As Londonist settled down for a swift half in the Old Shades recently (right by Trafalgar Square and yet oddly tourist-free – can anyone explain?) we happened to overhear a debate that must have been playing out in the capital for countless generations: what counts as London?
A gentleman in a fetching felt hat was calmly pointing out to his companion that London is defined by its boroughs – the 32 administrative areas that were formed in 1965 following the London Government Act of two years earlier.
His increasingly irate friend, however, refused to countenance that, among many other examples, Romford or Kingston in any way counted as London, residing instead in Essex and Surrey respectively. Her contention was that London is defined by its postcodes – if you’re lucky enough to live in an NW or an E you’re in the Smoke, but an EN or TW? Out into the shires with you.
So what actually counts as London? Londonist invites you to help us to once and for all define the boundaries of our capital. Vote for one of the following seven definitions in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
1. The boroughs: the ‘official’, but perhaps slightly less romantic definition.
Where’s in? All those areas covered by the 1963 Act, including Barking & Dagenham, Romford, Bromley, Enfield, Kingston and Richmond.
Where’s out? All areas outside the 32 boroughs (and the Square Mile).
2. Postcodes: there must have been a reason why the Post Office settled on certain areas as London and others as elsewhere. Did they know something we don’t?
Where’s in? Anything with a postal code beginning with N, NW, W, SW, SE or E (including EC1, WC2, etc).
Where’s out? Many of the outer boroughs without those postcodes, including Bromley, Enfield and Harrow. Some unexpected areas also lose their London status, such as Brentford, Morden and Edgware.
3. The M25: it would certainly make it nice and easy if the enormous ring around the city on every road map counted as the official boundary.
Where’s in? Everything inside the orbital motorway, outposts such as Epsom, Watford, Upminster and even Staines are now proud Londoners.
Where’s out? Sorry, still no place for Luton, despite its best efforts with the airport.
4. The Tube: we all love it (most of the time), so why not let our wonderful old Underground network define the city by saying London counts as anywhere within a mile of a tube station?
Where’s in? Take a look at the tube map – that’s where’s in. Watford again gets the nod, Morden is back in as is High Barnet, Uxbridge and chunks of Essex.
Where’s out? Almost the whole of south London, but for the areas closest the river and anywhere lucky enough to be within a mile of the Northern Line. Be warned, this choice may lead to civil war.
5. Telephone codes: preceding the London borough rearrangements of 1965 by seven years, the classic 01 code for London has since been 071 and 081, then 0171 and 0181, before settling on today’s 020. Embedded in the minds of Londoners as these numbers are, could any property with a ‘London’ phone number be our winner?
Where’s in? All central London areas and most of the boroughs, but also interlopers such as Elstree, Loughton and…Thames Ditton?
Where’s out? Certain outlying parts of some boroughs like Uxbridge, Orpington and poor old in again/out again Romford.
6. Elections: Londoners vote for a mayor, so perhaps any house whose occupants get a vote in the mayoral election should could as London?
Where’s in? OK, it’s a swindle — only people in the boroughs get a vote, so it’s really just another way to describe option 1.
Where’s out? The non-boroughs, as above.
7. The City: the controversial choice: is true London really just the historical Roman settlement of 1.12 square miles at its heart?
Where’s in? A tiny section of ‘London’ from Chancery Lane in the west to Mansell Street in the east.
Where’s out? Everything else, and don’t forget to close the door on your way out.