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.

Name County of Area Population Density Principal towns in the county
Aberdeenshire Aberdeen 1,950 378,933 194.32 Aberdeen (part), Ellon, Fraserburgh, Huntly, Inverurie, Peterhead, Turriff
Anglesey Anglesey 277 69,744 251.78 Beaumaris, Amlwch, Holyhead, Llangefni, Menai Bridge
Angus Forfar 899 263,325 292.91 Forfar, Dundee, Arbroath, Brechin, Carnoustie, Kirriemuir, Montrose
Antrim Antrim 1,175 605,154 515.02 Belfast (part), Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carnlough, Larne, Portrush (part)
Argyllshire Argyll 3,110 64,446 20.72 Lochgilphead, Campbeltown, Dunoon, Inverary, Oban, Tobermory
Armagh Armagh 512 174,960 341.72 Armagh, Newry (part)
Ayrshire Ayr 1,129 366,976 325.05 Ayr, Cumnock, Irvine, Kilmarnock, Kilwinning, Largs, Saltcoats, Troon
Banffshire Banff 641 47,756 74.50 Banff, Buckie, Dufftown, Keith, Macduff, Portsoy
Bedfordshire Bedford 468 602,912 1,288.27 Bedford, Biggleswade, Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard, Luton, Sandy
Berkshire Berks 722 841,828 1,165.97 Reading (part), Abingdon, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Newbury, Windsor, Wokingham
Berwickshire Berwick 457 26,169 57.26 Greenlaw, Coldstream, Duns, Eyemouth, Lauder
Brecknockshire Brecon 742 68,088 91.76 Brecon, Builth Wells, Hay-on-Wye, Llanwrtyd Wells, Talgarth
Buckinghamshire Buckingham 746 916,262 1,228.23 Aylesbury, Buckingham, High Wycombe, Milton Keynes, Slough
Buteshire Bute 225 12,534 55.71 Rothesay, Brodick, Lochranza, Millport
Caernarfonshire Caernarfon 563 137,048 243.42 Caernarfon, Bangor, Conwy, Llandudno, Porthmadog, Pwllheli
Caithness Caithness 618 26,486 42.86 Wick, Castletown, Halkirk, Thurso
Cambridgeshire Cambridge 858 460,621 536.85 Cambridge, Ely, Chatteris, March, Whittlesey, Wisbech
Cardiganshire Cardigan 693 75,270 108.61 Cardigan, Aberystwyth, Lampeter, New Quay, Tregaron
Carmarthenshire Carmarthen 937 184,407 196.81 Carmarthen, Ammanford, Kidwelly, Llandovery, Llanelli, St Clears
Cheshire Chester 1,035 1,667,342 1,610.96 Chester, Birkenhead, Crewe, Macclesfield, Runcorn, Stockport, Wallasey
Clackmannanshire Clackmannan 48 46,940 977.92 Clackmannan, Alloa, Dollar, Tillicoultry, Tullibody
Cornwall Cornwall 1,365 531,591 389.44 Bodmin, Truro, Camborne, Falmouth, Newquay, Penzance, Redruth, St Austell
Cromartyshire Cromarty 370 6,964 18.82 Cromarty, Ullapool
Cumberland Cumberland 1,525 306,144 200.75 Carlisle, Brampton, Keswick, Penrith, Whitehaven, Workington
Denbighshire Denbigh 668 228,781 342.49 Ruthin, Abergele, Denbigh, Llangollen, Wrexham
Derbyshire Derby 1,017 1,149,180 1,129.97 Derby, Ashbourne, Buxton, Chesterfield, Ilkeston, Matlock, Swadlincote
Devon Devon 2,621 1,132,465 432.07 Exeter, Plymouth, Barnstaple, Newton Abbot, Paignton, Tavistock, Tiverton, Torquay
Dorset Dorset 1,005 542,585 539.89 Dorchester, Poole, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Weymouth, Wimborne Minster
Down Down 950 519,038 546.36 Downpatrick, Bangor, Holywood, Newcastle, Strangford
Dumfriesshire Dumfries 1,063 77,120 72.55 Dumfries, Annan, Gretna, Langholm, Lockerbie, Moffat, Sanquhar
Dunbartonshire Dunbarton 241 261,418 1,084.72 Dumbarton, Alexandria, Clydebank, Cumbernauld, Helensburgh, Kirkintilloch
Durham Durham 1,022 1,465,299 1,433.76 Durham, Gateshead, Darlington, Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Sunderland, Washington
East Lothian Haddington 267 74,766 280.02 Haddington, Dunbar, East Linton, North Berwick, Tranent
Essex Essex 1,591 2,996,635 1,883.49 Chelmsford, Basildon, Brentwood, Colchester, Harlow, Romford, Southend-on-Sea, Stratford
Fermanagh Fermanagh 715 56,861 79.53 Enniskillen, Belleek, Irvinestown
Fife Fife 504 358,091 710.50 Cupar, Dunfermline, Burntisland, Cowdenbeath, Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy, St Andrews
Flintshire Flint 260 216,236 831.68 Mold, Connah's Quay, Buckley, Flint, Holywell, Prestatyn, Rhyl, St Asaph
Glamorgan Glamorgan 827 1,321,256 1,597.65 Cardiff (part), Swansea, Barry, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Pontypridd
Gloucestershire Gloucester 1,293 1,145,686 886.07 Gloucester, Bristol (part), Cheltenham, Cirencester, Stroud, Tewkesbury
Hampshire Southampton 1,656 2,097,066 1,266.34 Winchester, Portsmouth, Southampton, Basingstoke, Bournemouth, Newport
Herefordshire Hereford 837 183,649 219.41 Hereford, Bromyard, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster, Ross-on-Wye
Hertfordshire Hertford 633 1,156,273 1,826.66 Hertford, St Albans, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, Watford
Huntingdonshire Huntingdon 366 212,311 580.08 Huntingdon, Ramsey, Godmanchester, St Ives, St Neots, Yaxley
Inverness-shire Inverness 4,211 118,492 28.14 Inverness, Fort William, Kingussie, Newtonmore, Portree
Kent Kent 1,611 2,743,368 1,702.90 Maidstone, Canterbury, Bromley, Dover, Folkestone, Greenwich, Rochester
Kincardineshire Kincardine 380 77,210 203.18 Stonehaven, Banchory, Inverbervie, Laurencekirk
Kinross-shire Kinross 73 11,142 152.63 Kinross, Milnathort
Kirkcudbrightshire Kirkcudbright 899 47,521 52.86 Kirkcudbright, Castle Douglas, Dalbeattie, New Galloway
Lanarkshire Lanark 879 1,003,726 1,141.90 Lanark, Glasgow (part), Coatbridge, Carluke, East Kilbride, Hamilton, Motherwell
Lancashire Lancaster 1,909 4,940,339 2,587.92 Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester (part), Salford, Preston, Barrow-in-Furness, Bolton, Warrington (part)
Leicestershire Leicester 836 974,560 1,165.74 Leicester, Coalville, Hinckley, Loughborough, Lutterworth, Melton Mowbray
Lincolnshire Lincoln 2,687 1,039,100 386.71 Lincoln, Boston, Grantham, Grimsby, Louth, Scunthorpe, Skegness, Stamford
Londonderry Londonderry 816 243,126 297.95 Londonderry, Coleraine, Limavady
Merionethshire Merioneth 676 37,835 55.97 Bala, Barmouth, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Dolgellau, Harlech, Tywyn
Middlesex Middlesex 285 3,995,268 14,018.48 London (part), Brentford, Westminster, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Potters Bar, Staines, Twickenham
Midlothian Edinburgh 362 621,263 1,716.20 Edinburgh, Bonnyrigg, Dalkeith, Musselburgh, Penicuik
Monmouthshire Monmouth 542 514,291 948.88 Monmouth, Newport, Abergavenny, Blackwood, Chepstow, Cwmbran, Tredegar
Montgomeryshire Montgomery 796 62,030 77.93 Montgomery, Llanidloes, Machynlleth, Newtown, Welshpool
Morayshire Elgin/Moray 476 67,647 142.12 Elgin, Fochabers, Lossiemouth, Forres, Rothes
Nairnshire Nairn 200 13,956 69.78 Nairn, Auldearn, Cawdor
Norfolk Norfolk 2,057 807,704 392.66 Norwich, Cromer, East Dereham, Great Yarmouth (part), Hunstanton, King's Lynn
Northamptonshire Northampton 998 837,968 839.65 Northampton, Peterborough (part), Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough
Northumberland Northumberland 2,019 796,644 394.57 Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Alnwick, (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Hexham, Morpeth
Nottinghamshire Nottingham 843 1,094,885 1,298.80 Nottingham, Mansfield, Newark-on-Trent, Retford, Southwell, Worksop
Orkney Orkney 376 21,273 56.58 Kirkwall, Balfour, Stromness
Oxfordshire Oxford 754 513,406 680.91 Oxford (part), Banbury, Bicester, Carterton, Henley-on-Thames, Thame, Witney
Peeblesshire Peebles 548 18,990 34.65 Peebles, Innerleithen, West Linton
Pembrokeshire Pembroke 625 122,436 195.90 Pembroke, Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven, Tenby, St David's
Perthshire Perth 2,493 162,865 65.33 Perth, Blairgowrie, Callander, Coupar Angus, Crieff, Kincardine, Pitlochry, Rattray
Radnorshire Radnor 470 25,813 54.92 Presteigne, Knighton, Llandrindod Wells, New Radnor, Rhayader
Renfrewshire Renfrew 245 507,720 2,072.33 Renfrew, Barrhead, Greenock, Johnstone, Kilmacolm, Paisley, Port Glasgow
Ross-shire Ross 3,089 69,098 22.37 Dingwall, Alness, Invergordon, Stornoway, Tain
Roxburghshire Roxburgh 666 50,538 75.88 Jedburgh, Hawick, Kelso, Melrose, Roxburgh
Rutland Rutland 152 37,502 246.72 Oakham, Cottesmore, Uppingham
Selkirkshire Selkirk 267 16,207 60.70 Selkirk, Galashiels
Shetland Shetland 551 23,086 41.90 Lerwick, Baltasound, Scalloway
Shropshire Shrewsbury/Salop 1,342 471,975 351.70 Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Market Drayton, Oswestry, Telford, Whitchurch
Somerset Somerset 1,633 1,053,551 645.16 Taunton, Bath, Bridgwater, Glastonbury, Wells, Weston-super-Mare, Yeovil
Staffordshire Stafford 1,176 2,159,803 1,836.57 Stafford, Lichfield, Stoke-on-Trent, Wolverhampton, Cannock, Walsall
Stirlingshire Stirling 447 248,044 554.91 Stirling (part), Bridge of Allan, Denny, Falkirk, Grangemouth, Kilsyth
Suffolk Suffolk 1,505 776,070 515.66 Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Bungay, Felixstowe, Haverhill (part), Lowestoft, Sudbury
Surrey Surrey 759 2,975,918 3,920.84 Guildford, Brixton, Croydon, Egham, Farnham, Kingston upon Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Wandsworth, Wimbledon, Woking
Sussex Sussex 1,466 1,613,316 1,100.49 Chichester, Bognor Regis, Brighton and Hove, Crawley, Eastbourne, Hastings, Horsham, Worthing
Sutherland Sutherland 2,028 12,820 6.32 Dornoch, Brora, Durness, Golspie, Helmsdale, Lairg, Tongue
Tyrone Tyrone 1,260 173,290 137.53 Omagh, Cookstown, Dungannon, Strabane
Warwickshire Warwick 918 1,631,332 1,777.05 Warwick, Birmingham (part), Coventry, Nuneaton, Rugby, Solihull, Stratford-upon-Avon
West Lothian Linlithgow 120 154,290 1,285.75 Linlithgow, Armadale, Bathgate, Bo'ness, Broxburn, Livingston, Whitburn
Westmorland Westmorland 785 87,661 111.67 Appleby, Ambleside, Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale, Windermere
Wigtownshire Wigtown 487 26,613 54.65 Wigtown, Newton Stewart, Stranraer, Whithorn
Wiltshire Wilts 1,374 682,232 496.53 Salisbury, Chippenham, Devizes, Marlborough, Swindon, Trowbridge, Warminster
Worcestershire Worcester 709 1,126,058 1,588.23 Worcester, Dudley, Evesham, Great Malvern, Halesowen, Kidderminster, Stourbridge
Yorkshire York 6,081 5,216,167 857.78 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, Halifax, Harrogate, Ripon

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.

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