The form of the county name is unique in England. Many counties are named after their principal town, but the expected form here would be 'Durhamshire'. The reason it is called Durham instead is that the Prince-Bishops of Durham historically exercised power in regions outside the county as well, so the inner part was named County Durham as opposed to the rest of the estate of Durham. (But the form "County X" is standard for Irish counties, with no such significance.)
The traditional county extends to the south bank of the river Tyne and includes the cities of Sunderland and Gateshead. It borders the Counties of Cumberland,Northumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire. The east of the county between Ryhope, Sunderland and Seaton Carew, Hartlepool is the coastline of the North Sea. The county town is Durham.
The traditional county had several exclaves, including Bedlingtonshire, Norham, Islandshire (incorporated into Northumberland in the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844), and Crayke, now in North Yorkshire.
Durham County Council was established along with all the other English county councils in 1888. Major local government reorganisation on 1 April 1974 created the administrative metropolitan boroughs of Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead out of County Durham into the newly established administrative county of Tyne and Wear. At the same time, the new administrative county of Cleveland took out Stockton on Tees and Hartlepool. The County Councils of Tyne and Wear and Cleveland have since been abolished but the administrative county names are occasionally used in postal addresses. The administrative area of County Durham did however gain the rural district of Startforth south of the River Tees near to Barnard Castle.
The administrative county is divided into seven district councils, they are:
Towns and villages