Historic counties of Wales

Historic counties of Wales

The historic counties of Wales are ancient subdivisions of Wales. They were used for various functions for several hundred years,Bryne, T., "Local Government in Britain", (1994)] but have been largely superseded by contemporary subnational divisions,Her Majesty's Stationary Office, "Aspects of Britain: Local Government", (1996)] some of which bear some limited similarity to the historic entities in name and extent. They are alternatively known as "ancient counties". [ [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/types/type_page.jsp?unit_type=ANC_CNTY Vision of Britain] - Type details for ancient county. Retrieved 19 October 2006.]

The counties

Historic counties of Wales

#Monmouthshire ("Sir Fynwy")3 4
#Glamorgan ("Sir Forgannwg" or "Morgannwg")1
#Carmarthenshire ("Sir Gaerfyrddin" or "Sir Gâr")2
#Pembrokeshire ("Sir Benfro")1
#Cardiganshire ("Sir Aberteifi" or "Ceredigion")2
#Brecknockshire ("Sir Frycheiniog")3
#Radnorshire ("Sir Faesyfed")3
#Montgomeryshire ("Sir Drefaldwyn")3
#Denbighshire ("Sir Ddinbych")3
#Flintshire ("Sir y Fflint")2
#Merionethshire ("Sir Feirionnydd" or "Meirionnydd")2
#Caernarvonshire ("Sir Gaernarfon")2
#Anglesey ("Sir Fôn")2

#The earldom of Pembroke and lordship of Glamorgan pre-date the Edwardian conquest.
#These counties originate in 1282, following King Edward I's conquest.
#These counties originate in 1535, with the Laws in Wales Act, 1535, converting the remaining Marcher Lordships into counties.
#Despite being created at the same Act as the other counties, Monmouthshire was considered part of England for some legal purposes until 1974. In many cases the formulation "Wales and Monmouthshire" was used. [ [http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/searchResults.aspx?LegType=All+Legislation&searchDay=1&searchMonth=1&searchYear=1991&searchEnacted=1&text=%26quot%3bWales+and+Monmouthshire%26quot%3b&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&sortAlpha=0&extent=E%2bW%2bS%2bN.I. Statue Law database: "Wales and Monmouthshire" search results] ]

The historic counties were used as the basis of the counties in use from 1889 to 1974. The historian William Rees says, in his "Historical Atlas of Wales": (published 1959)"... the boundaries of the modern shires have largely been determined by the ancient divisions of the country. The survival of these ancient local divisions within the pattern of historical change constitutes a vital element in the framework of the national life and helps to preserve its continuity."


An 1844 Act of Parliament abolished several enclaves. One of these, Welsh Bicknor was an exclave of Monmouthshire between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. The exclave of Flintshire, called Maelor Saesneg (English Maelor) was left untouched however.


Monmouthshire was part of the Welsh kingdom of Gwent and later, after the English conquest of Wales, of the Welsh Marches. Although the original 'Act of Union' between England and Wales in 1535 specifically included Monmouthshire as being in the 'Country or Dominion of Wales', the Laws in Wales Act 1542 added Monmouthshire to the Oxford circuit of the English Assizes rather than falling under the Court of Great Sessions in Wales. According to historian John Davies, this arrangement was the cause of the erroneous belief that the county had been annexed by England rather than remaining part of Wales. [John Davies, "A History of Wales", 1993, ISBN 0-140-28475-3] In later centuries, some English historians, map-makers, landowners and politicians took the view that Monmouthshire was an English rather than Welsh county, and references were often made in legislation to "Wales and Monmouthshire". The position was finally resolved by the Local Government Act 1972, which confirmed Monmouthshire's place within Wales.

The British Broadcasting Corporation, in an article about the shiring of Wales, says:"Along the border, districts which had long been associated with Wales were added to the counties of Shropshire and Herefordshire."

Local government


The Local Government Act 1888 created administrative counties based on the historic counties but not with the exact same boundaries in 1889. Additionally, certain boroughs were deemed to be county boroughs and outside of the administrative county (Cardiff and Swansea in 1889, Newport in 1891 and Merthyr Tydfil in 1908).


The Local Government Act 1972 replaced the administrative counties created in 1889 with eight counties in 1974. The existing Lieutenancy areas were also redefined to use them. At the same time the historic counties were abandoned by the Royal Mail as postal counties and were no longer shown on maps. These eight new counties were themselves replaced in 1996 by the current principal areas of Wales, but modified versions were retained for Lieutenancy as the preserved counties.

Vice counties

The vice counties, used for biological recording since 1852, are largely based on historic county boundaries. They ignore all exclaves and are modified by subdividing large counties and merging smaller areas into neighbouring counties. The static boundaries make Longitudinal study of biodiversity easier. They also cover the rest of Great Britain and Ireland.


External links

* [http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/wal/ Family history links to historic counties of Wales]

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