Where is "The North"?

Since the dawn of time the great north-south divide has fuelled endless bar-room banter and driven road sign makers to near insanity. The burning question has always been, where does this divide fall, where exactly is the north, and how far south do you have to be to be considered a southerner.

The iconic blue North-South motorway signs.

The difficulties of mapping social divides

Previous attempts to definitively chart the north-south divide have focussed on behavioural keys amongst the population by asking divisive questions such as:

  • Do you know what a Parmo is?
  • Do you like chips with your gravy?
  • Will you be eating tea or having dinner around 6pm?
  • Do you know what a ginnel is?
  • Do you prefer your sandwich filling in a bap, bun, roll or breadcake?

However, until such time that vital questions like “Do you eat growlers or pork pies?” is included in the census, then small sample sizes and such subjective questioning make the results inconclusive.

Segmenting the UK by population levels

Using the powerful geographical tools at our disposal, we at Beacon Dodsworth have decided to face this challenge head-on and equally and fairly divide the country into a north and south. Using the Territory Management function from our Prospex GIS – which we normally use to divide sales areas amongst field teams by value, or population – we set out to divide the country into two distinct areas of equal population. As a national project we created boundaries at postcode area level (the first one or two letters in a postcode) to give a good indication without overwhelming us with detail, whilst population figures came from our P2 People & Places geodemographic data. Our first attempt gave us the map shown to the right.

With London and surrounding areas being so populous, it would seem that “The North” starts a little bit further south than you would think when we look at a population-based divide. So we decided to look at a couple of alternative models (the maps below), one where we create three equally populated territories, with a “midlands” area expanding from a central point in the country. Finally, we looked at a north, south, east, west split to try and create a model that more-closely matches people’s preconceptions of the UK’s social geography.

So where does "The North" begin?

Fortunately, our mathematical approach was just a bit of fun as I’m not sure any of our models are entirely suitable for national segmentation. If you live in Cambridge for example, do you consider yourself to live in the North as our first model suggests? Our more complex models also raise some serious questions; For example is Enfield really where the Midlands begins?

This exercise was a valuable test of our GIS' territory manager and its ability to calculate large quantities of data in order to build territories of equal value out from a fixed starting point. However, I don’t think we’ve managed to definitively answer the question: where is "The North"? I guess we’ll leave that up to the Friday night scholars in their local drinking establishment and we await their peer-reviewed findings in due course.



The north south divide if it was a simple 50:50 population split.

Using population figures to drive a 3-way split of the UK.

North, south, east and west equal split by population numbers.

Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about how our data, analysis, and
mapping solutions are helping our clients,
and how they could help you.

Our other blogs

British Population Survey (BPS)

The British Population Survey (BPS) is a survey of household income and shopping habits collected by face-to-face interviews. We take a look at the BPS in detail, what exactly it is made from and how its data can be usefully applied by businesses and public organisations.

What is geodemographic profiling?

More than 64 million people live in the UK, each with their own outlook, priorities, needs and way of life. Geodemographic profiling offers a way to group these individuals to try and identify the right audience for your product or service.

The census helps you to understand your customers

The UK Census 2021: what it is, how is it made, and how can it be used to help your organisation with demographic analysis.

Using geographic intelligence to grow the UK’s broadband network

Using geographic intelligence to sustainably grow the UK’s broadband network.

Mapping efficient sales territories

We've worked with mapping, demographic, and travel data for a long time, and have become specialists in territory mapping. So we'd like to share a few tips on how best to define sales catchments for your team, or embark on territory review.

TimeTravel: the latest update

We look at the latest update to TimeTravel, our dataset of drive times and distances between any postcode sector or district. What has changed in the UK road and geographic network, plus new features to make it even more accurate.

How to create a postcode map

Turning a list or spreadsheet of postcode data into a series of points on a map isn't as simple as using an Excel wizard to do it for you, but it isn't rocket science. We look at the best way to create a postcode point/pin map.

Living Costs and Food Survey

The Living Costs and Food survey (LCF) is compiled every year and is used by the UK and European governments, Department for Transport (DfT), and Her Majesty’s Revenue and the Customs (HMRC). But what is it, and why should we care?

Cycle to work day

Each year for #cycletoworkday we take a look at cycling statistics across the country and try to map that data and find interesting trends. This is mainly because we at Beacon Dodsworth are either a little bit obsessed about cycling, or we tend to worry about the environment.

Mapping for local projects

Recently, we were contacted by a company responsible for organising charity door knockers. They needed more than 9,000 postcode sectors mapped at A4 size to use at a local level to plan fundraising routes and clearly define territories for each agent.

Social change over 10 years

With the next census due to take place this year, we thought it was a good time to take stock of some of the changes and trends we noticed between the 2001 and the 2011 census. What difference does 10 years make to our society and the people that live within it?

Beacon Dodsworth New Office

Now we are back in the office, we continue to support hybrid working. So, we’ve taken the opportunity to downsize our office to make us more resilient to future lockdowns, staff self-isolation, and any other uncertainty the modern world might throw our way.

Postcode to postcode drive time and distance

What happens if we want a postcode to postcode drive time lookup table?

Administrative Geography

Administrative geography is a way of dividing the country into smaller sub-divisions or areas that correspond with the area of responsibility of local authorities and government bodies. We take a look at administrative geography, what it is and how to use it.

Who spends most on Fruit and Veg

National Vegetarian Week (#NationalVegetarianWeek) this year ran from 10th to 16th May. It gave us the opportunity to highlight how GIS mapping can be used to create marketing campaigns and raise awareness of the benefits of eating more fruit and veg.

Data visualisation and colour blindness

John, our director talks about living and working with colour blindness in the mapping industry where colours are pivotal in adding dimensions to people's understanding.

How far is it to the beach

We use Beacon Dodsworth's scripting technology to answer that most important of questions when the sun finally does threaten an appearance.

All you need to know about postcodes but were afraid to ask

The humble postcode has been around for years. We look at how postcodes are used and what led to their introduction.

Yorkshire Day

As a Yorkshire-based company, we wanted to help celebrate Yorkshire Day, which takes place on 1st August. Naturally, we wanted to put a geographic spin on the celebration, so we took a look at drinking preferences within God’s own county.

The foundations of geographical analysis

Displaying data on maps makes it easier to understand as well as giving a new perspective on a problem. Using a GIS to prepare and present data has become increasingly popular over the last 20 years, but graphical displays of data on maps were around long before computers came along.

How to back up your Prospex data

Keep your GIS projects safe by using the in-built Prospex back up process. Here is how.

The power of postcode sectors

Postcode sectors are aggregations of individual postcodes and they provide meaningful geographical reporting areas in any GIS. However, they aren't as easy to map as you might think. Here is how we do it.

The new normal for the GIS world

Toby, our Account Manager, looks at the changes to working style and client needs in the geodata industry following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Where is the North

We've used the territory manager tool in Prospex GIS to split the UK into north, south and east and west with equal population counts.

What is GIS software?

A Geographical Information System (GIS), is a tool for analysing, visualising, managing and presenting data that is related to a physical, geographical location. That link to geography is the key difference between GIS and other data visualisation techniques.

Mapping GP prescription data

An article by Allan Brimicombe (Head of Centre for Geo-Information Studies at the University of East London) & Pat Mungroo on using GP prescription data to understand health needs.

Geodemographics and the University of East London

The University of East London explain how they have been using our P² People & Places geodemographic classification.

Google Fusion Tables

After almost 10 years of service, Google retired their Fusion Tables product at the end of 2019. This tool was very useful at visualising and sharing large amounts of tabular data - particularly amongst small and mid-sized businesses. So what can we do to fill the gap left by this tool?

Get in touch
Call  01904 701020, complete   or