Watsonian Vice Counties – what are they and why are they still used?
Hewett Cottrell Watson (1804-1881) was a noted English amateur botanist. Between 1852 and 1883 he devised a series of units of suitable size to allow the recording of species within a defined, unchanging area covering all the counties of England , Ireland , Northern Ireland , Scotland and Wales . These boundaries, the Watsonian Vice Counties, were drawn on large scale maps and are held today at the British Museum of Natural History in London .
This continuity of recording area allows county lists to remain stable despite the frequent changes to county boundaries that have occurred over the intervening years.
Lancashire was divided into two Vice Counties, VC59 and 60, with the dividing line between the two being the River Ribble. The southern boundary is the River Mersey (or at least its course in 1883!). Details of the precise boundaries of each vice county can be seen on the accompanying map, the boundaries being delineated by the coastline and solid black lines.
The South Lancashire recorders have adopted VC59 as their defined recording area in line with national recording of moths. The North Lancashire recorders have similarly adopted VC60