County borough

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County boroughs in England in 1973 (darker colours)
County borough is a term introduced in 1889 in the United Kingdom (excluding Scotland), to refer to a borough or a city independent of county council control.

When county councils were created in 1889, it was decided that to let them have authority over large towns or cities would be impractical, and so any large incorporated place would have the right to be a county borough, and thus independent from the administrative county it would otherwise come under. Some cities and towns were already independent counties corporate, and most were to become county boroughs. Originally ten county boroughs were proposed; Bristol, Hull, Newcastle upon Tyne and Nottingham, which were already counties, and Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Sheffield, which were not. The Local Government Act 1888 as eventually passed required a population of over 50,000 except in the case of existing counties corporate.[1] This resulted in 61 county boroughs in England and two in Wales. Several exceptions were allowed, mainly for historic towns: Bath, Dudley and Oxford were all under the 50,000 limit in the 1901 census. Some of the smaller counties corporate — Berwick upon Tweed, Lichfield, Lincoln, Poole, Carmarthen and Haverfordwest — did not become county boroughs, although Canterbury, with a population under 25,000, did.

The equivalent 1889 act for Scotland did not use the term, but gave a similar status to the cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow as "counties of cities". There was an additional category of "large burgh" in the Scottish system, which were responsible for all services apart from police, education and fire.

County boroughs were abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 in England and Wales, but continue in use for lieutenancy and shrievalty in local government districts in Wales.


County borough From Associated county Abolished Succeeded by
Barnsley 1913 West Riding of Yorkshire 1974 Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley South Yorkshire
Barrow-in-Furness 1889 Lancashire 1974 Barrow-in-Furness Cumbria
Bath 1889 Somerset 1974 Bath Avon
Birkenhead 1889 Cheshire 1974 Wirral Merseyside
Birmingham 1889 Warwickshire 1974 Birmingham West Midlands
Blackburn 1889 Lancashire 1974 Blackburn with Darwen Lancashire
Blackpool 1904 Lancashire 1974 Blackpool Lancashire
Bolton 1889 Lancashire 1974 Bolton Greater Manchester
Bootle 1889 Lancashire 1974 Metropolitan Borough of Sefton Merseyside
Bournemouth 1900 Hampshire 1974 Bournemouth Dorset
Bradford 1889 West Riding 1974 City of Bradford West Yorkshire
Brighton 1889 Sussex 1974 Brighton East Sussex
Bristol 1889 Gloucestershire 1974 Bristol Avon
Burnley 1889 Lancashire 1974 Burnley Lancashire
Burton upon Trent 1901 Staffordshire 1974 East Staffordshire Staffordshire
Bury 1889 Lancashire 1974 Bury Greater Manchester
Canterbury 1889 Kent 1974 Canterbury Kent
Carlisle 1915 Cumberland 1974 City of Carlisle Cumbria
Chester 1889 Cheshire 1974 Chester Cheshire
Coventry 1889 Warwickshire 1974 Coventry West Midlands
Croydon 1889 Surrey 1965 London Borough of Croydon Greater London
Darlington 1915 County Durham 1974 Darlington County Durham
Derby 1889 Derbyshire 1974 Derby Derbyshire
Devonport 1889 Devon 1914 County Borough of Plymouth Devon
Dewsbury 1913 West Riding 1974 Kirklees West Yorkshire
Doncaster 1927 West Riding 1974 Doncaster South Yorkshire
Dudley 1889 Worcestershire to 1966
then Staffordshire
1974 Dudley West Midlands
Eastbourne 1911 Sussex 1974 Eastbourne East Sussex
East Ham 1915 Essex 1965 London Borough of Newham Greater London
Exeter 1889 Devon 1974 Exeter Devon
Gateshead 1889 County Durham 1974 Gateshead Tyne and Wear
Gloucester 1889 Gloucestershire 1974 Gloucester Gloucestershire
Great Yarmouth 1889 Norfolk 1974 Great Yarmouth Norfolk
Grimsby 1891 Lincolnshire 1974 Grimsby Humberside
Halifax 1889 West Riding 1974 Calderdale West Yorkshire
Hanley 1889 Staffordshire 1910 County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire
Hartlepool 1967 County Durham 1974 Hartlepool Cleveland
Hastings 1889 Sussex 1974 Hastings East Sussex
Huddersfield 1889 West Riding 1974 Kirklees West Yorkshire
Ipswich 1889 Suffolk 1974 Ipswich Suffolk
Kingston upon Hull 1889 East Riding 1974 Kingston upon Hull Humberside
Leeds 1889 West Riding 1974 City of Leeds West Yorkshire
Leicester 1889 Leicestershire 1974 Leicester Leicestershire
Lincoln 1889 Lincolnshire 1974 Lincoln Lincolnshire
Liverpool 1889 Lancashire 1974 Liverpool Merseyside
Luton 1964 Bedfordshire 1974 Luton Bedfordshire
Manchester 1889 Lancashire 1974 Manchester Greater Manchester
Middlesbrough 1889 North Riding of Yorkshire 1968 County Borough of Teesside North Riding
Newcastle upon Tyne 1889 Northumberland 1974 Newcastle upon Tyne Tyne and Wear
Northampton 1889 Northamptonshire 1974 Northampton Northamptonshire
Nottingham 1889 Nottinghamshire 1974 Nottingham Nottinghamshire
Norwich 1889 Norfolk 1974 Norwich Norfolk
Oldham 1889 Lancashire 1974 Oldham Greater Manchester
Oxford 1889 Oxfordshire 1974 Oxford Oxfordshire
Plymouth 1889 Devon 1974 Plymouth Devon
Portsmouth 1889 Hampshire 1974 Portsmouth Hampshire
Preston 1889 Lancashire 1974 Preston Lancashire
Reading 1889 Berkshire 1974 Reading Berkshire
Rochdale 1889 Lancashire 1974 Rochdale Greater Manchester
Rotherham 1902 West Riding 1974 Rotherham South Yorkshire
St Helens 1889 Lancashire 1974 St Helens] Merseyside
Salford 1889 Lancashire 1974 City of Salford Greater Manchester
Sheffield 1889 West Riding 1974 City of Sheffield South Yorkshire
Smethwick 1907 Staffordshire 1966 County Borough of Warley Worcestershire
Solihull 1964 Warwickshire 1974 Solihull West Midlands
Southampton 1889 Hampshire 1974 Southampton Hampshire
Southend-on-Sea 1914 Essex 1974 Southend-on-Sea Essex
Southport 1905 Lancashire 1974 Metropolitan Borough of Sefton Merseyside
South Shields 1889 County Durham 1974 South Tyneside Tyne and Wear
Stockport 1889 Cheshire 1974 Metropolitan Borough of Stockport Greater Manchester
Stoke-on-Trent 1910 Staffordshire 1974 Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire
City of Sunderland 1889 County Durham 1974 City of Sunderland Tyne and Wear
Teesside 1968 North Riding 1974 Middlesbrough
Torbay 1968 Devon 1974 Torbay Devon
Tynemouth 1904 Northumberland 1974 North Tyneside Tyne and Wear
Wakefield 1915 West Riding 1974 City of Wakefield West Yorkshire
Wallasey 1913 Cheshire 1974 Wirral Merseyside
Walsall 1889 Staffordshire 1974 Walsall West Midlands
Warley 1966 Worcestershire 1974 Sandwell West Midlands
Warrington 1900 Lancashire 1974 Warrington Cheshire
West Bromwich 1889 Staffordshire 1974 Sandwell West Midlands
West Ham 1889 Essex 1965 London Borough of Newham Greater London
West Hartlepool 1902 County Durham 1967 County Borough of Hartlepool County Durham
Wigan 1889 Lancashire 1974 Wigan Greater Manchester
Wolverhampton 1889 Staffordshire 1974 Wolverhampton West Midlands
Worcester 1889 Worcestershire 1974 Worcester) Hereford and Worcester
York 1889 West Riding 1974 York North Yorkshire

Only four districts with more than one county borough were formed: Wirral, Sandwell, Sefton and Kirklees. Elsewhere, county boroughs usually formed the core or all of a district named after the county borough - with the exceptions of Halifax, whose metropolitan district was named Calderdale, Burton upon Trent, which became part of the East Staffordshire district, and Teesside, which was split up between three non-metropolitan districts.


County borough From Associated county Abolished Succeeded by
Cardiff 1889 Glamorgan 1974 Cardiff South Glamorgan
Merthyr Tydfil 1908 Glamorgan 1974 Merthyr Tydfil Mid Glamorgan
Newport 1891 Monmouthshire 1974 Newport Gwent
Swansea 1889 Glamorgan 1974 Swansea West Glamorgan

As in England, all the old county boroughs were abolished in 1974. However under more recent legislation, some council areas are now again called county boroughs:[2]

Newport was originally in this list, but became a city in 2002.

For all practical purposes, county boroughs in Wales are exactly the same as the areas called "counties", as all these areas are run by unitary authorities (i.e.: have the functions of both boroughs and counties). Although unitary authorities are functionally equivalent to county boroughs, only in Wales is the title given official recognition by Act of Parliament.[3]


The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 created county boroughs for Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Londonderry and Waterford.

Northern Ireland

The county boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry have been replaced with two larger districts: Belfast and Londonderry, subsequently renamed Derry.

Republic of Ireland

Galway became an additional county borough in 1986. Under the Local Government Act 2001 (which replaced most existing local government legislation in Ireland), the term "County Borough" was abolished and replaced with "City" (and hence, "Corporation" with "City Council"). However Kilkenny, while a city, is instead administered as a town (and part of the county council area) for local government purposes. It is allowed to use the title "Borough Council" instead of "Town Council".

See also


  1. Local Government Act 1888, s.31
  2. Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, Schedule 1, Part II
  3. Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, Schedule 1, Part II