Before the introduction of county councils, Suffolk had been divided into eastern and western divisions, each with their own quarter sessions. The western division corresponded to the Liberty of Saint Edmund. This area had been established by Edward the Confessor in 1044 and was a separate jurisdiction under the control of the abbot of Bury St Edmunds Abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries.
This history was reflected in the coat of arms of the county council. The council initially adopted the attributed arms of Edward the Confessor: a cross patonce between five martlets. When the council received an official grant of arms from the College of Arms in 1959, abbots' mitres and the emblem of St Edmund: crossed arrows through an open crown were added. The motto adopted was For King, Law and People, referring to the association of Magna Carta with Bury.
Shortly before its abolition the West Suffolk County Council commissioned Elizabeth Frink to sculpt a statue of St Edmund to commemorate the end of 970 years of independent administration of the area. The statue, in the grounds of the abbey of Bury St Edmunds, was completed in 1976.
The rural districts were further subdivided into civil parishes.
In 2018 a West Suffolk district council was created by the abolition and merger of Forest Heath district council and St Edmundsbury borough council. The new West Suffolk District, which will come into effect on 1 April 2019, covers a smaller area than the pre-1974 West Suffolk county council.