Notes on the historic counties listed
For each Post Town, the Directory lists the historic county name which ABC recommends should be used as the “county line” in addresses. In most cases this is the historic county of that town from which the Post Town takes its name (e.g. “DIDCOT Berkshire”). There are several provisos to this:
(i) For “LONDON” postal districts, the County given is that within which the majority of the addresses in that postal district lie. In fact, most London postal districts lie entirely in one County and those which do cross a County border generally lie primarily in one County with only a small area in another County.
(ii) Post Towns on the Isle of Wight have been listed under the island name rather than that of their County, Hampshire. The Isle of Wight has always been treated as separate postal county and this is an uncontroversial and geographically sensible policy to continue. We have followed the same approach for the 3 Post Towns of STORNOWAY (Isle of Lewis), PORTREE (Isle of Skye) and BRIDGEND (Isle of Islay). Note that most Scottish islands (e.g. Isle of Jura, Isle of Cumbrae, Isle of Bute) are now used as Post Towns. For these we have listed the historic county in Column 3.
(iii) The list includes reference to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands which are not part of the U.K. but are covered by the Royal Mail.
(iv) There are six Post Towns which lie within a “detached part” (i.e. a part of one County entirely separated from that County’s main body). Such places can be described as being either in their parent County or within that County within which they are locally situated. For five of them (“AVIEMORE”, “CARRBRIDGE”, “BOAT OF GARTEN”, “GRANTOWN-ON-SPEY”, “SHIPSTON-ON-STOUR”) we have listed the latter County in Column 2 since this is the County with which they are commonly associated (and which, historically, formed their postal county). However, for “DUDLEY” we have listed its parent County (Worcestershire) since this is the County with which it is most commonly associated (and which formed its postal county prior to 1974).
(v) Two Post Towns (“CROMARTY” and “ULLAPOOL”) actually lie in the County of Cromartyshire. Cromartyshire is a curious County which consists of several pieces scattered about within Ross-shire. Because of this the two Counties are often regarded as one geographical unit. The postal county of “Ross-shire” has long since formed the postal county for this whole area (including the two Cromartyshire Post Towns) and this seems not unreasonble.
Further advice on using historic County names in addresses
Addresses which lie in a different County to that of their Post Town
The convention within postal addressing has always been that the county name included in a postal address is that of the Post Town. This can mean that the county name which appears in the address is different from that in which the address itself is actually located. Consider the village of Uplyme in Devon. This lies within the Post Town of “LYME REGIS”. The town of Lyme Regis lies in Dorset and “Dorset” is the “postal county” for the whole of the Post Town area. Using this Directory would produce the following example Uplyme address:
This address makes sense in that the mail will firstly go to the sorting office in Lyme Regis which lies in the County of Dorset. From there it will then be delivered to Uplyme.
However, in reality many people will not include in their address the name of a town or a County where they don’t actually live. For example, the proud Devonian of Uplyme may write his address as: Cathole Lane
Such a form of addressing has much to recommend it. This postal address provides a geographically accurate description of where the property is located, whilst at the same time including the postcode to facilitate efficient mail delivery.
However, it should be noted that the Royal Mail still requires the inclusion of the Post Town name in every UK Address. Those who omit it from their address risk a delay in delivery. The Post Town name itself does not provide any mail sorting information not also contained in the postcode. Nonetheless, it is still used by Royal Mail to aid manual sorting in cases where the postcode is missing and/or incorrect.
In cases like the Uplyme example quoted above, a possible approach for those who wish to include their actual county name in their address would be to include it between their village/town name and before that of the Post Town. The above example would then read:
This approach looks unconventional but it does make logical sense in that the mail will first go to the sorting office in the Post Town of LYME REGIS and, from there, will go on to the village of Uplyme in the County of Devon.
Meanwhile, it can be hoped that future developments in postal delivery practice or technology will enable Royal Mail to end the requirement for a Post Town name. If this could happen then all addresses could consist of the village or town name followed by the County name (not necessary for well-known large towns) and finally the postcode. All addresses could then make good geographical sense as well as providing the information necessary for the efficient delivery of mail.
Using County names in the “LONDON” postal area
County names have never been a part of recommended postal addresses within the “LONDON” postal area. In fact, the “LONDON” postal area presents something of a challenge to those who seek to use County names within it. Firstly, it covers large parts of 4 Counties. Secondly, the Royal Mail no longer uses any form of locality data for addresses within it. This may satisfy Royal Mail’s delivery needs but it doesn’t give the casual reader much idea where an address is actually located. For example,
is not terribly helpful unless one has an extraordinary understanding of postcode geography. Simply adding the County name:
not only looks odd but doesn’t help much in pinpointing the location.
Fortunately, most residents and businesses do (sensibly) still include a locality name in their “LONDON” address. A County name could more easily be included in such an address. It might, however, be thought more logical to include the County name between the locality name and “LONDON”, e.g.: