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London's Metropolitan Essex by Andrew Summers and John Debenham charts the blurred boundaries between east London and west Essex
A new book examining the changing face of West Essex and East London over the last two thousand years is published this March.
London’s Metropolitan Essex charts the blurring of boundaries between Essex and the capital through the stories of those who shaped the area.
The book is the latest in a series on Essex history by Andrew Summers and John Debenham.
From King Alfred to Alfred Hitchcock it is dotted with stories of the characters who played a part in the history of the area.
Mr Debenham, 75, said: “It is such a fascinating place and one which has always had very strong links to London.
“The forests of west Essex were a favourite of London’s wealthy for many centuries and there has always been a close link between the two.
“But I remember going to places like Hainault Forest as a boy and you very much felt you were in the countryside and not London when you went there. That is still the case.”
The book’s title ‘Metropolitan Essex’ refers to the formation of the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1965 when the new boroughs of Newham, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Havering and Waltham Forest were created.
That saw almost a third of Essex’s population officially absorbed into London.
Mr Debenham said: “The western boundary of Essex which has survived more or less intact for 1000 years was radically altered.
“Early in the 19th century an attempt to bring five Essex villages with the boundary of Hertfordshire was fiercely resisted and there was a mini-revolution led by a man called William Maitland which saw off the proposals.
“The cry then was ‘We have been Essex men since Alfred the Great!’
“But there was no real outcry in 1965, it was just a natural progression and a consequence of London’s ever increasing expansion.”
Despite the official shift from Essex to London. Mr Debenham says the area still retains a character distinct from much of the capital.
He said: “I think even today there are many who might pay their council tax to London boroughs but who still consider themselves to be from Essex.
"The geography of places like Epping Forest very much ties the area to Essex even though it is officially London.
“Even in the built up areas you will still see the links to Essex on the walls of old municipal buildings many of which still have the old Essex County Shield on them.
“The link to Essex will always be there.”
London’s Metropolitan Essex is published in March priced £12.99.