|Middlesex : What Does it Mean to You?|
Rupert Barnes on a county with a long history and vanishing traditions
I was born in Chiswick, Middlesex. Officialdom claims that Middlesex had been abolished by then, but I was born among those same Middlesex towns which had been home to generations of the Barnes family before me.
My grandfather’s shop was in Chiswick High Road, his father’s in Isleworth. For me these have always been Middlesex towns, whatever local government arrangements go on around them, and even if towns hide under anonymous codes like W4.
An aunt once told me Middlesex ended at the end of her road, as there the London postal district begins. It is an odd sort of county if it can be moved by the Post Office. I am happy to assert the continuance of the county.
It would take strong words to strike down a shire with thirteen hundred years behind it and Parliament has stayed its hand. We lost the administrative county (the “torso” of the historic county, Betjeman called it) but the ancient county can claim to remain. Let us then stand up for our heritage. The Historic Counties Trust is here to do just that.
Middlesex is full of towns and villages which have grown together but grown individually, all full of places and memories. To lose the identities of our towns by neglect would be a grievous loss. Middlesex itself has a history of over thirteen centuries, and its towns have their individual characters, despite the flattening effect of bureaucratically imposed sameness.
The Historic Counties Trust is gathering material about Middlesex. We want to know what Middlesex means to you, and what your town means to you. What makes your town what it is, and what makes Middlesex what it is? Today’s county is just as important; heritage, after all, is not what has gone but that which we have now. We want your thoughts and your stories, your pictures of Middlesex past and present. Help us to build an idea of Middlesex today and in memory.
Some of the material will be used in an exhibition running from next year. Some will be used to build up in other ways an appreciation of the county and its places.
Middlesex is a county with a long history and vanishing traditions. It means something different to everyone.
October 31, 2008