The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of south, east, and central Great Britain during late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, are conventionally identified as the heptarchy of Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms eventually unified into the Kingdom of England.  In modern England, the region is the highest tier of sub-national division used by central Government. Between 1994 and 2011, the nine regions had an administrative role in the implementation of UK Government policy, and as the areas covered by (mostly indirectly) elected bodies. They are defined as first level NUTS regions (“NUTS 1 regions”) within the European Union.

The regions are:

In the Anglo-Saxon period, Shires were established as areas used for the raising of taxes, and usually had a fortified town at their centre. These became known as the shire town or later the county town. In most cases, the shires were named after their shire town (for example Bedfordshire) however several exceptions exist, such as Cumberland, Norfolk and Suffolk. In several other cases, such as Buckinghamshire, the town which came to be accepted as the county town is different from that after which the shire is named. The name county was introduced by the Normans, and was derived from a Norman term for an area administered by a Count (lord). These Norman ‘counties’ were simply the Saxon shires, and kept their Saxon names. Several traditional counties, including Essex, Sussex and Kent, predate the unification of England by Alfred the Great, and originally existed as independent kingdoms.  Recent local government reforms have merged the responsibilities of some parts of some counties with Boroughs or Districts to form Unitary Authorities bearing the latter’s name.  All such UAs and remnant County Council areas remain part of a ceremonial county.

See also: English Towns

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