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A county corporate or corporate county was a type of subnational division used for local government in Englandmarker, Irelandmarker and Walesmarker.

Counties corporate were created during the Middle Ages, and were effectively small self-governing counties. They usually covered towns or cities which were deemed to be important enough to be independent from their counties and a county corporate could also be known as a county of itself.

While they were administratively distinct counties, with their own sheriffs and lieutenancies, most of the counties corporate remained part of the "county at large" for purposes such as the county assize courts. From the 17th century the separate jurisdictions of the counties corporate were increasingly merged with that of the surrounding county, so that by the late 19th century the title was mostly a ceremonial one.


By the 14th century, the growth of some towns had led to strong opposition to their government by local counties. While charters giving various rights were awarded to each borough, some were awarded complete effective independence including their own sheriffs, Quarter Sessions and other officials, and were sometimes given governing rights over a swathe of surrounding countryside. They were referred to in the form "Town and County of ..." or "City and County of ...", and so became known as the counties corporate. Other counties corporate were created to deal with specific local problems, such as border conflict (in the case of Berwick-upon-Tweedmarker) and piracy (in the cases of Poolemarker and Haverfordwestmarker).

In the late 19th century counties corporate lost their independence from their parent counties. By the Militia Act 1882 the lieutenancies of the cities and towns were combined with those of their surrounding counties, while those that were not created county boroughs by the Local Government Act 1888 became part of the administrative county in which they were situated. There were two exceptions: the City of Londonmarker, which retained its status until the creation of Greater Londonmarker in 1965 and Haverfordwestmarker, which had a separate lieutenancy until 1974.

In Englandmarker and Walesmarker counties corporate were not formally abolished until 1974, although the only vestiges of their existence were the right of the city or borough corporation to appoint a ceremonial sheriff; and the fact that the letters patent appointing Lord lieutenants still included the names of the town or city. For example, the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire's full title was "Lieutenant of and in the County of Gloucester, and the City and County of Gloucester, and the City and County of Bristol".

In contrast, the Irish counties corporate were explicitly abolished in 1899 under the terms of the Local Government Act 1898.

Counties corporate and county boroughs were roughly equivalent to a modern unitary authority.

List of counties corporate

The counties corporate (listed with date of creation where known) were:


† The City retains a separate shrievalty and lieutenancy




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