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Traditional counties of England, Scotland and Wales

The traditional counties of of England, Scotland and Wales are historical subdivisions in the United Kingdom. In England some counties still exist as a single unit of local government, but which no longer has official county status. Others are no longer a local government body but may still appear on statistical tables and postal addresses. The following counties have been replaced in various ways:


Created 1965

Created 1974

Advocates of the "traditional counties" (also known as the "geographic counties") maintain that the counties are entities too important for laws simply to redefine in this way, and furthermore that in 1974 at the time of the creation of the administrative counties -- which is what are described above -- 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".

To confuse matters, in 1974 the Post Office recommended using new "postal counties" in addresses, which coincided with neither the new administrative counties nor the traditional counties but drew on both. It seems that it was difficult for the general public to sustain multiple notions of what a county was, and since 1974 most maps and official usages such as road signs have followed the administrative counties exclusively.

More recently, especially since the 1996 and 1999 reorganizations, it is apparent that the traditional counties have -- through cultural means such as classic literature, sports teams & other institutions, and simply thanks to their stability -- endured their supposed abolition, and the Post Office is much more flexible on how letters are addressed, allowing old or new counties in addresses. Since in effect the Post Office ignores the county anyway, fans of countyhood claim that including the county adds a useful layer of geographical information to the postal address.

See also: Counties of England, Subdivisions of England

This map shows the counties of England, Scotland and Wales before the boundary reorganization of 1974.

Note that the post-1965 county of Greater London is shown, incorrectly labelled as Middlesex.

The counties of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire were both subdivided in a similar way to Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Suffolk and Sussex. Cambridge and the Isle of Ely were one pairing, Huntingdon and The Soke of Peterborough (originally part of Northamptonshire) were the other.


  • Map reproduced with permission of Riley Williams.
  • Commentary on map based on Road Atlas of Great Britain, Bartholomew, Edinburgh, 1969.
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