Middlesex , Sussex and Wessex during the Heptarchy. Originally recorded in AD , Essex occupied territory to the north of the River Thames , incorporating all of what later became Middlesex which probably included Surrey and most of what later became Hertfordshire. Its territory was later restricted to lands east of the River Lea.
After the Norman conquest, Essex became a county. During the medieval period, much of the area was designated a Royal forest , including the entire county in a period to , when the area "north of the Stanestreet" was disafforested. However, County Boroughs of West Ham — , Southend-on-Sea —  and East Ham — formed part of the county but were unitary authorities not under county council control.
Parish-level administration — changes[ edit ] A few Essex parishes have been transferred to other counties. Before , small areas were transferred to Hertfordshire near Bishops Stortford and Sawbridgeworth. At the time of the main changes around , parts of Helions Bumpstead , Sturmer , Kedington and Ballingdon-with-Brundon were transferred to Suffolk ; and Great Chishill , Little Chishill and Heydon were transferred to Cambridgeshire. Later, part of Hadstock , part of Ashton and part of Chrishall were transferred to Cambridgeshire and part of Great Horkesley went to Suffolk ; and several other small parcels of land were transferred to all those counties.
Essex became part of the East of England Government Office Region in and was statistically counted as part of that region from , having previously been part of the South East England region. Two unitary authorities[ edit ] In , the boroughs of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock were granted autonomy from the administrative county of Essex after successful requests to become unitary authorities numbered 13 and 14 on the map to the right.
Before , 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.
It currently has 75 elected councillors. Before , the number of councillors reached over The County Hall, made a listed building in , dates largely from the mids and is decorated with fine artworks of that period, mostly the gift of the family who owned the textile firm Courtaulds.
The ceremonial county of Essex is bounded to the south by the River Thames and its estuary a boundary shared with Kent ; to the southwest by Greater London ; to the west by Hertfordshire with the boundary largely defined by the River Lea and the Stort ; to the northwest by Cambridgeshire ; to the north by Suffolk , a boundary mainly defined by the River Stour ; and to the east by the North Sea.
The pattern of settlement in the county is diverse. The Metropolitan Green Belt has effectively prevented the further sprawl of London into the county, although it contains the new towns of Basildon and Harlow , originally developed to resettle Londoners following the destruction of London housing in the Second World War , since which they have been significantly developed and expanded.
Because of its proximity to London and the economic magnetism which that city exerts, many of Essex's settlements, particularly those on or within short driving distance of railway stations, function as dormitory towns or villages where London workers raise their families.
The village of Finchingfield in north Essex Part of the southeast of the county, already containing the major population centres of Basildon , Southend and Thurrock , is within the Thames Gateway and designated for further development. Parts of the southwest of the county, such as Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell , are contiguous with Greater London neighbourhoods and therefore form part of the Greater London Urban Area.
A small part of the southwest of the county Sewardstone , is the only settlement outside Greater London to be covered by a postcode district of the London post town E4. With the exception of major towns such as Colchester , Chelmsford and Southend-on-Sea , the county is rural, with many small towns, villages and hamlets largely built in the traditional materials of timber and brick, with clay tile or thatched roofs.
Economy[ edit ] Industry is largely limited to the south of the county, with the majority of the land elsewhere being given over to agriculture.
Harlow is a centre for electronics, science and pharmaceutical companies. Chelmsford has been an important location for electronics companies, such as the Marconi Company , since the industry was born; it is also the location for a number of insurance and financial services organisations, and until was the home of the soft drinks producer Britvic.
Debden , near Loughton , is home to a production facility for British and foreign banknotes. Other businesses in the county are dominated by mechanical engineering, including but not limited to metalworking , glassmaking and plastics and the service sector. Colchester is a garrison town, and the local economy is helped by the Army 's personnel living there.
Basildon is the location of State Street Corporation 's United Kingdom HQ International Financial Data Services, and remains heavily dependent on London for employment, due to its proximity and direct transport routes. Southend-on-Sea is home to the Adventure Island theme park and is one of the few still growing British Seaside resorts , benefiting from direct, modern rail links from Fenchurch Street railway station and Liverpool Street station placing housing in high demand, especially for financial services commuters , which thereby maintains the town's commercial and general economy.
Parts of eastern Essex suffer from high levels of deprivation; one of the most highly deprived wards is in the seaside town of Clacton.
The Brooklands and Grasslands area of Jaywick were found to be the third-most deprived area in England; two areas in Liverpool and Manchester were rated more deprived. In contrast, west and south-west Essex is one of the most affluent parts of eastern England, forming part of the London commuter belt.
There is a large middle class here, and the area is widely known for its private schools. Despite the 18 Conservative MPs in Essex , the county has also witnessed several of its constituencies vote for the Labour Party: The Liberal Democrats , until had a sizeable following in Essex, gaining Colchester in the general election.
Following the general election , UKIP's vote share plummeted by This resulted in Labour regaining second place in Essex, increasing their vote share across the county and cutting some Conservative majorities in areas which had been unaffected by the general election , namely Rochford and Southend East and Southend West. In contrast, Thurrock is the most marginal seat. In , the Conservatives held Thurrock with an increased share of the vote, but smaller margin of victory.
In the EU referendum , Essex voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU , with all 14 District Council areas voting to leave, the smallest margin being in Uttlesford.