The Association of British Counties

The Association of British Counties is “a society dedicated to promoting awareness of the continuing importance of the 92 traditional Counties of the United Kingdom.” Their basic aims are that:

  * the borders of the historic counties should be marked on maps and appropriately signed;

  * the geography of the historic counties should be adopted by writers, editors, publishers, organisations, and businesses for all suitable (non-administrative) purposes;

  * the historic counties should be the standard for use in studies of history, local history, historical geography and genealogy; and used in cataloguing, indexing and organising historical records and documents;

  * the historic counties should be used as the county line in all UK postal addresses.

These worthy aims are getting some traction, and the traditional counties are now once again publicly recognised by government. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said in a speech in 2013…

“… we are championing England’s traditional local identities which continue to run deep. Administrative restructuring by previous governments has sought to suppress and undermine such local identities. Today, on St George’s Day, we commemorate our patron saint and formally acknowledge the continuing role of our traditional counties in England’s public and cultural life.”

It has also been announced by government that traditional county names can be placed on road-signs. In 2014 the people of Cornwall were officially recognised as a people. From 2015 Staffordshire formally adopted and promoted May 1st as the ‘County Day’, branded and promoted as Staffordshire Day from 2016, and with a very major ‘A Day at the Lake’ celebration in North Staffordshire. In future we need to ensure that the marketing and map for each Staffordshire Day covers the country’s traditional rather than current boundaries. Journalists, writers and artists and others can all do their bit in such promotion. Sports coaches and teachers too, when naming new sports teams, school houses and suchlike. A simple website to help with that is the ABC’s excellent County-Wise: get to know the Historic Counties.

The ABC have an annual journal, free online, Our Counties : The Association of British Counties Annual.

I have to say that currently the ABC seems to have got a bit sidetracked into designing and promoting very naff new county flags. A flag has no emotional resonance whatsoever in somewhere like north Staffordshire, and frankly it feels like an unwarranted imposition into history. The flags also give cynical journalists the opportunity to make ‘the counties’ cause look incredibly cranky in the mainstream media. Their clunky and gaudy design also undermines the ‘cool factor’ needed to entice a critical mass of serious artists and writers to quietly take up the cause. But otherwise the ABC is a very worthy organisation and should be supported.

From The story of the shire, 1921.

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