Monmouthshire (pronounced /ˈmɒnməθʃər/ or /ˈmɒnməθʃɪər/), also known as the County of Monmouth (pronounced /ˈmɒnməθ/; Welsh: Sir Fynwy), is one of thirteen ancient counties of Wales and a former administrative county.
It corresponds approximately to the present principal areas of Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, and Newport and those parts of Caerphilly and Cardiff east of the Rhymney River.
The eastern part of the county is mainly agricultural, while the western valleys had rich mineral resources. This led to the area becoming highly industrialised with coal mining and iron working being major employers from the 18th century to the late 20th century.
Monmouthshire's Welsh status was ambiguous between the 16th and 20th centuries, with it considered by some to be part of England during this time.
FormationThe "county or shire of Monmouth" was formed from parts of the Welsh Marches by the Laws in Wales Act 1535. According to the Act the shire consisted of all Honours, Lordships, Castles, Manors, Lands, Tenements and Hereditaments, lying or being within the Compass or Precinct of the following Lordships, Townships, Parishes, Commotes and Cantrefs... in the Country of Wales:
Monmouth • Chepstow • Matherne (Mathern) • Llanvihangel (Llanfihangel Rogiet) • Magour (Magor) • Goldcliffe (Goldcliff) • Newport • Wentlooge • Llanwerne (Llanwern) • Caerlion (Caerleon) • Usk • Treleck (Trellech) • Tintern • Skenfrith • Grosmont • Witecastle (White Castle) • Raglan • Calicote (Caldicot) • Biston (Bishton) • Abergavenny • Penrose (Penrhos) • Grenefield (Maesglas) • Maghen (Machen) • Hochuyslade (possessions of Llanthony Priory)
The Act also designated Monmouth as the "Head and Shire town of the said county or shire of Monmouth", and ordered that the Sheriff's county or shire court be held alternately in Monmouth and Newport
Historic boundaries and subdivisions Map of the hundreds of Monmouthshire by Thomas Moule, c. 1831The historic boundaries are the River Wye on the east, dividing it from Gloucestershire and the Rhymney River to the west dividing it from Glamorganshire, with the Bristol Channel to the south. The boundaries with Herefordshire to the northeast and Brecknockshire to the north were less well-defined. The parish of Welsh Bicknor, was an exclave of Monmouthshire, sandwiched between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. The area was considered part of Monmouthshire until it was made part of Herefordshire "for all purposes" by the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844, while the Herefordshire hamlet of Fwthog adjoining the Honddu Valley remained an exclave within Monmouthshire until 1891. The county was divided into six hundreds in 1542: Abergavenny • Caldicot • Raglan • Skenfrith • Usk • Wentloog
The county contained the three boroughs of Monmouth, Newport and Usk.
Municipal reformMonmouth and Newport were reformed as municipal boroughs with elected town councils by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. Usk continued as an unreformed borough until its final abolition in 1886.
New forms of local government were established in the urban areas of the county with the setting of local boards under the Public Health Act 1848 and Local Government Act 1858. The Public Health Act 1875 divided the rural areas into rural sanitary districts.
An administrative county of Monmouthshire, governed by an elected county council, was formed in 1889 under the terms of the Local Government Act 1888. The administrative county had similar boundaries, but included the Beaufort, Dukestown, Llechryd and Rassau areas of south Breconshire. The county council was based in Newport, rather than the historic county town of Monmouth. In 1891 the borough of Newport achieved county borough status and therefore left the administrative county, although the Shire Hall continued to be based there. In the same year the parish of Fwthog was transferred to both the administrative and geographic county of Monmouthshire.
Under the Local Government Act 1894 Monmouthshire was divided into urban and rural districts, based on existing sanitary districts. In 1899 Abergavenny was incorporated as a borough. Two further urban districts were formed, Mynyddislwyn in 1903, and Bedwas and Machen in 1912. The County of Monmouth Review Order 1935 revised the number and boundaries of the urban and rural districts in the administrative county. A new Cwmbran urban district was formed by the abolition of Llanfrechfa Upper and Llantarnam UDs, Abersychan and Panteg UDs were absorbed by Pontypool urban district, and Magor and St Mellons RD was formed by a merger of two rural districts.
The last major boundary change to affect the administrative and geographic county was in 1938 when the parish of Rumney was removed to be included in the county borough of Cardiff, and therefore the geographic county of Glamorgan.