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Ceremonial counties of England

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ceremonial counties,[2] formally known as counties for the purposes of the lieutenancies,[3] are areas of England to which lord-lieutenants are appointed. A lord-lieutenant is the monarch's representative in an area.[4] Shrieval counties have the same boundaries and serve a similar purpose, being the areas to which high sheriffs are appointed. High sheriffs are the monarch's judicial representative in an area.[5]

The ceremonial counties are defined in the Lieutenancies Act 1997, and the shrieval counties in the Sheriffs Act 1887. In both cases the counties are defined as groups of local government counties.

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The predecessor geographic counties from 1889 to 1965, Yorkshire's ridings counted separately and exclaves difference these from the historic counties and the newly created administrative counties deviated from the boundaries in 1889

Ceremonial counties

The distinction between a county for purposes of the lieutenancy and a county for administrative purposes is not a new one. In some cases, a county corporate that was part of a county appointed its own lieutenant, although the lieutenant of the containing county would often be appointed to this position, as well, and the three Ridings of Yorkshire had been treated as three counties for lieutenancy purposes since the 17th century.

The Local Government Act 1888 established county councils to assume the administrative functions of quarter sessions in the counties. It created new entities called "administrative counties". An administrative county comprised all of the county apart from the county boroughs; also, some traditional subdivisions of counties were constituted administrative counties, for instance the Soke of Peterborough in Northamptonshire and the Isle of Ely in Cambridgeshire.

The act further stipulated that areas that were part of an administrative county would be part of the county for all purposes. The greatest change was the creation of the County of London, which was made both an administrative county and a "county"; it included parts of the historic counties of Middlesex, Kent, and Surrey. Other differences were small and resulted from the constraint that urban sanitary districts (and later urban districts and municipal boroughs) were not permitted to straddle county boundaries.

Apart from Yorkshire, counties that were subdivided continued to exist as ceremonial counties. For example, the administrative counties of East Suffolk and West Suffolk, along with the county borough of Ipswich, were considered to make up a single ceremonial county of Suffolk, and the administrative county of the Isle of Wight was part of the ceremonial county of Hampshire.

The term "ceremonial county" in this context is an anachronism; at the time they were shown on Ordnance Survey maps as "counties" or "geographical counties", and were referred to in the Local Government Act 1888 simply as "counties".

Apart from minor boundary revisions (for example, Caversham, a town in Oxfordshire, becoming part of Reading county borough and thus of Berkshire, in 1911), these areas changed little until the 1965 creation of Greater London and of Huntingdon and Peterborough, which resulted in the abolition of the offices of Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex, Lord Lieutenant of the County of London, and Lord Lieutenant of Huntingdonshire and the creation of the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London and of the Lord Lieutenant of Huntingdon and Peterborough.

Ceremonial counties from 1974 to 1996 (City of London not shown)

In 1974, administrative counties and county boroughs were abolished, and a major reform was instituted. At this time, lieutenancy was redefined to use the new metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties directly.

Following a further rearrangement in 1996, Avon, Cleveland, Hereford and Worcester, and Humberside were abolished. This led to a resurrection of a distinction between the local government counties and the ceremonial or geographical counties used for lieutenancy, and also to the adoption of the term "ceremonial counties", which although not used in statute, was used in the House of Commons before the arrangements coming into effect.[6]

The County of Avon that had been formed in 1974 was mostly split between Gloucestershire and Somerset, but its city of Bristol regained the status of a county in itself, which it had lost upon the formation of Avon. Cleveland was partitioned between North Yorkshire and Durham. Hereford and Worcester was divided into the restored counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Humberside was split between Lincolnshire and a new ceremonial county of East Riding of Yorkshire. Rutland was restored as a ceremonial county. Many county boroughs were re-established as unitary authorities; this involved establishing the area as an administrative county, but usually not as a ceremonial county.

Most ceremonial counties are, therefore, entities comprising local authority areas, as they were from 1889 to 1974. The Association of British Counties, a traditional counties lobbying organisation, has suggested that ceremonial counties be restored to their ancient boundaries.

Shrieval counties

The shrieval counties are defined by the Sheriffs Act 1887 as amended, in a similar way to the lieutenancies defined by the Lieutenancies Act 1997. Each has a high sheriff appointed (except the City of London, which has two sheriffs).


The Lieutenancies Act 1997 defines counties for the purposes of lieutenancies in terms of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties (created by the Local Government Act 1972, as amended) as well as Greater London and the Isles of Scilly (which lie outside the 1972 Act's new system). Although the term is not used in the act, these counties are sometimes known as "ceremonial counties". The counties are defined in Schedule 1, paragraphs 2–5[3] as amended[7] (most recently in 2009,[8] 2019[9] and 2023)[10] — these amendments have not altered the actual areas covered by the counties as set out in 1997, only their composition in terms of local government areas, as a result of structural changes in local government.[note 1]

Lieutenancy areas since 1997

These are the 48 counties for the purposes of the lieutenancies in England, as currently defined:

County for the purposes
of the lieutenancies
Area Density Composition
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties
(including unitary authority areas)
No. Rank (km2) (sq mi) Rank (/km2) (/sq mi) Rank
Bedfordshire 704,736 36th 1,235 477 41st 542 1,400 13th Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Luton
Berkshire 911,403 24th 1,262 487 40th 722 1,870 10th Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham
Bristol 463,405 43rd 110 42 47th 4,224 10,940 2nd City of Bristol
Buckinghamshire 840,138 30th 1,874 724 32nd 432 1,120 22nd Buckinghamshire and City of Milton Keynes
Cambridgeshire 852,523 28th 3,390 1,310 15th 252 650 34th Cambridgeshire and City of Peterborough
Cheshire 1,059,271 19th 2,343 905 25th 452 1,170 21st Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton, and Warrington
City of London[note 2] 8,706 48th 2.90 1.12 48th 2,998 7,760 4th City of London
Cornwall 568,210 40th 3,562 1,375 12th 160 410 41st Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
Cumbria 498,888 41st 6,767 2,613 3rd 74 190 47th Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness[10]
Derbyshire 1,053,316 21st 2,625 1,014 21st 401 1,040 25th Derbyshire and City of Derby
Devon 1,194,166 11th 6,707 2,590 4th 178 460 39th Devon, City of Plymouth and Torbay
Dorset 772,268 31st 2,653 1,024 20th 274 710 32nd Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole[9]
Durham 866,846[note 3] 26th 2,676 1,033 19th 324 840 28th County Durham, Darlington, Hartlepool and part of Stockton-on-Tees north of the River Tees
East Riding of Yorkshire 600,259 37th 2,477 956 23rd 242 630 35th East Riding of Yorkshire and City of Kingston upon Hull
East Sussex 844,985 29th 1,791 692 33rd 472 1,220 20th East Sussex and Brighton and Hove
Essex 1,832,752 7th 3,670 1,420 11th 499 1,290 15th Essex, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock
Gloucestershire 916,202 23rd 3,150 1,220 16th 291 750 30th Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire
Greater London 8,899,375 1st 1,569 606 37th 5,671 14,690 1st None (see the London boroughs)
Greater Manchester 2,812,569 3rd 1,276 493 39th 2,204 5,710 5th Greater Manchester
Hampshire 1,844,245 6th 3,769 1,455 9th 489 1,270 17th Hampshire, City of Portsmouth and City of Southampton
Herefordshire 192,107 45th 2,180 840 26th 88 230 46th Herefordshire
Hertfordshire 1,184,365 13th 1,643 634 36th 721 1,870 11th Hertfordshire
Isle of Wight 141,538 46th 380 150 46th 372 960 26th Isle of Wight
Kent 1,846,478 5th 3,738 1,443 10th 494 1,280 16th Kent and Medway
Lancashire 1,498,300 8th 3,075 1,187 17th 487 1,260 19th Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Lancashire
Leicestershire 1,053,486 20th 2,156 832 28th 489 1,270 18th Leicestershire and City of Leicester
Lincolnshire 1,087,659 18th 6,975 2,693 2nd 156 400 42nd Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire
Merseyside 1,423,065 9th 647 250 43rd 2,200 5,700 6th Merseyside
Norfolk 903,680 25th 5,380 2,080 5th 168 440 40th Norfolk
North Yorkshire 1,158,816[note 3] 14th 8,654 3,341 1st 134 350 44th Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, Redcar and Cleveland, City of York and part of Stockton-on-Tees south of the River Tees
Northamptonshire 747,622 33rd 2,364 913 24th 316 820 29th North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire
Northumberland 320,274 44th 5,014 1,936 6th 64 170 48th Northumberland
Nottinghamshire 1,154,195 15th 2,159 834 27th 535 1,390 14th Nottinghamshire and City of Nottingham
Oxfordshire 687,524 35th 2,605 1,006 22nd 264 680 33rd Oxfordshire
Rutland 39,697 47th 382 147 45th 104 270 45th Rutland
Shropshire 498,073 42nd 3,488 1,347 13th 143 370 43rd Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin
Somerset 965,424 22nd 4,170 1,610 7th 232 600 36th Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and Somerset
South Yorkshire 1,402,918 10th 1,552 599 38th 904 2,340 9th South Yorkshire
Staffordshire 1,131,052 17th 2,714 1,048 18th 417 1,080 24th Staffordshire and City of Stoke-on-Trent
Suffolk 758,556 32nd 3,801 1,468 8th 200 520 38th Suffolk
Surrey 1,189,934 12th 1,663 642 35th 716 1,850 12th Surrey
Tyne and Wear 1,136,371 16th 540 210 44th 2,105 5,450 7th Tyne and Wear
Warwickshire 571,010 39th 1,975 763 31st 289 750 31st Warwickshire
West Midlands 2,916,458 2nd 902 348 42nd 3,235 8,380 3rd West Midlands
West Sussex 858,852 27th 1,991 769 30th 431 1,120 23rd West Sussex
West Yorkshire 2,320,214 4th 2,029 783 29th 1,143 2,960 8th West Yorkshire
Wiltshire 720,060 34th 3,485 1,346 14th 207 540 37th Swindon and Wiltshire
Worcestershire 592,057 38th 1,741 672 34th 340 880 27th Worcestershire

Lieutenancy areas in 1890

See also


  1. ^ For example, Cheshire was prior to the 2009 structural changes to local government defined as the non-metropolitan counties of Cheshire, Halton & Warrington; the non-metropolitan county of Cheshire on 1 April that year split into the non-metropolitan counties of Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, and Schedule 1 of the Lieutenancies Act 1997 was duly amended to take into account these changes to local government within the ceremonial county.
  2. ^ Because the City of London has a Commission of Lieutenancy rather than a single lord-lieutenant, it is treated as a county for some purposes of the Lieutenancy Act. (Schedule 1 paragraph 4)
  3. ^ a b As the district of Stockton-on-Tess is in two counties, the population has been calculated by adding (for North Yorkshire) or subtracting (for County Durham) its relevant civil parishes.


  1. ^ Table 2 2011 Census: Usual resident population and population density, local authorities in the United Kingdom UK Census 2011 UK usual resident population Greater London excluding City of London
  2. ^ "Ceremonial Counties" (PDF). Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  3. ^ a b Text of the Lieutenancies Act 1997 – Schedule 1: Counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies in Great Britain as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from Retrieved 2011-05-03.
  4. ^ "Document (01) The Lord-Lieutenant". 29 November 2023. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  5. ^ "High Sheriff of Lancashire". Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  6. ^ House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 29 Feb 1996 (pt 8) Archived 3 March 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Text of the Lord-Lieutenants – The Local Government Changes for England (Lord-Lieutenants and Sheriffs) Order 1997 as originally enacted or made within the United Kingdom, from Retrieved 2011-05-03.
  8. ^ Text of  The Local Government (Structural Changes) (Miscellaneous Amendments and Other Provision) Order 2009 (SI 2009/837) as originally enacted or made within the United Kingdom, from Retrieved 2011-05-03.
  9. ^ a b "The Local Government (Structural and Boundary Changes) (Supplementary Provision and Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019".
  10. ^ a b The Cumbria (Structural Changes) Order 2022
  11. ^ "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2021". Office for National Statistics. 21 December 2022. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  12. ^ "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2021". Office for National Statistics. 21 December 2022. Retrieved 18 October 2023.

External links

This page was last edited on 6 December 2023, at 22:01
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