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Counties of England

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The division into counties is one of the larger divisions of England. Counties are usually divided into several districts[?], each with its own separate administration (districts may be called boroughs[?] in some cases).

The county boundaries have varied considerably over the centuries. When the counties were originally defined, they often included large areas of land owned by the local abbeys, resulting in a number of counties having small detached parts entirely surrounded by some other county. After boundary changes from the 1880s to the 1960s, many of these anomalies were resolved and a number of parishes were incorporated in a more logical county. The last such anomalies were removed by the local government reorganisation in 1974.

In the 1974 reorganisation, six new metropolitan counties were created to administer the larger urban areas: the West Midlands metropolitan county (covering Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton and the Black Country, and including former parts of Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire); Greater Manchester; Merseyside (Liverpool and neighbouring districts); West Yorkshire (Leeds, Bradford and nearby towns); South Yorkshire (Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster); and Tyne and Wear (Newcastle and Sunderland[?]). Additional non-metropolitan counties were created for areas centred on a major city but divided by former county boundaries, in Avon (Bristol and surroundings), Humberside[?] (Hull) and Cleveland (Middlesbrough[?]/Teesside[?]).

The metropolitan counties were abolished as administrative entities in 1986 along with the county of Greater London (created in 1965) and broken up into their constituent districts, though statistical data are still published for the 1974-86 county areas. Avon, Humberside and Cleveland were also scrapped in 1996, their districts becoming unitary authorities combining county and district functions, and 1999 saw the restoration of Rutland, formerly the smallest county in England, and Herefordshire as unitary authories, after they had been respectively merged with Leicestershire and Worcestershire 25 years earlier.


There are 36 counties, most of which has separate district councils. The Isle of Wight has no districts.

See also: Subdivisions of England, Traditional counties of England, Scotland and Wales

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