Refers, among other things, to ancient counties with names that ended in “shire”. These counties are typically (though not always) named after their county town. The suffix -shire is attached to most of the names of English, Scottish and Welsh counties. It tends not to be found in the names of shires that were pre-existing divisions. Essex, Kent, and Sussex, for example, have never borne a -shire, as each represents a former Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Similarly Cornwall was a British kingdom before it became an English county. The term ‘shire’ is not used in the names of the six traditional counties of Northern Ireland.
Counties in England bearing the “-shire” suffix include: Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire. These counties, on their historical boundaries, cover a little more than half the area of England. The counties that do not use “-shire” are mainly in three areas, in the south-east, south-west and far north of England. Several of these counties no longer exist as administrative units, or have had their administrative boundaries reduced by local government reforms. Several of the successor authorities retain the “-shire” county names, such as West Yorkshire and South Gloucestershire.
The county of Devon was historically known as Devonshire, although this is no longer the official name. Similarly, Dorset, Rutland and Somerset were formerly known as Dorsetshire, Rutlandshire and Somersetshire, but these terms are no longer official, and are rarely used outside the local populations.
Hexhamshire was a county in the north-east of England from the early 12th century until 1572, when it was incorporated into Northumberland.
Having withstood raiders from Scotland for many centuries, the inhabitants of Hexhamshire were not about to cede to Northumberland that easily. To this day, the name “Hexhamshire” persists, and its boundaries are signposted at the roadside. Locals also refer to it as “The Shire,” although Hobbits are not seen, often. Paul Barrett 2019« Back to Index