Durham is the only county in Great Britain?

According to Wikipedia, there are plenty, according to our rules at work, there is only one that is allowed to be called a county, Durham.

Can anyone in England throw light on this? No explanation was given in our corporate guide, just a note that when creating an address entry for a new supplier, only Durham can be labelled a county.

Durham’s always referred to as County Durham (not the expected Durhamshire). The other counties, like Lancashire, are just referred to as Lancashire. According to Wikipedia, this is because Durham was a bit of an anomaly, in being a county palatine, ruled by the Bishop of Durham.

So “shire” makes the use of the word county redundant. A bit like saying the city of Belfast city.

Makes sense to me…none of the other historic counties offer any ambiguity of city vs. county. Perhaps there’s something in the county palatine explanation, in that it’s the County [of the Bishop of] Durham, but it does strike me as quite possibly coincidental.

I had always assumed it was because of the ambiguity between the City of Durham and County Durham - that may not be the historic reason, but I’d be pretty sure that will be why there are postal addressing protocols for it today.

There’s no need for a county to be included in a postal address, the last line needed before a postcode is the post town, and so it’s not a part of any protocol. Common usage in addresses, however, is a different matter.

Sure - common usage is what I meant, really (postal addressing protocols such as the OP mentions, not imposed by RM) - in practice, lots of organisations use their address database for more than just getting snail mail to their clients - they often use them for grouping or analysing stuff by city, county or country (for the purposes of sales analysis, mailshot generation, etc).

In practice, Calling it County Durham is probably pretty sound, even though the postie doesn’t need it.

There are several instances in Ireland where the name of a county and its principal city/town are the same, except for the “County” (or “Co.”) prefix, but Durham is the only English instance.

From your link:

‘The former postal county was known as “County Durham” to distinguish it from the post town of Durham’

The whole naming process has been bodged over centuries, with historical counties, postal counties, unitary authorities etc.

Middlesex has a cricket and chess team. it doesn’t officially exist (though you are welcome to use the name in conversation or as part of a postal address).

I live in Rutland. it used to be a County. Then it became part of Leicestershire. Then it became a ‘unitary authority’.
It’s a District Council, but the local authorities want to be more important than that, so on their notepaper they put ‘Rutland County Council District Council’.

Which confirms that all this classification is a joke.

It surely is - but what’s uniquely British about it is that it’s a joke where the comedian, audience and subject are all the same.

The word county is maintained to differentiate between city and county - as in Ireland, Galway City : County Galway; Tipperary Town : County Tipperary.

I have cousins in County Durham, I would never say they live in Durham because that for me denotes the city. For our other “non-shire” divisions the word county isn’t needed - there is no Cornwall City or Cumbria City; no Dorset or Kent Town. (Strangely Somerset and Devon have both at times had the suffix -shire added.)

Postcodes and postal addresses are a law unto themselves. Off the top of my head I can cite the following :-
physically in one county - Camarthenshire, Lincolnshire; postcode of neighbouring “county town” Swansea, Nottingham.
10 miles outside the city limits yet postal address the city not the county.

If you know the postcode there’s no real need to worry about if you should write “Co. Durham” or “Durham” - it’s the postcode that counts.