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For the purpose of sorting and delivering mail, England was divided into 48 postal counties until 1996; these have been abandoned by Royal Mail in favour of postcodes.

Cumbria, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Warwickshire, West Sussex and Worcestershire are non-metropolitan counties of multiple districts with a county council.

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In these counties the district councils provide the majority of services.

Similarly, Berkshire is a non-metropolitan county with no county council and multiple districts and maps directly to a ceremonial county.

Most ceremonial counties correspond to a metropolitan or non-metropolitan county of the same name but often with reduced boundaries.

The current arrangement is the result of incremental reform.

As of 2009, the largest county by area is North Yorkshire and the smallest is the City of London.

The smallest county with multiple districts is Tyne and Wear and the smallest non-metropolitan county with a county council is Buckinghamshire.

The county with the highest population is Greater London and the lowest is the City of London.

Greater London and the metropolitan counties are all in the 15 largest by population and the 15 smallest by area.

The City of London and Greater London are anomalous as ceremonial counties that do not correspond to any metropolitan or non-metropolitan counties, and pre-date their creation.

The metropolitan counties have passenger transport executives to manage public transport, a role undertaken by the local authorities of non-metropolitan counties and Transport for London in Greater London.

Many of the counties have their origins in the Middle Ages, although the larger counties of Yorkshire and Sussex lost many or all of their administrative functions centuries ago.

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