This page is concerned with British counties as they were before the Local Government Act (England and Wales) 1972 and the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. For Ireland, it is concerned with things as they were before Irish independence in 1922, which split the 32 counties of Ireland into 26 in the Republic and 6 in the North. Where the present tense is used in this page, it relates to years before 1922. The names given for counties are those in official use before 1922.
It is traditionally said that England has 42 counties, Ireland and Scotland 32 each, and Wales 12. This has influenced works such as Hobson's Fox-Hunting Atlas, which has 42 maps for the 42 counties of England: it has a plate for Rutland, even though Rutland is also covered by its plate for "Leicestershire and Rutlandshire".
This is not the result of deliberate planning, dividing these four countries into 42 etc. counties. Nor is it a coincidence. It is the result of using some flexibility in how to count English, Scottish and Welsh counties so as to arrange for a set of easily remembered totals. Some points of flexibilty are:
Here is my best attempt at listing the right number of counties for each country:
|42 English counties
|32 Irish counties
|32 Scottish counties
|12 Welsh counties
Bedfordshire Berkshire Buckinghamshire Cambridgeshire Cheshire Cornwall Cumberland Derbyshire Devon Dorset Durham Essex Gloucestershire Hampshire Herefordshire Hertfordshire Huntingdonshire Kent Lancashire Leicestershire Lincolnshire Middlesex Monmouthshire Norfolk Northamptonshire Northumberland Nottinghamshire Oxfordshire Rutland Shropshire Somerset Staffordshire Suffolk Surrey Sussex Warwickshire Westmorland Wiltshire Worcestershire East Riding of Yorkshire North Riding of Yorkshire West Riding of Yorkshire
Antrim Armagh Carlow Cavan Clare Cork Donegal Down Dublin Fermanagh Galway Kerry Kildare Kilkenny Kings County (Offaly) Leitrim Limerick Londonderry (Derry) Longford Louth Mayo Meath Monaghan Queens County (Laois) Roscommon Sligo Tipperary Tyrone Waterford West Meath (Westmeath) Wexford Wicklow
Aberdeenshire Argyllshire Ayrshire Banffshire Berwickshire Bute Caithness Clackmannanshire Dumbartonshire Dumfriesshire Eastlothian Elgin Fife Forfarshire Inverness-shire Kincardineshire Kinross-shire Kirkcudbrightshire Lanarkshire Midlothian Nairn Orkney and Shetland Peeblesshire Perthshire Renfrewshire Ross and Cromarty Roxburghshire Selkirkshire Stirlingshire Sutherland Westlothian Wigtownshire
Anglesey Brecknockshire Carmarthenshire Carnarvonshire Cardiganshire Denbighshire Flint Glamorganshire Merionethshire Montgomeryshire Pembrokeshire Radnorshire
To obtain these totals, I have assumed these decisions:
These are the 42 counties used for the 42 plates in Hobson's Fox-Hunting Atlas of 1850, which uses lithographic engravings by J. and C. Walker for a county atlas dated 1837.
Since the establishment of the Irish Republic, there have been six counties in the north and 26 in the Republic. Indeed they are often referred to as "the six counties" and "the 26 counties". These designations sound neutral, but generally indicate Republican sympathies.
Ireland is a cartographer's ideal country, or island. It fits neatly onto a rectangular page. Its 32 counties are not too diverse in size, with the largest, Cork, less than ten times the size of the smallest, Louth.
You need to count Ross and Cromarty as a single county. Cromarty was made a county separate from Ross-shire in 1685, to contain the estates of George Mackenzie, lawyer and politician, and first Earl of Cromartie. Ross-shire and Cromarty were recombined into a single county under the Local Government (Scotland) Act of 1889.
You also need to count Orkney and Shetland (or Zetland) as a single county. Orkney and Shetland were both pledged to the Kingdom of Scotland against the dowry of Margaret of Denmark in 1486. They were then regarded as a single county for some purposes, as two counties for others. The Local Government (Scotland) Act of 1889 then formally made them separate counties.
Some Scottish counties have alternative names.
In the early sixteenth century, Wales, now firmly under English rule, was reorganised into 13 shires or counties. One of these, Monmouthshire, was subsequently regarded as part of England for some purposes: many laws, such as those dealing with the sale of alcohol, explicitly covered "Wales and Monmouthshire". However it was still regarded as part of Wales for other purposes: that part of Bicknor which was an exclave of Monmouthshire, lying between Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, was known as Welsh Bicknor.
This page is part of maproom.org, which has maps of the counties of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.