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South East England
South East England, highlighted in red on a beige political map of England
South East England region in England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country England
Status Region
 • Total 7,373 sq mi (19,095 km2)
Area rank 3rd
 • Total 8,635,000
 • Rank 1st
 • Density 1,171.23/sq mi (452.21/km2)
 • Total £227 billion
 • Per capita £22,624 (2nd)
ONS code E12000008

South East England is the most populous of the nine official regions of England at the first level of NUTS for statistical purposes. It consists of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey and West Sussex. As with the other regions of England, apart from Greater London, the south east has no elected government.

It is the third largest region of England, with an area of 19,096 km² (7,373 sq mi), and is also the most populous with a total population of over eight and a half million (2011). The headquarters for the region's governmental bodies are in Guildford, and the region contains seven cities: Brighton and Hove, Canterbury, Chichester, Oxford, Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester, though other major settlements include Reading and Milton Keynes. Its proximity to London and connections to several national motorways have led to south east England becoming an economic hub, with the largest economy in the country outside the capital. It is the location of Gatwick Airport, the UK's second-busiest airport, and its coastline along the English Channel provides numerous ferry crossings to mainland Europe.

The region is known for its countryside, which includes the North Downs and the Chiltern Hills as well as two national parks: the New Forest and the South Downs. The River Thames flows through the region and its basin is known as the Thames Valley. It is also the location for a number of internationally known places of interest, such as HMS Victory in Portsmouth, Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, Thorpe Park and RHS Wisley in Surrey, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, Windsor Castle in Berkshire, Leeds Castle, the White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, Brighton Pier and Hammerwood Park in East Sussex, and Wakehurst Place in West Sussex. The region has many universities; the University of Oxford is ranked among the best in the world.

South east England is host to various sporting events, including the annual Henley Royal Regatta, Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, and sporting venues include Wentworth Golf Club and Brands Hatch. Some of the events of the 2012 Summer Olympics were held in the south east, including the rowing at Eton Dorney and part of the cycling road race in the Surrey Hills.


France manche vue dover
View of South East England coast from northern France

The largest city in the region is Brighton & Hove. The dominant influence on the region's economy is neighbouring London. The highest point is Walbury Hill in Berkshire at 297 metres (974 ft).

Historical boundaries

Until 1999, there was a south east Standard Statistical Region, which also included the counties of Bedfordshire, Greater London, Essex and Hertfordshire. The former south east Civil Defence Region covered the same area as the current government office region.

Alternative definitions

Notice from the Government Office for the South East 20071130
A notice in Oxford from the Government Office for the South East

In unofficial usage, the South East can refer to a varying area – sometimes only to London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, and Surrey; but sometimes to an area corresponding to the former Standard Statistical Region (above). The South East is also occasionally used as a synonym for the home counties.


The population of the region at the 2011 census was 8,634,750 making it the most populous English region. The major conurbations of the region include Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton (population in 2011 474,000), Portsmouth (461,000), Southampton (377,000) and Reading (318,000). Settlements closer to London are part of the conurbation known as the Greater London Urban Area.

The South East has the highest percentage of people born outside of Britain other than London. Estimates in 2007 state 87.2% of people as White British, 4.8% Other White (inc. 1.0% Irish), 3.5% South Asians, 1.5% Mixed Race, 1.6% Black British, 0.7% Chinese, 0.7% Other.

Population of the South East of England
Census Population Change
1801 962,350
1811 1,072,563 Increase 10.3
1821 1,239,883 Increase 13.5
1831 1,378,755 Increase 10.1
1841 1,561,792 Increase 11.7
1851 1,687,558 Increase 7.5
1861 1,957,208 Increase 13.8
1871 2,226,880 Increase 12.1
1881 2,496,534 Increase 10.8
1891 2,776,842 Increase 10.1
1901 3,093,606 Increase 10.2
1911 3,472,091 Increase 10.9
1921 3,718,228 Increase 6.6
1931 3,995,122 Increase 6.9
1941 4,443,002 Increase 10.1
1951 4,976,340 Increase 10.7
1961 5,738,844 Increase 13.3
1971 6,718,771 Increase 14.6
1981 7,025,593 Increase 4.4
1991 7,677,641 Increase 8.5
2001 8,000,550 Increase 4.0
2011 8,634,750 Increase 7.9

Eurostat NUTS

In the Eurostat Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS), South East England is a level-1 NUTS region, coded "UKJ", which is subdivided as follows:

NUTS 1 Code NUTS 2 Code NUTS 3 Code
South East England UKJ Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire UKJ1 Berkshire UKJ11
NUTS 3 regions of South East England map.svg Milton Keynes UKJ12
Buckinghamshire CC UKJ13
Oxfordshire UKJ14
Surrey, East and West Sussex UKJ2 Brighton and Hove UKJ21
East Sussex CC UKJ22
Surrey UKJ23
West Sussex CC UKJ24
Hampshire and Isle of Wight UKJ3 Portsmouth UKJ31
Southampton UKJ32
Hampshire CC UKJ33
Isle of Wight UKJ34
Kent UKJ4 Medway UKJ41
Kent CC UKJ42


166206 at Redhill
Redhill with the diesel Class 166 service run by First Great Western to Reading as the line has not got the Third rail electrification fully installed on the North Downs Line.
Most main routes in the region are radials from London. Shown here is the A21. It is one of the major north-south routes connecting London and commuter towns and the coast.

The main road transport routes are along the M1 through Buckinghamshire; the M40 through Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire; the M4 through Berkshire and Buckinghamshire; the M2 motorway/A2 and M20 through Kent; the M23 through West Sussex; the M3 through Hampshire. All these routes connect to the M25, which runs near to and occasionally through the region's border with Greater London.

The A34 provides a north-south road link through Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire. The east-west corridor through the south of the region is provided by the A27 and the M27.

The main intercontinental airport is Gatwick Airport, with regional airports at Kent International Airport (Ramsgate), Shoreham Airport and Southampton Airport. Heathrow Airport is in Greater London but also serves (and is serviced by) the South East region.

The Great Western Main Line passes through Berkshire and southern Buckinghamshire. The South Eastern Main Line and High Speed 1 pass through Kent; the latter connects to the Channel Tunnel. The Brighton Main Line passes through Surrey and West Sussex. The North Downs Line runs from Berkshire then through Surrey to connect with Sussex and Kent. The West Coast Main Line passes through northern Buckinghamshire. The Chiltern Main Line is a major commuter line between Birmingham and London passing through central Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The Port of Dover and the port at Folkestone have many ferry services to France and though none currently run to Belgium.

Transport policy

As part of the transport planning system the Regional Assembly is under statutory requirement to produce a Regional Transport Strategy (RTS) to provide long term planning for transport in the region. This involves region wide transport schemes such as those carried out by the Highways Agency and Network Rail.

Within the region the local transport authorities carry out transport planning through the use of a Local Transport Plan (LTP) which outlines their strategies, policies and implementation programme. The most recent LTP is that for the period 2006-11. In the South East region the following transport authorities have published their LTP online: Bracknell Forest U.A., Brighton & Hove U.A., Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Medway U.A., Milton Keynes U.A., Oxfordshire, Portsmouth U.A., Reading U.A., Slough U.A., Southampton U.A., Surrey, Windsor and Maidenhead U.A., Wokingham U.A. and West Sussex.


At Eartham Pit, Boxgrove near Halnaker in West Sussex in December 1993, the oldest an Acheulean hand axe was also found. Bones of a Megalosaurus were found at a slate quarry at Stonesfield in Oxfordshire and named in 1824: it is now at Oxford University Museum of Natural History. In 1822 an Iguanodon was found (by Gideon Mantell) at Whitemans Green near Cuckfield, West Sussex.

The Meonhill Vineyard, near Old Winchester Hill in east Hampshire on the South Downs south of West Meon on the A32, was the site of where the Romano-British grew Roman grapes.

The Ridgeway runs through Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and is probably Britain's oldest road. The post office at Shipton-under-Wychwood in Oxfordshire, in the Cotswolds, is the oldest still in use in England, purpose-built motor circuit built in 1907 by Sir Hugh F. Locke-King, the land owner.

World War II

Much of the Battle of Britain was fought in this region, especially in Kent. RAF Bomber Command was based at High Wycombe. RAF Medmenham at Danesfield House, west of Marlow in Buckinghamshire, was important for aerial reconnaissance. Operation Corona, based at RAF Kingsdown (at West Kingsdown next to Brands Hatch in Kent, between the A20 and M20), was implemented to confuse German night fighters with native German-speakers, and coordinated by the RAF Y Service.

Bletchley Park in north Buckinghamshire was the principal Allied centre for codebreaking. The Colossus computer, arguably the world's first, began working on Lorentz codes on 5 February 1944, with Colossus 2 working from June 1944. The site was chosen, among other reasons, because it is at the junction of the Varsity Line (between Oxford and Cambridge) and the West Coast Main Line. The Harwell computer (Dekatron), now at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley, was built in 1949 and is believed to be the oldest working digital computer in the world.

Scientific heritage

John Wallis of Kent, introduced the symbol for infinity, and the standard notation for powers of numbers in 1656. Thomas Bayes was an important statistician from Tunbridge Wells; his theorem (of probability theory) is used for spam filters and Google's search.

Sir David N. Payne at the University of Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre invented the erbium-doped fibre amplifier, a type of optical amplifier, in the mid-1980s, which became essential for the internet. Henry Moseley at Oxford in 1913 discovered his Moseley's law of X-ray spectra of chemical elements that enabled him to be the first to assign the correct atomic number to elements in periodic table; he did not receive any Nobel Prize as it is not awarded posthumously, and he was killed in 1915 at Gallipoli with the Royal Engineers. Donald Watts Davies, who went to grammar school in Portsmouth, took over from Alan Turing in developing Britain's early computers, and invented packet switching in the late 1960s at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. Surrey's Alec Reeves invented pulse-code modulation (PCM) in 1937 (at ITT's research laboratories in Paris), the standard for digital audio recordings. Carbon fibre was invented in 1963 at the RAE in Farnborough by a team led by William Watt. The Apollo LCG space-suit cooling system originated mostly from work done at RAE Farnborough in the early 1960s.

Sir John Herschel, son of the astronomer, from Kent, invented the term photography in 1839, meaning light writing. and discovered the first photographic fixer, sodium thiosulphate, known as hypo, also in 1839. GLEEP was Britain's first nuclear reactor, in August 1947 at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE) at Harwell, and would stay operational until 1990; tt was followed by the British Experimental Pile 0 (BEPO) in 1948.

William Harvey of Folkestone, in Kent, discovered the circulation of blood. The Lilly Research Centre in Windlesham, Berkshire, part of Eli Lilly, developed Olanzapine in 1996 (for bipolar disorder, selling around $5bn worldwide annually). Beecham Research Laboratories at Brockham Park in 1959 discovered meticillin (or methicillin), the first semi-synthetic penicillin (beta-lactamase stable), deriving from their discovery in 1958 of 6-APA, the core constituent; the team, led by Prof George Rolinson, won the Mullard Award in 1971. Bipyridine compounds (Paraquat-Gramoxone and Diquat) were discovered for herbicide use in 1954 by William Boon at ICI's Plant Protection division at Jealott's Hill, being released onto the market in 1958. AZT/Retrovir (zidovudine) was first manufactured by Wellcome in 1987 in Kent; they also introduced Zovirax (aciclovir), and the naturally occurring digoxin, a cardiac glycoside. After a plane crashed near his house in Oxford in 1940, Sir Peter Medawar helped the injured pilot, and in the process discovered homograft rejection, leading to organ transplantation using azathioprine. Viagra (Sildenafil) was synthesized at Pfizer in Sandwich, Kent.

Industrial heritage

Sir Francis Pettit Smith of Kent invented the screw propeller. Faversham Oyster Fishery is the oldest company in the world. Maidenhead Railway Bridge is known for its flat arch, built in 1839 with 39-metre spans. The Wealden iron industry in the Weald was the site of the first blast furnace in Britain in 1491, and produced much of Britain's cast iron until the 1770s. Portsmouth Block Mills were the site of the world's first metal machine tools, built for the manufacture of wooden pulleys, invented by Henry Maudslay, and the site of the world's first industrial assembly line in 1803.

Portland cement was developed in Northfleet, Kent, by William Aspdin, son of Joseph Aspdin. The development was to heat the ingredients to around 1450C, producing clinker. Previously temperatures were taken to only 800C, which was not enough. The first ever cement kiln is still in Northfleet today in a cardboard factory. In the late 1800s, the rotary kiln made the process much more efficient. Concrete, effectively man-made stone, is the most widespread man-made material. 5% of all carbon emissions worldwide are from concrete production.

On 16 October 1908 the British Army Aeroplane No 1, flown by the American Samuel Franklin Cody, was the first aircraft flown in the UK, at Farnborough; on 14 May 1909 he flew it for more than a mile. On 13 August 1909, his wife would be the first woman in the UK to fly in a plane, also at Farnborough. The first Harrier aircraft XV738 flew on 28 December 1967; this was the first aircraft of the RAF to have a head-up display avionics system. The first two-seat Harrier XW174 flew on 24 April 1969, later crashing at Larkhill in June 1969. The British Aerospace Sea Harrier XZ450 first flew on 20 August 1978; on 4 May 1982 this aircraft would be hit by anti-aircraft fire at Goose Green, killing the pilot with 800 Naval Air Squadron from HMS Hermes; the aircraft had no radar warning receiver (RWR), due to testing the Sea Eagle, so could not detect the Skyguard radar had locked on to it, being destroyed with the Oerlikon GDF (35mm) of GADA 601; it was the first Sea Harrier lost in the Falklands campaign. The first manned airborne ejection seat firing took place on 24 July 1946 over Chalgrove Airfield, Oxfordshire, in a Meteor, piloted by Bernard Lynch; the first dummy ejection had been 10 May 1945 over RAF Oakley in west Buckinghamshire (today near the M40); on 13 March 1962, the first in-flight rocket-powered ejection took place by Peter Howard, an RAF doctor based at Farnborough's Institute of Aviation Medicine in Meteor WA364 at 250 ft over Chalgrove, with the rocket giving a maximum force of 16G. The Miles M.52, designed at Woodley Aerodrome in Berkshire by Miles Aircraft, was an advanced design of aircraft which had the innovation of the flying tail or all-moving tail also known as a stabilator; this would solve the problem of stability and aircraft control at supersonic speeds, and its design was taken wholesale into the American Bell X-1, the first supersonic aircraft.

On 3 May 1830 the world's first passenger train service, the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway (6 miles) built by George Stephenson, began, hauled by the locomotive Invicta and introduced world's first railway season ticket in 1834. Maidenhead Railway Bridge, known for its flat arch, was built in 1839 with 39-metre spans. The Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment, in Chertsey, developed Chobham armour.

UK-Belgium 5 laid in 1986 from Kent was the world's first optical fibre submarine cable, and is 36 miles long. The world's first submarine telephone cable was laid between England and France in 1891 by HMTS Monarch, enabling London-Paris calls from April 1891. On 3 December 1992, Neil Papworth of Reading, an engineer from Sema Group Telecoms at Vodafone in Newbury sent the world's first text message from his computer to an Orbitel 901 handset of Richard Jarvis, Vodafone's technical director. The first public automatic telephone exchange in the UK was at Epsom telephone exchange from 18 May 1912, and was introduced as standard across the UK's 6,700 telephone exchanges in 1922, lasting for around 70 years; it could handle up to 500 lines, and was the Strowger design and made by Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Company of Liverpool. The world's first automatic telephone exchange had opened in La Porte, Indiana in November 1892.

The BritNed 1000MW power supply submarine cable from Isle of Grain to Rotterdam, was built in 2009. The HVDC Cross-Channel (2000MW) submarine cable was built 1986. This is the world's highest capacity submarine HVDC cable; it goes from France and lands near Folkestone, with the large transformer station (built by GEC) squeezed between the CTRL and the M20 in Aldington and Smeeth, made of eight 270kV cables.

Royston Instruments of Byfleet developed the world's first multi-channel flight data recorders in 1965. Although the Comet is generally accepted as the world's first production-run jet airliner, the first jet airliner ever built (individual) was a Nene-powered Vickers VC.1 Viking on 6 April 1948 from Wisley Airfield; the world's first turboprop airliner would fly from there on 16 July 1948 by Mutt Summers. In 1939 at Cowes (Northwood) John Godeck invented the plan position indicator method of radar display as most commonly known ever since; the site became Plessey Radar in 1965, and currently is run by BAE Systems. Sperry Gyroscope in Bracknell produced the guidance systems for Britain's 1960s space rockets.

The tallest freestanding structure in the region is the chimney of Grain Power Station at 801 ft; it is the second-tallest chimney in the UK after Drax power station.

George Albert Smith developed the first colour film process, known as Kinemacolor, in 1906 at Southwick, West Sussex. George E. Davis from Slough, is the founding father of chemical engineering. Wiggins Teape, later ARJO Wiggins Fine Papers, had the largest paper research centre in Europe at Butlers Court in Beaconsfield; built in 1891 and vacated in 2009.

The National Fruit Collection is the largest collection of fruit trees in the world, at Brogdale, and is next to the M2 at the A251 junction in Ospringe. Scalextric was invented by Fred Francis in 1956, who founded Minimodels in Havant; initially the model cars had been clockwork; it was made from 1967 at Triang in Margate. The world's first Mars Bar was made in Slough in 1932; it was modelled on the Milky Way, popular at the time in the USA. Twix was introduced at Slough in 1967, with production moving to eastern France (Mars Chocolat France at Haguenau in Alsace) in 2005. The Ford GT40 was developed by Ford Advanced Vehicles at Slough in the mid-1960s.


Enid Blyton lived in Beaconsfield, where she wrote Noddy. Roger Hargreaves lived in Lower Sunbury on the River Thames on the next to Richmond upon Thames borough boundary, and wrote his Mr. Men books. Trumpton (1967) was based on Plumpton, East Sussex, with other titles in the series based on nearby villages; Trumpton was actually shot by Gordon Murray's company in Crouch End, London. Gerry Anderson's AP Films filmed Thunderbirds on the Slough Trading Estate near to the site's cooling towers, being first broadcast in 1965. Mary Tourtel from Canterbury created Rupert Bear. Frank Hampson, of Dan Dare, drew all his pictures when he lived in the east of Epsom, off the A2022. The first multiplex cinema in the UK was in Milton Keynes, in the mid-1980s.

Elgar wrote his Cello Concerto at Fittleworth, West Sussex, in 1919. Isaac Watts, a hymn writer from Southampton, wrote When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and O God, Our Help in Ages Past. John Goss, who wrote the hymn tune for Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven, came from Fareham. At Chalfont St Giles, Milton finished Paradise Lost. Olney in Buckinghamshire is known for the Olney Hymns - Amazing Grace, and the composer of the tune of Once in Royal David's City. Buckinghamshire's E. L. James has the UK record for the fastest-selling paperback of all time.

Pimm's was invented by James Pimm of Kent in the 1820s. Banoffee pie was invented in 1972 in Jevington in East Sussex. Maria Ann Smith from Sussex emigrated to Australia and created the Granny Smith apple. Horticulturist Richard Cox lived in Colnbrook, where he bred his Cox's Orange Pippin, a popular apple. Elizabeth David, a cookery writer who revolutionised the nations's home cooking in the 1950s, came from Sussex.

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