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In the United Kingdommarker and the Republic of Irelandmarker, a civil parish is a territorial designation, and in parts of the UK the lowest tier of local government, below district and county councils. The civil parish has its origins in the system of ecclesiastical parishes, but civil parishes have often deviated from the latter's borders as time has progressed. As there is no common stratum of local governance across the countries of the United Kingdom, the use of civil parishes varies between England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Some places in England and Wales, typically within cities or towns, may be unparished areas. Civil parishes in the Republic of Ireland are broadly obsolete, though they are maintained in Irish law. Civil parishes ranged from individual settlements and their immediate environs to areas of thousands of acres containing many settlements to densely populated divisions of cities.


In Englandmarker, the parish forms a feature of local administration and is the lowest unit of government, below districts and counties. All pre-existing civil parishes in England and Wales, formed in 1894, were abolished as of 1 April 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972, with new parishes immediately created by or under that Act for England.


In 1974 the Local Government Act 1972 abolished civil parishes in Wales, and replaced with community councils. Many former urban districts and municipal boroughs that were being abolished rather than succeeded were continued as new parishes. Urban areas that were considered too large to be single parishes were refused this permission and became unparished areas. Every Community Council in Wales must adopt a code of conduct, and parish councillors must comply with its standards, enforced by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. (Scottish community councillors are not subject to similar personal controls.)


In Scotlandmarker, parishes, as units of local government, were abolished by the Local Government Act 1929. The geographical area is sometimes still referred to, however, for statistical purposes. (See List of civil parishes in Scotland). A new system of communities was created by the Local Government Act 1973 but, unlike in parish councils in England and community councils in Wales, Scottish community councils have no statutory powers, although in some cases local councils have a legal obligation to include them in consultation exercises.

Civil parishes in Scotlandmarker can be dated from 1845, when parochial boards were established to administer the poor law. While they originally corresponded to the parishes of the Church of Scotlandmarker, the number and boundaries of parishes soon diverged. Where a parish contained a burgh, a separate landward parish was formed for the portion outside the town. Until 1891 many parishes lay in more than one county. In that year, under the terms of the Local Government Act 1889, the boundaries of most of the civil parishes and counties were realigned so that each parish was wholly within a single county. In 1894 the parochial boards were replaced by more democratically elected parish councils. These were in turn abolished in 1930, under the Local Government Act 1929. Although civil parishes have had no administrative role since that date, they have continued to exist. They were used to define some of the local authorities created by the Local Government Act 1973, they continue to be used for census purposes and they are used as part of the coding system for agricultural holdings under the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) used to administer schemes within the Common Agricultural Policy. According to the website of the General Register Office for Scotland, there are now 871 civil parishes.

Since 1975, Scotland has had bodies called community councils, but Scottish community councils are not equivalent to English parish councils and Welsh community councils, and have no real powers. Some of the community council areas are defined in terms of civil parishes.

Northern Ireland

Civil parishes in Northern Irelandmarker, are a largely obsolete land division intermediate in size between Baronies and Townlands. They reflect the historic religious parishes and coincide to a large degree with modern religious parishes.

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Irelandmarker civil parishes are a land division intermediate in size between Baronies and Townlands and are maintained legally but only for limited purposes. There is a provision in Irish law for "local councils" but it has never seen significant implementation.

In the Republic of Ireland, counties are divided into baronies, and the baronies in turn into civil parishes. Irish civil parishes are themselves divided into townlands. Both civil parishes and baronies are now, for the most part, obsolete (except for some purposes such as legal transactions involving land and postal addresses) and are no longer used for local government purposes. For poor law purposes District Electoral Divisions replaced the civil parishes in the mid-nineteenth century. A civil parish can sometimes be split between two baronies, just as a barony may be divided into "half-baronies" between two counties, or a townland between two parishes.

Parishes in other countries

In the Australian states of New South Walesmarker, Queenslandmarker, Victoriamarker and Tasmaniamarker, like Irelandmarker, civil parishes still exist but only as largely obsolete (and obscure) geographical references, used almost exclusively in legal documents relating to land titles, see cadastral divisions of Australia.

Parishes survive as valid administrative units in various other Commonwealth countries such as Grenadamarker (see Parishes of Grenada).

In Norwaymarker, the Local Government Act 1837 divided the country into municipalities and civil parishes. The civil parishes had a very few functions in the 20th century (mainly church maintenance), and were abolished in 1950. The parishes are still subdivisions of the Norwegian State Church.

In Portugalmarker there are over 4,200 civil parishes (officially known as freguesias). They resulted from the transformation, starting with the administrative reform of 1836, of religious into civil units. Civil parishes have elected officials, and among their functions are local roads, kindergartens, retirement houses, parks, and cemeteries. Religious parishes (in Portuguese, parĂ³quias) may or may not coincide geographically with civil parishes.

Parishes are used in the U.S.marker state of Louisianamarker instead of counties.

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