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A county town is the 'capital' of a county in Republic of Irelandmarker or the United Kingdommarker. County towns are usually the location of administrative or judicial functions, or 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 is based (see County halls below). In fact, many county towns are no longer part of "their" administrative county e.g. Nottinghammarker is administered by a unitary authority entirely separate from the rest of Nottinghamshiremarker. Many county towns are in fact cities, but all are referred to as county towns irrespective of whether city status is held or not.

Note that in Eastern Canadamarker and the United States of Americamarker, the term county seat is usually used for the same purpose. However, in the state of Louisianamarker the term parish seat is used instead.

List of county towns

United Kingdom

Historic counties of England

This list shows county towns prior to the reforms of 1889. For 1889 and later see the "County Halls" section below
County County town
Bedfordshire Bedfordmarker
Berkshire Abingdonmarker 1
Buckinghamshire Aylesburymarker 2, although the county is named after Buckinghammarker
Cambridgeshire Cambridgemarker
Cheshiremarker Chestermarker
Cornwallmarker Truromarker 3
Cumberlandmarker Carlislemarker 4
Derbyshiremarker Derbymarker
Devonmarker Exetermarker
Dorsetmarker Dorchestermarker
County Durham Durhammarker
Essex Chelmsfordmarker
Gloucestershiremarker Gloucestermarker
Hampshire Winchestermarker although the county is named after Southamptonmarker
Herefordshiremarker Herefordmarker
Hertfordshiremarker Hertfordmarker
Huntingdonshiremarker Huntingdonmarker
Kentmarker Maidstonemarker 5
Lancashiremarker Lancastermarker 6
Leicestershiremarker Leicestermarker
Lincolnshiremarker Lincolnmarker
Middlesexmarker Brentfordmarker, Clerkenwellmarker, the City of Londonmarker or Westminstermarker for different functions 7
Norfolk Norwichmarker
Northamptonshiremarker Northamptonmarker
Northumberlandmarker Alnwickmarker 8
Nottinghamshiremarker Nottinghammarker
Oxfordshire Oxfordmarker
Rutlandmarker Oakhammarker
Shropshiremarker Shrewsburymarker
Somersetmarker Tauntonmarker 9
Staffordshire Staffordmarker
Suffolk Ipswichmarker
Surreymarker Guildfordmarker 10
Sussex Chichestermarker or Lewesmarker 11
Warwickshiremarker Warwickmarker
Westmorlandmarker Applebymarker
Wiltshiremarker Trowbridgemarker 12 although the county is named after Wiltonmarker
Worcestershire Worcestermarker
Yorkshiremarker Yorkmarker

  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 Bodminmarker, and the 1911 Britannica considered Bodmin to be the county town. Launcestonmarker was also historically considered the county town.
  4. Knights of the Shire were elected at Cockermouthmarker
  5. East Kentmarker and West Kentmarker 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 Hundredmarker 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 Prisonmarker (which functioned as the county gaol for Middlesex) if found guilty; while the county council had its headquarters at the Middlesex Guildhallmarker 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 Tynemarker. 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 Ilchestermarker. Somertonmarker temporarily became the county town in the late thirteenth century, when the shire courts and county gaol were moved from Ilchester.
  10. Southwarkmarker is listed as the county town by Stewart (1828). Quarter Sessions were held at Newingtonmarker by Southwarkmarker.
  11. Horshammarker 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. A 1870s gazetteer describes "Salisburymarker and Devizesmarker" as the "county towns". The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica names only Salisbury.

Counties of Scotland

County County town
Aberdeenshiremarker Aberdeenmarker1
Angusmarker (or Forfarshire) Forfarmarker
Argyllmarker Lochgilpheadmarker (formerly Inveraraymarker
Ayrshiremarker Ayrmarker
Banffshiremarker Banff
Berwickshiremarker Dunsmarker (formerly Berwick-upon-Tweedmarker, formerly Greenlawmarker)
Butemarker Rothesaymarker
Caithnessmarker Wickmarker
Clackmannanshiremarker Alloamarker (formerly Clackmannanmarker)
Cromartyshiremarker Cromartymarker
Dumfriesshiremarker Dumfriesmarker
Dunbartonshiremarker Dumbartonmarker
East Lothianmarker (or Haddingtonshire) Haddingtonmarker
Fifemarker Cuparmarker
Inverness-shire Invernessmarker
Kincardineshiremarker Stonehavenmarker (formerly Kincardine - but not Kincardine-on-Forthmarker)
Kinross-shiremarker Kinrossmarker
Kirkcudbrightshiremarker Kirkcudbrightmarker
Lanarkshiremarker Lanarkmarker³
Midlothianmarker (or Edinburghshire) Edinburghmarker4
Morayshiremarker (or Elginshire) Elginmarker
Nairnshiremarker Nairnmarker
Orkneymarker Kirkwallmarker
Peeblesshiremarker Peeblesmarker
Perthshiremarker Perthmarker
Renfrewshire Renfrewmarker5
Ross-shiremarker Dingwallmarker (also the county town of Ross and Cromartymarker)
Roxburghshiremarker Jedburghmarker (formerly Roxburghmarker)6
Selkirkshiremarker Selkirkmarker
Shetlandmarker Lerwickmarker
Stirlingshiremarker Stirlingmarker
Sutherlandmarker Dornochmarker7
West Lothianmarker (or Linlithgowshire) Linlithgowmarker
Wigtownshiremarker Wigtownmarker8
  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 Glasgowmarker. In 1893 Glasgow became a county of itself, and was therefore outside the council's area. The county council moved to Hamiltonmarker 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 Paisleymarker 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 Golspiemarker from 1890.
  8. Stranraermarker 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. For 1889 and later see the "County Halls" section below
County County town
Angleseymarker Llangefnimarker (formerly Beaumarismarker)
Brecknockshiremarker Breconmarker
Caernarfonshire Caernarfonmarker
Cardiganshire Cardiganmarker
Carmarthenshiremarker Carmarthenmarker
Denbighshire Ruthinmarker (formerly Denbighmarker)
Flintshiremarker Moldmarker (formerly Flintmarker)
Glamorganmarker Cardiffmarker
Merionethshiremarker Dolgellaumarker
Montgomeryshiremarker Montgomerymarker
Monmouthshiremarker 1 Monmouthmarker 1
Pembrokeshiremarker Haverfordwestmarker (formerly Pembrokemarker)
Radnorshiremarker Presteignemarker (formerly New Radnormarker)

  1. Between 1536 and 1974, Monmouthshire was included by successive English, British and UK 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

County County town
County Antrim Antrimmarker
County Armagh Armaghmarker
County Down Downpatrickmarker
County Fermanagh Enniskillenmarker
County Londonderry Derrymarker
County Tyrone Omaghmarker

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

Republic of Ireland

Traditional counties of Ireland

The term county capital is also used.
County County town
County Carlowmarker Carlowmarker
County Cavanmarker Cavanmarker
County Claremarker Ennismarker
County Corkmarker Corkmarker
County Donegalmarker Liffordmarker
County Dublinmarker Dublinmarker
County Galwaymarker Galwaymarker
County Kerrymarker Traleemarker
County Kildaremarker Naasmarker
County Kilkennymarker Kilkennymarker
County Laoismarker (formerly Queen's County) Portlaoisemarker (formerly known as Maryborough)
County Leitrimmarker Carrick-on-Shannonmarker
County Limerickmarker Limerickmarker
County Longfordmarker Longfordmarker
County Louthmarker Dundalkmarker
County Mayomarker Castlebarmarker
County Meathmarker Trimmarker (Navanmarker - de facto)
County Monaghanmarker Monaghanmarker
County Offalymarker (formerly King's County) Tullamoremarker (since 1835), originally Philipstownmarker
County Roscommonmarker Roscommonmarker
County Sligomarker Sligomarker
County Tipperarymarker Previously Cashelmarker and Clonmelmarker. Since 1898 shared between Clonmelmarker (south) and Nenaghmarker (north). Tipperary Townmarker has never been county town.
County Waterfordmarker Dungarvanmarker (previously Waterfordmarker).
County Westmeathmarker Mullingarmarker
County Wexfordmarker Wexfordmarker
County Wicklowmarker Wicklowmarker

Other counties of Ireland

County County town
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Dún Laoghairemarker
Fingal Swordsmarker
North Tipperary Nenaghmarker
South Dublin Tallaghtmarker
South Tipperary Clonmelmarker

County Halls

Over time, the location of administrative headquarters (County Halls) have moved away from the traditional county town. Furthermore, in 1965 and 1974 there were major administrative boundary changes in England and Wales and administrative counties were replaced with new metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. The boundaries underwent more major alterations between 1995 and 1998 to create unitary authorities and some of the ancient counties and county towns were restored for administrative purposes. (Note: not all headquarters are or were called County Halls or Shire Halls eg: 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 ie: a borough outside of the county council's jurisdiction.


County council Date Headquarters
Avon 1974 to 1996 Bristolmarker
Bedfordshire 1889 to 2009 Bedfordmarker
Berkshire 1889 to 1998 Readingmarker (county borough until 1974)
City and County of Bristolmarker 1996 onwards Bristolmarker
Buckinghamshire 1889 onwards Aylesburymarker
Cambridgeshire 1889 to 1965
1974 onwards
Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely 1965 to 1974 Cambridgemarker
Cheshiremarker 1889 to 2009 Chestermarker
Clevelandmarker 1974 to 1996 Middlesbroughmarker
Cornwallmarker 1889 onwards Truromarker
Cumberlandmarker 1889 to 1974 Carlisle (county borough from 1914)
Cumbriamarker 1974 onwards Carlislemarker
Derbyshiremarker 1889 onwards Matlockmarker (moved from Derby, county borough 1958)
Devonmarker 1889 onwards Exetermarker (county borough until 1974). In 1963 the Devon County Buildings Area was transferred from the county borough of Exeter to the administrative county of Devon, of which it formed an exclave until 1974.
Dorsetmarker 1889 onwards Dorchestermarker
Durham 1889 onwards Durhammarker
Essex 1889 onwards Chelmsfordmarker
Gloucestershiremarker 1889 onwards Gloucestermarker (county borough until 1974)
Greater Londonmarker 1965 to 1986
2002 onwards
County Hallmarker, Lambethmarker (Greater London Council)
City Hallmarker, Southwarkmarker (Greater London Authority)
Greater Manchestermarker 1974 to 1986 Manchestermarker
Hampshire 1889 onwards Winchestermarker
Herefordshiremarker 1889 to 1974
1998 onwards
Hereford and Worcester 1974 to 1998 Worcestermarker
Hertfordshiremarker 1889 onwards Hertfordmarker
Humberside 1974 to 1996 Beverleymarker
Huntingdonshiremarker 1889 to 1965 Huntingdonmarker
Huntingdon and Peterborough 1965 to 1974 Huntingdonmarker
Isle of Elymarker 1889 to 1965 Marchmarker, although geographically considered part of Cambridgeshire
Isle of Wightmarker 1890 onwards Newportmarker
Kentmarker 1889 onwards Maidstonemarker
Lancashiremarker 1889 onwards Prestonmarker (moved from Lancastermarker, County Hall opened in 1882, county borough until 1974)
Leicestershiremarker 1889 onwards Glenfieldmarker (moved from county borough of Leicestermarker in 1967)
Lincolnshire, Parts of Lindsey 1889 to 1974 Lincolnmarker (county borough)
Lincolnshire, Parts of Holland 1889 to 1974 Bostonmarker
Lincolnshire, Parts of Kesteven 1889 to 1974 Sleafordmarker
Lincolnshiremarker 1974 onwards Lincolnmarker
London 1889 to 1965 Spring Gardens, Westminstermarker until 1922, County Hallmarker at Lambethmarker thereafter.
Merseyside 1974 to 1986 Liverpoolmarker
Middlesexmarker 1889 to 1965 Middlesex Guildhallmarker at Westminster in County of London
Norfolk 1889 onwards Norwichmarker (county borough until 1974)
Northamptonshiremarker 1889 onwards Northamptonmarker (county borough until 1974)
Northumberlandmarker 1889 onwards Newcastle upon Tynemarker 1889 - 1981: Northumberland County Hall was situated within an exclave of Northumberland (Moot Hall Precincts) within the county borough of Newcastle 1889 - 1974; the area became part of the county of Tyne and Wear in 1974 and was thus extraterritorial
Morpethmarker since 1981
Nottinghamshiremarker 1889 onwards West Bridgfordmarker (moved from county borough of Nottinghammarker in 1959)
Oxfordshire 1889 onwards Oxfordmarker (county borough until 1974)
Soke of Peterborough 1889 to 1965 Peterboroughmarker, although geographically considered part of Northamptonshire
Rutlandmarker 1889 to 1974
1997 onwards
Shropshiremarker 1889 onwards Shrewsburymarker
Somersetmarker 1889 onwards Tauntonmarker
Staffordshire 1889 onwards Staffordmarker
East Suffolkmarker 1889 to 1974 Ipswichmarker (county borough)
West Suffolk 1889 to 1974 Burymarker
Suffolk 1974 onwards Ipswichmarker
Surreymarker 1889 onwards Inner London Sessions Housemarker, Newingtonmarker, until County Hallmarker, Kingston upon Thamesmarker opened in 1893 (Kingston has been in Greater Londonmarker since 1965)
East Sussexmarker 1889 onwards Lewesmarker
West Sussexmarker 1889 onwards Chichestermarker (originally jointly with Horshammarker)
Tyne and Wear 1974 to 1986 Newcastle upon Tynemarker
Warwickshiremarker 1889 onwards Warwickmarker
West Midlands 1974 to 1986 Birminghammarker
Westmorlandmarker 1889 to 1974 Kendalmarker
Wiltshiremarker 1889 onwards Trowbridgemarker
Worcestershire 1889 to 1974
1998 onwards
Worcestermarker (county borough until 1974)
Yorkshire, East Riding 1889 to 1974
1996 onwards
Beverleymarker (later HQ of Humberside)
Yorkshire, North Riding 1889 to 1974 Northallertonmarker
North Yorkshire 1974 onwards Northallertonmarker
South Yorkshiremarker 1974 to 1986 Barnsleymarker
Yorkshire, West Riding 1889 to 1974 Wakefieldmarker (county borough from 1915)
West Yorkshire 1974 to 1986 Wakefieldmarker


County council Date Headquarters
Angleseymarker 1889 to 1974

1996 onwards
Brecknockshiremarker 1889 to 1974 Breconmarker
Caernarvonshire 1889 to 1974 Caernarfonmarker
Carmarthenshiremarker 1889 to 1974

1996 onwards
Cardiganshire 1889 to 1974 Aberaeronmarker
Clwyd 1974 to 1996 Moldmarker
Denbighshire 1889 to 1974 Denbighmarker
Dyfed 1974 to 1996 Carmarthenmarker
Flintshiremarker 1889 to 1974 Moldmarker
Glamorganmarker 1889 to 1974 Cardiffmarker (county borough)
Gwent 1978 to 1996 Cwmbranmarker
Gwyneddmarker 1974 to 1996 Caernarfonmarker
Mid Glamorgan 1974 to 1996 Cardiffmarker (extraterritorial)
Merionethshiremarker 1889 to 1974 Dolgellaumarker
Montgomeryshiremarker 1889 to 1974 Welshpoolmarker
Monmouthshiremarker 1889 to 1974 Newportmarker (county borough from 1891)
Pembrokeshiremarker 1889 to 1974

1996 onwards
Radnorshiremarker 1889 to 1974 Llandrindod Wellsmarker
Powysmarker 1974 onwards Llandrindod Wellsmarker
South Glamorgan 1974 to 1996 Cardiffmarker
West Glamorgan 1974 to 1996 Swanseamarker


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