1. Governance
July 7, 2015

Where does the north of England start?

By City Monitor Staff

So, earlier today, Helen Pidd, the Guardian‘s northern editor, revealed on Twitter that Britain’s government seemed a bit hazy on exactly where the north referred to in its “Northern Powerhouse” policy actually was:

This revelation plays into all sorts of prejudices – about how little London knows of the rest of the country, about how out of touch ministers are, about how the Northern Powerhouse policy is basically a big bit of fluff.

But it was also a trigger for a noisy and lengthy Twitter debate about the vexed question – where exactly does the north start?

Some people seemed pretty confident:

Others felt this was too exclusionary:

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(Ipswich is in the north now – who knew?)

This led to some controversial statements:

In case you were wondering, it’s not really very clear where the south ends, either.

Though some people seemed pretty confident:

One problem with defining the borders of the north seems to be the town of Grimsby, which sounds a bit northern but insists, annoyingly, on being in Lincolnshire.

Chesterfield, too, is a bit of a problem:

Cities like Nottingham, Derby and Stoke may or may not be northern, too.

PRO: They contain people with vaguely northern accents.

CON: According to the official government regions, they’re all in the Midlands. (Nottingham, Derby and Chesterfield are all in the East Midlands; Stoke is in the West Midlands.)

Image Wikimedia Commons/Nilfanion/Dr Greg.

There are other problems with the official map. They place most of the Home Counties in the South East region, but hand Essex and Herts to the East – a fact which means that the Metropolitan line of the London Underground, perhaps unexpectedly, extends into three different government regions.

Earlier attempts at creating English “provinces” got round this by giving the south eastern region the whole of the Home Counties. This is the proposals put forward by the Redcliffe-Maud report in the late 1960s:


The provinces proposed by the Redcliffe-Maud report. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Morwen.

Or we could just screw it and go back to the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy:

The Heptarchy, according to Bartholomew’s A literary & historical atlas of Europe (1914)

Anyway, the whole conversation is moot because CityMetric solved this one for you all months ago.


You’re welcome.

Thanks to all the people whose tweets we’ve quoted in this story, who are all brilliant so you should follow them right now.

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