Middlesex Day is celebrated each year on the 16th May to commemorate the ancient County of Middlesex. This date was chosen to coincide with the greatest day in the history of the Middlesex Regiment known as the ‘die hards’ at the Battle of Albuhera (Albuera) in the Peninsula War against Napoleon in 1811.
From the archives
Roehampton Club connections with the recent celebration of Middlesex Day
Roehampton Club connections with the County begin at the turn of the 20th Century with several of our Members playing prominent roles in the history of the County. Edward Cotter was a Justice of the Peace when he joined the Club in 1902 living at Stanhope Park, Greenford, Middlesex. Archie Langman joined the Club in 1904 as a Major in the Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry. He was also the treasurer of the Langman Hospital set up by his father as a field hospital during the Boer War with top surgeons and medical staff which included the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Chas Edward Alexander Machrod was a car enthusiast in the pioneering days of the motor industry when he joined Roehampton Club in 1912. He was also a member of the Brooklands Motor Club and the Middlesex Auto Club which was formed in 1905. The first President of the Auto Club was Colonel Henry Ferryman Bowles MA JP MP who was a direct descendant of the Earl of Macclesfield, a founder member of Middlesex County Council.
The Anglo-Saxon Middlesex was undoubtedly larger than the County of Middlesex we know. The kingdom or province of Middlesex would have covered the area we recognise plus south-east Buckinghamshire (from the Chiltern cut through on the A40 down to the Thames), south-west Hertfordshire (from the River Lea to the current Middlesex boundary) and Surrey (Suthrige, meaning the southern region, south of the River Thames). Suthrige refers to the southern region of either Middlesex or Essex. It would have covered the area south of the Thames to the North Downs.
The County of Middlesex became firmly established under Anglo-Saxon rule along with other tribal counties and the new shire counties (set up by King Alfred for defence against the Danes). Middlesex is a tribal county along with Essex, Kent, Sussex et al.
Until the Local Government Act of 1888 created county councils, there was only one kind of County. The act created new administrative counties, which sometimes had different boundaries than the historic counties after which they were usually named. In Middlesex’s case the County Council only covered two thirds of the historic county, with the south-east area of Middlesex (from Hammersmith to Hackney) included in the new London County Council although these ‘inner London’ metro-boroughs continue to remain in the historic county to this day.
This is underlined by the fact Middlesex County Council’s HQ was the Middlesex Guildhall, Westminster and Clerkenwell the county’s judicial centre. It was in this early period of the Middlesex County Council that Roehampton Club Members played their part in the history of the County.
Fast forward to 1987 when Middlesex resident and media celebrity Russell Grant was invited to a dinner at No10 Downing Street hosted by Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. In the conversations that followed, the Prime Minister asked where he lived, to which he politely replied in the nicest possible way ‘Well Prime Minister, you have taken away where I live because I live in Middlesex’. Soon after this meeting, Middlesex supporters were ecstatic on hearing the news of a letter received from Mrs Thatcher’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, Christopher Chope MP, which they treasure to this day reconfirming the existence of Middlesex and explaining that the abolition of a 76 year old County Council did not mean the abolition of the County of Middlesex. The letter started a whirlwind of interest around the history of Middlesex which inspired Russell in his role as Patron and President for Middlesex Heritage to spread the message. During my research, I spoke at length with Russell Grant who was kind enough to contribute to this article and would highly recommend his book The Real Counties of Britain.
Middlesex Day is another timely reminder of the heritage of the Club as we look back to learn lessons from the past in these unusual times.
Steve Riedlinger | Club Archivist