power, Gabriel (18 February 2019). "The UK's Most Expensive Towns". The Week.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "Rating Manual section 4: valuation methods". Retrieved 2 July 2021.