Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, raised the flag of Middlesex today (16 May 2014) outside the Department for Communities and Local Government headquarters to celebrate the important role traditional counties play in the nation’s cultural heritage.
England’s traditional counties date back over a 1000 years of history, but many of them have been sidelined by Whitehall and municipal bureaucrats in recent decades, including the municipal restructuring by Edward Heath’s government in 1965 and 1972. By contrast, this government is championing local communities continuing to cherish and celebrate such traditional ties and community spirit.
The flag was hoisted to mark Middlesex Day, which falls on the anniversary of the British Army’s battle at Albuhera, in Spain, when the Middlesex Regiment held back the might of Napoleon during the Peninsula Wars.
Created during the Anglo-Saxon period, the name Middlesex means territory of the Middle Saxons referring to the tribal heritage of its inhabitants. The historic county encompasses all of London north of the River Thames - with the exception of the independent City of London - as well as the surrounding rural areas up to the rivers Colne and Lea.
The county was immortalised in the poem “Middlesex” by former poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman, and by sporting organisations, such as Middlesex County Cricket Club. Middlesex remains an active county.
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:
England’s counties continue to form an important part of our cultural and local identity in this country and many people remain deeply attached to their home county. This sense of pride and shared identity is one of the things that binds communities together.
I’m delighted to recognise and celebrate Middlesex Day by flying the grand flag of this historic county outside the department’s headquarters. It is fitting this flag flies in the heart of the nation, the City of Westminster, which forms part of this historic county.
John Randall, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in Middlesex, said:
It’s really great that Middlesex Day is being marked by Eric Pickles and the department. It is a wonderful way to celebrate the fact that our county may be lost as an administrative area but Middlesex has a proud history and is an integral part of our country’s history. Seeing the flag reminds us of the bravery of those who fought in the Middlesex regiment over the years and makes me proud to call Middlesex my county. It is still very much alive and kicking.
Television celebrity and English county campaigner and historian, Russell Grant, said:
This is recognition that the County of Middlesex continues to exist, in its entirety, as it has done since 704 AD. Its only loss was the 76-year-old county council. Raising the Middlesex flag in Westminster will restore pride to the identity of this historic county and enable Middlesaxons to celebrate their county’s heritage, past and present, on this Middlesex Day.
This is part of a series of steps to champion England’s national identities. Last month, the department launched a new initiative to support the ‘tapestry’ of traditional English counties being displayed on street and road signs. The government also published a new online interactive map of England’s county boundaries.
Planning rules have been changed to allow for councils to put up boundary signs marking traditional English counties - including the likes of Cumberland, Huntingdonshire, Westmorland and Middlesex. The government has proposed changes to highways regulations to allow traditional county names to appear on boundary road signs.
This is part of a series of steps to champion England’s national identities; the government has previously changed Whitehall rules to allow local and county flags to be flown without planning permission, and supported the Flag Institute in encouraging a new wave of county and community flags to be designed and flown by local communities.