Are The 2012 Olympic Games Actually in Essex?

River Lea and Olympic Stadium

The London Essex Games are taking place on the London border with Essex next week. The Olympic Stadium is sited on the east side of the River Lea, which is the traditional border between Essex and London. The Lea River Navigation runs along to the east if the Stadium. Here is a little on the historical geography of the Essex – London border.

The Olympic Stadium can be seen between the River Lea and the River Lea Navigation

The satellite image to the left is the current map of the Essex / London border, provided by Google Maps. The Olympic Stadium sits inbetween the River Lea and the River Lea Navigation. The Aquatics Centre is to the east to the River Lea Navigation.

However, in 1965 the London border moved. Below we explain how Essex lost the Olympic Games, and a lot of land.

According to Wikipedia, “Essex … has its root in the eastern kingdom of the Saxons. Originally (in 527 AD) it occupied territory to the north of the River Thames, incorporating all of what later became Middlesex and most of what later became Hertfordshire, though its territory was later restricted to lands east of the River Lea.”

Note, the Olympic Stadium is clearly to the east of the Old River Lea. The following map shows this quite clearly:

River Lea and Olympic Stadium
River Lea and the Olympic Stadium - Source:

The above map can be found in full here:,-0.01433&z=16&t=K&marker0=51.50711%2C0.00918%2CRiver%20Lea.

So, it is clear to us that this years Summer Olympic Games are actually being held in the real Essex, as that is where the main stadium, the Aquatics centre, the Waterpolo Arena and the mountain biking track are all located. Although, they are just outside the modern political Essex!

How Essex Lost the Olympic Games (and a lot of land!)

OK, the Games are not in Essex. Why? Well, in 1963, The London Government Act 1963 (c. 33), an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, was passed. This act essentially led to the creation of Greater London and also to several new local government districts. The Act came into effect on 1 April 1965, and from this day on, Essex was a slightly smaller county. We lost Romford, Stratford, Ilford, Hornchurch, Walthamstow, Chingford, Barking and Dagenham, to name but a few towns, were all lost forever.

The Act created two distinct regions within London, with 12 Inner London Boroughs and 20 Outer London Boroughs. The Outer London Boroughs which swallowed up Essex are (major towns in brackets):

  • Havering (incl. Romford, Hornchurch, Upminster and Rainham)
  • Barking and Dagenham (incl. Barking, Chadwell Heath, Dagenham, Rush Green)
  • Newham (East Ham, West Ham, North Woolwich)
  • Redbridge (Ilford, Chigwell, Barkingside, Gants Hill, Goodmayes, Seven Kings, Woodford, Wanstead)
  • Waltham Forest ( Chingford, Walthamstow, Leyton, Leytonstone)

East Ham and West Ham were Essex county boroughs and their merger led to New-Ham – Newham.

So, there is a little bit of modern history. As one local historian said today, “The London Government Act 1963 – 1000 years of history swept away“.

One Comment on “Are The 2012 Olympic Games Actually in Essex?”

  1. Apparently the official border between Essex and London was moved in April 1965.

    However, I do not recall there being a vote on this. Were the people of Essex consulted?

    Once again, Wikipedia provides some clues:

    “The London Government Act 1963 (c. 33) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which recognised officially the conurbation known as Greater London and created a new local government structure for the capital….. The provisions of the Act came into effect on 1 April 1965 “

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