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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): MCC/ES/ARP
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1939-1945
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 0.33 linear metres
Name of creator(s): MCC | Middlesex County Council x Middlesex County Council


Administrative/Biographical history:

With the formation of the County Council in 1889, responsibility for repair and maintenance of main roads, county bridges and their approaches, passed into its jurisdiction. All other roads remained the responsibility of parish authorities. Middlesex County Council took over responsibility for the maintenance of 106 miles of road from 39 separate local authorities in 1889.

The MCC Highways Committee met for the first time on 14 May 1889 with the Earl of Aberdeen as the first Chairman. The first Engineer and Surveyor was F.H. Pownall, who had previously worked with the Court of Quarter Sessions. In 1890 offices were established at Middlesex Guildhall and a staff consisting of a deputy, 3 assistants, an office boy and 5 part time surveyors followed. In the twentieth century the department expanded and the county was divided into 3 parts, each under the supervision of a Divisional Surveyor. The Department had three functions: trunk and county roads; bridges and rivers and streams.

Trunk and county roads
A series of Acts of Parliament passed after 1889 affected the duties of the Surveyor. These included the County Council of Middlesex (General Powers) Act 1906 which act enabled the County Council to prescribe frontage lines. These were lines in advance of which buildings might not be erected on the more important roads. The County Council was empowered to acquire the land in advance of the frontage line in order to effect any future road widening. These powers were used extensively as highways were constructed and reconstructed. Also the Development and Road Improvement Act 1909 which established a Road Board which was empowered to construct new roads and to make financial advances to County Councils for the construction of new roads and the improvement of existing roads. The powers of the Road Board were transferred to the newly formed Ministry of Transport in 1919.

The rapid growth of road transport in the early twentieth century highlighted the fact that roads into central London from Middlesex were unable to deal with this increased demand. In 1912 the Local Government appointed a departmental committee to look into this problem. As a result the construction of new arterial roads was recommended. In consequence of this Act that the County Council was given financial assistance necessary to build the vast network of arterial roads in the county - for example the Great West Road. In 1911 the Surrey and Middlesex County Councils were empowered to take over Kingston Bridge from the Trustees of the Kingston Municipal Charities and to carry out works of widening and improvement. The Middlesex County Council (Great West Road and Finance) Act 1914 authorized the construction of the Great West Road, the first of a series of arterial roads built in Middlesex in the twentieth century.

In 1919 the Ministry of Transport was formed. First and second class roads were created, a percentage of the cost and maintenance of which, was to be borne by the Ministry of Transport. The Unemployment (Relief Works) Act 1920 was passed with a view to providing work for the relief of unemployment. It enabled County Councils to acquire land for road construction and improvement by compulsory purchase.

The arterial roads built by the Middlesex County Council were:
Barnet Bye-Pass (Archway Road to South Mimms)
Cambridge Road (Tottenham to Wormley in Hertfordshire via Edmonton and Enfield)
Chertsey Road (Chiswick High Road to Laleham via Twickenham)
Great West Road (Cromwell Road to Staines via Chiswick, Brentford and Hounslow)
North Circular Road (Great West Road at Chiswick to Chingford via Acton, Ealing Wembley, Willesden, Hendon, Finchley, Hornsey and Southgate)
Watford Bye-Pass (Finchley Road to Aldenham Reservoir) Western Avenue (west of the Edgware Road to Denham in Buckinghamshire via Acton, Park royal, Perivale, Greenford, Northolt and Harefield)

The Roads Improvement Act 1925 enabled the County Council to plant trees and lay out grass margins on highways and to prevent obstruction of view at street corners. It also contained a general power for the prescription of building lines - the line to which the main walls of houses and other buildings may be erected. The Middlesex County Council Act 1925 enabled the Council to prescribe frontage lines and building lines on the more important roads, with a view to facilitating future widening. The Council was also empowered to purchase the land lying between the frontage or building line and the road, in order to carry out improvements. The Local Government Act 1929 made the County Council financially responsible for the maintenance and repair of all classified roads in the county. Some of these had not been previously considered by the Council as main roads, therefore increasing its activities in this respect. A number of the roads which had been controlled by the County as main roads had not been classified by the Ministry of transport and the Council still maintained its authority over these. In practice while the cost subject to grant was borne by the County Council, the work on a considerable number of its roads was executed by the local authorities under the supervision of the County Engineer.

The Bridges Act 1929 enabled highway authorities to enter into agreements with private owners of bridges, for example canal and railway companies, with a view to taking over the responsibility for maintenance, improvement and reconstruction. Under the Middlesex County Council (Sewerage) Act 1931, the County Council was constituted the authority for main drainage of the western portion of the County. The responsibility for the eastern side was assumed under the Middlesex County Council (Sewerage Act 1938. The Restriction of Ribbon Development Act 1935 enabled the County Council to control the erection of houses along or adjacent to county roads, and new means of access to such roads.

Under the Trunk Roads Act 1935 responsibility for the most important traffic arteries was transferred from the County Council to the Ministry of Transport. The County Council still acted as agent of the Minister in regard to the maintenance of the roads. The London and Middlesex (Improvements) Act 1936 authorised the construction of an extension to the Great West Road from Chiswick into London. The Air Raid Precautions Act 1937 required the Council to prepare and submit to the Home Secretary a scheme indicating the distribution of the necessary duties for guarding against loss of life and avoidable damage by air raids in the event of war. During the Munich Crisis of 1938 trenches were dug in parks and other precautionary measures taken. The ARP services later became known as the Civil Defence services and after the Second World War plans were made for outlining the most efficient methods of dealing with the damage arising from hostile air attacks, such as the clearance of debris from highways, streets and public places, dealing with damaged and unsafe buildings and the decontamination of highways, streets, buildings and public places.

The Middlesex County Council Act 1938 gave the County Council further powers in regard to the control of highways and of the development of lands adjoining important roads. The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 repealed many of the restraints placed upon local authorities by the 1935 Restriction of ribbon Development Act. The County Council was responsible for ensuring that any new building developments (for example shops or cinemas) on county roads had adequate accommodation to provide parking for any service vehicles. They also had to ensure that existing traffic on county roads was not inconvenienced and prevent building work on land marked down for future road widening projects. The Trunk Roads Act 1946 increased the number of trunk roads for which the Ministry of Transport has been made responsible, while the Special Roads Act 1947 provided for the construction by local authorities of roads reserved for special types of traffic, subject to the approval of the Ministry of Transport.

Under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953 local authorities were able to provide bus shelters. The County Councils were also able to submit plans for improving unclassified roads to the Ministry of Transport, which in turn could finance these projects with government grants. The London Traffic and Highways (Transitional Provisions) Order 1965 transferred responsibility for metropolitan roads to the newly formed Greater London Council and for minor roads to London Boroughs. Middlesex County Council had 640 miles of highway in its control at this date.

The Engineer and Surveyors Department was also responsible for the planning of roads. Roads had to be designed to bear the weight and volume of traffic using them. In the period 1900 - 1965 the most popular materials used for surfacing roads were bituminous compounds, asphalt and concrete reinforced with steel. As well as constructing new roads it was necessary to widen and improve most of the old roads and bridges in Middlesex to make them equal to the ever increasing volume of traffic they were required to carry. The safety measures introduced included the provision of dual carriageways, separated by central islands or a grass verge; the provision of service roads parallel with the main carriageways to accommodate local traffic and the construction of roundabouts at important road junctions. The County Engineer was responsible for the installation of systems of automatic traffic signals, also road markings and street furniture. It was the Department's task to ensure the road system was in good order and functioning efficiently.

Common law (immemorial custom of the country) in the Middle Ages held that the repair of bridges forming a highway was generally the liability of the county. The 1530 Statute of Bridges embodied this common law and also stated that the repair of a bridge included approach roads for a short distance on either side. The 1555 Act of Parliament gave the parish the responsibility of building and maintaining minor bridges. Money to do this was raised by minor rates. County rates were raised to build major bridges. As Middlesex on one side bordered the Thames it had responsibility for Thames bridges with the County of Surrey. The 1740 Bridges Act gave Quarter Sessions the power to buy land to build and repair bridges. The 1803 Bridges Act codified the county liability to repair bridges by excepting new bridges built by private individuals from county responsibility if the County Surveyor was dissatisfied with the work. These powers held by Quarter Sessions were transferred to the County Council in 1889.

Bridges controlled by Middlesex County Council with Surrey County Council:
* Chiswick Bridge: the two County Councils obtained powers by the Middlesex and Surrey (Thames Bridges) Act to construct two new bridges of which Chiswick was one. The new bridge was opened in 1933.
* Hampton Court Bridge: opened in 1753. In 1876 it was bought by the Joint Committee of the Hampton and Mosley Local Boards and the Corporation of London for 48,048. A new bridge was built under the terms of the Middlesex and Surrey (Thames Bridges) Act and opened in 1933.
* Kew Bridge: this bridge was opened in 1759 and replaced in 1789. It remained in private hands until 1873 when it was sold to the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Board transferred the bridge to Middlesex and Surrey County Councils in 1889 and another new bridge was built and opened in 1903 by Edward VII (and renamed Edward VII Bridge although this proved unpopular and was dropped).
* Kingston Bridge: the first bridge at Kingston was built in the early 1200s to serve the important trading centre at Kingston. It was rebuilt in 1828. It was administered by the Trustees of the Kingston Municipal Charities until 1911 when direct responsibility was assumed by the Middlesex and Surrey County Councils. By that time road traffic on the bridge had increased to such an extent road widening was necessary. The bridge was closed for this work and reopened in 1914.
* Richmond Bridge: this bridge was opened in 1777 and run thereafter by commissioners. It was transferred to joint Middlesex and Surrey County Council control by the terms of the Middlesex and Surrey (Thames Bridges) Act when the commissioners discovered that they were unable to meet running costs. Road widening began in 1937 and lasted 2 years.
* Twickenham Bridge: in 1909 the Board of Trade proposed that a new bridge be constructed in Twickenham. The outbreak of war in 1914 held up plans to begin building. Middlesex and Surrey County Councils obtained powers by the Middlesex and Surrey (Thames Bridges) Act 1928 to construct two new bridges of which Twickenham was one. The new bridge opened in 1933.

Under the Bridges Act 1929 County Councils were able to enter into agreements with private owners of bridges with a view to taking over responsibility for maintenance, improvement and reconstruction. Notable construction work was done by the Middlesex County Council in this area, including the 1934 aqueduct to carry the Grand Union Canal over the North Circular Road, and the Western Avenue Viaduct. By 1965 the County Council had responsibility for 200 bridges; the Greater London Council took control of Thames Bridges and major road bridges, and the London boroughs took control of minor road bridges.

Rivers, streams and waterways
Rapid urbanization in Middlesex in the late nineteenth century made it necessary to improve the existing provisions for keeping rivers and streams clean and free flowing. Middlesex County Council was the first authority to take control of its watercourses when it obtained the necessary powers in 1898. Under the County Council of Middlesex (General Powers) Act 1906 the County Council was given extensive powers with regard to the cleansing and improvement of rivers and streams. The Council also began acquiring land adjacent to rivers to provide riverside walks and open spaces to counteract the effects of urbanization.

The County Council had responsibility for the following county rivers, streams, brooks and watercourses:
* River Ash (also Ux, Ure or Exe): Uxbridge to Sunbury
* River Brent: North-west to south of London Borough of Brent
* River Crane: Harrow to Twickenham
* River Colne: Hertfordshire to Staines along the county border
* Deans Brook: Mill Hill to Silk Stream
* Dollis Brook: Hendon to Welsh Harp Reservoir
* Duke of Northumberland's River: an artificial river flowing into the Thames at Isleworth. It was built by Henry VII to serve the abbey at Syon with water to drive a mill at Twickenham and later another mill at Isleworth. By the 1900s the mills had closed and as having a privately run river in the county was proving a nuisance and an expense the County Council bought it in 1930 under the Middlesex County Council Act 1930.
* Fray's River: Uxbridge to the River Colne along the county border.
* Longford River (also King's, Queen's, New Cut, Hampton Court Cut, Wolsey's, Cardinal's): Charles I built this river to supply water to gardens at Hampton Court Palace. It was cut from the River Colne and runs via Bedfont and Feltham to the Palace.
* Mutton Brook (also Moudin's): Small tributary of the River Brent in Finchley.
* New River: Hugh Myddelton built this river to carry water from the wells at Amwell and Shadwell in Hertfordshire to Clerkenwell.
* River Pinn: Pinner to Ruislip. It was used to carry water to the grounds of Swakeleys at Ickenham.
* Pymmes Brook: Friern Barnet via Southgate and Edmonton to the River Lea.
* Salmans Brook: Edmonton to the River Lea.
* Silk Stream: Hendon to Welsh Harp Reservoir.
* Wealdstone Brook: Wealdstone to the River Brent at Wembley
* Yeading Brook: Yeading to the Grand Union Canal.
* River Thames
* Lee Navigation: Connected the Thames at the London Docks with Hertfordshire
* Grand Union Canal: laves the Thames at Brentford and runs onto Uxbridge and then the Midlands. At Hayes it connects via Paddington and the regents Canal with the London Docks. The Canal had been built at the end of the eighteenth century and was of great economic importance.

The Land Drainage Act 1930 meant that all watercourses falling within the catchment area of the rivers Thames and Lee passed into the control of the new Thames and Lee Catchment Boards. Middlesex County Council retained control of 68 miles of watercourses in the catchment area of the rivers Brent, Crane, Duke of Northumberland, Longford, New and Pinn. The Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act 1951 gave the Council statutory powers equal to those of a river board to act against river pollution and to inspect river banks and adjoining structures. Middlesex County Council's powers with regard to rivers and watercourses were assumed by the Greater London Council in 1965.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Middlesex County Council Engineer and Surveyor's Department relating to air raid precautions, 1939-1945, comprising maintenance schedules and specifications in regard to the permanent linking of trenches, and papers relating to the formation of General Construction Co.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

There is one series: MCC/ES/ARP

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Acquired with the records of its parent authority, the Middlesex County Council, and with successor authorities.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For further information on the history of the Middlesex County Council please see Middlesex by Sir Clifford Radcliffe (2 editions, 1939 and 1953), LMA Library reference 97.09 MID; and The County Council of the Administrative County of Middlesex: 76 years of local government, 1 April 1889 to 31 March 1965, by Middlesex County Council (1965), LMA library reference S97.09 MID.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2009

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