I have never met Jim of narrow boat Starcross, but from his links list I think he may be some sort of kindred spirit: CAMRA, British Roads, Monty Python and... 'Real British Counties', the website of the Association of British Counties, an organisation that seeks to preserve the traditional use of county boundaries and names from the ravages of the Post Office and local government reorganisation, not to mention empire-building cities. (Birmingham is in Warwickshire! Liverpool is in Lancashire!) On their maps you will still find Rutland, and Huntingdonshire (in which Ramsey lies), and the three Ridings of Yorkshire, and a single Sussex.
And these are still perfectly genuine, and valid, and should be used and referred to. But when the Post Office decides that counties are redundant, and more fatally, since 1965, local government has first appropriated the counties as local authority areas, and then altered their boundaries at will, abolished them, and created new ones, it's easy to lose sight of the historic, stable and unchanging counties which could provide a fixed reference point on a constantly shifting map.
My interest in this goes back to when I was eight or nine, and happily (no that's a lie. I hated school) attending school in East Sussex, to be told that as from a certain date (was it January 1st 1974?) I would henceforth be educated by West Sussex. This was probably the same time that Mid Sussex District Council took over the functions of Cuckfield Urban and Lindfield Rural District Councils. Honestly, which would you rather have had. Maybe the fact that I now research and teach about local government can be traced back to this formative experience. I also, while working in Huddersfield heard a splendid story - I would love to believe it to be true - that when Kirklees Council was created, also in the 1974 reorganisation, that the first act of the new authority, based in Huddersfield, was to send council workmen to dig up the superior flagstones from outside Dewsbury Town Hall, which now came within the ambit of the new authority, to install them outside the council's headquarters at Huddersfield Town Hall (a fine building indeed, but not a patch on Wakefield's).
I also like this map (larger version here) because I'm fascinated by counties and their boundaries. It's a novelty when we're in the middle of the country, to keep crossing and recrossing county boundaries, from Derbyshire to Nottinghamshire to Leicestershire; from Warwickshire, to Staffordshire, to Shropshire and Leicestershire again. They're all just so close together in the middle! If you look at where I live, which is just on the right hand pointy bit at the bottom edge of Sussex (the large mauve county on the bottom right of the map), you can see why I find this exciting.
Life on the down slope
1 week ago