The Heart of the County

Talk about the ‘Heart of Hampshire’ or the ‘Heart of the Cotswolds’ and you invoke an image that captures the landscapes, culture and history of somewhere special and unique, a place or region intuitively recognised and understood. Each of our historical and ceremonial counties has its own such distinctive character and persona. Warwickshire, for example, is quite different in ‘personality’ to Cornwall or Kent, and Aberdeenshire has a very different profile and heritage to Ayrshire or Fife. These differences reflect contrasting histories, landscapes, geology, economy and the influence of key families and individuals throughout their history. But how can we ‘capture’ this ‘place personality’ ? Maybe it is through the nature of the county’s towns, which will have been at the heart of its culture and history, or perhaps it will be through the artists, writers or poets who capture that ‘heart’ in their works – the Lake District, for example, whether in its modern ceremonial county of Cumbria or its historic county of Cumberland, is synonymous with the works of Wordsworth or Beatrix Potter

Another way of getting to the heart of a county, though, is to look at the places that are quite literally at the centre (or heart) of the county. There are two ways of identifying these ‘central places’. One is to find the location that is furthest from any of the county boundaries, so that it is as far from being in another county as it is possible to be. It is likely that such a specific point is not actually in a town or village, so we might look at the settlement which is closest to that point. The second way is to find what is called the ‘centroid’ of the county. This is the point at which a geometric shape identical to the county’s shape would balance precisely. Once again, this is usually a rural location, so we might look at the village, town, suburb or borough that is closest to this point.

So where are these central points, which lie at the heart of the county, in Greater London, for example? The furthest you can get from the boundary of Greater London is on The Embankment, on the north side of the River Thames by the Savoy Pier (Grid Reference TQ30558055). From here it is 16.76km to the edge of Greater London at Worcester Park in south London and at Repton Park near Chigwell in north-east London.  As the county of Greater London is roughly circular in shape the central point calculated as the centroid is very close to the furthest point from the county boundary.  It also lies on The Embankment on the N side of the River Thames, but in this case it is where the road passes under Hungerford Bridge, close to Embankment tube station (Grid Reference TQ 30428032). Both these points are in the London Borough of Westminster which means that it is Westminster that stands at the heart of the city geographically – and it would be easy to argue that The Embankment and Westminster are great locations to capture the character of London.

And what about a more rural ‘shire’ county? The ceremonial county of Cheshire, in the north west of England, is a rural county with a number of significant urban centres. The furthest point from the county boundary is 3km south of the town of Winsford – a point that is 21.7km from the nearest county boundary (Grid Reference SJ65006420). The nearest settlement to this point is the hamlet of School Green, 2km south west of Winsford, which is itself 21.1km from the nearest county boundary (Grid Reference SJ64606490). The centroid of Cheshire is some 5km north west of here, though. The centroid is in farmland close to Brook House, which is 3km NW of Winsford (Grid Reference SJ63506820). Brook House is close to the village of Whitegate, which lies midway between Winsford and Northwich, and is therefore the most central settlement (Grid Reference SJ62906930). The rural character of both School Green and of Whitegate certainly captures the ‘essence’ of the county of Cheshire, and so might be described as typifying the heart of the county.

So where is the heart of your own home county?


And Finally….!

The Must Get Out More Question !

Which three English counties have the longest coastlines?


The Answer to the Last Question

Where is the longest road tunnel in the UK?

The longest road tunnel in the UK is the Queensway Tunnel, also known as the Birkenhead Tunnel, which runs under the River Mersey between Liverpool and Birkenhead in Merseyside. Opened in 1934, it is 3,237m long (Grid Reference SJ33328975)


The Record Locations

You can use the Grid References provided to locate record locations on a map at

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