Welsh: Sir Frycheiniog
Motto: Undeb Hedd Llwyddiant (Unity, Peace, Prosperity)
Ancient extent of Brecknockshire
1831 area 460,158 acres (1,862.19 km2)
1911 area 469,281 acres (1,899.11 km2)
1961 area 469,281 acres (1,899.11 km2)
HQ Brecon
Chapman code BRE
Origin Brycheiniog
Created 1535
Abolished 1974
Succeeded by Brecknock, Powys
1831 population
- 1831 density
1901 population 54,213
1971 population 53,381
Governance Brecknockshire County Council (1889-1974)
Coat of arms used by Brecknockshire County Council

Brecknockshire (Welsh: Sir Frycheiniog), also known as the County of Brecknock, Breconshire, or the County of Brecon is one of thirteen historic counties of Wales, and a former administrative county.



Brecknockshire was bounded to the north by Radnorshire, to the east by Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, to the south by Monmouthshire and Glamorgan, and to the west by Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. The county is predominantly rural and mountainous. The Black Mountains occupy the southeast of the area, the Brecon Beacons the central region, Fforest Fawr the southwest and Mynydd Epynt the north. The highest point is Pen y Fan, 2907 ft (886 m). The River Wye traces nearly the whole of the northern boundary, and the Usk flows in an easterly direction through the central valley. The main towns are Brecon, Builth Wells, Crickhowell, Hay-on-Wye, Llanwrtyd Wells, Talgarth and Ystradgynlais.[2]


For the Kingdom of Brycheiniog, see Brycheiniog.

Kingdom and lordship

The kingdom of Brycheiniog was established in the 5th century and survived until the 10th century when it was subjugated by the Anglo-Saxons. During the Norman period, the area was classified as a Lordship. The Lord of Brycheiniog was subject to the Mortimer family who ruled most of south and east Wales in an area called the Welsh Marches. During the reign of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd of Gwynedd the homage of the Lord of Brycheiniog was transferred to him from the King of England (Henry III) by the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267. However, it was an attack on Brycheiniog by the Marcher Lords Humphrey de Bohun and Roger Mortimer in 1276 which led to the final breakdown of the peace between England and Wales after which Llywelyn's domain was reduced to just his lands in Gwynedd. Brycheiniog was thereafter subject to the King of England.

Creation of county

The Laws in Wales Act 1535 created the County of Brecknock by combining a number of "lordships, towns, parishes, commotes and cantreds" in the "Country or Dominion of Wales. The areas combined were: "Brekenoke" (Brecknock), "Crekehowell" (Crickhowell) "Tretowre", "Penkelly", "Englisshe Talgarth", "Welsshe Talgarth", "Dynas", "The Haye" (Hay-on-Wye), "Glynebogh", "Broynlles", "Cantercely", "Llando Blaynllynby", "Estrodewe", "Buelthe" (Builth), and "Llangors". The town of Brecknock or Brecon was declared the county town.[3]

The county was divided into six hundreds: Builth, Crickhowell, Devynnock, Merthyr, Penkelly, and Talgarth. Brecknock was the only borough in the county. Other market towns were Builth, Crickhowell and Hay-on-Wye. Under the terms of the 1535 legislation one member of parliament was returned for the borough and one for the county.[2][4]

Nineteenth and twentieth centuries


Under the Local Government Act 1888, an elected county council was formed and the area of the county was adjusted, with a number of industrialised areas in the south of the county (Beaufort, Dukestown, Llechryd and Rassau) being transferred to Monmouthshire. The county council was based at the Shire Hall in Brecon.[5]

Under the Public Health Act 1848 and the Local Government Act 1858 a number of towns were created Local Board Districts or Local Government Districts respectively, with local boards to govern their areas. In 1875 these, along with the Borough of Brecknock, became urban sanitary districts. At the same time the remainder of the county was divided into rural sanitary districts, some of which crossed county boundaries. The Local Government Act 1894 redesignated these as urban and rural districts. Two civil parishes were administered by rural district councils in neighbouring counties until 1934.

Sanitary district 1875 - 1894 County district 1894 - 1974
Brecknock municipal borough Brecknock municipal borough
Brecknock RSD Brecknock RD
Brynmawr LBD (1851)[6] Brynmawr UD
Builth RSD Builth RD
1907: Llanwrtyd UD[7]
Builth LGD (1864)[8] Builth UD, renamed Builth Wells UD 1898.[9]
Crickhowell RSD Crickhowell RD
Hay LGD (1864)[10] Hay UD
Hay RSD Hay RD
Merthyr Tydfil RSD (part) Vaynor and Penderyn RD
Neath RSD Ystradvellte CP (administered as part of Neath RD, Glamorgan)

Transferred to Vaynor and Penderyn RD 1934.[11]

Pontardawe RSD (part) Ystradgynlais RD
Rhayader RSD (part) Llanwrthwl CP (administered as part of Rhayader RD, Radnorshire)

Transferred to Builth RD 1934.[11]

Coat of arms

On establishment in 1889 the Brecknockshire County Council adopted the attributed arms of Brychan, fifth century founder of Brycheiniog. The shield was quartered. In the first and fourth quarters were the purported arms of Brychan's father Anlach: sable a fess cotised or between two swords in pale argent hilted gold, the upper sword point-upwards, the lower point-downwards. In the second and third quarters were arms representing Brychan's mother, Marchell: or, three reremice (bats) 2 and 1 azure.[12][13][14] The motto Undeb Hedd Llywddiant or "Unity, Peace, Prosperity" was used with the arms.[14] The supposed fifth century arms were invented in the Middle Ages, heraldry having not developed until several centuries later.[15] The county council did not obtain an official grant of armorial bearings, although the unofficial arms subsequently became the basis for those granted to the successor Brecknock Borough Council.[16]


The administrative county of Brecknock was abolished in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972. The bulk of its area passed to the new county of Powys, where it became the Borough of Brecknock, one of three districts of the new county. At the same time the parishes of Penderyn and Vaynor went instead to the Cynon Valley and Merthyr Tydfil districts in Mid Glamorgan, whilst the urban district of Brynmawr and the parish of Llanelly from Crickhowell Rural District became part of Blaenau Gwent.[17]

In 1996 a further reorganisation of local government took place in Wales, and Powys became a unitary authority. A "Brecknockshire" area was formed under a decentralisation scheme, and a "shire committee" consisting of councillors elected for electoral divisions within the former Borough of Brecknock exercises functions delegated by Powys County Council.[18] According to the 2001 census the area covered by the shire committee had a population of 42,075.[19]

Places of interest

Lord Lieutenants and High Sheriffs


  1. ^ Vision of Britain - 1831 Census
  2. ^ a b Samuel Lewis (editor) (1849). "Brecknockshire". A Topographical Dictionary of Wales. British History Online. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  3. ^ "Laws in Wales Act 1535". UK Law Statute Database. Ministry of Justice. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  4. ^ "Brecknockshire, Wales - History and Description, 1868". The National Gazetteer. GENUKI. 1868. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  5. ^ "County Councils of South Wales". Kelly's Directory of Monmouthshire and South Wales, 1895, Part 1: Monmouthshire Directory and South Wales Localities. Historical Directories.\ZYIMAGE\DATA\HISTDIR\TIF\LUL5002Atif\0000cxap.tif. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  6. ^ "Brynmawr Urban District Council, records". Access to Archives. The National Archives. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  7. ^ Census of England and Wales 1911, County Report, Brecknockshire
  8. ^ "Builth Local Board of Health, records". Access to Archives. The National Archives. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  9. ^ Census of England and Wales 1901, County Report, Brecknockshire
  10. ^ London Gazette: no. 22905. p. 5008. 1864-10-25. Retrieved 2008-07-27.
  11. ^ a b Census of Wales 1931, Part 2
  12. ^ A C Fox-Davies, The Book of Public Arms, 2nd edition, London 1915
  13. ^ Mary O'Regan, Heraldry of the Old Welsh Counties, Part 2 in Aspects of Heraldry, Yorkshire Heraldry Society, 1995
  14. ^ a b C Wilfrid Scott-Giles, Civic Heraldry of England and Wales, 2nd edition, London, 1953
  15. ^ Thomas Nicholas, Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales, 1872
  16. ^ Ralf Hartemink. "Brecknock". Heraldry of the World (International Civic Arms). Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  17. ^ Local Government Act 1972 c.70 s.20 and 216
  18. ^ "Article 10 - Shire Committees". Articles of the Constitution. Powys County Council. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  19. ^

Further reading

Coordinates: 52°00′N 3°25′W / 52°N 3.417°W / 52; -3.417

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