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Essex, in the East of England, is one of the Home Counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London and is one of the most populous counties in England. The county town is Chelmsford. It is the location of the regionally significant Lakeside & Bluewater Shopping Centres and London Stansted Airport; and the new towns of Basildon and Harlow.
Colchester in the north east of the county is Britain's oldest recorded town, dating back to before the Roman conquest. The name Essex originates in the Anglo-Saxon period of the Early Middle Ages and has its root in the Old English Eastseaxe (i.e. the "East Saxons"), the eastern kingdom of the Saxons. The county of Essex is divided into a number of local government districts. They are Harlow, Epping Forest, Brentwood, Basildon, Castle Point, Rochford, Maldon, Chelmsford, Uttlesford, Braintree, Colchester, Tendring, Thurrock, and Southend-on-Sea.
The major population centres of Southend and Thurrock are within the Thames Gateway and designated for further development. Parts of the south west of the county such as Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell are contiguous with Greater London and are included in the Greater London Urban Area. To the north of the Green Belt, with the exception of major towns such as Colchester and Chelmsford, the county is rural.
Harlow is a centre for electronics, science and pharmaceutical companies. Brentwood is home to the Ford Motor Company's European HQ. Chelmsford has been an important location for electronics companies since the industry was born, and is also the location for a number of insurance and financial services organisations. The Lakeside Shopping Centre at Thurrock was one of England's first out-of-town shopping centres, and remains popular despite competition from the more modern Bluewater Shopping Centre; the second largest shopping centre in the UK after Gateshead's MetroCentre.
The main airport in Essex is London Stansted Airport, serving destinations in Europe and North America. The Port of Tilbury is one of Britain's three major ports, while the port of Harwich links the county to the Hook of Holland and Esbjerg. The M25 motorway and M11 motorway both cross the county, and the A12 and A13 trunk roads are important radial routes from London.
Two railway lines run from London to Southend-on-Sea; from Fenchurch Street railway station (including a route via Tilbury) and from Liverpool Street station. The Great Eastern Main Line from Liverpool Street connects to Harwich and on to Suffolk and Norfolk; and the West Anglia Main Line from Liverpool Street links to Stansted and Cambridgeshire. The Epping Forest district is served by the London Underground Central Line. There are also a number of branch lines including the Sunshine Coast Line linking Colchester to the seaside resorts of Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze by way of towns and villages such as Wivenhoe and Great Bentley. The Crouch Valley Line, another branch line, links Wickford to a number of riverside communities via South Woodham Ferrers and Burnham-on-Crouch to Southminster.
Notable musicians such as Alison Moyet and, more recently, teen rapper and record producer Fugative hail from Essex, whilst the county is also home to three Football League Clubs Colchester United, Southend United, and Dagenham and Redbridge. Non-league football clubs Chelmsford City, Braintree Town and Thurrock who compete in the conference south are also based in Essex.