Counties of the United Kingdom

Last updated

The counties of the United Kingdom are subnational divisions of the United Kingdom, used for the purposes of administrative, geographical and political demarcation. The older term, shire is historically equivalent to county. By the Middle Ages, county had become established as the unit of local government, at least in England. [1] By the early 17th century, all of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland had been separated into counties. In Scotland shire was the only term used until after the Act of Union 1707.

Contents

Since the early 19th century, counties have been adapted to meet new administrative and political requirements, and the word county (often with a qualifier) has been used in different senses for different purposes. In some areas of England and Wales, counties still perform the functions of modern local government. In other parts of the United Kingdom, especially within large metropolitan areas, they have been replaced with alternative unitary authorities, which are considered 'county level' authorities. [2] Today, these have largely replaced the historic county corporate entities granted self-governance with county government powers. Today, in addition to local government counties, every part of the United Kingdom lies within the historic counties which have formed geographic and cultural units since the Middle Ages. [3]

Additionally, there are vice-counties, which are geographic areas based on the historic counties, and used in scientific data gathering. Their purpose is to maintain the stability of the geographic area for scientific studies, and thus ignore changes in political demarcations. [4]

England

England is divided into 48 ceremonial counties, which are also known as geographic counties. Many of these counties have their basis in the 39 historic counties whose origins lie in antiquity, [5] although some were established as recently as 1974. [6] Outside Greater London and the Isles of Scilly, England is also divided into 83 metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. These correspond to areas used for the purposes of local government and may consist of a single district or be divided into several. As of April 2009, 27 such counties are divided into districts and have a county council.

Most ceremonial counties correspond to a metropolitan or non-metropolitan county of the same name, but often with reduced boundaries. The current arrangement is the result of incremental reform; from 1974 to 1996 the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties corresponded directly with the ceremonial counties. From 1889 to 1974 areas with county councils were known as administrative counties and ceremonial counties were defined separately. [7]

Scotland

Scottish counties in 1975 ScotlandCountiesNumbered.png
Scottish counties in 1975

In Scotland, there are 33 local government counties, created under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. They were abolished in 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, in favour of regions and districts and islands council areas. The regions and districts were themselves abolished in 1996, under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, [8] in favour of unitary Scottish council areas. (The islands areas had been created as unitary council areas, and their boundaries were unaffected.)

The 1889 legislation created county councils, turned each civil county (with one exception) into a contiguous area and adjusted boundaries where civil parishes straddled county boundaries, or had fragments in more than one county. The counties of Ross and Cromarty were merged to form Ross and Cromarty. [9]

One region and various districts, created in 1975, had areas similar to those of earlier counties, and various council areas, created in 1996, are also similar. Two of the three islands areas—Orkney and Shetland—have boundaries identical to those of earlier counties.

Scotland has also registration counties, which are in current use. The areas of Scotland that are appointed a Lord-Lieutenant are called lieutenancy areas.

Wales

Historic counties of Wales WalesTradNumbered.png
Historic counties of Wales

The thirteen historic counties of Wales were fixed by statute in 1535 (although counties such as Pembrokeshire date from 1138). The Administrative Counties of Wales created in 1889 were based on these. In 1974 a new system was created using significantly different entities. These were changed in 1996 and since then Wales has been entirely divided into a system of unitary authorities (also known as principal areas). Eleven of the 22 unitary authorities are legally "counties", and eleven are county boroughs, although informally all are referred to as "counties". The areas of Wales that appoint a Lord-Lieutenant are the preserved counties of Wales which are, for the most part, combinations of principal areas chosen to approximate to the counties constituted in 1974.

Northern Ireland

Counties of Northern Ireland Northern Ireland - Counties.png
Counties of Northern Ireland

There are six counties in Northern Ireland. In order of landmass these are; Tyrone, Antrim, Down, Londonderry, Fermanagh and Armagh.

The six historic counties of Northern Ireland are no longer in use for administrative purposes. Combined with the boroughs of Belfast and Derry, the counties do serve for organisational purposes within government, and often with private businesses and sporting clubs.

The counties of Northern Ireland are all within the historic province of Ulster, which includes an additional three other counties in the Republic of Ireland: Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan.

Related Research Articles

County Geographical and administrative region in some countries

A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposes in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French conté or cunté denoting a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count (earl) or a viscount. Literal equivalents in other languages, derived from the equivalent of "count", are now seldom used officially, including comté, contea, contado, comtat, condado, Grafschaft, graafschap, and zhupa in Slavic languages; terms equivalent to English language administrative terms such as municipality, district, circuit and commune/community are now often instead used.

Historic counties of England Geographical designations for areas of England, based on historical traditions

The historic counties of England are areas that were established for administration by the Normans, in many cases based on earlier kingdoms and shires created by the Anglo-Saxons and others. They are alternatively known as ancient counties, traditional counties, former counties or simply as counties. In the centuries that followed their establishment, as well as their administrative function, the counties also helped define local culture and identity. This role continued even after the counties ceased to be used for administration after the creation of administrative counties in 1889, which were themselves amended by further local government reforms in the years following.

Cumberland Historic county of England

Cumberland is a historic county of North West England that had an administrative function from the 12th century until 1974. It is bordered by the historic counties of Northumberland to the northeast, County Durham to the east, Westmorland to the southeast, Lancashire to the south, and the Scottish counties of Dumfriesshire and Roxburghshire to the north. It formed an administrative county from 1889 to 1974 and now forms part of Cumbria.

Administrative geography of the United Kingdom Geographical subdivisions of local government in Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The administrative geography of the United Kingdom is complex, multi-layered and non-uniform. The United Kingdom, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe, consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For local government in the United Kingdom, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have their own system of administrative and geographic demarcation. Consequently, there is "no common stratum of administrative unit encompassing the United Kingdom".

Subdivisions of England Administrative division or non-administrative ceremonial area of England

The subdivisions of England constitute a hierarchy of administrative divisions and non-administrative ceremonial areas.

An administrative county was a first-level administrative division in England and Wales from 1888 to 1974, and in Ireland from 1899 until either 1973 or 2002. They are now abolished, although most Northern Ireland lieutenancy areas and Republic of Ireland counties have the same boundaries as former administrative countries.

Counties of England Englands administrative, geographical and political demarcation

The counties of England are areas used for different purposes, which include administrative, geographical, cultural and political demarcation. The term 'county' is defined in several ways and can apply to similar or the same areas used by each of these demarcation structures. These different types of county each have a more formal name but are commonly referred to just as 'counties'. The current arrangement is the result of incremental reform.

Subdivisions of Scotland Present or former administrative subdivisions of Scotland

For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 areas designated as "council areas", which are all governed by single-tier authorities designated as "councils". They have the option under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1997 of being known as a "comhairle" when opting for a Gaelic name; only Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has chosen this option, whereas the Highland Council has adopted its Gaelic form alongside its English equivalent informally.

Ceremonial counties of England Collective name for areas, in England, to which a Lord Lieutenant is appointed

The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial counties, are areas of England to which lord-lieutenants are appointed. Legally, the areas in England, as well as in Wales and Scotland, are defined by the Lieutenancies Act 1997 as "counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies in Great Britain", in contrast to the areas used for local government. They are also informally known as "geographic counties", to distinguish them from other types of counties of England.

County borough is a term introduced in 1889 in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, to refer to a borough or a city independent of county council control, similar to the unitary authorities created since the 1990s. An equivalent term used in Scotland was a county of city. They were abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 in England and Wales, but continue in use for lieutenancy and shrievalty in Northern Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland they remain in existence but have been renamed cities under the provisions of the Local Government Act 2001. The Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 re-introduced the term for certain "principal areas" in Wales. Scotland did not have county boroughs but instead had counties of cities. These were abolished on 16 May 1975. All four Scottish cities of the time—Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow—were included in this category. There was an additional category of large burgh in the Scottish system, which were responsible for all services apart from police, education and fire.

A county council is the elected administrative body governing an area known as a county. This term has slightly different meanings in different countries.

Non-metropolitan county County-level entity in England that is not a metropolitan county

A non-metropolitan county, or colloquially, shire county, is a county-level entity in England that is not a metropolitan county. The counties typically have populations of 300,000 to 1.4 million. The term shire county is, however, an unofficial usage. Many of the non-metropolitan counties bear historic names and most, such as Wiltshire and Staffordshire, end in the suffix "-shire". Of the remainder, some counties had the "-shire" ending but have lost it over time, such as Devon and Somerset.

The structure of local government in the United Kingdom underwent large changes in the 1990s. The system of two-tier local government introduced in the 1970s by the Local Government Act 1972 and the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 was abolished in Scotland and Wales on 1 April 1996 and replaced with single-tier authorities. In England, some areas remained two-tier but many single-tier authorities were created. No changes were made to local government in Northern Ireland.

Non-metropolitan district Type of local government district in England

Non-metropolitan districts, or colloquially "shire districts", are a type of local government district in England. As created, they are sub-divisions of non-metropolitan counties in a two-tier arrangement. Non-metropolitan districts with borough status are known as boroughs, able to appoint a mayor and refer to itself as a borough council.

Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England Subdivisions of England

Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties are one of the four levels of subdivisions of England used for the purposes of local government outside Greater London and the Isles of Scilly. As originally constituted, the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties each consisted of multiple districts, had a county council and were also the counties for the purposes of Lieutenancies. Later changes in legislation during the 1980s and 1990s have resulted in counties with no county council and 'unitary authority' counties with no districts. Counties for the purposes of Lieutenancies are now defined separately, based on the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties.

Lieutenancies Act 1997 United Kingdom legislation

The Lieutenancies Act 1997 is an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom, that defines areas that Lord-Lieutenants are appointed to in Great Britain. It came into force on 1 July 1997.

The wards and electoral divisions in the United Kingdom are electoral districts at sub-national level represented by one or more councillors. The ward is the primary unit of English electoral geography for civil parishes and borough and district councils, electoral ward is the unit used by Welsh principal councils, while the electoral division is the unit used by English county councils and some unitary authorities. Each ward/division has an average electorate of about 5,500 people, but ward-population counts can vary substantially. As at the end of 2014 there were 9,456 electoral wards/divisions in the UK.

Administrative counties of England Former subnational divisions of England

Administrative counties were subnational divisions of England used for local government from 1889 to 1974. They were created by the Local Government Act 1888, which established an elected county council for each area. Some geographically large historic counties were divided into several administrative counties, each with its own county council. The administrative counties operated until 1974, when they were replaced by a system of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties under the Local Government Act 1972.

A council area is one of the areas defined in Schedule 1 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 and is under the control of one of the local authorities in Scotland created by that Act.

References

  1. Bryne, T., Local Government in Britain, (1994)
  2. Jones, B. et al., Politics UK, (2004)
  3. "United Kingdom". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed 9 June 2014.
  4. Dandy, J.E. (1969), Watsonian vice-counties of Great Britain, Publication no. 146, Ray Society, London
  5. Hampton, W. (1991). Local Government and Urban Politics.
  6. Redcliffe-Maud & Wood, B. (1974). English Local Government Reformed.
  7. Kingdom, J. (1991). Local Government and Politics in Britain.
  8. OPSI - Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994
  9. Boundaries of Counties and Parishes in Scotland, Hay Shennan, 1892

See also