Saturday, 19 May 2012

Real beer, real counties

Local Stockport brewery Robinson’s have recently, as part of their rebranding exercise, adopted the identity of Cheshire Family Brewers. Some have jibbed at this, saying it is living in the past, and that Stockport was moved from Cheshire to Greater Manchester in 1974.

However, Greater Manchester as an administrative area with its own council was abolished in 1986, and only lives on in the form of police and fire authorities covering ten separate unitary councils. Indeed, it was never the intention of the 1974 local government reforms to change geography. As a spokesman for the Department of the Environment said at the time:

"The new county boundaries are solely for the purpose of defining areas of local government. They are administrative areas, and will not alter the traditional boundaries of Counties, nor is it intended that the loyalties of people living in them will change."
Since then, we have seen a whole raft of piecemeal reforms to the 1974 structure, including abolishing the unloved and spurious “counties” of Cleveland, Humberside and Avon, and making many places such as Nottingham and Blackburn unitary authorities outside the control of the relevant County Council. Recently, the administrative county of Cheshire has been split into the two unitary districts of Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Cheshire.

It would be interesting to ask the proponents of “new counties” exactly which counties Middlesbrough, Grimsby and Bristol are in nowadays, or whether Macclesfield is actually no longer in Cheshire. This has even led to the nonsense of road signs appearing where you exit the boundaries of Blackpool and Blackburn saying “Welcome to Lancashire”.

As argued by the Association of British Counties, what we need is a fixed frame of popular geographical reference that is independent of the successive whims of local government reorganisation. This works in Northern Ireland, which has been divided into 26 unitary districts, but where people still continue to identify themselves with Counties Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, (London)Derry and Tyrone. So why can’t the same work in England?

It continues to baffle me how many people who supposedly are enthusiasts for “traditional beer” at the same time reject “traditional counties” and insist on using the fake, modern, keg equivalent. Rather like the pillocks who write directions in the Good Beer Guide using foreign metres rather than British yards.

Stockport, in geographical terms, is undisputably within the county of Cheshire, and long may it remain so!

20 comments:

  1. As someone born in Middlesex, who lives in Middlesex, I couldn't agree more.

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  2. Your argument is one used by the Southport back into Lancashire brigade, with whom I have argued this point in our local press. It's funny how that one quote by a politician is treated as gospel by people who wouldn't normally trust politicians an inch. My view is that I was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, and I live in Southport, Merseyside. The county councils were abolished, but the counties weren't, so Merseyside and Greater Manchester still exist. The situation is complicated by the fact that the legislation that created the new counties didn't contain a clause explaining whether or not the old counties were abolished.

    A further twist is that the Post Office has said we don't need to use counties in our addresses any more, so I don't, but there's nothing to stop anyone doing so, but in terms of getting your post delivered, it's irrelevant.

    Some clarity about the status of old and new counties would be welcome because the law is not unambiguous, and therefore open to interpretation. I agree that the 1974 reorganisation was never intended to change geography, but then redrawing lines on the map never does anyway. No hills were moved in the making of these new counties.

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  3. My argument is that Southport can still be administered by the "Merseyside" legacy bodies, but at the same time be regarded geographically as part of Lancashire. It is about decoupling administration and geography.

    Pre-1974, Stockport was one of a very few County Boroughs that covered two historic counties. Everything north of the Mersey (including where I live) is actually in traditional Lancashire.

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  4. Old Lancashire and Cheshire were not geographical features; they were administrative units like any other. The only difference is that they were created hundreds of years ago rather than 38. I see nothing wrong with people feeling loyalty to the old counties, but I can't see how I can live in Lancashire and Merseyside simultaneously, and I've had discussions with the Friends Of Real Lancashire on that very issue; it won't surprise you that we didn't reach a consensus. As, I suspect, neither with you and I!

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  5. Hmm - I have to say that I have always looked on the "Friends of Real Lancashire" and their ilk as the local government equivalent of the Flat Earth Society

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  6. You don't even know what's going on in the area in which you live.

    >Greater Manchester as an administrative area with its own council was abolished in 1986

    It was. And it was re-established last year as The Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

    >only lives on in the form of police and fire authorities covering ten separate unitary councils

    And the Transport Authority. And AGMA. And the Environment COmmission. And the Heath Commission.....

    Like it or not the major direction of your town is decided by Greater Manchester.

    Like the Flat Earth Soceity Analogy.
    And well pointed out that "Old Cheshire" was just as much an admistrative authority as Greater Manchester.

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  7. Honestly, and they say CAMRA members live in the past!

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  8. "I have to say that I have always looked on the "Friends of Real Lancashire" and their ilk as the local government equivalent of the Flat Earth Society"

    As CAMRA is the beer equivalent? :p

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  9. Oh, I don't think so. The Friends of Real Lancashire hanker after something that is dead and buried while CAMRA campaigns for something that is alive and thriving (latest figures from the BBPA show that sales of cask ales have now overtaken those of keg ales).

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  10. You'd love Lord Howe then

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/05/16/metric_uk/

    Thing is, he's right. The sooner the country goes fully metric the better. Well done to the beards for using meters in their grog guide.

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  11. Curmudgeon: "It would be interesting to ask the proponents of “new counties” exactly which counties Middlesbrough, Grimsby and Bristol are in nowadays"

    There's no question about what county Bristol is in. It's been its own county since 1373, with the exception of an unfortunate 22-year hiatus under the late unlamented county of Avon. The designation "City and County of Bristol" was restored in 1996.

    Don't I know you from somewhere else? :-)

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  12. Cookie reading TheRegister. Hmm...

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  13. Guy wrote : "There's no question about what county Bristol is in. It's been its own county since 1373"

    No it hasn't. It was one of a number of "County Corporates" (what eventually turned into County Boroughs), but its traditional county remains as Gloucestershire. The Association of British Counties has a FAQ entry on this.

    Have a look at the Maps section on SABRE (www.sabre-roads.org.uk/maps) - the 1932 Ten Mile marks the County Borough boundary (extending northwards towards Henbury and Filton), but the 1930 Quarter Inch shows the traditional boundary along the Avon Gorge.

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  14. Well I didn't realize this blog was an extension of SABRE! I came here because I was looking for something completely unrelated, and then realized I knew who the author was. I didn't expect a lot of random Sabristi to start popping out of the woodwork though...

    (And incidentally I'm still banned from SABRE, and there's still a block on my IP address. Is this due to be lifted at any time?)

    Regarding the county status of Bristol, all I'll say is that the vast majority of Bristolians have never regarded themselves as part of Gloucestershire, and I'd always assumed that this "traditional county" business was about loyalty and a sense of belonging. If it isn't, then what's the point of going on about it?

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  15. Is this the right place to talk about admin ?

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  16. I wasn't expecting to find this online, but I think it settles the matter. It's from Bristol's Royal Charter of 1373, and I presume it's been translated into modern language:

    http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/27002

    "WE, of our especial grace, and with the advice and assent of the learned men of our council who have assisted us, have granted and by this our charter have confirmed for us and our heirs to the said burgesses, their heirs and successors for ever, that the said town of Bristol with its suburbs and their precinct, as the boundaries now exist, henceforward shall be separated and exempt in every way from the said counties of Gloucester and Somerset, on land and by water; that it shall be a county in itself and be called the county of Bristol for ever; that the said burgesses, their heirs and successors for ever shall have, fully enjoy and use within the said town of Bristol, the suburbs of the same and their precinct, as the boundaries now exist, the liberties and immunities written below, namely..."

    Also from "English Historical Documents 1327-1485" by A.R. Myers, page 390:

    "...in 1373 Bristol became the first provincial town to follow London's lead in gaining the right to elect its own sheriff and become a county of a town".

    See http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=jRsLUVOCqbkC&q=bristol&hl=en#v=snippet&q=bristol&f=false

    There are plenty of other references confirming Bristol's status as a county since medieval times. A line printed on a map in the 1930s doesn't negate six centuries of tradition.

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  17. Well that doesn't necessarily negate what the ABC's FAQ says (you're describing it becoming a county borough), plus equally there have no doubt been some people living in satellite villages such as Westbury-on-Trym, who traditionally have identified less with the city and more with the surrounding area, although that's probably not the case.

    Anyway, this is kind of distracting from the main point, is that people have such a strong identification against particular counties that it's caused so much pointless bickering on the internet that you really have to question whether or not it's worth arguing the toss about it.

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  18. Anonymous wrote:

    "Well that doesn't necessarily negate what the ABC's FAQ says (you're describing it becoming a county borough)"

    County boroughs were introduced in 1889. Bristol has been a county (or "county corporate") since medieval times. It regained its separate shrievalty and lieutenancy in 1996.

    I find it surprising that supporters of so-called "traditional counties" are prepared to ignore traditions that go back to the Middle Ages.

    "Anyway, this is kind of distracting from the main point, is that people have such a strong identification against particular counties that it's caused so much pointless bickering on the internet that you really have to question whether or not it's worth arguing the toss about it."

    But there's no argument in Bristol. Everyone agrees that it's its own county. I've never met any Bristolian who regards the city as part of Gloucestershire, and who cares what the ABC says? They're a pressure group, not some sort of authority on the matter.

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  19. The 1974 Re-organisation caused a lot of bad feeling here in Wirral and many residents continued to use Cheshire on their mail rather than Merseyside and do to this day. It is worth noting that you can't walk from Birkenhead on the south bank of the Mersey to Liverpool on the north bank unless you have the time and inclination to go the 35 miles via Runcorn. Many Wirral residents don't feel any affinity with Liverpool. Tranmere Rovers and all Wirral amateur teams are affiliated to the Cheshire F.A. A similar situation exists for Rugby Union teams.

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  20. Stockport is in Cheshire

    Liverpool and Barrow-in-furness are in lancashire

    Bournemouth is in Hampshire

    these are immutable truths

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