Administrative counties of England

Administrative counties of England

Infobox subdivision type
name= Administrative county (England)

category= Administrative county
territory= England
upper_unit= County
start_date= 1889
legislation_begin= Local Government Act 1888
legislation_end= Local Government Act 1972
end_date= 1974



population_range= 25,000–4.2 million

government= County council

subdivision= Rural district
subdivision1= Urban district
subdivision2= Municipal borough
subdivision3= Metropolitan borough

Administrative counties were a level of subnational division of England used for the purposes of local government from 1889 to 1974. They were created by the Local Government Act 1888 and abolished by the Local Government Act 1972. They were replaced by the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England which are often referred to, somewhat incorrectly, as administrative counties.


The administrative counties didn't exist prior to 1889, see historic counties of England for the history of the English counties before then.

Introduction of county councils

In 1888 the government, led by the Tory Prime Minister Lord Salisbury established county councils throughout England and Wales, covering areas known as administrative counties. Excluded from administrative counties were the county boroughs, which were what today are known as unitary authorities.

Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Suffolk, Sussex, and Yorkshire were split up for administrative purposes, following historical divisions used by the Courts of Quarter Sessions.

Additionally there was a County of London which covered the area today known as Inner London. The Isle of Wight was originally included under the administrative county of Hampshire but obtained its own county council in 1890. [Local Government Board's Provisional Order Confirmation (No.2) Act 1889 (52 & 53 Vict. C.clxxvii)]

In 1894 a uniform two-tier system was established, with subdivisions of the administrative counties called urban districts, rural districts and municipal boroughs. The structure was complete once the County of London was divided into metropolitan boroughs in 1900.

Some exclaves had been left untouched by the 1844 Act, but in 1894 county councils were given the power to adjust county boundaries, and most anomalies were removed in the next few years. For example the Measham area of Derbyshire was placed under the control of Leicestershire County Council in 1897.

Map 1890-1965

This map follows the usual practice of not showing county boroughs. Instead, they were included in their 'host' county. When a county borough expanded into territory of a county that was not the one it came from, maps often showed this as an increase in size of the county the county borough was associated with. So, for example, Bristol south of the River Avon would be shown as part of Gloucestershire rather than Somerset.

Monmouthshire, not shown on the map, was reckoned for some legal purposes among the English counties for most of this period.

The 1889 Act did not contain a list of the administrative counties: it was not until 1933 and the passing of a new Local Government Act that they were enumerated in the Act's schedule. In official legislation the suffix "shire" was generally not used: references being to (for example) "the administrative county of Bedford" or the "county council of Northampton". In the case of Lancashire and Cheshire the councils were officially the "county council of the palatine county". Shropshire was always officially entitled the "county of Salop". The right of Berkshire to be described as a "royal county" was recognised by the monarch in 1958. On April 1, 1959 the administrative county of Southampton was renamed as Hampshire.

This system was the basis of the ceremonial counties used for Lieutenancy - except that Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Suffolk and Sussex were not split for Lieutenancy. (Yorkshire, however, was).


In 1974 the administrative counties were abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 and replaced with the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England.

ee also

*List of articles about local government in the United Kingdom


External links

* [ History of the counties]
* [ administrative County]

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