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HISTORY OF THE COUNTY

WARWICKSHIRE is bounded to the north-west by the West Midlands metropolitan county and Staffordshire, by Leicestershire to the north-east, Northamptonshire to the east, Worcestershire to the west, Oxfordshire to the south and Gloucestershire to the south-west. The northern tip of the county is only 5 km (3 miles) from the Derbyshire border. An average-sized English county covering an area of almost 2,000 km2, it runs some 96 km (60 mi) north to south.

The majority of Warwickshire's population live in the north and centre of the county. The market towns of northern and eastern Warwickshire were industrialised in the 19th century, and include Atherstone, Bedworth, Nuneaton, and Rugby. Major industries included coal mining, textiles, engineering, and cement production, but heavy industry is in decline, being replaced by distribution centres, light to medium industry, and services. Of the northern and eastern towns, only Nuneaton and Rugby (as the birthplace of rugby football) are well-known outside of Warwickshire. The prosperous towns of central and western Warwickshire including Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon, Kenilworth, Alcester, and Warwick harbour light to medium industries, services and tourism as major employment sectors.

The south of the county is largely rural and sparsely populated, and includes a small area of the Cotswolds, at the border with northwest Gloucestershire. The only town in the south of Warwickshire is Shipston-on-Stour. The highest point in the county, at 261 m (856 ft), is Ebrington Hill, again on the border with Gloucestershire, grid referenceSP187426 at the county's southwest extremity.

The north of the county, bordering Staffordshire and Leicestershire, is mildly undulating countryside and the northernmost village, No Man's Heath, is only 55 km (34 mi) south of the Peak District National Park's southernmost point.

There are no cities in Warwickshire since both Coventry and Birmingham were incorporated into the West Midlands county in 1974 and are now metropolitan authorities in themselves. The largest towns in Warwickshire as of 2004 are: Nuneaton (pop. 77,500), Rugby (62,700), Leamington Spa (45,300), and Bedworth (32,500). Stratford, Warwick, and Kenilworth all house 20,000-25,000 inhabitants, while the smaller towns of Atherstone, Alcester, Coleshill, Southam, Bulkington, Polesworth, Kingsbury, Henley-in-Arden, Studley, Shipston. Wellesbourne and Whitnash have populations between 5,000 and 12,000.

Much of western Warwickshire, including that area now forming part of Coventry, Solihull and Birmingham, was covered by the ancient Forest of Arden (most of which was cut down to provide fuel for industrialisation). Thus the names of a number of places in the northwestern part of Warwickshire end with the phrase "-in-Arden", such as Henley-in-Arden, Hampton-in-Arden and Tanworth-in-Arden. The remaining area, not part of the forest, was called the Felden - from fielden.

Areas historically part of Warwickshire include Coventry, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield and most of Birmingham. These became part of the metropolitan county of West Midlands (and Sutton Coldfield became part of Birmingham) following local government re-organisation in 1974.

In 1986 the West Midlands County Council was abolished and Birmingham, Coventry, and Solihull became effective unitary authorities, however the West Midlands county name has not been altogether abolished, and still exists for ceremonial purposes, and so these cities still remain outside Warwickshire.

Some organisations, such as Warwickshire County Cricket Club which is based in Edgbaston, in Birmingham, still observe the historic county boundaries.

Coventry is effectively in the centre of the Warwickshire area, and still has strong ties with the county. Coventry and Warwickshire are sometimes treated as a single area and share a single Chamber of Commerce and BBC Local Radio Station (BBC Coventry & Warwickshire).

Coventry has been a part of Warwickshire for only some of its history. In 1451 Coventry was separated from Warwickshire and made a county corporate in its own right, called the County of the City of Coventry. In 1842 the county of Coventry was abolished and Coventry was remerged with Warwickshire. In recent times, there have been calls to formally re-introduce Coventry into Warwickshire, although nothing has yet come of this. The county's population would increase by almost a third-of-a-million overnight should this occur, Coventry being the UK's 11th largest city.

The town of Tamworth was historically divided between Warwickshire and Staffordshire, but since 1888 has been fully in Staffordshire.

In 1931, Warwickshire gained the town of Shipston-on-Stour from Worcestershire and several villages, including Long Marston and Welford-on-Avon, from Gloucestershire.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org