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Be properly addressed: include your historic county in your postal address

The single most effective way to promote your County is also the easiest. Include the name of your County every time you write down your postal address. Nothing has a greater effect on people’s perception of where they live then their postal address. The name of the historic county is now acceptable within any UK postal address. Its inclusion tells people instantly which County you live in and that you are proud to live in it. It should be a delight to use and add a human touch to your address.

The following table lists the elements of a UK postal address.

Name of addressee                                       Mr. T. Coupe
Name of company (if relevant)                           T. Coupe & Sons
Name of property (not needed if property has a no.)     The Old Bakery 
Number and name of street                               3 Frisby Road
Dependent Locality (if needed)                          Hoby 
Post Town                                               MELTON MOWBRAY
Postal County (optional)                                Leicestershire  
Postcode                                                LE14 3DS

Every UK address requires a post town and a postcode: these should be written in capital letters. Whilst a county line is now an optional feature of an address, it can be included in any UK address if desired. It should be placed on a separate line between the post town and the postcode.

Useful Tools

The Association of British Counties provides two useful tools to help you find the correct county to put on your addresses:

  • The Gazetteer of British Place Names allows you to search for the appropriate historic county by place name. Always giving you the best answer, you can also compare administrative areas and see the location pinned on a map.
  • The Historic Counties Postal Directory provides a directory ordered by post town. This is the most useful resource if you are looking for a directory which can be integrated with your address software.

Further Reading

A snippet from the Historic Counties Postal Directory:

There are good reasons to continue to use county names within postal addresses since:

  • they add invaluable geographical information to an address, making it instantly clear approximately where a particular address is located. There are around 1600 Post Towns in the UK. Few people could locate more than a small minority of these from memory. Most businesses, organisations and individuals will want to use a form of postal address from which their location is instantly clear. The county element is extremely useful in this context.
  • they can be vital in enabling a determination of the full postal address on those millions of letters posted everyday where the postcode and/or Post Town names are missing or incorrect. There are numerous duplicate locality and post town names in the UK. The county information is critical to address matching in such cases.

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5 thoughts on “Be properly addressed: include your historic county in your postal address

  • Before the advent of the postcode the county named in the address was no guarantee that that was the putative county of residence. I have a number of items of correspondence from or to my great-grandparents and their children who from about 1904 lived in a village called Oxenwood in the county of Wiltshire. Oxenwood is close to the boundaries of both Berkshire and Hampshire; the Post Office’s sorting office for the area was based in Hungerford in Berkshire, and consequently they insisted that this became part of the address for my family.

    Oxenwood was then and remains a part of the county of Wiltshire and was never subject to a boundary change.

  • It is a lovely village, but it is in Berkshire! Berkshire has a tail in its southwest corner jutting between Hampshire and Wiltshire, and just one village of import there; Oxenwood, with the hamlet of Rivar too.

  • Hi Rupert
    That is simply incorrect. I think that you are confusing traditional county boundaries with the old parliamentary constituencies. For the record Oxenwood was part of the ancient parish of Shalbourne (as was Rivar!) until the district chapelry of Fosbury was set up. Oxenwood was part of the manor of Fosbury. Fosbury manor and the parish of Shalbourne were both entirely within the Hundred of Kinwardstone, which itself was wholly part of and a constituent of the County of Wiltshire. The ‘tail’ of the Berkshire parliamentary constituency by-passed Shalbourne along its eastern edge and ran down to a point just north of Fosbury. Rivar was because of that abberation a part of the Berkshire constituency, at last at the end of the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. Neith Fosbury nor Oxenwood were either in the county of Berkshire or the parliamentary constituency of Berkshire.
    They were, however, in the postal district of Hungerford and the registration district of Hungerford, and Hungerford, is in the County of Berkshire.
    Originally the parish came under the Diocese of Salisbury but later Oxford, and was under the Rural Dean of Windsor until transferring to Newbury.

    The fact remains though, as I originally said, Oxenwood, the village that even today houses the Wiltshire schools outdoor centre, is and was in the county of Wiltshire.

  • Hmm.. some re-examination of maps may be needed here. I was going by the Historic Counties Trust data.

    Moule has the “tail” with Oxenwood and Rivar all in Berkshire and attached, and today’s Shalbourne would overlap the border. However one on-line OS map extract I spotted supports Michael’s interpretation, which puts it in Wiltshire.

    On the other hand, The Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales has “SHALBOURN, a village in Berks, and a parish partly also in Wilts”, which is hedging his bets! For now, I must bow to your local knowledge.