Old Ordnance Survey Maps of Essex

This page summarises the local government organisation of Essex since 1889.

  • Essex County Council was formed in 1889, and in 1894 a network of boroughs, urban district and rural district councils was formed across the county.
  • Essex had four Municipal Boroughs dating from 1836 (or before): Colchester, Harwich, Maldon, Saffron Walden.
  • Several new municipal boroughs were created after 1836, principally in the outskirts of London: West Ham (1886), Chelmsford (1888), Southend-on-Sea (1892), East Ham (1904), Ilford (1926), Leyton (1926, after a failed attempt in 1898), Walthamstow (1929), Barking (1931), Romford (1937), Wanstead & Woodford (1937), Chingford (1938), and Dagenham (1938). Hornchurch failed in its attempt to become a borough in 1955.
  • West Ham became a county borough in 1889, Southend-on-Sea in 1914, and East Ham in 1915.
  • From 1894 there were also 18 Urban Districts: Barking Town*, Braintree (Braintree & Bocking from 1934), Buckhurst Hill, Chingford*, Clacton, East Ham*, Grays Thurrock), Halstead, Ilford*, Leyton*, Romford*, Shoeburyness (absorbed by Southend-on-Sea CB 1933), Waltham Holy Cross, Walthamstow*, Walton on the Naze, Wanstead*, Witham, and Woodford* UDCs. Those marked * later became Municipal Boroughs as listed above. Urban Districts had similar powers to boroughs but lacked the powers to appoint mayors or aldermen.
  • Some new urban districts were later formed for: Brightlingsea (1896), Epping (1896), Leigh on Sea (1897 but absorbed by Southend-on-Sea MB in 1913), Burnham on Crouch (1898), Wivenhoe (1898), Brentwood (1899), Loughton (1900 but absorbed by Chigwell UDC in 1933), Frinton on Sea (1901), Tilbury (1912), Canvey Island (1926), Dagenham (1926, but became a MB in 1938), Hornchurch (1926), West Mersea (1926), Benfleet (1929), Purfleet (1929), Rayleigh (1929), Chigwell (1933), Billericay (1934), Basildon (1955), Harlow (1955).
  • There was some reorganisation in 1934. Wanstead and Woodford UDCs were abolished and merged into Wanstead & Woodford MB. Frinton on Sea and Walton on the Naze UDCs were merged as Frinton & Walton UDC.
  • In 1936 Grays Thurrock, Purfleet and Tilbury UDCs were amalgamated into the new Thurrock UDC.
  • In 1955 Billericay UDC was absorbed by the new Basildon UDC.
  • There were also 18 Rural District Councils covering the areas outside the major towns. These were: Belchamp, Billericay, Braintree, Bumpstead, Chelmsford, Epping, Halstead, Lexden & Winstree, Maldon, Ongar, Orsett, Rochford, Romford, Royston, Saffron Walden, Stansted and Tendring RDCs. Most Rural Districts were initially based on the Poor Law Unions, with meetings held at the workhouse.
  • In 1895 Royston RDC was absorbed by Melbourn RDC in Cambridgeshire.
  • In 1934 there was a reorganisation. Belchamp, Billericay, Bumpstead, Romford and Stansted RDCs were abolished and absorbed by adjacent councils.
  • In 1936 Orsett RDC was absorbed by Thurrock UDC.
  • In 1955 Epping and Ongar RDCs were amalgamated as Epping & Ongar RDC.
  • In 1965 several county boroughs and municipal boroughs were abolished and transferred to five new London Metropolitan Boroughs.
  • In 1994 part of the Becontree area of Redbridge was transferred to Barking & Dagenham.
  • In 1974 major reorganisation saw the urban and rural districts abolished and a 2-tier structure established, with the County Council and fourteen districts: Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Castle Point, Chelmsford, Colchester, Epping Forest, Harlow, Maldon, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea, Tendring, Thurrock, Uttlesford.
  • In 1998 Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock became unitary authorities. They remain in Essex for ceremonial purposes.
  • In 2012 Chelmsford gained city status.
  • The London Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest are no longer in Essex. In 2017 there have been calls for Havering to leave London and become an unitary authority.
  • For a list of our Essex maps go to the Essex page, or to Essex in London page for the outer London boroughs. For a full list of English maps, return to the England page
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    Minor changes are not listed here, but please advise us of any significant errors or omissions.
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