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Southern England
South of England
The South
Sub-national area of England
In this image, the official definition of Southern England is illustrated in yellow.
In this image, the official definition of Southern England is illustrated in yellow.
Sovereign state
10 largest settlements in order of population
 • Total62,042 km2 (23,955 sq mi)
 • Total27,945,000
 • Density450/km2 (1,200/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Rural
Time zoneGMT (UTC)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)

Southern England, also known as the South of England or the South, is a sub-national part of England with cultural, economic and political differences from both the Midlands and the North. The Midlands form a dialect chain in a notable north–south divide of England. The sub-national area's official population is nearly 28 million and an area of 62,042 square kilometres (23,955 sq mi): roughly 40% of United Kingdom's population and approximately a quarter of its area.

Influential, geographic and political divisions have created multiple internal identities to the sub-national area of England. The influential division is defined by closeness to the capital; the Greater London itself, the Home Counties and outer areas. The Home Counties identify in a similar way to the neighbouring English Midlands, in this case sharing culture with London and the outer areas yet identifying as separate from each. The geographic split is north-east (fenlands), south (downlands and a coastal plain) and west (following the River Thames to the Bristol channel and a peninsula). The north-east fenlands for example have been affected by the London's expansion; the traditional Cockney dialect's population of London's East End has moved out to the north and east Home Counties with a knock on effect to East Anglia's population. The political divide is the International Territorial Level; the regional level defines the south as London, the South East, the South West and the East[1]


For official purposes, the UK government does not refer to Southern England as a single entity, but the Office for National Statistics divides UK into twelve regions. In England, the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber make up the North ("centre-north"); the West Midlands and East Midlands (as well as Wales) make up the Midlands ("centre-south") and the rest of England make up the South.[1]

Culturally speaking, the majority of people think that the South consists of the South East (92%), Greater London (88%), South West (87%), and to lesser extent the East of England (57%).[2] However, 35% of people surveyed placed the East of England as part of the Midlands. Generally people in the North tend to put the East of England in the South more than people in the South or Midlands.[citation needed]


Further information: Geography of England

The South has a land border with the Midlands and a sea border with France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The South is generally more low-lying than the North. There are a number of hill ranges, such as the Cotswolds and the Chilterns.

London is the largest city in the South of England and is the capital of the United Kingdom. The London Metropolitan Area has a population of 14.2 million (2019), making it the largest metropolitan area in Europe.[3]




Further information: British English in Southern England

English is the native language of the English people and the main language spoken in the South.

The South of England has a dialect and accent distinct from that of other parts of the UK. Due to the prominence of the South in media and politics, Standard British English is largely based on the English spoken in the South. For example, the standard British accent, Received Pronunciation, is very similar to the educated speech of London, Oxford and Cambridge.[4]


Cornish is a revived language spoken in Cornwall and is an important part of the identity and culture of the Cornish people.[5]


People often apply the terms "southern" and "south" loosely, without deeper consideration of the geographical identities of Southern England. This can cause confusion over the depth of affiliation between its areas. As in much of the rest of England, people tend to have a deeper affiliation to their county or city. Thus, residents of Essex are unlikely to feel much affinity with people in Oxfordshire. Similarly, there is a strong distinction between natives of the south-west and south-east. The broadcaster Stuart Maconie has noted that culturally "there's a bottom half of England [...] but there isn't a south in the same way that there's a north".[6]


Life expectancy at birth for boys in 2012-2014 by local authority district in England and Wales.
Life expectancy at birth for boys in 2012-2014 by local authority district in England and Wales. Lighter colours indicate longer life expectancy.

One major manifestation of the North–South divide is in health and life expectancy statistics.[7] All three Northern England statistical regions have lower than average life expectancies and higher than average rates of cancer, circulatory disease and respiratory disease.[8][9] The South of England has a higher life expectancy than the North, however, regional differences do seem to be slowly narrowing: between 1991–1993 and 2012–2014, life expectancy in the North East increased by 6.0 years and in the North West by 5.8 years, the fastest increase in any region outside London, and the gap between life expectancy in the North East and South East is now 2.5 years, down from 2.9 in 1993.[9] Furthermore, all such figures represent an average – affluent northern towns such as Harrogate have higher life expectancies than less affluent areas of the South such as Southampton or Plymouth.


The South of England has a number of world-renowned universities, such as the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and many Russell Group universities, such as Imperial College London, University of Exeter and the London School of Economics.



The South Coast Derby is used to describe football matches played mainly between Portsmouth Football Club and Southampton Football Club.

However, in Portsmouth's absence from top flight football, AFC Bournemouth and Brighton and Hove Albion – based about 30 miles (48 km) and 60 miles (97 km) from Southampton respectively – gained promotion to the Premier League, with some media outlets marketing fixtures against them as a South Coast derby;[10][11][12]

Other major derbies in Southern England are West Country derbies and London derbies.[13][14]


See also: History of rugby union

Rugby union is the dominant code played in the south with a minor rugby league presence.[a] One of the biggest derbies is the West Country derby (Bath v Gloucester).[15]


Regions and ceremonial counties

Southern England consists of four regions and 22 counties: the East of England, London, South East and South West. Ceremonial counties are:


South West:

South East:




There is a network of local enterprise partnerships, some areas are further devolved:

Catalyst South (strategic alliance):

  • Coast to Capital
  • Enterprise M3
  • Hertfordshire
  • South East
  • Solent
  • Thames Valley Berkshire
  • GFirst
  • Heart of the South West

Historic counties

Main article: Historic counties of England

The historic counties ceased to be used for any administrative purpose in 1899 but remain important to some people, notably for county cricket.


See also


  1. ^ The sport of rugby experienced a schism in 1895 with many teams based in Yorkshire, Lancashire and surrounding areas breaking from the Rugby Football Union and forming their own rugby code. The disagreement was over the professional payments and "broken time" or injury payments.


  1. ^ a b "United Kingdom, NUTS 2013" (PDF). Eurostat.
  2. ^ "What regions make up the North and South of England? | YouGov". Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  3. ^ "Eurostat - Data Explorer". 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  4. ^ Robinson, Jonnie. "Received Pronunciation". British Library. Archived from the original on 26 February 2021. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  5. ^ "Funding boost to safeguard Cornish language announced". GOV.UK. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  6. ^ Maconie, Stuart (2007). Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North. Ebury Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-09-191022-8.
  7. ^ Kirk, Ashley (15 September 2015). "Life expectancy increases to 81 years old - but north-south divide remains". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  8. ^ Ellis, Amy; Fry, Robert (2010). "Regional health inequalities in England" (PDF). Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 January 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  9. ^ a b Olatunde, Olugbenga (4 November 2015). "Life Expectancy at Birth and at Age 65 by Local Areas in England and Wales: 2012 to 2014". Office of National Statistics. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  10. ^ AFC Bournemouth: What should we call the derby between Cherries and Southampton?, Bournemouth Daily Echo, 30 October 2015
  11. ^ Southampton snatch equaliser against Brighton in the south coast derby but remain in the relegation zone, The Independent, 31 January 2018
  12. ^ Bournemouth against Southampton the “other” South Coast Derby, Vital Football, 18 October 2018
  13. ^ "London derbies ranked on ferocity of rivalry, including Tottenham v Arsenal and West Ham v Chelsea". TalkSport. 25 November 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  14. ^ "The 10 biggest rivalries in London football". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Gloucester v Bath: The legend of the West County derby". BBC Sport. 11 April 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2015.