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Ossulstone is an obsolete subdivision (hundred) covering 26.4% of – and the most metropolitan part – of the historic county of Middlesex, England.[2] Its area has been entirely absorbed by the growth of London; and now corresponds to the seven London Boroughs of Inner London north of the Thames and, from Outer London, in decreasing order, certain historic parishes of the London boroughs of Ealing, Brent, Barnet, Hounslow and Haringey.

Ossulstone Hundred in Middlesex.svg
 • 183147,950 acres (194.0 km2)[1]
 • 18311,008,441
 • 18812,205,806
 • Createdin antiquity
 • TypeDivisions / liberties
Ossulstone is the large area from Finchley and Friern Barnet southwards. The map shows the substantial parishes (black) and many of the major newer settlements (green).



It was named after "Oswald's Stone" or "Oswulf's Stone", an unmarked pre-Roman minor monolith which stood at Tyburn (the modern-day junction of the Edgware Road with Bayswater Road). Oswald's Stone was earthed over in 1819, but dug up three years later because of its presumed historical significance. Later in the 19th century it was to be found leaning against Marble Arch following its move. In 1869 shortly after an archaeological journal published an article about it the stone disappeared and it has not been identified since.[3]

Originally meeting at Oswald's Stone, the hundred court eventually moved south-east to the vicinity of Holborn where by the 19th century it was being held in a building in the north east corner of Red Lion Square, by that stage an outpost of the legal quarter of London close to Lincolns Inn.[4] Following the de facto end of hundreds as a judicial unit in the late 19th century, the building became the headquarters of Conway Hall Ethical Society.

One of six hundreds of Middlesex, it was always the largest and from early medieval times had more than 20 parishes and some of the most complicated ecclesiastical units and liberties in the country as many medieval foundations existed outside of London's walls.

Parishes with land borders

Accepting the inclusion of New Brentford/Brentford[n 1] Ossulstone in latter years had fourteen land-border parishes, one, St Pancras, only as to a far corner in Highgate.

Borders clockwise

Ealing (and New Brentford) bordered three parishes of Elthorne to the west. Six parishes including Ealing and a corner of St Pancras in Highgate bordered three parishes of Gore hundred to the north-west. Then, proceeding, an arm of Finchley and the strip parish of Friern Barnet formed a single counter-projection into the small parishes around Chipping Barnet in Hertfordshire, these being the only notable projection into Middlesex. Hornsey, Stoke Newington and Hackney bordered Tottenham parish in Edmonton hundred (sometimes called a half-hundred) to the north. Four parishes including Hackney bordered the Becontree hundred of Essex to the east. Finally two of these land border parishes and many other parishes of Ossulstone had the Thames to the south. Beyond the tidal Thames lay the Blackheath Hundred of Kent to the southeast and those of Kingston, Brixton and Lambeth in Surrey. Until Westminster and Putney Bridges of the 18th century the only bridge was via the City at London Bridge. Ossulstone however did not include the City of London, which it surrounded west, north and east.[6] Westminster for many purposes formed a liberty meaning it enjoyed its own customs as to markets and freedoms from wider royal precepts and hundred courts.


The very edges of the Hundred were militarily strategic and hosted all three of Middlesex's known, notable battles:[n 2]


In the 17th century the hundred was split into five divisions, which had their own hundred courts and so assumed the remnant administrative purposes of the Hundred. The Tower Division (also known as Tower Hamlets) had significant further responsibilities, as by having its own Lord Lieutenant it took on military responsibilities normally exercised at county level. The five divisions of Ossulstone were:[6]

Division Parishes
Kensington Large parishes: Kensington, Chelsea,[n 3] Fulham, Hammersmith, Chiswick, Ealing, Acton, Willesden and Brentford
Small parish: West Twyford[7]
Holborn Large parishes: Marylebone ([n 4]), Paddington, St Pancras and Hampstead.

Small parishes: St Giles in the Fields, Westminster and St. George's, Bloomsbury, St Andrew, Holborn (also known as Holborn)[n 5] and St George the Martyr Holborn, Saffron Hill, Hatton Garden, Ely Rents and Ely Place, the Liberty of the Rolls, the Savoy
Finsbury Large parishes Islington: St Mary's including Highbury [n 6]; Finchley, Hornsey, Friern Barnet, Stoke Newington

Small parishes:St Lukes[n 7]; Glasshouse Yard; St Sepulchre,[n 8], Clerkenwell,[n 9], The London Charterhouse
Tower Hamlets Large parishes: Hackney (including Upper and Lower Clapton, Dalston and Homerton), Shoreditch (including Haggerston and Hoxton), Bethnal Green, Stepney, Bow (also known as Stratford-le-Bow), Mile End Old Town and Mile End New Town, Poplar, and Bromley-by-Bow (less often known as Bromley)

Small parishes: Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Norton Folgate, Limehouse, Ratcliff, Shadwell, Wapping including St George in the East, East Smithfield
Westminster Small parishes of the city of Westminster averaging much larger than those of the City of London: Close of the Collegiate Church of St Peter (Westminster Abbey), St Margaret and St John

Liberty or Liberties: St Anne (also known as Soho), St Clement Danes, St George Hanover Square (also known as Mayfair and Belgravia), St Martin in the Fields (parent of many of these parishes), St James's, St Mary-le-Strand, St Paul Covent Garden

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ If New Brentford is accepted then many historical works consider Brentford together that is all the Brentford chapels later created parishes and all later united. New Brentford was already for decades governed by its own vestry and acquired parish status in the mid 17th century,[5]
  2. ^ In the case of the last Brentford Battle note that Putney Bridge and Richmond Bridge were not built until the 18th century, the three road bridges between them even later, starting with the first Kew Bridge. Medieval Kingston Bridge was roundhead-guarded equally Brentford's bridge over the River Brent and the placing of the Royalists in Berkshire led to the roundhead-barricading of the small town. In the 15th century the high ground of the Great North Road through elevated Barnet town was unusually shrouded in mist which heightened the fighting. Philippa Gregory's semi-fictional The White Queen attributes the mist to Elizabeth Woodville's mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg who betrayed allegiances to her pro-Lancastrian dead husband. She married her eldest daughter into the House of York, siding with Edward IV.
  3. ^ Of the ten parishes in the Kensington Division, Chelsea had a very small riverside enclave of Kensington until its 19th century abolition. Chelsea was slightly more often than the others recorded with the saint of its church, St Luke's Chelsea
  4. ^ Also known as St Marylebone
  5. ^ Also known as St Andrew-above-the-bars
  6. ^ Also known as St Mary's, Islington
  7. ^ Also known as St Luke's, Islington
  8. ^ Also known as St Sepulchre-without or outside-the-walls
  9. ^ Also known as St James, Clerkenwell and in early days as the Priory of St James, Clerkenwell
  1. ^ Great Britain Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Middlesex hundreds 1831 census population. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  2. ^ British History Online - Hundreds of Middlesex
  3. ^ Ossulstone Hundred, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 6: Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey with Highgate (1980), pp. 1-5 accessed: 30 May 2007
  4. ^ History of Red Lion Square, Victoria County History
  5. ^ Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot and M A Hicks, 'Ealing and Brentford: Churches, Brentford', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, ed. T F T Baker and C R Elrington (London, 1982), pp. 153-157. British History Online [accessed 17 May 2018].
  6. ^ a b British History Online - Divisions of Ossulstone hundred
  7. ^ Map and words of Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot and M A Hicks, 'Acton: Introduction', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7 ed. T F T Baker and C R Elrington (London, 1982), pp. 1-2. British History Online [accessed 17 May 2018].

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 51°30′46″N 0°9′44″W / 51.51278°N 0.16222°W / 51.51278; -0.16222