Answering the Question That Has Raged for Centuries

Historic Essex market town or part of Metropolitan London? Every Romford resident has his or her own opinion on where they really live.

Ideally situated within the M25, but within easy reach of rural Essex, and with a vibrant town centre in its own right, Romford is often described as a place that has the best of all worlds. That’s well and good, but it has also left many residents facing something of an identity crisis. Are they residents of Essex, or are they Londoners?

It’s the question that every estate agent in Romford knows to expect from those looking to move in to the town. That holds true whether they are wishing to get closer to the capital to take advantage of the great commuter links, or to move a little further out and buy a three bedroom house for the price of a one-bedroom apartment in a place like Bethnal Green.

Romford’s changing status

Saying that the question has raged for centuries might sound like hyperbole, but it is absolutely true. In the early 1400s, Romford was part of the Becontree Hundred in Essex, but in 1465, it was afforded special status as an independent liberty in its own right. This status remained till 1892, at which point it once again became part of Essex.

However, that all changed again in the 20th century. The area became increasingly urbanised between the wars, and in the 1920s, Romford was deemed part of the London Traffic Area, although it was still part of Essex. In 1965, there was yet another change, and the town was made part of the London Borough of Havering. It remains so to this day.

The official answer, then, is that Romford is part of London and has been so for more than 50 years. However, there are many residents who insist that they live in Essex, whatever anyone else might say.

When the local paper ran a story that attempted to put the Essex or London debate to bed once and for all, it triggered a flood of texts, emails and social media comments. This is an historic town, and many families have lived here for generations, so they feel passionately on the subject.

One resident commented that while the government moves boundaries for economic reasons, there is more to the question than this. The town has not physically moved, and to the lady in question, it has always been, and always will be, in Essex.

Others argued that the location of boundaries is exactly how you define a town’s location, and that just because the town was one a part of Essex, it has not been so for more than half a century, and people need to keep up with the times.

Enjoying the best of both

Given that people have been arguing about whether Romford is part of London or Essex for more than 600 years, it seems unlikely that complete agreement will be reached any time soon. But what everyone can agree on is that this is a town that enjoys a unique location. Its character is made up of both Essex and London influences, but even more importantly, this is a thriving town in its own right – and the exact postal addresses or the colour of the buses will never change that.