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Merseyside is a conurbation spanning the estuary of the River Mersey in north-west England. Its core is the city of Liverpool, but it also includes Birkenhead and the Wirral, Bootle, Knowsley, St Helens, and, more arguably, Southport. In 1974 all these areas were included in a new Metropolitan County of Merseyside; Birkenhead and the Wirral were previously part of Cheshire; the other places were in Lancashire. Merseyside County Council was abolished in 1986 but Merseyside remains a county for ceremonial purposes and also for policing, public transport, fire & civil defence and other functions.