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County town

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Chichester lewes the two county towns of sussex england


A County town is usually the location of administrative or judicial functions within the county, or it has been established over time as the de facto main town of a county. The concept of a county town eventually became detached from its original meaning of where the county administration or county hall is based. In fact, many county towns are no longer part of the administrative county. For example, Nottingham is administered by a unitary authority entirely separate from the rest of Nottinghamshire. Many county towns are classified as cities, but all are referred to as county towns regardless of whether city status is held or not.

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Hertford town uk historic county town


Historic counties of England

This list shows county towns prior to the reforms of 1889.

  1. Lent assizes were held at Reading, where the county gaol and house of correction were situated; summer assizes were held at Abingdon, which was the site of the county bridewell. Knights for the shire were nominated at Reading and elected at Abingdon.
  2. Sir John Baldwin, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, caused the county assizes to be moved to Aylesbury. Knights for the shire continued to be elected at Buckingham. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica considered Buckingham to be the county town.
  3. The County Assize Court sat at Bodmin, and the 1911 Britannica considered Bodmin to be the county town. Prior to 1835, it was Launceston.
  4. Knights of the Shire were elected at Cockermouth
  5. East Kent and West Kent had separate administrations until 1814, with East Kent sessions meeting at Canterbury, and West Kent at Maidstone, the over-all county town.
  6. In 1787 the Lancashire Quarter Sessions decreed that in future the annual general sessions for transacting all business for the county at large should be held at Preston as it was "a central place in the county." The magistrates of Lonsdale Hundred refused to accept the decision, and would meet only at Lancaster. The matter was settled only when a local act of parliament (38 Geo.III c.58) established that the principal administrative business of the county could be transacted only at Preston.
  7. Knights of the Shire were elected at Brentford; sessions presided over by Middlesex Justices of the Peace were held at Clerkenwell; trials for persons accused of the most serious crimes took place in the Old Bailey before the Aldermen of the City prior to the committing of the accused to Newgate Prison (which functioned as the county gaol for Middlesex) if found guilty; while the county council had its headquarters at the Middlesex Guildhall in Westminster from its establishment in 1889 until its abolition in 1965.
  8. Alnwick's position as the county town seems to have been based largely on its castle being the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, although Knights of the Shire were elected at the town too. Assizes for the county however were held mainly or exclusively in Newcastle upon Tyne. Morpeth Castle was used as the prison for Northumberland, and the county gaol was built there in 1824.
  9. Knights of the Shire were elected at Ilchester. Somerton temporarily became the county town in the late thirteenth century, when the shire courts and county gaol were moved from Ilchester.
  10. Under an act of 1791, the justices of the peace of the county of Surrey were empowered to build a new sessions house and county gaol at Newington adjacent to the borough of Southwark and in the suburbs of London. By 1799 the buildings were completed and the county administration was based there until 1893. Newington, or more inaccurately Southwark were sometimes described as the county town thereafter, for instance in a school textbook of 1828. One historian claims that Guildford became the County Town under Henry II but there is no evidence that supports this or even if Guildford is or ever was the 'County Town'.
  11. Horsham was occasionally described as the county town of Sussex due to the presence of the county gaol and the periodic holding of the county assizes and quarter sessions in the town. The last assizes were held there in 1830, while the gaol was closed in 1845.
  12. Wiltshire County Council note that Wiltshire "never had a well recognised county town". Wilton had served as the seat of Quarter Sessions and for election of Knights of the Shire until 1832. Knights had been nominated at Devizes. An 1870s gazetteer describes "Salisbury and Devizes" as the "county towns". The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica names only Salisbury.
  13. Nottingham was constituted a county corporate separate from Nottinghamshire in 1449. The area containing the Shire Hall however remained an exclave of Nottinghamshire.

Historic counties of Scotland

  1. In 1900 Aberdeen became a county of a city and thus outside Aberdeenshire.
  2. Inveraray (the seat of the Duke of Argyll) was regarded as the county town until 1890, when the Argyll County Council was created with headquarters in Lochgilphead.
  3. The headquarters of the Lanark County Council were established in 1890 in Glasgow. In 1893 Glasgow became a county of itself, and was therefore outside the council's area. The county council moved to Hamilton in 1964.
  4. Edinburgh was a county of itself, and therefore lay outside the county of Midlothian.
  5. The headquarters of Renfrew County Council were in Paisley from 1890.
  6. Newtown St Boswells was the administrative headquarters of the county council established in 1890.
  7. The headquarters of Sutherland County Council were at Golspie from 1890.
  8. Stranraer became the administrative headquarters of the Wigtown county council in 1890, and was sometimes described as the "county town" thereafter.

Historic counties of Wales

This list shows county towns prior to the reforms of 1889.

  1. Between 1536 and 1974, Monmouthshire was included by successive English and later, British, governments within England for some administrative and legal purposes. Always regarded culturally and ecclesiastically as part of Wales, particularly by the Welsh, since 1974 when new local government legislation was introduced it has unequivocally been within that country. The county is named after Monmouth, but the Sheriff's county court was held alternately in Monmouth and Newport.

Historic counties of Northern Ireland

Note – Despite the fact that Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, it is not the county town of any county. Greater Belfast straddles two counties (Antrim and Down).

UK county towns post 19th-century reforms

With the creation of elected county councils in 1889 the location of administrative headquarters in some cases moved away from the traditional county town. Furthermore, in 1965 and 1974 there were major boundary changes in England and Wales and administrative counties were replaced with new metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. The boundaries underwent further alterations between 1995 and 1998 to create unitary authorities and some of the ancient counties and county towns were restored. (Note: not all headquarters are or were called County Halls or Shire Halls e.g.: Cumbria County Council's HQ is called The Courts). Before 1974 many of the county halls were located in towns and cities that had the status of a county borough i.e.: a borough outside of the county council's jurisdiction.

England

1. The current County Hall is located in Kingston upon Thames, but this town is no longer within the borders of Surrey. There is much debate over whether Kingston can still be the County Town or where it is if it isn't.

Wales

  1. Due to its better transport links and more central location, some administrative functions were moved to Llangefni.
  2. Cardigan was often still referred to as 'the county town' due to the name link. However, assizes were held at Lampeter while Aberystwyth housed the administration of the county council. Aberystwyth was therefore the de facto county town.
  3. Due to its better transport links and more central location, some administrative functions were moved to Llandrindod Wells.

Ireland

  1. In 1898, the traditional county of Tipperary was divided into two ridings. Nenagh was the county town of North Tipperary and Clonmel was the county town of South Tipperary. Under the Local Government Reform Act 2014, the ridings were abolished and the county was reunited as "Tipperary".
  2. Under the Local Government Reform Act 2014 Waterford City Council and Waterford County Council were merged, becoming Waterford City and County Council, with headquarters in Waterford City.

Notes:

* indicates that the county was created after the reforms of the late 20th century

^ indicates that the county no longer has an administration purpose

Jamaica

Jamaica is divided into 14 parishes, which are grouped into three historic counties that have no administrative relevance.

References

County town Wikipedia