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Traditional counties of England

The traditional Counties (or historic Counties) of England are historical and geographical subdivisions. They have been rendered obsolete for administrative purposes by the newer administrative counties of England, which were largely defined in 1974, with later changes occuring in the 1990s

Supporters of the traditional county boundaries argue that they have never ceased to exist, although if they do exist they do so in name only.

Some traditionalists prefer to use traditional counties for geographic purposes rather than administrative ones.

Table of contents
1 Supporters
2 Critics
3 List of the traditional counties
4 External link


Supporters of the historic Counties maintain that the counties are entities too important for laws simply to redefine. According to them, the existence of the historic Counties after 1974 is confirmed by an official government statement at the time, in which the government specifically stated that the traditional counties are not abolished:

"The new county boundaries are administrative areas, and will not alter the traditional boundaries of counties, nor is it intended that the loyalties of people living in them will change, despite the different names adopted by the new administrative counties"

Supporters of historic counties point out that there are many examples of towns and villages which have stated unequivocably their presence in their historic County.

Given frequent confusion regarding the status of historic counties, many societies and lobby groups have been formed in their defence. These include Yorkshire's White Rose Society, the Campaign for real Warwickshire, and the Huntingdonshire Society. The campaigns for Rutland, Peterborough and Herefordshire to be made once more administrative counties did succeed and these areas were made independent of Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire and Hereford and Worcester.

See also: Administrative counties of England, Ceremonial counties of England, Subdivisions of England, Traditional counties of Wales, Traditional counties of Scotland.


Critics point out that the above disclaimer was merely a government statement, and thus had no legal effect. The 1974 legislation doesn't use the term 'administrative counties', and just repealed and amended 'counties', although the original defining laws of 1888 do indeed differentiate between the adminitrative and traditional entities.

Further, the idea that historic counties are 'immutable' is said to be spurious. For example, there was a reorganisation in 1844, which reverted some exclaves (such as a large part of County Durham within Northumberland) to their host territories - and if the 1888 legislation left the counties that existed in 1887 untouched, then they refer to the post-1844 versions.

Critics have also suggested that a person's loyalty to his or her historic County might not be apparent in all cases - pointing especially to the metropolitan counties such as West Midlands and Greater Manchester - people within the urban area often have much more in common with each other than they do with those in the rump county. Certainly the majority of councils in such conurbations quote their address as being in the administrative county.

Critics also suggest that in many cases metropolitan or administrative counties are now commonly used for geographic purposes rather than historic ones. For instance Birmingham is nearly always refered to as being in the West Midlands rather than Warwickshire.

List of the traditional counties


Some of the traditional counties have subdivisions:

Map of the traditional counties, courtesy of the Association of British Counties

See also: Association of British Counties

External link