Breconshire: Wikis

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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, Brynmawr, 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


  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 on 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

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BRECONSHIRE, or Brecknockshire, an inland county in South Wales, and the fourth largest in all Wales, bounded N.W. by Cardigan, N. and N.E. by Radnor, E. and S.E. by Monmouth, S. by Glamorgan and W. by Carmarthen. The general aspect of the county is mountainous, and the scenery is marked by beauty and grandeur. The climate is moist but temperate and healthy, and the soil of the valleys, often consisting of rich alluvial deposits, is very fertile. The loftiest mountains in South Wales, extending from Herefordshire and Monmouthshire (where their eastern spurs form the Hatteral Hills) in a southeasterly direction into Carmarthenshire, completely encircle the county on the east and south except for the break formed by the Vale of Usk at Crickhowell. Their highest summit north of the Usk, on the eastern side, where they are known as the Black Mountains, or sometimes the Black Forest Mountains, is Pen y Gader (2624 ft.) between Talgarth and Llanthony, and on the south-west the twin peaks of the Mynydd Du ("Black Mountain") or the so-called Carmarthenshire Vans or Beacons, only the higher of which, Fan Brycheiniog (2632 ft.), is, however, in Breconshire; while the centre of the crescent is occupied by the masses of the Brecknockshire Beacons or Vans (often called the Beacons simply), the highest point of which, Pen y Fan, formerly also known as Cadair Arthur, or Arthur's Chair, attains an altitude of 2910 ft. In the north, a range of barren hills, which goes by the general designation of Mynydd Eppynt (a name more properly limited to its central portion), stretches right across the county in a north-easterly direction, beginning with Mynydd Bwlch-y-Groes on the boundary to the east of Llandovery, and terminating near Builth. In the dreary country still farther north there is a series of rounded hills covered with peat and mosses, the chief feature being Drygarn Fawr (2115 ft.) on the confines of Cardiganshire.

Of the valleys, the most distinguished for beauty is that of the Usk, stretching from east to west and dividing the county into two nearly equal portions. The Wye is the chief river, and forms the boundary between the county and Radnorshire on the north and north-east, from Rhayader to Hay, a distance of upwards of 20 m.; its tributary, the Elan, till it receives the Claerwen, and then the latter river, continue the boundary between the two counties on the north, while the Towy separates the county from Cardigan on the north-west. The hilly country to the north of the Eppynt is mainly drained by the Irfon, which falls into the Wye near Builth. The Usk rises in the Carmarthenshire Van on the west, and flowing in a direction nearly due east through the centre of the county, collects the water from the range of the Beacons in the south, and from the Eppynt range in the north by means of numerous smaller streams, of which the Tarell and the Honddu (which join it at Brecon) are the most important, and it enters Monmouthshire near Abergavenny.

The Taff, the Nedd (with its tributaries the Hepste and the Mellte) and the Tawe, all rise on the south of the Beacon range, and passing through Glamorganshire, flow into the Bristol Channel, the upper reaches of the Nedd and its tributaries in the Vale of Neath being deservedly famous for its scenery. The mountains of the county constitute one of the best water-producing areas in Wales. Recognizing this, the corporation of Birmingham, under an act of 1892, acquired the watershed of the Elan and Claerwen, and constructed on the Elan three impounding reservoirs whence the water is conducted through an aqueduct to Birmingham (q.v.). Swansea obtains its chief supply from a reservoir of one thousand million gallons constructed in 1898-1906 on the Cray, a tributary of the Usk. A large industrial area around Neath is supplied from Ystradfellte. Merthyr Tydfil draws its supply from the lesser Taff, while Cardiff's main supply comes from the Great Taff valley, where, under acts of 1884 and 1894, two reservoirs with a capacity of 668 million gallons have been constructed and a third authorized.

In the east of the county, at the foot of the Black Forest Mountains, is Llyn Safaddan, or Brecknock, Mere, now more generally known as Llangorse Lake (from being partly situated in the parish of that name). It is about 3 m. long by r m. broad, being the largest lake in South Wales. Upon an artificial island in the lake traces of lake-dwellings were discovered in 1869, together with the bones of red deer, wild boar and Bos longifrons. Geology. - The oldest rocks in Brecknockshire are the Llandeilo shales and intrusive diabases of pre-Llandovery age which near Builth extend across the Wye from Radnorshire; another patch with volcanic outflows comes up at Llanwrtyd, and at both places they give rise to mineral springs. Next follow the Bala Beds, which, with the succeeding Lower and Upper Llandovery shales, sandstones and conglomerates, form the sparsely populated sheepwalks and valleys which occupy most of the north-western part of the county. These rocks are much folded and the shales are locally cleaved into slates, while the sandstones and conglomerates form scarps and ridges. To the south-east of this region a narrow outcrop of Upper Llandovery, Wenlock and Ludlow sandstones and mudstones follows, uncomformably overlying the Llandeilo and Bala rocks, and dipping conformably under the Old Red Sandstone; they extend from Newbridge-on-Wye and Builth through Llangammarch (where there are mineral springs) towards Llandovery, while a tongue of Ludlow rocks brought up by faulting extends from Erwood on the Wye for 8 m. south-westwards into the Old Red Sandstone. The remainder and greater part of the county is occupied chiefly by the gently inclined Old Red Sandstone; in the dissected plateau of the Black Mountains north of Crickhowell the lower marls and cornstones are laid open, while south of Brecon the conglomeratic upper beds form the escarpment and plateaus of the Beacons. The southern edge of the county is formed by the scarps and moorlands of the Carboniferous Limestone and Millstone Grit (both of which form also the outlier of Pen-ceryg-calch north of Crickhowell), while the lowest beds of the Coal Measures of the South Wales coalfield are reached in the Tawe and Neath valleys (where the beds are much folded) and near Tredegar and Brynmawr. Glacial deposits spread over the lower grounds and striae occur at great heights on the Black Mountains.


Agriculture is the chief industry, and the Agricultural Society of the county, dating from 1755, is the oldest in Wales. About one-fourth only of the area of the county is under cultivation, and the chief crops grown are wheat and barley, but above all, turnips and oats. The acreage devoted to any other crop is practically infinitesimal, though in the eastern part more attention is paid to fruit-growing than perhaps in any other part of South Wales. The farming is, however, chiefly pastoral, nearly one-third of the county is common or waste land, and its number of sheep (mainly of the Radnor Forest breed) far exceeds that of any other county in Wales. The breeding of cobs and ponies comes next in importance, and thirdly that of cattle, now mostly Herefords, though Speed mentions a native breed, long since extinct, all white with red ears. These, together with pigs, wool, butter, and (in small quantities) cheese, form the staple of a considerable trade with the Midlands and the industrial districts to the south and southwest. The farms are of comparatively small size, the average cultivated area of the holdings in 1894 being 63 acres, and the hired labour averages about two men for each farm. A large share of the work, especially on the highland farms, is done by the occupiers and members of their own families, with the aid, where required, of an indoor servant or two. Few hands are employed in manufactures, but the mining industry is more important, coal being extensively worked - chiefly anthracite in the upper reaches of the Swansea and Neath valleys, and bituminous in the south-eastern corner of the county. There are also limestone and fireclay, firebrick and cement works, chiefly on the northern outcrop of the carboniferous limestone, as at Abernant in the Vale of Neath and at Penwyllt.

The Central Wales section of the London & North-Western railway from Craven Arms to Swansea crosses the north-west corner of the county, and is intersected at Builth Road by a branch of the Cambrian, which, running for the most part on the Radnorshire side of the Wye, follows that river from Rhayader to Three Cocks; the Midland railway from Hereford to Swansea runs through the centre of the county, effecting junctions at Three Cocks with the Cambrian, at Talyllyn with the Brecon & Merthyr railway (which connects the county with the industrial areas of East Glamorgan and West Monmouthshire), and at Capel Colbren with the Neath and Brecon line. The North-Western and Rhymney joint line skirts the south-eastern boundary of the county. Brecon is also connected with Newport by means of the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal, which was completed in 1801 and is 35 m. in length. The Swansea Canal and that of the Vale of Neath have also their northern terminal within the county, at Ystradgynlais and Abernant respectively. The main roads of the county are probably the best in South Wales.

Population and Administration

The area of the ancient county is 475,224 acres, with a population in 1891 of 57,031 and in 1901 of 59,907. The area of the administrative county is 4 6 9,301 acres. The only municipal borough is Brecon, which is the county town, and had in 1901 a population of 5741. The other urban districts are Brynmawr, Builth Wells and Hay, with populations of 6833, of 1805 and of 1680 respectively in 1901. Crickhowell and Talgarth are market towns, while Llanwrtyd Wells is a rapidly developing health resort. The county forms part of the South Wales circuit, and the assizes are held at Brecon. It had one court of quarter sessions, and is divided into ten petty sessional divisions. The borough of Brecon has a separate commission of the peace, but no separate court of quarter sessions. There are 94 civil parishes, while the ecclesiastical parishes or districts wholly or in part within the county number 70, of which 67 are in the diocese of St David's and the archdeaconry of Brecon, the remaining 3 being in the diocese of Llandaff. The county is not divided for parliamentary purposes, and returns one member to parliament. It contains a small part of the parliamentary borough of Merthyr Tydfil.

In the eastern parts and along the Wye valley, English has become the predominant language, but in the rest of the county, especially north of the Eppynt range, Welsh occupies that position. In 1901 about 51% of the population above three years could speak both English and Welsh, 38% could speak English only and 11% Welsh only. The majority of the population is Nonconformist in religion, the chief denominations being the Baptists, Calvinistic Methodists and Congregationalists. Besides an endowed grammar-school (Christ College) at Brecon, there are in the county four secondary schools, established under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act 1899, viz. separate schools for boys and girls at Brecon, and dual schools at Builth and Brynmawr. Most of the county institutions are in the town of Brecon, but the joint asylum for the counties of Brecon and Radnor is at Talgarth. It was opened in February 1903. At Trevecca, near the same town, was a theological college for ministerial students attached to the Calvinistic Methodist body, but in October 1906 the institution was removed to Aberystwyth, and the buildings have since been utilized for a preparatory school belonging to the same body.


There are no traces or record of Breconshire being inhabited before the Neolithic period, but to that period may be ascribed a. number of cairns, menhirs and one cromlech (near Glanusk). In Roman times the eastern half of the county formed part of the territory of the Silures, a pre-Celtic race, whose governing class at that time probably consisted of Brythonic Celts. But an earlier wave of Celtic invasion represented by the Goidels had passed westwards along the valleys of the Usk and Wye, leaving traces in place-names (e.g. llwch, lake), and in the Ogham inscribed stones found at Glanusk, Trallwng and Trecastle, and probably surviving into historic times around the Beacon range and farther south even to Gower and Kidwelly. The conquest of the district by the Romans was effected between about A.D. 75 and 80, and they established a frontier fort (which some have called Caer Bannau, identifying it as Bannium) some 3 m. out of the present town of Brecon, with smaller stations on roads leading thereto at Y Gaer near Crickhowell, and at Capel Colbren in the direction of Neath. On the departure of the Romans, the Goidelic hill-tribes, probably with help from Gower and Ireland, seem to have regained possession of the Usk valley under the leadership of a chieftain of their own race, Brychan, who became the ancestor of one of the three chief tribes of hereditary Welsh saints. His territory (named after him Brycheiniog, whence Brecknock) lay wholly east of the Eppynt range, for the lordship of Buallt, corresponding to the modern hundred of Builth, to the west, remained independent, probably till the Norman invasion. Most of the older churches of central Brecknockshire and east Carmarthenshire were founded by or dedicated to members of Brychan's family.

From the middle of the 8th century to the loth, Brycheiniog proper often bore the brunt of Mercian attacks, and many of the castles on its eastern border had their origin in that period. Subsequently, when Bernard de Newmarch and his Norman followers obtained possession of the country in the last quarter of the II th century, these were converted into regular fortresses. Bernard himself initiated this policy by building a castle at Talgarth on the Upper Wye, but in 1091 he moved southwards, defeated the regulus of Brycheiniog, Bleddyn ab Maenarch, and his brother-in-law Rhys ap Tewdwr, the prince of south-west Wales, and with materials obtained from the Roman fort of Caer Bannau, built a castle at Brecon, which he made his caput baroniae. Brycheiniog was then converted into a lordship marcher and passed to the Fitzwalter, de Breos, the Bohun and the Stafford families in succession, remaining unaffected by the Statute of Rhuddlan (1282), as it formed part of the marches, and not of the principality of Wales.

The Irfon valley, near Builth, was, however, the scene of the last struggle between the English and Llewelyn, who in 1282 fell in a petty skirmish in that district. The old spirit of independence flickered once again when Owen Glendower marched to Brecon in 1403. Upon the attainder of Edward, duke of Buckingham, in 1521, the lordship of Brecon with its dependencies became vested in the crown. In 1536 it was grouped with a whole series of petty lordships marcher and the lordship of Builth to form the county of Brecknock with Brecon as the county town, and the place for holding the county court. The county returns one member to parliament, and has done so since 1536; the borough of Brecon, with the town of Llywel, had also a separate representative from the same date till 1885, when it became merged in the county.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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Proper noun


  1. Another name for Brecknockshire

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