Talk:County town

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Surely these county 'towns' you've listed are in fact known as CITIES!! —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) .

Most of them ARE cities (but not all of them. Ipswich has failed numerous times to achieve City status), but the term is 'County Town' regardless of the actual status of the place.
On a different subject, I was under the impression that Preston was the county town of Lancashire. Anyone confirm or deny? - Darac
The council HQ is at Preston, and apparently moved there in 1974, at the time of the reorganisation of administrative counties. This raises the prospect that there may be "traditional" County Towns and current administrative HQs that do not correspond (see also Talk:Leicester). I can't find an authoritative list at the moment. --rbrwr
Preston has been the headquarters of Lancashire County Council since the creation of the first county councils in the 19th century not since 1974. Preston was probably chosen as it is more central than Lancaster. Penrithguy 11:56, 24 June 2006 (UTC)


Done some checking and in addition to Leicestershire's being Glenfield, Derbyshire's is in Matlock. (Nottinghamshire's is (extraterritorially now) in Nottingham). So it's either erroneous or a list of historical county towns, which needs stating. --Morwen.

Wiltshire's is Trowbridge, though some sources give Salisbury this status. I don't know whether Swindon was ever county town (as the list claims); it's now a unitary.
This also can't be historical county towns. It contains East and West Sussex (rather than just Sussex) and North Yorks (not the three Ridings) but not Huntingdonshire or Rutland. Also Cumbria rather than Cumberland and Westmorland. --rbrwr

provisional list[edit]

Here's a provisional list ordered by counties

Traditional Counties

1974 counties (except metros)

Humberside's HQ was in Beverley, not Hull, according to my 1983 Whitaker's Almanac. A check on the W Sussex website puts County Hall in Chichester, not Worthing. --rbrwr

The situation with Middlesex is apparently this: the magistrates sat at Clerkenwell from the late middle ages until the 19th century. County elections were held at Brentford during the 18th and 19th century (1911 Brittannica calls it the "county-town for elections"). The County Council sat at Westminster from 1889 to 1965. There is no longer a council.

Not a registered user here, but anyway... I contributed some of the stuff to this page originally, taking info from Bucks County Council's list of authorities, which needed updating. There is a map available for free use at (as long as you provide a link to their page) showing the pre-1974 traditional counties of the UK though not the towns associated with such. but with the amount of historical societies out there I imagine it shouldn't be too difficult to find out the info about pre-1974 county towns. I imagine that would be easier because since 1974 and especially since the reshuffle in the 1990's nobody seems to know exactly what a county is any more...

Well, I've put the list up on the page, and the general public can pick it apart up there. --rbrwr 18:57, 17 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Suffolk - 1888 to 1974 the county was divided into West Suffolk (county town Bury St Edmunds) and East Suffolk (county town Ipswich) And the County Borough of Ipswich. Post 1974 county functions are still divided between the two (I suspect partly because both county authorities built themselves expensive new office buildings just before the merger) Ghughesarch 16:02, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

Ireland/uk only?[edit]

Is the term "county town" used anywhere at all except the UK and Ireland? The article suggests it's more widespread but doesn't have any examples. Stan 20:18, 19 May 2004 (UTC)

Good point. The only two countries mentioned are the Republic of Ireland and the uk.

Do we need a list of the preserved counties of Wales?[edit]

As these have no administrative functions themselves the old administrative HQs are no longer used for anything relating to them. Owain 09:28, 25 May 2004 (UTC)

  • I'll stress they are former county towns; the list should remain for historical purposes. Warofdreams 14:36, 25 May 2004 (UTC)
The way the text for the "Preserved counties of Wales" section is currently worded implies that the administrative HQ of a unitary authority is referred to as the "county town" of that authority. This is stretching the definition of county town beyond what is usually meany by the term. In many cases a unitary authority has council offices in multiple places "within" that authority so that there is no central HQ. I would suggest that the whole section is redundant. Owain 18:35, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Names of Scottish Counties[edit]

In Scotland counties only counties that share a name with their county town (or former county town) end in -shire. Examples are Perthshire or Kincardineshire. Counties such as Caithness or Argyll whose county towns have a different name from them should not have the -shire suffix. -- Derek Ross | Talk 17:59, 2005 Jan 31 (UTC)

They don't have to have the suffix, but there is no reason why they can't have it - much in the same way as Devon or Dorset can be Devonshire or Dorsetshire. Owain 18:29, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Leicestershire / Nottinghamshire[edit]

Surely if Glenfield is the CT of Leicestershire, West Bridgford should be the CT of Nottinghamshire? --Cavrdg 18:32, 17 August 2005 (UTC)

That is clearly a nonsense though. That would be corrupting the phrase "county town" to be merely "the location of the administrative headquarters of a top-level administrative area", rather than all the other connotations it has, such as historical, geographical, cultural significances, &c. The county towns of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire are Leicester and Nottingham respectively. Any definition that makes it any other way is clearly broken. Owain 18:42, 17 August 2005 (UTC)

The first sentence of the article is A county town is the location of the administrative headquarters of a county. You're very welcome to write something better. Formally, County Hall, Glenfield is in Blaby (district) and County Hall, West Bridgford is in Rushcliffe rather than their respective cities so we're currently being inconsistent with the definition as well as between the two. --Cavrdg 06:24, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

I've had a go at rewording the introductory sentence to try and make it make more sense. Owain 10:06, 31 August 2005 (UTC)

Metropolitan counties & Unitary Authorites[edit]

How about adding a section listing the "county towns" or adimistrative centres of the former metroplitan counties (1974 - 1986) and Greater London which was and is in some respects still classed as a county. And expanding on that what about the unitary authorites that replaced the metropolitan county councils and later in the 1990s some district & county coucils surely have "County Towns" though I know most are not regarded as counties in their own right and many consist of a single town or city. Penrithguy 17:30, 13 May 2006 (UTC)

Clarification on terminology[edit]

I've slightly amended the introductory paragraphy to show that this article refers only to the UK and Ireland. I've also added a note regarding the use of "parish seat" in Louisiana. But I'm a bit surprised that no-one to date has written anything about the term "shire town"? I'm not entirely sure how to define it myself, but it would be a useful addition. {{Silverhelm 00:46, 20 August 2005 (UTC)}}


Are Wakefield, Beverley and Northallerton definitely historical seats of the Quarter Sessions, etc? I was also surprised to discover the Lancashire administration has been based at Preston since 1882, if not before - County Hall at Preston definitely predates County Hall at Wakefield Morwen - Talk 19:10, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

Also, I am unconvinced about the sentence in the intro regarding York itself - "contrary to popular belief"- eh? The 1911 EB claims York is the county town of Yorkshire, it doesn't mention "county town" in the entries for Wakefield, Northallerton or Beverley Morwen - Talk 19:28, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

Preston and Lancaster[edit]

According to Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, Vol. III (1831):

  • Lancaster was the "county town":

.the assizes and general quarter sessions for the county are also held in this town, which also, as being the county town, the election of knights of the shire takes place. Lancaster Castle was apparently used by the Grand Jury.

  • However at Preston:

The quarter sesions of the county, the meetings of the deputy lieutenents and other county meetings are held here; and from its central situation , the offices of the court of chancery, common pleas, and other courts of the duchy of Lancaster, unless when the officers attend the assizes at Lancaster, are also held at Preston.... ..The sessions-house and house of correction is a capacious building, enclosed within a lofty boundary wall, including every requisite accomodation for the county sessions, the meeting of the county magistrates...

In the Lancashire entry it states that the office of the court of chancery of the county palatine is at Preston, and that the court of annual general sessions is "holden at Preston on the Thursday next after the feast of St John the Baptist".

And elsewhere that the quarter sessions of the hundreds of Amounderness, Blackburn and Leyland are held at Preston.

So Preston obviously was the administrative HQ for at least part of the county. Perhaps we need to redefine "county town"? Lozleader 20:44, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

Yorkshire in 1831[edit]

Also in Lewis: York was the county town, and was the site of the county assizes, the county gaol, and was the location for the election of kights for the shire. the records of the West Riding sessions were at Wakefield, as was the gaol. Quarter sessions were held at various locations. The quarter sessions for the East Riding were held at Beverley, and the North Riding at North Allerton (sic), and the sessions records were also kept at those towns. It doesn't call them "county towns".

So it would seem a county can (could) only have one "county town", even if it is divided into ridings or divisions. Lozleader 20:58, 23 September 2006 (UTC)


Well this article is a bit of a shambles, as county town seems to mean different things at different times (and to different people).

How about splitting into sections:

  1. Historic counties (pre 1889) showing county towns i.e. places where the knights of the shire were elected, county assizes held, county gaol was etcetera: so just the one county town for Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Sussex, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire..
  2. HQs of administartive counties 1889 -1974
  3. HQs of metropolitan counties 1974 - 1986, and of non-metropolitan counties to date.

Lozleader 21:07, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

That makes sense to me. We could have a big table up front for all the historic counties and only those, listing the county towns with notes for various changes such as Buckingham -> Aylesbury, followed by other tables for the county council headquarters (probably we can make do with 1 table for the administrative counties and the non-metropolitan counties both, since most of the entries would be the same). Possibly indicate the seats of pre-1888 county division administrations somehow? Morwen - Talk 23:51, 23 September 2006 (UTC)


According to [1] the county town of Rads was Presteigne, but the county council set up shop in Llandrindod Wells.Lozleader 11:52, 24 September 2006 (UTC)


According to The Times of October 22nd 1889, a number of the county councils had not yet decided on the permanent location for holding their meetings. In the case of Surrey, the quarter sessions met at Newington, which had been placed in the County of London by the 1888 Act. Reigate, Kingston, Epsom "and indeed other places of less significance set up claims to be allowed to offer hospitality to to the County Council". Not sure when Kingston won out. Lozleader 08:31, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

That's interesting. I wonder when they'd abandoned Guildford? Morwen - Talk 09:13, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
Dunno. Apparently Newington was easier to get to. Lozleader 10:51, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
Hmm. I wonder what % of the population of Surrey lived within the Metropolis. Morwen - Talk 10:59, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
According to the [2] 1881 census about 68% of the population of the registration county were in Camberwell, Lambeth, St Olave, Southwark and Wandsworth Registration Districts (980,522 out of 1,441,576)Lozleader 23:09, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
[3] says they moved circa 1791 - county gaol had previously been in Southwark. Sessions house got taken over by London in 1889. Morwen - Talk 06:47, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
Does that mean that Southwark was also the county town for some purposes? This is getting complicated! Lozleader 08:34, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

Found a bit more in The Times: In the edition of March 27, 1890 the report of the County Buildings Committee was received. They had been instructed to find accommodation for the county council and quarter sessions within the administrative county. They did not think existing borough buildings in Kingston or Guildford were adequate. They recommended building a new county hall in Wimbledon. Other places with suitable sites were Epsom, Guildford, Surbiton, Kingston, and Redhill.

By 1897 they had moved to Kingston: the chairman of the county council wrote to the paper from the county hall there on January 9th (January 11th edition)

Lozleader 12:17, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Oh. According to Wikipedia County Hall was opened in 1893 County Hall (Surrey) Lozleader 13:05, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Other divisions[edit]

How about adding East Kent/Canterbury and Liberty of St Albans/St Albans? Maybe we just need a list of Quarter Sessions and areas. Morwen - Talk 22:43, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

  • According to the schedule to the Poor Prisoners Relief Act, 1813, (which listed the sums to be paid by each county for the Relief of the Prisoners in the Prisons of King's Bench, Fleet and Marshalsea) the following counties were divided, presumably for QS purposes:
  • Cambridge
    • County
    • Isle of Ely and Town of Cambridge
  • Dorset
    • East Division
    • West Division
  • York
    • East Riding
    • North Riding
    • West Riding
  • Essex
    • East Division
    • West Division
  • Kent
    • East Division
    • West Division
  • Lincoln
    • Holland Division
    • Kesteven Do.
    • Lindsay Do.
  • Northampton
    • East Division
    • West Division
  • Nottingham
    • North Division
    • South Division
  • Somerset
    • West
    • East
  • Suffolk
    • Beccles Division
    • Woodbridge Do.
    • Bury St. Edmund's Do.
    • Ipswich Do.
  • Sussex
    • East Division
    • West Division
  • Westmorland
    • East Ward
    • Kendal Ward

Lozleader 08:50, 3 October 2006 (UTC)


Just to make things more complicated again! Ilchester was apparently the ancient county town of Somerset. In 1831, according to Lewis, the knights for the shire were elected there, and the county gaol was also in the town. The assizes had formerly been held there, but had moved to Taunton, Wells and Bridgwater. Lozleader 09:02, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

More notes! Morwen - Talk 09:13, 3 October 2006 (UTC)


According to Trowbridge: "In 1898 Wiltshire County Council first built offices in the town and as council services developed it expanded. In 1940 Wiltshire County Council opened County Hall and designated Trowbridge the county town of Wiltshire." No references given, though. Lozleader 10:24, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

Apparently Trowbridge was chosen as it was easy to get to by rail. [4]Lozleader 10:32, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
Hmm. Trowbridge is worder stronger than that extlink - "designated as county town" rather than "moved their headquarters there". Given Trowbridge, I wonder if we can turn up any early/mid 20th century references to Preston being the county town of Lancashire. Morwen - Talk 10:39, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
Other random things at various points are [5] saying Bala and Dolgelly joint county towns of Merioneth. [6] saying Bodmin was county town although Truro was de facto, [7] noting Newborough was county town of Anglesey having been moved from Beaumaris. and [8] claims Radnor was the county town not Presteigne Morwen - Talk 10:44, 3 October 2006 (UTC)


This business is insanely complicated. Is it fair to say that pre-1832, at least, the main test was location where Knights of the Shire were elected? Perhaps we should have a list of pre-1832 county towns, and then go from there? john k 13:05, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

From the contemporary texts, this seems to be the meaning. Later on it seems to have meant different things to different people. I'm surprised how many different places we're coming up with. I'll happily supply a list of the "election" county towns Lozleader 13:58, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
That would probably be a good place to start, then we can add notes about comtemporary attitudes. It does seem local usage varied a lot and there was no one consistent criteria later. Are there any contemporary lists like this I wonder? Morwen - Talk 14:33, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

Knights of the shire[edit]

This is a list of towns regarded as "county towns" for the election of knights for the shire in England in 1831:

  • Bedfordshire: Bedford
  • Berkshire: nominated at Reading, elected at Abingdon
  • Buckinghamshire: Buckingham
  • Cambridgeshire: Cambridge?
  • Cheshire: Chester?
  • Cornwall: Bodmin??
  • Cumberland: Cockermouth
  • Derbyshire: Derby
  • Devon: Exeter
  • Dorset: Dorchester
  • Durham: Durham
  • Essex: Chelmsford
  • Gloucestershire: Gloucester
  • Hampshire: Winchester
  • Herefordshire: Hereford
  • Hertfordshire: Hertford
  • Huntingdonshire: Huntingdon
  • Kent: Maidstone
  • Lancashire: Lancaster
  • Leicestershire: Leicester
  • Lincolnshire: Lincoln
  • Middlesex: New Brentford
  • Monmouthshire: Monmouth
  • Norfolk: Norwich
  • Northamptonshire: Northampton
  • Northumberland: Alnwick
  • Nottinghamshire: Nottingham
  • Oxfordshire: Oxford
  • Rutland: Oakham
  • Shropshire: Shrewsbury
  • Somerset: Ilchester
  • Staffordshire: Stafford
  • Suffolk: Ipswich
  • Surrey: Guidford
  • Sussex: Chichester
  • Warwickshire: Warwick
  • Westmorland: Appleby
  • Wiltshire: Wilton (nominated at Devizes)
  • Worcestershire: Worcester
  • Yorkshire: York


  • Anglesey: Beaumaris
  • Brecknockshire: Brecknock
  • Cadiganshire: Cardigan
  • Carmarthenshire: Llandeilo Fawr (until 1832), Carmarthen thereafter
  • Carnarvonshire: Carnarvon
  • Denbighshire: Denbigh
  • Flintshire: Flint
  • Glamorgan: Bridgend (until 1832)
  • Merionethshire: Harlech
  • Montgomeryshire: Montgomery or Machynlleth (depending on time of year)†
  • Pembrokeshire: Haverfordwest
  • Radnorshire: Usually Presteigne occassionally New Radnor


  • Antrim: Carrickfergus
  • Armagh: Armagh
  • Carlow: Carlow
  • Cavan: Cavan
  • Clare: Ennis
  • Cork: Cork
  • Donegal: Lifford
  • Down: Downpatrick
  • Dublin: Kilmainhaim
  • Fermanagh: Enniskillen
  • Galway: Galway
  • Kerry: Tralee
  • Kildare: Athy and Naas (depending on time of year)†
  • Kilkenny: Kilkenny
  • King's County: Tullamore transferred from Philipstown by Act of parliament 1833
  • Leitrim: Carrick-on-Shannon
  • Limerick: Limerick
  • Londonderry: Londonderry
  • Longford: Longford
  • Louth: Dundalk
  • Mayo: Castlebar
  • Meath: Trim
  • Queen's County: Maryborough
  • Roscommon: Roscommon
  • Sligo: Sligo
  • Tipperary: Clonmel
  • Tyrone: Omagh
  • Waterford: Waterford
  • Westmeath: Mullingar
  • Wexford: Wexford
  • Wicklow: Wicklow

† Elections held at the town at which the next assizes will be held

Eep eep eep. More suprises. Cockermouth? Alnwick? Morwen - Talk 22:23, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
I thought Alnwick was the traditional seat of Northumberland. Cockermouth is indeed a surprise. john k 01:15, 4 October 2006 (UTC)
So did we get anywhere with this other than discovering the eel-like nature of county towns? It would be neat if we could find some historical gazetteers actually defining county town as a general term rather than just giving examples of them, which we have no shortage of! Morwen - Talk 22:16, 16 October 2006 (UTC)
Well, Lewis says on a couple of occassions that elections are held at such and such a place because it is the county town... Lozleader 22:36, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

County capital versus county town[edit]

The term county capital is in fairly general use in Ireland, examples (none official, mind you): Tullamore [9], Navan [10], Dungarvan [11], Portlaoise [12], Cavan [13], Carlow [14], Newcastle West [15] Lozleader 22:01, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

More oil[edit]

Alexander Stewart's compendium (published 1828) has

This isn't the only source which gives Launceston the county town of Cornwall - Daniel Defoe also does. Morwen - Talk 16:26, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

This [16] explains the transfer of County Prison and Sessions House from various sites in Southwark to Newington, London (the site of the current Inner London Crown Court) in 1791.

County Meath[edit]

This article says that county town of County Meath is "Trim (Navan - de facto)". What does de facto mean in this context? Is there a source for this information? The Navan, Trim and County Meath articles all says that Navan is the county town, having once been Trim. Is this correct? -- Patleahy 19:24, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

Navan is indeed the county town for administrative and legal purposes. The county council headquarters, the library service etc are all based there. However, Trim is considered the historical capital of the county. Previously it was the county town (and it still has the headquarters of the county court located there) but since the growth of Navan it became more prudent to relocate the capital there. There is, as is typical of many Irish towns, a competing claim between inhabitants of both towns. If you ask someone from Trim what the county town is, they are likely to respond with Trim. Ask someone from Navan the same question and they'll say Navan. As for the usage of the word de facto - AFAIK that can only be used if there is an official definition or answer somewhere. I'm not aware of any official status having been bestowed upon either town though. --MacTire02 (talk) 17:02, 6 February 2009 (UTC)


Cupar has not been the county town of Fife for some time, according to the Cupar page on Wikipedia Glenrothes took over as county town in 1975. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:19, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Er no... because the county of Fife ceased to exist in 1975. Glenrothes was, I presume the HQ of Fife Regional Council and continues to be that of the present area council. Although it may have pretty much the same area as the county, it is a different entity.
Of course advocates of traditional counties would say the county still exists, but either way Glenrothes is not the county town. Lozleader 14:48, 10 September 2007 (UTC)


Monmouthshire is in WALES. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:23, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

It is in Wales now but between the sixteenth century and 1974 it was for some reason often classed as an English county or as part of Wales and Monmouthshire Penrithguy (talk) 21:10, 13 July 2008 (UTC)
It has always been in Wales ; the apparent confusion (never an issue in Wales itself, and I have a large library of antiquarian books which prove that, were it neccesary) arises from its former inclusion in the Oxford sessions of the English court circuits. See the Monmouthshire (historic) article for an explanation (caveat: it's constantly edited); also Court of Great Sessions in Wales. Enaidmawr (talk) 21:16, 15 November 2008 (UTC)
Well, if only it were that simple. While one does not doubt its Welsh-ness the Local Government Act 1933, which was the legislation in force until 1974 listed it as an English county. The Representation of the People Act listed constituencies as being either in "England, excluding Monmouthshire" or "Wales and Monmouthshire". The Representation of the People Act 1948 has it listed as a Welsh county. So there was certainly a statutory belief that it was in England in 1918 and 1933. Anyway, this is all rather irrelevant. Perhaps combining into a single "England and Wales" list would solve vthe problem???? Lozleader (talk) 21:55, 15 November 2008 (UTC)
I appreciate the sincerity of your efforts, but No, it would not. This legalistic argument is erroneous. To clarify:
The Laws in Wales Act 1535 integrated Wales directly into the English legal system and the "Lordships Marchers within the said Country or Dominion of Wales" were allocated to existing and new shires. Some lordships were annexed to existing counties in England and some were annexed to existing counties in Wales, with the remainder being divided up into new counties, one of which was Monmouthshire. Although the original Act of 1535 specifically includes Monmouthshire as being in the 'Country or Dominion of Wales' the Laws in Wales Act 1542 enumerates the Welsh counties as twelve in number, excluding Monmouthshire from the count. Neither Act refers to Monmouthshire as being an English county. However, Monmouthshire was made directly responsible to the courts of Westminster rather than falling under the Court of Great Sessions in Wales. According to historian John Davies, this arrangement was the cause of the erroneous belief that the county had been annexed by England rather than remaining part of Wales. He also says "Monmouthshire was no less Welsh in language and sentiment than any other eastern county". (see Monmouthshire (historic) and any decent book on Welsh history).
The partial reversal of the edit, despite the note added (which is insufficient), still gives the impression to the casual reader with no previous knowledge of the subject that Monmouthshire is in England. This is just not acceptable. I certainly don't want to get engaged in an endless edit war over this, but the article as it now reads is going to get any patriotic Welsh person's blood boiling (and by patriotic I don't just mean "Welsh Nationalists"). Let's find a reasonable way out of this. Enaidmawr (talk) 22:02, 15 November 2008 (UTC)
What has been said by Enaidmawr puts an end to it. The case is proved beyond doubt, and I have therefore corrected the mistake made by Lozleader; but then we all do mistakes, and are better for them. Llywelyn2000 (talk) 00:17, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
Just to say I have no emotional investment in this issue one way or the other! I used to live in the area and it was indisputably in Wales, although it was post 1974 and named Gwent in those days. I thought it was however worthy of note that if someone were looking for Monmouthshire in a (say) nineteenth century publication it would appear under England [17] rather than Wales [18]. But anyway this article is a list of county towns, so it is hardly the place to be making obscure historical/territorial points. The Monmouthshire (historic) article is already groaning under the weight of this. I suppose it is fair to say that today people list it as a "Historic County of Wales", but in the "historic" period it wasn't! Anyway, time to leave it alone! Removing article from watchlist.... Lozleader (talk) 11:51, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
In social, cultural, linguistic and ecclesiastical terms Monmouthshire has always been part of Wales, as John Davies and other authors have stated. Following law court administrative arrangements, from the 17th century until the early to mid 20th century it was treated legally, and in many atlases, encyclopaedias, etc., as part of England, although it was never annexed by England. However, in legislation from the 19th century onwards it was almost always treated as one with Wales, using the formula "Wales and Monmouthshire". If it had been seen in legislative terms as fully part of Wales, the term "Wales and Monmouthshire" would not have been necessary. So, everyone's (partly) right. Ghmyrtle (talk) 21:19, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

There would be no problem if we just had one list for the whole country instead of splitting it into four sub-national lists. That would also have the advantage that the counties of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would come up top (Aberdeenshire, Anglesey, Angus, Antrim). When we split the list up, England barges to the top by force of its own alphabetical priority.

There is no reason to split Britain up. I say have one list.

Howard Alexander (talk) 20:59, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

I agree, one list would be preferable - it would stop the continual revision of Monmouthshire out of the England lists for another thing. Alas certain people like to classify everything in nationalist terms. Owain (talk) 07:46, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

Alnwick is not the county town of Northumberland[edit]

Alnwick is not the county town of Northumberland. Morpeth is the administrative centre of Northumberland as the County Hall offices are located in Morpeth. Prior to the reshuffling of administrative boundaries in 1974, Newcastle-upon-Tyne was the County Town of Northumberland. Alnwick's claim of the County Court is irrelevant.

The following article explains why Morpeth is County Town of Northumberland: —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tzdelski (talkcontribs) 19:53, 7 September 2008 (UTC)

There's actually no problem here: Alnwick was the county town for the historic county (i.e. pre 1880s), Newcastle was the base for the county council until the 1980s when Morpeth became the HQ. This is all correctly covered and referneced in the this article. The piece in the Morpeth Herald is about a debate about where is the current county town, which our article lists as Morpeth, so is in agreement with the content of the article.
As we have discovered, there is no clear definition of what a county town is, which is what causes debate. The article does it best to cover all the bases with its division into sections. It might benefit from a paragraph describing the various county town roles/definitions pre 1880s. Lozleader (talk) 09:02, 8 September 2008 (UTC)

Right point taken, your article is still incorrect as Alnwick has never been the county town of Northumberland. It was always Newcastle before Morpeth. Alnwick had very little political power with its "County Court", all judicial functions were carried out in Newcastle. There is a little clause written into a law of 1548 by the Duke of Northumberland as a footnote. This seems to be little more than a tool to gain power for himself. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tzdelski (talkcontribs) 09:52, 8 September 2008 (UTC)

Alnwick is cited in a number of contemporary texts as the "county town of Northumberland", e.g. in 1848 [19]. The position seems to be well explained in a book of 1825 I found at Google Books (An Historical, Topographical, and Descriptive View of the County of Northumberland, and of Those Parts of the County of Durham Situated North of the River Tyne, with Berwick Upon Tweed, and Brief Notices of Celebrated Places on the Scottish Border by Eneas Mackenzie):

Alnwick being the county town of Northumberland, the county court is held here once a month. ...The members of parliament and the coroners for the county of Northumberland are elected at Alnwick. However, Alnwick enjoys none of the distinctions or privileges of a county town. The county gaol is at Morpeth, where all the executions take place; and the assizes, probably for the convenience of the judges, are held at Newcastle.

i.e. it was technically the county town, although a lot of "county business" went on somewhere else. It appears that wherever the "knights of the shire" were elected was regarded as the clincher in those days. When the county council was formed it was in Newcastle so the claim really dies in 1889. The 1911 Encyclopaedica Britannica (erroneously in my view) called it the county town: but it also said Southwell was a city, which it wasn't. It does give proof of what went for "common knowledge" at the time. It would be interesting to track down the 1548 document and add it somewhere.
Incidentally I gather from googling there is a bit of a debate going on with Alnwick claiming to still be the county town by virtue of the county court having been held there. Not sure what authority the "Senior Archivist at Kew" has been given to decide these things, but I'm not convinced.

Lozleader (talk) 16:07, 8 September 2008 (UTC)

"Reading became the county town of Berkshire in 1867"[edit]

Does anyone have a reliable source for this assertion? I can't find anything about a change of county town in either the Times Digital Archive or the British Museum 19th Century Newspapers of the time. On Googling, there are a lot of wikipedia based pages that repeat the fact, and they all sem to lead back to a single source: [20]. This is a thoroughly unreliable site (the author takes the minority/fringe position that counties cannot be altered by legislation) and in any case fails WP:SELFPUB. I am about to be bold and remove the ref from Reading, Berkshire. Lozleader (talk) 15:20, 7 March 2010 (UTC)

The Abingdon, Oxfordshire article says both 1867 and 1869. However, see Abingdon County Hall Information for Teachers, page 1. There might be something official in the archives at Abingdon Library. --Redrose64 (talk) 15:40, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
I think I have figured it out. According to a report in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 4 July 1868 the court of quarter sessions had unilaterally moved the assizes to Reading following the closure of Abingdon Gaol, and had built a new Assize Courts building there. Unfortunately, they had not informed the Home Office, which wrote to the under sheriff to inform them that this was ultra vires, and that they would need to petition the privy council to move the assizes. They also noted that it would not now be possible to officially move the assizes until summer of 1869. Accordingly, a memorial was duly adopted and forwarded to the privy council on 29 June 1868.
So I would say that the county town moved de facto in 1867 and de jure in 1869.
Apparently the Berkshire County Council met at the assize courts in Reading from their inception. In 1909 they made a decision to build a County Hall at the Forbury, and it opened in 1910.Lozleader (talk) 16:32, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
Or 1868 - this book is in Didcot library:
  • Cox, Mieneke (1999). The Story of Abingdon, part IV - Abingdon: An 18th Century County Town. Abingdon: M. Cox. p. 183. ISBN 0 9515664 3 1. What in 1809 was a nominal division of honours, became more unequal as the years went by until 1868 when Abingdon ceased to be a county town. 
Admittedly it's a self-published work, but Mieneke Cox was the Abingdon archivist for over 30 years. --Redrose64 (talk) 14:25, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── more stuff:

  • "Abingdon was recognised for a long time as the chief town of Berks, and from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries disputed the honours with Reading." Assizes were variously held at Abingdon, Reading or Newbury. The Abingdon Gaol was built no earlier than 1803, and by 1845 was under threat. "... after a prolonged struggle it was closed in 1868-9, and sold in 1874 ... The London Gazette, June 18, 1869 announced that Abingdon was to cease to be an Assize town" (Townsend, James (1970) [1910]. A History of Abingdon. Wakefield: S.R. Publishers. pp. 153–4. ISBN 0 85409 597 7. )
  • "As County Town of Berkshire, the [Abingdon] Corporation sold the site of the White Hart Inn to the County Magistrates to make way for a County Gaol overlooking the Thames beside Burford Bridge. The Gaol was erected in 1811 to ... house a Court House for the summer Assizes and July County Court Session. The October County Session alternated between Abingdon and Reading, and the Easter Session was held at Newbury" "The greatly expanded importance and size of Reading enabled that town to take over the function of County Town of Berkshire in the late 1860s" (Hammond, Nigel (1979). The Book of Abingdon. Buckingham: Barracuda Books. p. 63. ISBN 0 86023 067 8. )
  • "Following the closure of the County Gaol in 1868, Abingdon ceased to be an Assize town and was replaced by Reading as County Town of Berkshire" (Drury, Elizabeth; Thomas, Judy (2003). Britain in Old Photographs: Abingdon Past & Present. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 0-7509-3092-6. )

(more to come)
So, it would seem that rather than being a change with a definite date, the two towns had shared the role of County Town for some time, and the function was gradually concentrated on Reading; and by the end of 1869, Abingdon had no County Town functions left. Thus, I would say that no precise date can be given, and the best that can be said is "the changeover occurred gradually, between 1867 and 1869". Regarding County records; these are no longer at Abingdon, but at Reading. Another trip, I guess. --Redrose64 (talk) 12:06, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

Excellent research, although the 1910 book seems to have their gazette dates mixed up (they didn't have the online search facilities of course!). The notice is here: "No. 23422". The London Gazette. 15 September 1868. 

At the Court at Windsor, the 14th day of September 1868.

The QUEEN's Most Excellent Majesty in Council.

WHEREAS by an Act passed in the session of Parliament holden in the third and fourth years of the reign of His late Majesty King William the Fourth, intituled "An Act for the appointment of convenient places for the holding of assizes in England and Wales", it was declared and enacted that His Majesty, by and with the advice of His Most Honourable Privy Council, should have power from time to time to order and direct at what place or places in any county in England or Wales the assizes and sessions under the commissions of gaol delivery and other commissions for the dispatch of civil and criminal business shall be holden:

Now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice of Her Privy Council, doth hereby, under and in pursuance of the said Act, order and direct that the Assizes and Sessions under the Commissions of Gaol Delivery and other Commissions for the dispatch of civil and criminal business which shall be holden in and for the county of Berks next after the date of this Order, shall be held at Reading, in the said county, and not at Abingdon or at any other place within the said county.

And the Right Honourable the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain is to give the necessary, directions herein accordingly.

Lozleader (talk) 13:59, 9 April 2010 (UTC)


  • "At this period [1714-1837], as for many years earlier, the government of the county was in the hands of the justices of the peace but, unlike most other counties, Berkshire had two, not one, county towns - Abingdon and Reading. The Assize Court and Quarter Sessions Courts met in both towns. The county gaol was at Reading but both had a house of correction (or brideswell) which was used for detaining offenders from various parts of the county as well as from the two towns." (Hunter, Judith (1995). A History of Berkshire. Chichester: Phillimore. p. 103. ISBN 0 85033 729 1. )

--Redrose64 (talk) 20:00, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

and so[edit]

Great research guys, but could I just point out that the article at Reading, Berkshire that Lozleader complained about in the first post of this thread still says that The town became the County Town (superseding Abingdon) in 1867, coupled with the fact tag that he put on back in March. I'm still trying to work out why he posted his original comment here rather than at Talk:Reading, Berkshire, but isn't the whole point of this discussion to improve this reference in that article?.

I guess I could try and plagiarise your research and cite one or more of the above references. But I think it would be much preferable if it came from the horses mouth. -- Starbois (talk) 17:08, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

I've now added a cite, basically by plagiarising the reference in this article. -- Starbois (talk) 10:02, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Ah, I think I took Reading, Berkshire off my watchlist as it was getting a lot of driveby graffiti/vandalism/unconstructive edits (as do lots of major settlement articles) which I wasn't interested in taking on. Forgot about the ref thing! Lozleader (talk) 10:21, 2 September 2010 (UTC)


Is there any further description of the location in Southwark of the Surrey county administration? Looking at some maps I realised the boundary between the ancient borough of Southwark and the parish of Newington was Newington Causeway. Thus the site at Newington (now the Inner London Crown Court) fronted onto Southwark and might have been described as either "Southwark" or "Newington". The two places could be the same? MRSC (talk) 16:40, 4 September 2010 (UTC)

I had assumed the location was one and the same, and that was the way I read the article's text. Anyway, I have located the single source for the Southwark assertion on [21]. It turns out to be (as far as I can see) a rote-learning book for private tutors to children of the gentry. The assertion is on page 32 in a long list of towns of England... "Southwark, the county town of Surrey, united by a bridge with London, of which it is considered a suburb". Not much of a source and I would confidently say shorthand for Newington. Lozleader (talk) 12:43, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
Amended Lozleader (talk) 13:42, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

County Corporates[edit]

A lot of these county towns are also listed as being county corporates prior to 1974. Surely the county seat wasn't set in a town that was no longer part of the county? I realize the county corporate page says that the counties corporate were effectively reintegrated into their old counties in 1882. But if that's the case then the "County towns prior to the late 19th century reforms" list here is only valid for 1882-1889. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:56, 12 November 2012 (UTC)


These sections were less than satisfactory. Quite apart from the fact that a lot of dates and places were wrong (Gwynedd is still extant but was missing from the current list!) there was a definite muddle over some of the places that were county towns.

1) Montgomery was not county town of Montgomeryshire prior to 1885. From the time of the Glyndwr rebellion, the county administration had been based in the county's natural centre at Welshpool.

2) Beaumaris was the seat of Anglesey County Council until 1974. However, from 1900 some administrative functions were transferred to Llangefni due to its better transport links, and when Ynys Môn (please note, not Anglesey) was reconstituted as a county, the county town was placed there.

3) The same comments can be made of the Presteigne/Llandod controversy. Llandod was not the county town of Radnorshire until after it was absorbed into Powys, but due to its central location some administrative functions were based there (the BBC article is not entirely correct - BBC Wales in particular should be treated with caution, as it is under-resourced and struggles to attract/retain good staff other than for things like Dr Who, which are financed from London).

4) Aberaeron was never the county town of Cardiganshire. After 1885 the county council was based in Aberystwyth, and the assizes were held at Lampeter. Only after 1996 when the new county of Ceredigion was formed was the county council set at Aberaeron.

Have tidied up, reordered the dates and added the missing numbers. Have also added explanatory footnotes. Hope that's all clear. (talk) 13:19, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for most of the edits. But to say that Usk is the administrative centre of Monmouthshire post-1996 is (largely if not wholly) untrue. Until 2012, Monmouthshire was administered from the old Gwent County Hall at Croesyceiliog, Cwmbran - which was outside the Monmouthshire administrative area. County Hall has now been closed and demolished, and since then Monmouthshire's administrative functions have been based at a business park outside Magor, Monmouthshire. The new offices just outside Usk were opened earlier this year. You could try to summarise all this in the relevant box if you like, or add it as a footnote. Ghmyrtle (talk) 16:18, 16 July 2013 (UTC)
PS: Looking at this again, there are now clear inconsistencies in which authorities are listed. For instance, the authority sometimes called Cardiff County Council is not included, but other unitary authorities like Monmouthshire County Council are included. The earlier version may have been more consistent. This needs to be reviewed and explained. Ghmyrtle (talk) 18:51, 16 July 2013 (UTC)
This is the problem with mixing up the meaning of "county town" with "administrative headquarters". The Gentleman's Magazine in 1806 stated that, "It is said that if elections [of Knights of the Shire] are held for 40 years in a particular town, it becomes the County Town". This has absolutely nothing to do with Quarter Sessions or County Councils, and even less to do with unitary authorities such as Cardiff County Council. A list of administrative headquarters of principal areas would be a useful list, but it really should not be muddled together with other lists on this page. Essentially we are looking at three lists: The list of de facto county towns prior to 1889; The list of administrative headquarters of county councils from 1889 and then a list of administrative headquarters of unitary authorities from the late 20th century onwards. The first definitely fits the definition of "county town", the second is more arguable, but the third definitely not. The minutiæ of local government administration is more suitable to the pages of the councils themselves, not here. Owain (talk) 08:13, 17 July 2013 (UTC)
I agree in principle. The article should be split, between the traditional county towns, and the centres of the later (post-C19) administrative areas - perhaps three as you suggest, though personally I think all the post-C19 areas can be covered in one article. If they are all kept in one article, there is almost bound to be confusion. I think we should raise this at WT:UKGEO. Ghmyrtle (talk) 10:13, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

Waterford's county town?[edit]

Post-council merger, Co. Waterford seems to have two administrative centres, Waterford and Dungarvan. Does that mean it also has two "county towns"? This articles gives just Waterford. The article list of urban areas in the Republic of Ireland by population just gives Dungarvan. Neither is sourced. Can we provide one? See also this discussion. (talk) 20:45, 3 November 2014 (UTC)

I see the edit dispute at those pages has simply now moved here (and that sources have not). Firstly, the removal of the "current or former" qualification seems gratuitous. User:The Banner's very own edits on this subject depend crucially on there being some notion of "county town" that's different from "administrative centre". Otherwise we wouldn't have the situation that Dublin -- not the administrative centre of any extant county at all -- is keyed as a "county town" at the above article, whereas Waterford, very clearly one of the administrative centres of Co. Waterford (and by all appearances now the principal one) is somehow not one. Thus it seems inarguable to me that "county town" is sometimes used for former administrative centres, and the article itself makes the very same point, in contradiction to the amended opening sentence. See also the Collins definition: "county town (noun) the town in which a county's affairs are or were administered". I'm restoring this, and adding a cite-needed tag for Waterford. Granted it's no less sourced than the other counties, but the difference is they are at least not being actively contended and flipped around without provision of any source. (talk) 15:32, 9 November 2014 (UTC)
The main point is: "you think". You have no evidence that Waterford was or is the "county town". You have to prove it first. The Banner talk 16:30, 9 November 2014 (UTC)
The main point is that we should source what the article says. Your approach seems to be that someone else needs to source a detailed refutation of whatever claim you wish to add. That's not how Wikipedia is supposed to work. (talk) 00:37, 10 November 2014 (UTC)
I add sources, you removed them with a ridicules claim. As long as you don't proof that Dungarvan is not the county town any more, you have to assume that the situation is not changed since the source I added was issued. You want to change it, so you have to prove it. The Banner talk 01:17, 10 November 2014 (UTC)
By the way, it is rather spectacular that you change the text to A county town is a county's current or former administrative centre in the United Kingdom or Ireland. and then refuse a source that at least proves Dungarvan was the county town up until the local elections in 2014 as being outdated. Sorry, but of your statement "current and former" is incorrect or the source is not outdated, but not both. The Banner talk 01:28, 10 November 2014 (UTC)