Hornchurch is an urban town in east Greater London, England and, since 1965, part of the London Borough of Havering. Formerly it was in the county of Essex. It is located 15.2 miles (24.5 km) east-northeast of Charing Cross (the basis for measuring distances from central London). As part of the suburban growth of London in the 20th century, Hornchurch significantly expanded and increased in population, becoming an Urban District in 1926.
Hornchurch, was a large ancient parish in the Becontree Hundred of Essex. It was divided into the three chapelries of Havering-atte-Bower, Hornchurch and Romford. The Hornchurch chapelry stretched from the River Thames in the south to Harold Wood in the north and was located between the River Ingrebourne in the east and the River Beam in the west. It was also known as Hornchurch side and consisted of the North End, South End and Town wards. The three wards were merged around 1722. Hornchurch chapelry occupied 6,783 acres of the 16,100 acre ancient parish. The local authority was the Hornchurch vestry. The royal manor of Havering (Liberty of Havering), which was conterminous with the ancient parish of Hornchurch, enjoyed special status and a charter in 1465 removed it from the Becontree hundred and the county of Essex to instead form an independent liberty. By the 16th century 'Romford side', comprising the five northern wards of Romford Town, Harold Wood, Collier Row, Noak Hill and Havering, had grown larger than Hornchurch and had achieved some degree of independence from the Hornchurch vestry. Havering ward grew independent in its own right and became a separate parish in the late 18th century.
Following the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, Hornchurch and Romford became separate civil parishes in 1836 and were grouped into the Romford Poor Law Union. The area of the union, excluding the town of Romford, became a Rural Sanitary District in 1875. The special status of the Liberty of Havering was abolished in 1892 and the area was reincorporated into Essex. In 1894 the Hornchurch vestry was abolished, to be replaced by Hornchurch Parish Council. The rural sanitary district became Romford Rural District and the local authority became Romford Rural District Council. As the population of Hornchurch was rising, the parish council was abolished in 1926 and the parish was removed from the rural district. The parish of Hornchurch became Hornchurch Urban District and the local authority became Hornchurch Urban District Council. The council met at Langtons House from 1929. The urban district was significantly expanded in 1934 when the parishes of Cranham, Great Warley, North Ockendon, Rainham, Upminster and Wennington were added. The whole area was included in the London Borough of Havering in 1965 and it was transferred from Essex to Greater London.
A History of the County of Essex: Volume 7 in the Victoria County History series provided online by British History Online, edited by W R Powell. Covers the ancient parishes, formerly within the liberty of Havering-atte-Bower and now within the London borough of Havering, and those in Chafford hundred in western Essex now bordering London. It includes accounts of Hornchurch, Romford, Havering and Rainham.