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The County of Avon

Avon was, from 1974 to 1996, a non-metropolitan and ceremonial county in the west of England. The county was named after the River Avon, which runs through the area. In 1996, the county was abolished and the area split between the Bath and North East Somerset, City of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire unitary local authorities. The Avon name is still used for some purposes and the area has a population of approximately one million people.

Background

The important port of Bristol lay close to the mouth of the River Avon which defined the historic boundary between Gloucestershire and Somerset. In 1373 a charter constituted the area as the County of the Town of Bristol, although it continued to fall within the jurisdiction of the two counties for some purposes.

Legacy

The demise of the County of Avon was the focus of a BBC documentary called The End of Avon, produced by Linda Orr and Michael Lund and broadcast in 1996. In 2006, the BBC Somerset presenter Adam Thomas, in a BBC One regional programme Inside Out West, investigated why Avon refuses to die. The county continues to be included in the databases of large corporations as part of addresses in the area, and in names of some private organisations such as the Avon Wildlife Trust. However, the Royal Mail indicated that it was not necessary to include Avon as part of any address as it had abandoned the use of postal counties in 1996.

Some public bodies still cover the area of the former county of Avon: for example, Avon Fire and Rescue Service, the Avon Coroner's District, the West of England Strategic Partnership, Intelligence West, and until 2006 the Avon Ambulance Service (now merged with the Gloucestershire and Wiltshire ambulance services to form the Great Western Ambulance Service). The former county and its southern neighbour form the area covered by Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Though there is no longer a single council, the four unitary authorities still cooperate on many aspects of policy, such as the Joint Local Transport Plan. Currently, the term "West of England" is used by some organisations to refer to the former Avon area.

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