London or Essex?

Map of Romford

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had the debate with people: Do I live in London or Essex? I live in Romford, which many people will instinctively say is in Essex. In fact, my address even states 'Romford, Essex' - but as I’m far as I’m concerned, I live in London.

Here's why:

The area we know as London (or officially 'Greater London') consists of the City of London (a.k.a. the Square Mile) and 32 surrounding boroughs. Romford can be found smack bang in the middle of one of those boroughs - Havering. No one could argue that I don’t live within the London Borough of Havering, so why do so many have a problem with me saying I live in London?

I am eligible to vote for the London Mayor (and fall under his power!), part of my council tax goes towards funding the GLA (Greater London Authority), Romford Police Station is home to Metropolitan Police Officers, not Essex police, and my local news is BBC London (or 'London Tonight' on the other side). In fact, the evidence is overwhelmingly in my favour. Even Wikipedia agrees that 'Romford is a large suburban town in East London, England'. The only thing that goes against me is that I don’t have a London postcode.

To find out how this confusion occurred, we have to go back a few years. Prior to 1965, there was a County of London, which only included some of the inner London boroughs we know today. In 1965 the county was abolished and 'Greater London' was created, which expanded the area and swallowed up parts of what were then Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire.

I’m not denying Romford was once in Essex, history tells us it most definitely was. But since 1965, it has undoubtedly been part of London.

With regards to the postcode issue, Royal Mail had already started creating postcodes for the London area prior to the creation of Greater London, which threw a spanner in the works, so the 'new' parts of London had to make do with new codes (e.g., RM for Romford). I’ve heard that Royal Mail once considered assigning new N, S, E and W London postcodes to the outer boroughs, but the idea was scrapped due to it being a logistical nightmare.

The same story can apply to many other towns like Ilford (Essex or London Borough of Redbridge?), Croydon (Surrey or London Borough of Croydon?) and Surbition (Surrey or London Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames?).

In the meantime, the debate will go on. But I do wonder what it would do to the price of my flat if I lived in Romford, London E19 rather than Romford, Essex RM1.

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