County Definitions

Many are confused by the different terms and definitions used to describe counties in the media and generally. These counties are defined in the following brief explanation:

County (“Historic” or “Ancient” or “Traditional” or “Geographical”)

92 areas of ancient origin which for centuries formed, and continue to form, a commonly agreed way of referring to the different parts of the United Kingdom for many personal, social and cultural purposes and in spheres like business and trade, tourism and sport and the delivery of mail. In England, Lincolnshire, Somerset and Yorkshire are examples, in Scotland, Fife and Argyllshire, in Wales, Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire.

The bulk of these ceased to be administrative units in 1974 when the 1972 local government act came into effect, as reported by the Times in April of that year, see the following extract. As a government official, quoted in this report, stated at the time however “They 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.”


Ceremonial County

One of the administrative areas defined by the Lieutenancies Act 1997 solely “for the purposes of the lieutenancies”. An area in which Lords Lieutenants exercise their functions. In England and Wales these are labelled by the 1997 Act as “counties”, in Scotland as “areas”. In England, Greater Manchester and West Midlands are examples; in Scotland, Tweeddale and Dundee; in Wales, Clwyd and Mid Glamorgan.

Administrative County

In England and Wales, the administrative areas created by the local Government Act 1972 solely “for the administration of local government” and deemed by the Act “to be known as counties”. There have been many changes to the names and areas of these since the 1972 Act. In England, Stockton-on Tees, Blackburn-with-Darwen and Rutland are current examples and in Wales, Swansea and Gwynedd. (In Scotland principal local government areas are not called counties. Example (two) are: “Dumfries and Galloway” and “Stirling and Falkirk”.)

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