Counties of the United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom has 92 counties or shires. The British counties are the oldest extant national divisions in the world.

Where a distinction has to be made with statutory "counties" so called for administrative purposes, the counties are variously known as historic counties, traditional counties or ancient or geographical counties[1].

The counties have no administrative function, existing as geographical and cultural areas. Most of the counties have an existence stretching back to the Middle Ages and almost all of the English counties have been established for over a thousand years.[2] Even the relatively young Highland shires, only 450 years old as such, have a much older existence as geographical and cultural areas.

In this time many activities many activities and much social understanding and local identity has grown up intertwined with the counties, and so they have become a vital part of British and Irish culture.

Until the late twentieth century, administrative functions were carried out by bodies using the counties' boundaries or approximations to them, and so centuries of public records have been organised county by county, for which reason an understanding of the counties is vital for genealogical and historic research.

List of the counties

The following table lists each county, along with its proper name, area (in square miles), population, population density (in persons/square mile) and a selection of its principal towns. County towns are listed first and cities are shown in bold. Population figures are taken from the Historic Counties Trust's The Demography of the Historic Counties.[3]

Name County of Area Population Density Principal towns in the county
Aberdeenshire Aberdeen 1,950 380,495 195.13 Aberdeen (part), Ellon, Fraserburgh, Huntly, Inverurie, Peterhead, Turriff
Anglesey Anglesey 277 69,751 251.81 Beaumaris, Amlwch, Holyhead, Llangefni, Menai Bridge
Angus Forfar 899 264,044 293.71 Forfar, Dundee, Arbroath, Brechin, Carnoustie, Kirriemuir, Montrose
Antrim Antrim 1,175 615,701 524.00 Belfast (part), Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carnlough, Larne, Portrush (part)
Argyllshire Argyll 3,110 64,819 20.84 Lochgilphead, Campbeltown, Dunoon, Inverary, Oban, Tobermory
Armagh Armagh 512 178,598 348.82 Armagh, Newry (part)
Ayrshire Ayr 1,129 367,676 325.67 Ayr, Cumnock, Irvine, Kilmarnock, Kilwinning, Largs, Saltcoats, Troon
Banffshire Banff 641 46,537 72.60 Banff, Buckie, Dufftown, Keith, Macduff, Portsoy
Bedfordshire Bedford 468 602,847 1,288.13 Bedford, Biggleswade, Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard, Luton, Sandy
Berkshire Berks 722 842,804 1,167.32 Reading (part), Abingdon, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Newbury, Windsor, Wokingham
Berwickshire Berwick 457 26,458 57.89 Greenlaw, Coldstream, Duns, Eyemouth, Lauder
Brecknockshire Brecon 742 67,598 91.10 Brecon, Builth Wells, Hay-on-Wye, Llanwrtyd Wells, Talgarth
Buckinghamshire Buckingham 746 916,903 1,229.09 Aylesbury, Buckingham, High Wycombe, Milton Keynes, Slough
Buteshire Bute 225 12,534 55.71 Rothesay, Brodick, Lochranza, Millport
Caernarfonshire Caernarfon 563 139,065 247.01 Caernarfon, Bangor, Conwy, Llandudno, Porthmadog, Pwllheli
Caithness Caithness 618 26,486 42.86 Wick, Castletown, Halkirk, Thurso
Cambridgeshire Cambridge 858 460,448 536.65 Cambridge, Ely, Chatteris, March, Whittlesey, Wisbech
Cardiganshire Cardigan 693 75,784 109.36 Cardigan, Aberystwyth, Lampeter, New Quay, Tregaron
Carmarthenshire Carmarthen 937 184,232 196.62 Carmarthen, Ammanford, Kidwelly, Llandovery, Llanelli, St Clears
Cheshire Chester 1,035 1,668,894 1,612.46 Chester, Birkenhead, Crewe, Macclesfield, Runcorn, Stockport, Wallasey
Clackmannanshire Clackmannan 48 50,957 1,061.60 Clackmannan, Alloa, Dollar, Tillicoultry, Tullibody
Cornwall Cornwall 1,365 533,594 390.91 Bodmin, Truro, Camborne, Falmouth, Newquay, Penzance, Redruth, St Austell
Cromartyshire Cromarty 370 7,074 19.12 Cromarty, Ullapool
Cumberland Cumberland 1,525 306,241 200.81 Carlisle, Brampton, Keswick, Penrith, Whitehaven, Workington
Denbighshire Denbigh 668 277,680 415.69 Ruthin, Abergele, Denbigh, Llangollen, Wrexham
Derbyshire Derby 1,017 1,148,373 1,129.18 Derby, Ashbourne, Buxton, Chesterfield, Ilkeston, Matlock, Swadlincote
Devon Devon 2,621 1,133,463 432.45 Exeter, Plymouth, Barnstaple, Newton Abbot, Paignton, Tavistock, Tiverton, Torquay
Dorset Dorset 1,005 543,296 540.59 Dorchester, Poole, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Weymouth, Wimborne Minster
Down Down 950 528,983 556.82 Downpatrick, Bangor, Holywood, Newcastle, Strangford
Dumfriesshire Dumfries 1,063 77,160 72.59 Dumfries, Annan, Gretna, Langholm, Lockerbie, Moffat, Sanquhar
Dunbartonshire Dunbarton 241 262,419 1,088.88 Dumbarton, Alexandria, Clydebank, Cumbernauld, Helensburgh, Kirkintilloch
Durham Durham 1,022 1,467,037 1,435.46 Durham, Gateshead, Darlington, Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Sunderland, Washington
East Lothian Haddington 267 74,882 280.46 Haddington, Dunbar, East Linton, North Berwick, Tranent
Essex Essex 1,591 2,999,248 1,885.13 Chelmsford, Basildon, Brentwood, Colchester, Harlow, Romford, Southend-on-Sea, Stratford
Fermanagh Fermanagh 715 61,170 85.55 Enniskillen, Belleek, Irvinestown
Fife Fife 504 365,493 725.18 Cupar, Dunfermline, Burntisland, Cowdenbeath, Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy, St Andrews
Flintshire Flint 260 215,390 828.42 Mold, Connah's Quay, Buckley, Flint, Holywell, Prestatyn, Rhyl, St Asaph
Glamorgan Glamorgan 827 1,321,460 1,597.90 Cardiff (part), Swansea, Barry, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Pontypridd
Gloucestershire Gloucester 1,293 1,147,106 887.17 Gloucester, Bristol (part), Cheltenham, Cirencester, Stroud, Tewkesbury
Hampshire Southampton 1,656 2,099,640 1,267.90 Winchester, Portsmouth, Southampton, Basingstoke, Bournemouth, Newport
Herefordshire Hereford 837 183,631 219.39 Hereford, Bromyard, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster, Ross-on-Wye
Hertfordshire Hertford 633 1,157,166 1,828.07 Hertford, St Albans, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, Watford
Huntingdonshire Huntingdon 366 211,776 578.62 Huntingdon, Ramsey, Godmanchester, St Ives, St Neots, Yaxley
Inverness-shire Inverness 4,211 118,077 28.04 Inverness, Fort William, Kingussie, Newtonmore, Portree
Kent Kent 1,611 2,747,715 1,705.60 Maidstone, Canterbury, Bromley, Dover, Folkestone, Greenwich, Rochester
Kincardineshire Kincardine 380 77,670 204.39 Stonehaven, Banchory, Inverbervie, Laurencekirk
Kinross-shire Kinross 73 11,223 153.74 Kinross, Milnathort
Kirkcudbrightshire Kirkcudbright 899 47,546 52.89 Kirkcudbright, Castle Douglas, Dalbeattie, New Galloway
Lanarkshire Lanark 879 1,008,014 1,146.77 Lanark, Glasgow (part), Coatbridge, Carluke, East Kilbride, Hamilton, Motherwell
Lancashire Lancaster 1,909 4,942,364 2,588.98 Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester (part), Salford, Preston, Barrow-in-Furness, Bolton, Warrington (part)
Leicestershire Leicester 836 975,403 1,166.75 Leicester, Coalville, Hinckley, Loughborough, Lutterworth, Melton Mowbray
Lincolnshire Lincoln 2,687 1,038,510 386.49 Lincoln, Boston, Grantham, Grimsby, Louth, Scunthorpe, Skegness, Stamford
Londonderry Londonderry 816 247,971 303.89 Londonderry, Coleraine, Limavady
Merionethshire Merioneth 676 37,874 56.03 Bala, Barmouth, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Dolgellau, Harlech, Tywyn
Middlesex Middlesex 285 4,000,927 14,038.34 London (part), Brentford, Westminster, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Potters Bar, Staines, Twickenham
Midlothian Edinburgh 362 621,610 1,717.15 Edinburgh, Bonnyrigg, Dalkeith, Musselburgh, Penicuik
Monmouthshire Monmouth 542 514,723 949.67 Monmouth, Newport, Abergavenny, Blackwood, Chepstow, Cwmbran, Tredegar
Montgomeryshire Montgomery 796 61,956 77.83 Montgomery, Llanidloes, Machynlleth, Newtown, Welshpool
Morayshire Elgin/Moray 476 67,654 142.13 Elgin, Fochabers, Lossiemouth, Forres, Rothes
Nairnshire Nairn 200 13,894 69.47 Nairn, Auldearn, Cawdor
Norfolk Norfolk 2,057 807,721 392.67 Norwich, Cromer, East Dereham, Great Yarmouth (part), Hunstanton, King's Lynn
Northamptonshire Northampton 998 838,786 840.47 Northampton, Peterborough (part), Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough
Northumberland Northumberland 2,019 797,006 394.75 Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Alnwick, (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Hexham, Morpeth
Nottinghamshire Nottingham 843 1,096,617 1,300.85 Nottingham, Mansfield, Newark-on-Trent, Retford, Southwell, Worksop
Orkney Orkney 376 21,349 56.78 Kirkwall, Balfour, Stromness
Oxfordshire Oxford 754 512,345 679.50 Oxford (part), Banbury, Bicester, Carterton, Henley-on-Thames, Thame, Witney
Peeblesshire Peebles 548 19,074 34.81 Peebles, Innerleithen, West Linton
Pembrokeshire Pembroke 625 122,122 195.40 Pembroke, Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven, Tenby, St David's
Perthshire Perth 2,493 156,371 62.72 Perth, Blairgowrie, Callander, Coupar Angus, Crieff, Kincardine, Pitlochry, Rattray
Radnorshire Radnor 470 25,821 54.94 Presteigne, Knighton, Llandrindod Wells, New Radnor, Rhayader
Renfrewshire Renfrew 245 508,064 2,073.73 Renfrew, Barrhead, Greenock, Johnstone, Kilmacolm, Paisley, Port Glasgow
Ross-shire Ross 3,089 69,503 22.50 Dingwall, Alness, Invergordon, Stornoway, Tain
Roxburghshire Roxburgh 666 50,800 76.28 Jedburgh, Hawick, Kelso, Melrose, Roxburgh
Rutland Rutland 152 37,677 247.88 Oakham, Cottesmore, Uppingham
Selkirkshire Selkirk 267 16,010 59.96 Selkirk, Galashiels (part)
Shetland Shetland 551 23,167 42.05 Lerwick, Baltasound, Scalloway
Shropshire Shrewsbury/Salop 1,342 472,027 351.73 Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Market Drayton, Oswestry, Telford, Whitchurch
Somerset Somerset 1,633 1,053,504 645.13 Taunton, Bath, Bridgwater, Glastonbury, Wells, Weston-super-Mare, Yeovil
Staffordshire Stafford 1,176 2,159,392 1,836.22 Stafford, Lichfield, Stoke-on-Trent, Wolverhampton, Cannock, Walsall
Stirlingshire Stirling 447 244,092 546.07 Stirling (part), Bridge of Allan, Denny, Falkirk, Grangemouth, Kilsyth
Suffolk Suffolk 1,505 775,099 515.02 Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Bungay, Felixstowe, Haverhill (part), Lowestoft, Sudbury
Surrey Surrey 759 2,975,836 3,920.73 Guildford, Brixton, Croydon, Egham, Farnham, Kingston upon Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Wandsworth, Wimbledon, Woking
Sussex Sussex 1,466 1,612,454 1,099.90 Chichester, Bognor Regis, Brighton and Hove, Crawley, Eastbourne, Hastings, Horsham, Worthing
Sutherland Sutherland 2,028 12,803 6.31 Dornoch, Brora, Durness, Golspie, Helmsdale, Lairg, Tongue
Tyrone Tyrone 1,260 178,440 141.62 Omagh, Cookstown, Dungannon, Strabane
Warwickshire Warwick 918 1,632,885 1,778.74 Warwick, Birmingham (part), Coventry, Nuneaton, Rugby, Solihull, Stratford-upon-Avon
West Lothian Linlithgow 120 154,830 1,290.25 Linlithgow, Armadale, Bathgate, Bo'ness, Broxburn, Livingston, Whitburn
Westmorland Westmorland 785 87,466 111.42 Appleby, Ambleside, Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale, Windermere
Wigtownshire Wigtown 487 26,618 54.66 Wigtown, Newton Stewart, Stranraer, Whithorn
Wiltshire Wilts 1,374 682,380 496.64 Salisbury, Chippenham, Devizes, Marlborough, Swindon, Trowbridge, Warminster
Worcestershire Worcester 709 1,125,037 1,586.79 Worcester, Dudley, Evesham, Great Malvern, Halesowen, Kidderminster, Stourbridge
Yorkshire York 6,081 5,218,838 858.22 York

East Riding: Kingston upon Hull, Beverley, Bridlington, Driffield, Filey (part), Hornsea

North Riding: Middlesbrough, Northallerton, Redcar, Scarborough, Whitby

West Riding: Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield, Wakefield, Doncaster, Halifax, Harrogate, Ripon

Population Density (persons per square mile) of the Historic Counties of the UK from the 2011 Census

See also

Notes and References

  1. Census Report, 1891 (General Register Office)
  2. "From the Domesday Book of the Conqueror (completed AD 1086) it is known that County limits have since that time undergone no alteration; in fact they have been jealously maintained". Abstract of the Answers and Returns Made pursuant to an Act passed in the Eleventh Year of the Reign of His Majesty King George IV Intituled "An Act for taking an Account of the Population of Great Britain and of the Increase or Diminution thereof" Enumeration Abstract Vol. I, 2 April 1833.
  3. Historic Counties Trust The Demography of the Historic Counties 21 March 2020

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