From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject UK geography (Rated Start-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article falls within the scope of WikiProject UK geography, a user-group dedicated to building a comprehensive and quality guide to places in the United Kingdom on Wikipedia. If you wish to participate, share ideas or merely get tips you can join us at the project page where there are resources, to do lists and guidelines on how to write about settlements.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Australia  
WikiProject icon Shire is within the scope of WikiProject Australia, which aims to improve Wikipedia's coverage of Australia and Australia-related topics. If you would like to participate, visit the project page.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
Note icon
Need help improving this article? Ask a LibrarianWhat's this? at the National Library of Australia.
Note icon
The Wikimedia Australia chapter can be contacted via email to for other than editorial assistance.


Shires in today's common usage are the non-metropolitan counties of England outside London.

Does that include Devon, Kent, Essex, etc.? Or only counties with the suffix -shire? - Efghij

I think the full name for devon is devonshire anyway but its not often used now. WPM

I assume we still have Devonshire cream???

We have shires in Australia, too. A shire here is a local government (or local government area) which is either regional or is metropolitan but without sufficient population to be called a 'town' or a 'city'. Maybe this should be incorporated into the article? Surely Britain and Australia aren't the only countries with shires? Mark Ryan 05:48, 18 Nov 2003 (UTC)

Shire county[edit]

What is meant by the following line:

In England and Wales, the term "shire county" is used to refer to shire counties.

It seems an extreme case of circular definition to me. - Andre Engels 17:54, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

  • Absolutely - it originally said that "shire county" is used to refer to non-metropolitan counties, but non-metropolitan county is now a redirect to shire county - so I've replace it with the definition from that article. Warofdreams talk 00:52, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
    • It should be the other way around. "non-metropolitan county" is the term as defined in the LGA 1972, whereas "shire county" is just a vague description with overlapping meanings. Owain (talk) 08:35, 7 June 2006 (UTC)


I don't know if this should be put in or prob. shortly referenced to? but Cornwall which is now an administrative county (I can't be bothered to go into its constitutional position here) was originally divided into shires, eg. Pydershire, East and West Wivelshire Powdershire , I think there were more, they appeared some timein the 12th century.

Cornwall originally had a different 'administration' to england ( beware of historeography here) but the 'shires' in cornwall apparently mirrored the shires in england even though cornwall was comparitevely tiny.(remember pre 1600ish views of cornwall were very different to now.) I don't know when but they became hundereds by the 15th century when cornwall was being absorbed into england. Just to illustarte the 'replication' rather than each hundered having a constable in cornwall there was one per parish, some of these differences remained long after the names changed.

There was another name for these cornish 'shires', I think it was kantrev/cantrev?, sorry if spelling is bad there but there has never really been a standard cornish spelling! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20:06, 21 October 2006‎

There's an article at Cantref, but that only deals with Wales. For some strange reason Cornwall is dealt with in Hundreds of Cornwall. Angus McLellan (Talk) 21:26, 21 October 2006 (UTC)


Shouldn't there be a mention of Downshire (as in Marquess of) in the article? Does this simply refer to County Down, or is it a separate place altogether? Are there any other place-names with the "-shire" suffix in Ireland? 12:28, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

Downshire and County Down were indeed the same place in the eighteenth century. I was at lecture about the Irish Militia of 1793 - 1802 and there were a number of mentions of the Downshire Militia. On googling I find this confirmed. Mind you on further investigation I also find downshire was a fictional county where Miss Marple lived!
There are a couple of books in Google Books from the mid nineteenth century with Antrimshire, Cavanshire and Wicklowshire. I haven't tried the other 28!Lozleader 15:09, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
Just had a look at the Times Digital Archive. On August 22, 1818 a list of members returned for parliament shows the follwing Irish counties:
  • Antrim
  • Armagh
  • Carlowshire
  • Cavanshire
  • Clare
  • Cork
  • Donegalshire
  • Downshire
  • Dublinshire
  • Fermanaghshire
  • Galwayshire
  • Kerryshire
  • Kildareshire
  • Kilkennyshire
  • King's County
  • Leitrim
  • Limerick
  • Londonderry
  • Longfordshire
  • Louthshire
  • Mayo
  • Meathshire
  • Queen's County
  • Roscommonshire
  • Sligoshire
  • Tipperary
  • Westmeath
  • Wicklow

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the list.Lozleader 15:28, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

I've just checked google for all the counties and the only one I can't find with a -shire suffix is Queen's County (there's even "King's-shire"). Opera hat (talk) 12:02, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
I fact tagged the paragraph on Shire names in Ireland in both June and July of this year and as of yet no one has supplied any RS concerning the use of the term in Ireland. The Marquess of Downshire is a title not the county name and as for the list above this is parliamentary seats and again not countries. The lot will be getting deleted shortly if no RS is provided. Bjmullan (talk) 17:52, 30 August 2010 (UTC)

What was the Question Again?[edit]

As codified over several centuries, the Irish meaning of the interchangeable terms Shire and County is exactly the same as in England (excluding idiosyncrasies within formerly separate Kingdoms such as Cornwall and Northumberland). Because Ireland did not have the shire/county system prior to 1169, the only Irish difference between "Shire" and "County" is the preference for Anglo-Saxon or Norman-French terms. Irish shiring is described here, and perhaps reading this section will also help. An independent Reliable Source for both the meaning in Ireland and the current list of Irish Counties above would be the last pre-independence text within the UK's Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 (you can access a useful 1899 handbook for it here) and the first post-independence text within the Irish Free State's Local Government Act 1925, whose full text is here
Wikipedia already has a list of counties in The Republic of Ireland, where I note that Queen's County has been informally called Laois by everybody since 1922 (but not officially). Northern Ireland (being within the UK) no longer has counties, but benefits from being in the domain of this document.
On a vaguely related (but crucial) note Miss Marple's home of St Mary Mead was only in the fictional English county of Downshire for Murder at the Vicarage. After that it was reorganized into the neighbouring fictional county of Radfordshire before its Final Destination within Middleshire. ChrisJBenson (talk) 11:26, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Shires within shires[edit]

In Yorkshire there were also several areas within the county that were called shires e.g.Hallamshire, Richmondshire. Were these shires just administrative units ?-- (talk) 19:30, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

That's a good question. Unfortunately it doesn't have a good answer. Yorkshire is post-1066 creation. The suspicion is that the smaller shires found in Yorkshire and points north as far as the Mounth are older, and possibly related to pre-Viking Northumbria, which included all of Yorkshire. The suggestion is that these are related to the way royal estates were laid out. There's a short discussion of Northumbrian shires in Nick Higham's The Kingdom of Northumbria (about p. 100 onwards) if there's a copy of that in a library near you. If not, this, while it's about Scotland ("there are two Englands, and one of them is Scotland" said James Campbell in The Anglo-Saxon State), it is probably as relevant to early Yorkshire as anything you might read about Wessex. Just forget the funny names: toiseach -> praepositus/reeve/thane; mormaer -> dux/ealdorman/earl. Angus McLellan (Talk) 21:43, 22 November 2007 (UTC)


There are hardly any references to "Leekshire" online - a few mentions of a "double sunset" in Leek, Staffordshire in C17 [1] and urban dictionary references to Wales. It doesn't sound like it was a bona fide hundred/wapentake/whatever. — sjorford++ 14:48, 23 April 2009 (UTC)


The part about Caernarfonshire meaning "corner of the sea" is nonsense! Caer is Welsh for castle and Arfon is the area opposite Anglesea. It may mean Castle of Arfon by the sea, but the idea that Caernarfon means corner is ridiculous.

--- —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:03, 5 February 2010 (UTC)

What madness?[edit]

The Scottsmen were unable to escape the madness.

Aside from being more than a little melodramatic, exactly what "madness" does this sentence refer to? rowley (talk) 06:18, 7 February 2010 (UTC)


The Shire Highlands of Malawi may merit mention. Drutt (talk) 07:13, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

Historical context[edit]

Interesting view on Shires, I did think that shires were instituted in England by the Saxon kings to form administrative areas to enable defence against the vikings, hence weapontake etc in the North. Something on the formation of shires would be interesting. The current version does seem quite Scottish. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Biofuelsimon (talkcontribs) 12:05, 24 August 2010 (UTC)


Could somebody have a look at the part about the pronounciation? I may be mistaken, but I remember scottish people using "-shuh" or "-shur" as ending, while english shires rime with "fires". The article suggests the opposite. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:03, 25 September 2010 (UTC)

Wrong to say that 'shire' is pronounced as 'shur' in England. Only pronounded 'shur' when pronouncing the full name of a shire, but as a word on it's own it would be pronouned as 'fire'. (talk) 13:00, 15 March 2011 (UTC)

Inconsistency in Example (Shires in the United States) *** FIXED ***[edit]

In this article's section Shires in the United States, a list of the original Virginia Colony Shires started with "Accomac Shire (now Accomack County, Virginia)". But elsewhere (such as in Shires of Virginia), the same list starts with "Accomac Shire (now Northampton County)". One of these entries must be incorrect or incomplete. Such things seem to annoy me more than they should.
So much so that I went and found The Verifiable Truth. So it is fixed here and elsewhere. ChrisJBenson (talk) 11:33, 10 June 2013 (UTC)


'In Britain, "shire" is the original term for what is usually known now as a county; the word county having been introduced at the Norman Conquest of England. The two are synonymous.'

But Sheffield used to be a shire called Hallamshire, within the county of Yorkshire. Valetude (talk) 16:50, 5 January 2015 (UTC)

"to shire" as a verb[edit]

I came here looking for explanation of what does to shire mean as a verb. I have posted a more specific question to Talk:Ulster#to_shire_as_a_verb.  « Saper // @talk »  10:26, 25 June 2016 (UTC)