The Home Counties are the counties of the southeast of Great Britain which encircle London. It is an undefined, indefinable group, and whether any place falls within the Home Counties will frequently be a matter of opinion and degree.
Origin of the term
The term is believed to have originated in the 19th century, and is possibly derived from the Home Circuit of the itinerant Court of Assizes. The first use of the exact term "home counties", rather than home circuit, cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1898.
The Court of Session also has a "Home" circuit, centred on Edinburgh.
Though vernacular and undefined, the term "home counties" has been used in legislation and the administration of the armed forces during the twentieth century:
- 1851: The 1851 Post Office Directory of the Six Home Counties covered Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex
- 1908: The Home Counties Division of the Territorial Force comprised units recruiting in Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
- 1924: The London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, covering the London Traffic Area: Middlesex (including the administrative county of London), and parts of Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey.
- 1926: The Home Counties (Music and Dancing) Licensing Act regulated activities in all parts of Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey within 20 miles of the City of London or City of Westminster.
- 1938: Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act limited development in parts of Middlesex, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Essex, Berkshire and Hertfordshire.
- 1948: The Home Counties Brigade was formed to administer the infantry regiments of the City and County of London, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex.
- "Country, County and Town: Patterns of Regional Evolution in England" by Alan Everitt in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 29, (1979), pp. 79-108.