GEN-MEDIEVAL-L ArchivesArchiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2002-05 > 1020908114
From: Renia <>
Subject: Re: OT -- RE: _County Chester_ , _Cheshire_And _County Of Chester_
Date: Thu, 09 May 2002 02:35:14 +0100
References: <5B26630DC488D411AB6200D0B7C9FF49DBD04E@DCSRV09>, <YkaC8.9263$C8.firstname.lastname@example.org>
John Steele Gordon wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Carpenter, Charles" <>
> Newsgroups: soc.genealogy.medieval
> Sent: Wednesday, May 08, 2002 8:46 AM
> Subject: OT -- RE: _County Chester_ , _Cheshire_And _County Of Chester_
> > I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't think of a
> > instance in which "co. XX" is an appropriate name in the US. "XX Co." is
> > the nomenclature everywhere I so far as I know (except, of course, Alaska
> > and Louisiana, but they don't have 'counties').
I didn't say US has County XXX. What I meant was, many Americans seem determined
to address our counties with the prefix County. See JSG below.
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Renia [mailto:]
> > Sent: Tuesday, May 07, 2002 9:24 PM
> > To:
> > Subject: Re: _County Chester_ , _Cheshire_And _County Of Chester_
> > Chester is the county town of the county of Cheshire.
> > Or capital, if you like, but we use the term county town.
> 1) I believe in Britain the geographical designation is often put first and
> the name of the particular bit of geography second: The river Thames, county
> Kent, etc.
No. We just put Kent. The only exception is County Durham. We do say River This
and River That, rather than That River.
> In the US we do it the other way around: Mississippi River,
> Chester County. This is just an instance of "two nations divided by a common
> tongue" (Mark Twain), just as it's wrench in the US and spanner in the UK.
> 2) As I understand it, while all counties in Britain can be called,
> collectively at least, shires (an Anglo-Saxon term) or counties (a French
> one), only those whose county town has the same name as the county can
> have -shire tacked on to the end of the county name. Hence, Oxfordshire,
> Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, etc. But you can't say Kentshire
County town - Canterbury (Cant-shire, if you like, except that it's not a shire)
County town - Norwich (Norwich-shire, if you like, but ditto)
> And, of course, you cannot say county Oxfordshire as that
> would be suspenders (oops, braces) and a belt. However Devon is often called
> Devonshire, and its county town is Exeter, so maybe it's just a fine English
> muddle with no good rule of thumb.
The word shire comes from the Anglo Saxon, sciran - to divide. In England, it
was the term used from about the 8th centure onwards for the districts into
which the country was divided. To some extent these districts corresponded with
the kingdoms which became united under one overlord. They wree ruled, not by
petty kings, as at first, but by earls or aldermen, whose authority was
frequently delegated to a sheriff. At the shire-mote, the court held twice a
year, the earl or sheriff and the bishop had equal jurisdiction, and among other
questions discussed was that of the shire boundaries, which were occasionally
indefinited in consequence of the activities of the border thanes.
Some of the shires, e.g. Hallamshire, became absorbed. Generally, the shire is
the same as the modern county, but several counties, e.g. Durham, Norfolk,
Surrey, Cornwall, were never called shires, some of them being the remains of
independent kingdoms. All the Welsh counties except Anglesey are Shires, and in
Scotland nearly all the county names end in -shire. (This takes no account of
20th century administrative changes.)