Cardiff, Wales, Monmouthshire and England

Monmouthshire in Cardiff

The authorities once thought this part of Cardiff was in England

Today’s Daily Telegraph includes a letter from a Cardiff reader Barrie Cooper complaining that BT insists on sending him a Newport phone directory because he lives in east Cardiff. This prompted schoolboy memories of a time when Cardiff’s eastern suburbs were technically part of England. Not that any of us accepted that for a moment…

Blame King Henry VIII. Shortly before the Act of Union between England and Wales in 1536, he took Monmouthshire, Wales’s south eastern county, as an English shire. The boundary between Monmouthshire and Glamorgan was the river Rhymney. The small town of Cardiff was in Glamorgan, but as it grew in the 19th century, it spread across the river into Monmouthshire.

The ‘Wales and Monmouthshire’ confusion continued for over 400 years. Even in the 20th century, when Welsh national consciousness was truly revived, Monmouthshire was in a no man’s land between England and Wales. The Local Government Act 1933 stated that it was an English county. The Welsh Language Act 1967 referred to “Wales and  Monmouthshire”.

Monmouthshire was finally reunited with Wales once and for all in 1974. Local government reorganisation abolished the old county but placed its successor, Gwent, firmly in Cymru. The timing, while centuries late, was appropriate: the county’s Pontypool rugby club was in its pomp and helping Wales achieve European domination. Cardiff’s eastern suburbs were now in (South) Glamorgan, not the old border county.

Over forty years on, Wales has its own senedd, the National Assembly, and its first national government. Another local government reorganisation has abolished Gwent and revived Monmouthshire, although the new version is smaller than the old county. Cardiff is thriving, even if its eastern residents are still given a border county’s phone book…

PS: the Bella Caledonia blog asked whether Berwick will be reunited with Scotland as Monmouthshire has been with Wales, 40 years after the abolition of the Wales and Berwick Act…

PPS: here’s my post about other geographical anomalies, the exclaves of Wales and England.

6 thoughts on “Cardiff, Wales, Monmouthshire and England

  1. Who uses phone books any more?

    The English Democrats have had candidates stand in Welsh Assembly elections in pursuit of their desire to return Monmouth to English governance. I think some of their candidates might even have been Welsh. I think they got a decimal percentage of the vote. God knows who the voters were.

    I think living in border counties effects some people strangely. I used to live in Wrexham and remember that in the letters page of the Leader, there’d be the occasional letter from someone living in the English Maelor (formerly ‘Flintshire detached’) articulating a complicated and conspiratorial view of local politics based on assumed discrimination based on a tangled skein of disadvantage based on former County status, language and ethnicity. There’s someone who lives near my parents up there who feels the need to have installed a tall garden flagpole, proper job, painted white with cleats and hoists, so he can fly the cross of St George, presumably to forestall the possibility of an uprising by truculent natives.

    I used to live in Berwick. Can’t decide whether the referendum result has lessened or increased the possibility of repatriation to Scotland. The practical reasons for any change aren’t compelling as both north Northumberland and Scottish Borders are rural and Berwick is the largest town for both hinterlands: it’s hardly as if you have to stop at the border these days after all. I rather doubt this will happen and if it did, it would be because of complicated symbolism. I think the locals rather enjoy their history and status.

    • That reminds me of a bike ride along the Wales/England border during the 2002 football world cup. I knew as soon as I crossed back into Wales by the absence of the cross of St George!

      I don’t know who still uses phone books – so many better alternatives these days.

      Thanks for the reflections on Berwick. Interesting.

  2. I live in Chepstow, Monmouthshire. I have done since birth, nearly 60 years ago. I am happy to call myself Welsh. I am extremely unhappy to be told what being Welsh is by proper Welsh people who are not of a similar origin to myself. I really do not see why I should be more concerned and economically linked with the people living hundreds of miles away whilst being forced to recognise my near neighbours as foreign and a different species. There is no place for political separatism in our modern UK. We all live together in the same country. Younger people are much more mobile (have been for decades now) and inter – regional marriages are commonplace. We live where the work is. We raise our families to ignore national bigotry. We should become one nation again. Wales should not have an assembly or parliament. Our civilisation should not be fragmented. When Monmouthshire was seized (no referendum here), it made very little difference to our local communities. Since Wales had the powers of political correctness, misery and dissatisfaction has ensued. Wake up Wales – our National language is English. Not because we live in England – but because it is. I probably could write much more – but live is too short. Thanks for reading this far.

    • “our National language is English.” …. you are being a hypocrite here….telling us what identity to think
      My native language is not English……dont be a fascist!
      The UK has badly ruled Wales…..yet you clinging onto cold westminster rule helps things how?….are you into bdsm?

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