In the United Kingdom and Ireland, a county town is the most important town or city in a county. It is usually the location of administrative or judicial functions within a county and the place where the county's members of Parliament are elected. Following the establishment of the English county councils in 1889, the headquarters of the new councils were usually located in the county town of each county. However, the concept of a county town pre-dates the establishment of these councils.
The concept of a county town is ill-defined and unofficial. Some counties have their administrative bodies located elsewhere. For example, Lancaster is the county town of Lancashire, but the county council is located in Preston. Some county towns are no longer situated within the administrative county because of changes in the county's boundaries. For example, Nottingham is administered by a unitary authority separate from the rest of Nottinghamshire.
This list shows county towns prior to the reforms of 1889.
|Berkshire||Reading, previously also Abingdon|
|Buckinghamshire||Aylesbury, although the county is named after Buckingham|
|Hampshire||Winchester, although the county is named after Southampton|
|Middlesex||Brentford, Clerkenwell, the City of London or Westminster for different functions.|
|Somerset||Taunton, although the county is named after Somerton|
|Wiltshire||Trowbridge although the county is named after Wilton|
|Angus (or Forfarshire)||Forfar|
|Argyll||Lochgilphead (formerly Inveraray)|
|Berwickshire||Duns, Scottish Borders (formerly Berwick-upon-Tweed, formerly Greenlaw)|
|Clackmannanshire||Alloa (formerly Clackmannan)|
|East Lothian (or Haddingtonshire)||Haddington|
|Kincardineshire||Stonehaven (formerly Kincardine)|
|Midlothian (or Edinburghshire)||Edinburgh|
|Morayshire (or Elginshire)||Elgin|
|Ross-shire||Dingwall (also the county town of Ross and Cromarty)|
|Roxburghshire||Jedburgh (formerly Roxburgh)|
|West Lothian (or Linlithgowshire)||Linlithgow|
This list shows county towns prior to the reforms of 1889.
|Denbighshire||Ruthin (formerly Denbigh)|
|Flintshire||Mold (formerly Flint)|
|Montgomeryshire||Welshpool (formerly Montgomery)|
|Pembrokeshire||Haverfordwest (formerly Pembroke)|
|Radnorshire||Presteigne (formerly New Radnor)|
Note – Despite the fact that Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, it is not the county town of any county. Greater Belfast straddles two counties (Antrim and Down).
With the creation of elected county councils in 1889 the location of administrative headquarters in some cases moved away from the traditional county town. Furthermore, in 1965 and 1974 there were major boundary changes in England and Wales and administrative counties were replaced with new metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. The boundaries underwent further alterations between 1995 and 1998 to create unitary authorities and some of the ancient counties and county towns were restored. (Note: not all headquarters are or were called County Halls or Shire Halls e.g.: Cumbria County Council's HQ up until 2016 was called The Courts and have since moved to Cumbria House.) Before 1974 many of the county halls were located in towns and cities that had the status of a county borough i.e.: a borough outside of the county council's jurisdiction.
|Avon||1974 to 1996||Bristol|
|Bedfordshire||1889 to 2009||Bedford|
|Berkshire||1889 to 1998||Reading (county borough until 1974)|
|City and County of Bristol||1996 onwards||Bristol|
|Cambridgeshire||1889 to 1965|
|Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely||1965 to 1974||Cambridge|
|Cheshire||1889 to 2009||Chester|
|County Cleveland||1974 to 1996||Middlesbrough|
|Cumberland||1889 to 1974||Carlisle (county borough from 1914)|
|Derbyshire||1889 onwards||Matlock (moved from Derby, county borough 1958)|
|Devon||1889 onwards||Exeter (county borough until 1974). In 1963 the Devon County Buildings Area was transferred from the county borough of Exeter to the administrative county of Devon, of which it formed an exclave until 1974.|
|Gloucestershire||1889 onwards||Gloucester (county borough until 1974)|
|Greater London||1965 to 1986|
| County Hall, Lambeth (Greater London Council)|
City Hall, Southwark (Greater London Authority)
|Greater Manchester||1974 to 1986||Manchester|
|Herefordshire||1889 to 1974|
|Hereford and Worcester||1974 to 1998||Worcester|
|Humberside||1974 to 1996||Beverley|
|Huntingdonshire||1889 to 1965||Huntingdon|
|Huntingdon and Peterborough||1965 to 1974||Huntingdon|
|Isle of Ely||1889 to 1965||March|
|Isle of Wight||1890 onwards||Newport|
|Lancashire||1889 onwards||Preston (county borough until 1974)|
|Lincolnshire, Parts of Lindsey||1889 to 1974||Lincoln (county borough)|
|Lincolnshire, Parts of Holland||1889 to 1974||Boston|
|Lincolnshire, Parts of Kesteven||1889 to 1974||Sleaford|
|London||1889 to 1965||Spring Gardens, Westminster until 1922, County Hall at Lambeth thereafter|
|Merseyside||1974 to 1986||Liverpool|
|Middlesex||1889 to 1965||Middlesex Guildhall at Westminster in County of London|
|Norfolk||1889 onwards||Norwich (county borough until 1974)|
|Northamptonshire||1889 onwards||Northampton (county borough until 1974)|
|Northumberland||1889 onwards|| County Hall Newcastle upon Tyne 1889 – 1981 |
County Hall Morpeth since 1981
|Nottinghamshire||1889 onwards||West Bridgford (moved from county borough of Nottingham in 1959)|
|Oxfordshire||1889 onwards||Oxford (county borough until 1974)|
|Soke of Peterborough||1889 to 1965||Peterborough, although geographically considered part of Northamptonshire|
|Rutland||1889 to 1974|
|East Suffolk||1889 to 1974||Ipswich (county borough)|
|West Suffolk||1889 to 1974||Bury St Edmunds|
|Surrey||1889 onwards||Inner London Sessions House, Newington, until County Hall, Kingston upon Thames opened in 1893 (Kingston has been in Greater London since 1965).|
|East Sussex||1889 onwards||Lewes|
|West Sussex||1889 onwards||Chichester (originally jointly with Horsham)|
|Tyne and Wear||1974 to 1986||Newcastle upon Tyne|
|West Midlands||1974 to 1986||Birmingham|
|Westmorland||1889 to 1974||Kendal|
|Worcestershire||1889 to 1974|
|Worcester (county borough until 1974)|
|Yorkshire, East Riding||1889 to 1974|
|Beverley (later HQ of Humberside)|
|Yorkshire, North Riding||1889 to 1974||Northallerton|
|North Yorkshire||1974 onwards||Northallerton|
|South Yorkshire||1974 to 1986||Barnsley|
|Yorkshire, West Riding||1889 to 1974||Wakefield (county borough from 1915)|
|West Yorkshire||1974 to 1986||Wakefield|
|Anglesey||1889 to 1974||Beaumaris 1|
|Brecknockshire||1889 to 1974||Brecon|
|Caernarvonshire||1889 to 1974||Caernarfon|
|Carmarthenshire||1889 to 1974|
|Cardiganshire||1889 to 1974||Aberystwyth 2|
|Clwyd||1974 to 1996||Mold|
|Denbighshire||1889 to 1974||Denbigh|
|Dyfed||1974 to 1996||Carmarthen|
|Flintshire||1889 to 1974||Mold|
|Glamorgan||1889 to 1974||Cardiff (county borough)|
|Gwent||1974 to 1996||Newport (1974–78), Cwmbran (1978–96)|
|Mid Glamorgan||1974 to 1996||Cardiff (extraterritorial)|
|Merionethshire||1889 to 1974||Dolgellau|
|Montgomeryshire||1889 to 1974||Welshpool|
|Monmouthshire||1889 to 1974||Newport (county borough from 1891)|
|Radnorshire||1889 to 1974||Presteigne 3|
|Pembrokeshire||1889 to 1974|
|Powys||1974 onwards||Llandrindod Wells|
|South Glamorgan||1974 to 1996||Cardiff|
|West Glamorgan||1974 to 1996||Swansea|
|Ynys Môn (Anglesey)||1996 onwards||Llangefni|
The follow lists the location of the administration of each of the 31 local authorities in Ireland, with the 26 traditional counties.
|County Carlow||Carlow County Council||Carlow|
|County Cavan||Cavan County Council||Cavan|
|County Clare||Clare County Council||Ennis|
|County Cork||Cork County Council||Cork city|
|Cork City Council||Cork city|
|County Donegal||Donegal County Council||Lifford|
|County Dublin||Dublin City Council||Dublin city|
|Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council||Dún Laoghaire||Until 1994, formed Dublin County Council, with its administrative offices in Dublin city|
|Fingal County Council||Swords|
|South Dublin County Council||Tallaght|
|County Galway||Galway City Council||Galway city|
|Galway County Council||Galway city|
|County Kerry||Kerry County Council||Tralee|
|County Kildare||Kildare County Council||Naas|
|County Kilkenny||Kilkenny County Council||Kilkenny|
|County Laois||Laois County Council||Portlaoise||Called Maryborough until 1929|
|County Leitrim||Leitrim County Council||Carrick-on-Shannon|
|County Limerick||Limerick City and County Council||Limerick|
|County Longford||Longford County Council||Longford|
|County Louth||Louth County Council||Dundalk|
|County Mayo||Mayo County Council||Castlebar|
|County Meath||Meath County Council||Navan||previously Trim was the administrative town|
|County Monaghan||Monaghan County Council||Monaghan|
|County Offaly||Offaly County Council||Tullamore||Prior to 1883, the county town was Daingean, then known as Philipstown|
|County Roscommon||Roscommon County Council||Roscommon|
|County Sligo||Sligo County Council||Sligo|
|County Tipperary||Tipperary County Council||Clonmel/Nenagh||Until the Local Government Reform Act 2014, these were respectively the administrative towns of South Tipperary County Council and North Tipperary County Council|
|County Waterford||Waterford City and County Council||Waterford|
|County Westmeath||Westmeath County Council||Mullingar|
|County Wexford||Wexford County Council||Wexford|
|County Wicklow||Wicklow County Council||Wicklow|
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