Yorkshire Chess News





Geography and Populations of NCCU Counties


The Local Government Act of 1972, which came into effect on 1st April 1974, significantly redrew local government boundaries in a way which included creating some new counties at the expense, in terms of territory and population, of old ones which are sometimes now called ceremonial counties.


The pre-1974 counties had long been used as the basis of competing teams in activities including cricket, chess and draughts.  The cricket world totally ignored the post-1974 counties.  Quite what happened in the now partially moribund world of draughts is unclear, though the writer knows that Avon County formed in 1974, later renamed Bristol County, became a competing county in draughts.  In the world of chess, Unions other than the NCCU all ignored the 1974 changes, as they had earlier changes such as the creation in 1965 of Greater London, which involved the abolition of Middlesex as a local government county.


In the Northern Counties, there were formed the new Metropolitan Counties of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Tyne & Wear, and the non-metropolitan Counties of Cumbria, Cleveland, North Yorkshire, Humberside (overlapping into the Midlands Counties).  Northumberland, Co. Durham, Lancashire and Cheshire remained as names of counties, but all lost territory and population to the new entities.


The new Cumbria County involved the merger of Cumberland with Westmorland and the acquisition from Lancashire of its non-contiguous Furness district and from the West Riding of Yorkshire its Sedbergh Rural District.  The chess world was in this case exceptionally well ahead of local government changes.  Cumberland CA and Westmorland CA had merged way back in 1938, and later Lancashire and the NCCU agreed to the Furness district being transferred to them, resulting in the formation of the Cumberland, Westmorland and Furness CA in 1958.  The change in 1974 to Cumbria CA was little more than a name change, as the acquisition of Sedbergh District (population c. 2,500) was of little consequence for chess.


The new Metropolitan County of Tyne & Wear acquired 64% of the population of the former Northumberland, and 44% of the population of the former Co. Durham.  However, no Tyne & Wear Chess Association was formed mainly as it did not coincide with any pre-existing chess organisation, and Northumberland CA remained based on the pre-1974 county.


The new Cleveland County differed from Tyne & Wear in largely corresponding in its territory to that of an existing “local” chess organisation, the Teesside Chess Association, which, though not a “county”, had earlier been angling for county-like status within the NCCU, and was admitted to the NCCU as Cleveland CA.  Cleveland was abolished as a local government administrative county in 1996.


The old County Durham lost 17% of its population to the newly formed Cleveland CA.  Whilst the Durham CA continues its internal activities, it has not for some time participated in NCCU inter-county events.


Yorkshire lost 6% of its population to Cleveland (most notably Norman Stephenson!), and saw the rest of its former territory split into four parts.  There became separate North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire counties, and the former East Riding got merged with parts of Lincolnshire south of the Humber to form Humberside.  The East Riding, most notably Hull & District, showed no evidenced inclination to break away in the formation of a Humberside CA, and the other three new counties showed no inclination to go it alone, so Yorkshire remained essentially as the pre-1974 county less Cleveland south of the Tees.  Humberside was abolished as a local government administrative county in 1996.


So, on its eastern side, the NCCU saw little momentous change, though Durham was significantly affected by the 1974 changes.


On its western side, the NCCU saw the creation of two Metropolitan Counties in the form of Greater Manchester County and Merseyside County.  These acquired the territory of the more-densely populated south of Lancashire, while Merseyside also acquired territory from Cheshire.  Cheshire itself acquired some areas from Lancashire, mainly Widnes and Warrington.  The nett effect was that Cheshire lost about 34% of its population total, while Lancashire lost a massive 74%.


The following table shows the approximate percentage split of the population of the northern counties before and after the 1974 changes:






% Change

Chess County





Chess County


in Share














Greater Manchester














* Lancashire








* Durham








* Cheshire


























NCCU total:





* non-competing in 2022-23 


Quoted population totals are based on estimates for 1975, because a full set of figures broken down by district was to hand, and the make-up of the pre-1974 and post-1974 chess counties could be derived by reallocating districts to the pre-1974 and post-1974 chess counties.  Absolute figures are then expressed as percentages of the whole to ease comparison.


Thus, the table tells us that the Yorkshire prior to 1974 had a population of about 34.2% of that of the whole of the NCCU, but after the 1974 changes the YCA could claim only 32.1% of the total due to the “loss” of territory acquired by Cleveland.  Lancashire had 36.8% of the total before 1974, but afterwards had only 9.6% of the total due mainly to the acquisitions of Greater Manchester and Merseyside.  That 9.6% share is a 74% reduction on the original 36.8% share.


Obviously, populations have since changed.


The following map shows how Lancashire was carved up.



Description automatically generated


The dark patches are built-up areas.

The pink area at the top is the Furness district of Lancashire as was, with main population centre at Barrow-in-Furness.

The green area is the largely rural area acquired by Lancashire from the West Riding.

The pink part at the bottom is the densely populate southern part of Lancashire “lost” to Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

The greyish bit is the post 1974 Lancashire retained from the pre-1974 area, which combined with the green part is the total post-1974 Lancashire.


When the 2022 NCCU AGM considered a proposal to admit Greater Manchester to the NCCU, the proposal came bundled with a package of terms designed to address the question of eligibility of players to play either for Lancashire or Manchester.  The same duality problem potentially exists for the pairs Lancashire-Merseyside, Lancashire-Cheshire, Cheshire-Merseyside, Yorkshire-Cleveland and, if Durham re-entered the fray, Durham-Cleveland.  The writer would have preferred to see proposed changes to the competition rules which addressed the general case, though of course no tensions actually currently exist, that the writer knows of, with regard to these other pairs of counties.  Instead, the proposal to admit Greater Manchester was bundled with what were in effect extra or different rules governing the NCCU Counties Championship and should in the view of the writer have been proposed as such.  Both NCCU and ECF competition rules lack clarity regarding qualification by “place” or birth or residence, due to the county boundaries changing in time, but that is another topic!



Steve Mann