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ADMINISTRATION:

The Ten Boroughs of Greater Manchester


The geographical divisions of the region give rise to a great deal of confusion. Outsiders invariably refer to the wider region of the North West of England as "Manchester". Geographical terms like "Manchester", "Lancashire" or "Greater Manchester" are freely interchanged as if they all meant the same thing - much to the annoyance of the many residents of the 10 towns which now make up the Greater Metropolitan County of Manchester.

Local Loyalties

No matter whether the dialect is Oldham, Cheadle, Gatley, Westhoughton, Macclesfield or Rossendale, outsiders refer to them all as "Mancunian" or "Lancashire". It is little wonder that the peoples of Salford, Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale, Tameside, Trafford, Bury, Bolton and Wigan fiercely defend their right to be called Stopfordians (natives of Stockport), Ashtonians (natives of Ashton), Mancunians (natives of Manchester), or Boltonians (etc), and it is right and proper that they should. Salford, for example, was an important township when Manchester was little more than a hamlet on Salford's outskirts - Salfordians grow visibly annoyed at being called Mancunians. See Greater Manchester following:

The Metropolitan Boroughs of Greater Manchester

This characteristic is not unique to North West England, of course. Manchester is, first and foremost, a city, with a clear boundary marking where it ends and where Stockport, Salford, Oldham, or any of the other 9 Metropolitan Boroughs begin. Manchester is also one of the discreet Boroughs of Greater Manchester Metropolitan County which was invented in 1974 as an administrative entity. At that time its new Metropolitan boundaries were created, comprising 2 cities in their own right (Manchester and Salford), six towns (formerly County Boroughs - Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Stockport, Rochdale and Wigan), and 2 newly created boroughs - Tameside and Trafford. These last two stand out as somewhat of an oddity as there is no geographical place called Tameside or Trafford.
For more than a decade after 1974 the county had a two tier system of local government, whereby district councils shared power with the Greater Manchester County Council. The county council was abolished in 1986, and the metropolitan boroughs effectively became unitary authority areas. However, the metropolitan county has continued to exist in law and as a geographic frame of reference, and as a ceremonial county, has a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff. Several county-wide services were co-ordinated through the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities up until April 2011, when the Greater Manchester Combined Authority was established as the strategic county-wide authority for Greater Manchester, taking on functions and responsibilities for economic development, regeneration and transport*.
The title of "Greater Manchester" is a largely convenient entity for practical administrative purposes, though all the 10 metropolitan borough towns of which it is comprised have a real confederation and act as one body in many respects, though it still remains in many ways chiefly a postal, geographical and political distinction.

The Metropolitan Boroughs of Greater Manchester are (in alphabetical order):

The Metropolitan County of Greater Manchester

Visitors need to be certain what they mean when making such distinctions, and tread warily lest local sensibilities are offended by well-meaning though insensitive gaffs. (The author frequently receives irate letters and email from individuals defending their God-given right to belong to Lancashire and not to what they see as a fictitious and nebulous administrative body as Greater Manchester).
To demonstrate the sensitivity of such terminology, when the boundaries of Metropolitan Boroughs were created in 1974, there was a proposal to rename the new Oldham Metropolitan Borough as 'Newham' or 'Milltown' - the proposal was, needless to say, most heavily defeated on account of considerable local opposition to it. There was even a move afoot to name what eventually became Greater Manchester as 'SELNEC' - (South East Lancashire North East Cheshire). That too, happily, was booted out of court.
Further, when in 1986 the Greater Manchester Metropolitan County, along with all other Metropolitan Counties, was formally abolished, much of its administration infrastructure remained in place (just to confuse things), and for several years the costly County Hall built on the corner of Piccadilly gardens stood forlorn and empty.
Hence, fierce arguments take place between two opposing lobbies - those who maintain that Bolton, Bury, Oldham, etc, are back in the County of Lancashire, (and that they never really left it), and those who believe they are now firmly fixed in the County of Greater Manchester.
Bearing in mind this understandable partisan spirit, it's clear that we need to distinguish between Manchester (the City), Greater Manchester (the Metropolitan County) and the County of Lancashire. We have tried to do this and are most happy for the people of Wigan, Rochdale and the other townships to consider themselves in Lancashire, and for Stockport to remain in Cheshire. As to Trafford, which acquired lands both from Cheshire and Lancashire, we cannot say. However, Manchester itself is clearly a focal point. Whatever you decide to call the place, it is unequivocally the hub of a large county.

Manchester - a Regional Capital

Arial Photograph of the City of Manchester
The City of Manchester viewed from the south. Aerial Photograph Image Courtesy of www.webbaviation.co.uk © 2005

Local civic pride and sensibilities aside, most people throughout the region naturally look to Manchester as its headquarters. In this website we have used Manchester as a base, and clearly the large part of it is devoted to the City and to the townships within its sphere of influence, but the website also ventures as far north as Hadrian's Wall, and the Lake District, and south to the Staffordshire Potteries - from Liverpool and Chester in the West, and to the Peak District of Derbyshire in the east. Due to its centrally located position, Manchester is a good base for wider tourism throughout this region, an important regional hub, and we have therefore included places that might reasonably visited by motorcar or public transport and back in a day trip. (See "Day Trips From Manchester").

The Arms of the City of Manchester

Manchester Coat of Arms

The Armorial Bearings

"Gules, three bendlets enhanced Or; a chief argent, thereon on waves of the sea a ship under sail proper. On a wreath of colours, a terrestrial globe semée of bees volant, all proper. On the dexter side a heraldic antelope argent, attired, and chain reflexed over the back Or, and on the sinister side a lion guardant Or, murally crowned Gules; each charged on the shoulder with a rose of the last. Motto : Concilio Et Labore"".

Explanation of the Arms

The Shield: red (Gules) with three gold (Or) bands drawn diagonally across to the right hand side. The white (Argent) top segment (the Chief), shows a ship at sea in full sail. This is a reference to the city's trading base and to the Manchester Ship Canal. Crest : On a multicoloured wreath stands a terrestrial globe, signifying Manchester's world trade, and covered by a swarm of flying bees. The bee was adopted in the 19th century as a symbol of industry - Manchester being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Supporters : On the left a heraldic antelope with a chain attached to a gold (Or) collar, representing engineering industries, and hanging at the shoulder, the red rose of Lancashire, in which county Manchester once was. On the right a golden lion stands guardant (facing us), crowned with a red (Gules) castle (a reference to the Roman fort at Castlefield from which the city originated). The lion also wears the Lancashire Rose. Motto: "Consilio et Labore" - loosely translated "wisdom and effort".

Manchester's Future - What Next?

Positions are continually shifting, and even as this is being written mechanisms are in motion to restore the old historic counties of Lancashire and Cheshire to their former status. The Greater Metropolitan Counties, (so much disliked for so long by so many), seem doomed to eventual removal from the popular consciousness. Already new Unitary Authorities like Blackburn & Darwen, Blackpool, Halton and Warrington have been created, moving the administrative centres away from the old County Councils and Metropolitan Counties.
For several years now Ordnance Survey maps and road atlases have ceased depicting the administrative counties of Greater Manchester and Merseyside, but show the Unitary Authorities of Southern Lancashire and North Cheshire instead. This suggests that towns like Blackburn and Blackpool may no longer be shown as part of the County of Lancashire. (More confusing than ever) !!

Lancashire

Lancashire is an old historic county which lies mainly to the north and west of the City of Manchester. Preston is the County Town and administrative centre of the county (and not Lancaster, as many would, logically, think).
Before regional reorganisation in 1974 there existed the City of Manchester, surrounded by several "satellite" County Boroughs - these included Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale and Wigan, and were unequivocally located in the County of Lancashire.
Salford was a city in its own right and therefore already of independent county status like the City of Manchester itself. Stockport lay in the County of Cheshire.
Most local residents in these old Lancashire townships still regarded themselves as Lancastrians and so passionate did many feel about the loss of "their native county" that they formed an association called 'Friends of Real Lancashire'. (See: http://www.forl.co.uk). This movement proudly defends the historic County Boundaries. They maintain:
"Our county is called Lancashire, not Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside or part of Cheshire."

Thus, many Boltonians fiercely insist that they live in Lancashire, not in Greater Manchester, as do many Oldhamers, Wiganers and Rochdalians! Even more confusingly, parts of Trafford, and Stockport used to be within the County of Cheshire. This, despite the fact that all the residents of these boroughs still pay a proportion of their Council Tax to Greater Manchester (for police, fire and transport, services, etc), and not to Lancashire County Council.
Not everybody agrees with the 'Real Lancashire' viewpoint, of course, as many will not agree with that expressed by us here. Readers must decide for themselves what they believe to be true in this contentious debate.
(See also: Lancashire Main Entry).

Here are a few sources on the subject:
  • "The local Government Act 1972 did not abolish traditional counties, only administrative ones. Although for local government purposes some of the historic counties have ceased to be administrative areas, they continue to exist for other purposes." (Department of the Environment, 3 September 1991).

  • "The new county boundaries are administrative areas and will not alter the traditional boundaries of counties" ("The Times", 1st April 1974)

  • "Legislation enacted for the creation of the administrative county was for the purpose of local government and did not affect the geographical boundaries of the County Palatine." (Duchy of Lancaster Office, 4 March 1996).
    We are indebted to Doreen Ainscough for providing the above sources.

  • "We have received large numbers of representations from people living in Merseyside and Greater Manchester who still consider themselves Lancastrians and who would like to see the reinstatement of the historic county. (Similar views have been expressed in Barrow and the Furness area of Cumbria which was also part of Lancashire before 1974.)" Local Government Commission Draft Recommendations, June 1994 .
    (From the 'Friends of Real Lancashire' Website)

There are other explanations and distinctions:

  • " For more than a decade after 1974 the county had a two tier system of local government, whereby district councils shared power with the Greater Manchester County Council. The county council was abolished in 1986, and the metropolitan boroughs effectively became unitary authority areas. However, the metropolitan county has continued to exist in law and as a geographic frame of reference, and as a ceremonial county, has a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff. Several county-wide services were co-ordinated through the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities up until April 2011, when the Greater Manchester Combined Authority was established as the strategic county-wide authority for Greater Manchester, taking on functions and responsibilities for economic development, regeneration and transport". Source: Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.com)

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This page last updated 8 Feb 12.