The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, also known as the United Kingdom or just the UK, is a sovereign state located off the western coast of continental Europe.
Click here to see the UK’s location within Europe.
The UK is made up of the island of Great Britain, one-sixth of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands.
The Kingdom of Great Britain was formed from the union of the Kingdoms of England (made up of modern day England and Wales) and Scotland in 1707. In 1801 the Kingdom of Great Britain united with the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It wasn’t until 1922 when five-sixths of Ireland gained independence from the United Kingdom that it was renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have devolved administrations with varying power.
Great Britain, or just Britain, is the main island of the UK and is made up of the countries of England, Scotland and Wales. It is the largest island in Europe and the ninth largest in the world. Britain is surrounded by over 1000 islands and islets and, politically, these are included as part of Great Britain
Official Languages: English
Recognised regional languages: Cornish, Irish, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Ulster-Scots, Welsh.
Population: Over 63 million
Currency: Pound sterling
The United Kingdom is split up into four countries, which are themselves split into local government areas. These are known as counties in England, and Council Areas in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Many of these were introduced in 1974, to replace the original counties. Whilst some of the counties have kept more or less the same bordesr, some have been abolished and some have had dramatic border changes. The historic counties had covered the four UK countries for over 10 centuries, and these “Historic Counties” are shown above.
Whilst our blog posts will be written around the current, existing administrative counties and council areas, many places are part of an older historic county.
Lancashire is a good example of this. You can see Lancashire on the above map, and it is a quite sizeable county. It once included Manchester, Liverpool, Barrow-in-Furness, Wigan, Bolton, Blackburn and Blackpool. All of these have since been removed, with Manchester, Wigan and Bolton becoming part of Greater Manchester (one of a number of new counties created to bring together large conurbations), and Liverpool joined Merseyside which includes parts of historic Cheshire. On the map you can see Cumberland and Westmorland above Lancashire. These were abolished, and together with the detached section of Lancashire at the top, became part of a new county called Cumbria. Blackpool and Blackburn became part of Unitary Authorities, geographically in Lancashire but administered independently of it. They were prevented by law from putting Lancashire on their border signs.
However, announcements by Eric Pickles (Conservative Party Politician) on St Georges Day 2013 told us that these historic counties still exist by law, and they will be officially recognised, including some that have merged into other counties, such as Huntingdonshire which is now part of Cambridgeshire. The next announcement came on St Georges Day 2014, and it is has been confirmed new laws will allow local councils to put up signs on the historic county borders (whilst the administrative counties of today will still exist) to recognise the historic counties. New signs should soon appear around the UK, and Blackpool and Blackburn are now allowed to put Lancashire on their border signs. As a proud Lancastrian, I was devastated at the fate of the old historic county of Lancashire, but this news brings hope that Manchester, Liverpool, Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool and Blackburn will once again feel part of Lancashire, and indeed they have always contributed to celebrations on Lancashire Day each year, on 27th November.
Check out this handy Government site to see if you live which historic county you should be part of.