Update: Historic Counties

England is a proud country, with a long history dating back thousands of years. In 1974 however, one event would change the landscape of our country for ever, and divide our communities, as the Counties of England were rejigged, cut up and redistributed. Many kept their original boundaries, however some were divided, and some were even abolished. People all over England proudly support their counties, but there is now some confusion as to exactly which county people are in.

Lancashire is a prime example. In 1974 the cities of Manchester and Salford, as well as the surrounding towns of Wigan, Bolton and Rochdale etc were removed from Lancashire and became part of a new county, Greater Manchester, which brought the surrounding conurbations together. Also, Liverpool, St Helens and Southport became part of another new county, Merseyside, which also included parts of Cheshire. The town of Warrington would also become part of Cheshire. Finally, Barrow-in-Furness with Ulverston became part of Cumbria, and Todmorden become wholly in Yorkshire. These places had been together under one county for hundreds of years, since Lancashire’s formation in 1184.

Although officially and administratively these areas are no longer part of Lancashire, historically they are and they also take part in the Lancashire Day celebrations. So are they new counties or should the old parts of Lancashire be treated as Lancashire? This was further complicated in 1998, the towns of Blackpool, and Blackburn (with Darwen) and their associated districts became Unitary Authorities, independent of Lancashire County Council and now also technically not part of the home county (although counted geographically on maps). They were even forbidden by law (as they are not administratively part of Lancashire) from putting Lancashire on their welcome signs.

This problem has now hopefully been solved, as on St Georges Day 2013, Eric Pickles (Member of the Conservative Party) stated that the historic boundaries of all the counties still exist by law and has encouraged people to acknowledge their historic heritage. This means that all parts of Lancashire that became part of other counties can be counted as Lancashire, even if they are administered separately. The next bit of good news came on St Georges Day 2014, when Eric Pickles made a further announcement, amending the law I mentioned earlier which stopped some areas acknowledging their county (Blackpool) and also signs marking historic boundaries now within another county can be put up by the local councils. I hope we see a lot of these appearing over the next few months, and maybe Manchester, Liverpool and Barrow-in-Furness may even get the Lancashire Red Rose on their signs.

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Above is a map of the historic counties of England (within the United Kingdom), a map that looks very different to that of today, particularly in the North.

In the 1974 changes, some new counties were created around existing areas and their local conurbations. These were:

Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Midlands, Greater London and Tyne & Wear. These were based around large cities, and their surrounding conurbations, such as Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, London and Newcastle respectively. Other counties were also created, called Avon (based around Bristol), Humberside (Based around Hull) and Cleveland (Based around Middlesbrough). These were soon abolished due to the amount of opposition from locals and the districts they contained became Unitary but returned geographically to their old counties, Hull to East Yorkshire, Bristol back to it’s own county and the other districts went to Gloucestershire and Somerset etc. This was the main thing changing the old county map.

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The Government have created a handy website with three views of the English counties. The first (in black) shows the current administrative counties. The second (in red) shows the historic counties, and the third combines them both in comparison. You can zoom in to a full area map, so find where you live and see if it has a history you didn’t know about. You can visit the site here.

I am glad that the old counties are being recognised, so get your flags flying, find out what is part of your county and go and enjoy it.

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