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Government / Local politics

Is this the most ridiculous city boundary on earth?

The placement of city limits, as we’ve often noted, can sometimes seem a tad on the arbitrary side. In some cities, the boundary is so tight that the vast majority of what a stranger might assume to be the city technically lies outside it altogether. Other cities officially but optimistically contain vast swathes of neighbouring countryside.

This, though, bloody well takes the biscuit. Look at this:

That, as you can see, is a single building containing two semi-detached houses. Inside, we assume, live two families, who share a wall and a roof and a couple of garden fences, and so would need to cooperate pretty closely whenever anything goes wrong with the fabric of the building.

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Nonetheless, these two homes are officially in completely different places. The one on the right is in London; the one on the left is outside it, in the neighbouring county of Essex.

You can tell this from the street signs.


And from this big announcement, that you are about to escape the Big Smoke.


And from the road itself – which, from the look of it, has been re-surfaced on two completely different schedules.


The two homes have different street addresses. (This is why the numbers of the two homes are wildly different, too.) This is where the post code changes, too: the home on the right is in IG8 (Woodford), while the one on the left is in IG9 (Buckhurst Hill).

There’s more. London’s boundaries have been where they are only since 1965. These homes are clearly older than that. This means that the London boundary was deliberately designed to run down the middle of this building.

Which is just bloody silly.

How did this happen? When various Essex suburbs were being sorted into boroughs in the late 19th and early 20th century, the two sides of this line were in different boroughs. Local government went through various permutations, until by the early 1950s, this building was straddling the border between Chigwell Urban District (on the left) and Wansted & Woodford Urban District (on the right). Both these areas where considered for inclusion in the new Greater London. But like many other rich outlying suburbs – Esher, Epsom and Weybridge, to name a few – the Chigwell lot whined about it, and even though they’re contiguous with London’s urban area, the final plan didn’t include them.

So London ended up with a boundary that not only runs down the middle of a suburban street, but cuts buildings in two. 

We may have mentioned this before, but: city boundaries can be really, really arbitrary.

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