|Area:||530 square miles|
|County day:||September 25|
The County of Monmouth is a shire in the southwest of Great Britain. The eastern part of the county is mainly agricultural, while rich mineral resources were discovered in the western valleys in the 18th century. This led to the western part of the county becoming highly industrialized with coal mining and iron working becoming major employers between the 18th and late 20th centuries.
Monmouth the county town, stands at the extreme northeast of the county, on the border with Herefordshire, while the largest settlement and only city, Newport lies in the southern coastal belt. The highest point is Chwarel y Fan at 2,228 feet.
Monmouthshire lies to the north of the Severn Estuary, which forms the county's southern boundary. Three other rivers form the majority of the county's other boundaries: The river Wye forms the eastern boundary with Gloucestershire, the river Rhymney forms the western boundary with Glamorgan and the river Monnow forms the northeastern border with Herefordshire. The Brecon Beacons form the northern boundary with Brecknockshire.
The ancient parish of Welsh Bicknor is an exclave of Monmouthshire, sandwiched between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. The Herefordshire hamlet of Fwthog adjoining the Honddu Valley is an exclave within Monmouthshire.
The boundaries of the county are more fully explored in the Tour of the bounds of Monmouthshire.
The county or shire of Monmouth was formed by the Laws in Wales Act 1535, an Act passed by King Henry VIII to curtail the power of the Marcher Lords who previously ruled over the area of the Marches. The county was established with a Sheriff directly responsible to the King, with Monmouth established as the county town, and the sheriff's county court being held alternately in Monmouth and Newport.
The boroughs of Monmouth, Newport and Usk had long-established municipal corporations, but it wasn't until the Victorian era that government in the the county was reformed and modernized.
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.
the Local Government Act 1888 created a new form of government - the "administrative county" governed by an elected county council. The administrative county of Monmouth was formed in 1889 with similar boundaries to the ancient county, but included the Beaufort, Dukestown, Llechryd and Rassau areas of south Brecknockshire. The new 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.
Under the Local Government Act 1894 the administrative county was divided into urban and rural districts, based on existing sanitary districts, but creating separate districts where the pre-existing sanitary districts crossed administrative county boundaries.
Over the succeeding decades the boundaries of the administrative county diverged further from the ancient county. In 1938 the parish of Rumney was incorporated into the county borough of Cardiff, further reducing the area of the administrative county. Expansion of the county borough of Newport reduced its area further, until in 1974 the administrative county and county boroughs were abolished altogether. This is the basis of the oft-held belief that Monmouthshire itself is no more.
It is important when considering the 86 ancient counties of Great Britain not to confuse them with local government areas. It is clear to see that the pattern of modern local government has changed greatly since 1889, but our ancient or geographic counties are just that - they descibe an ancient geography that is completely distinct from other areas used for administrative purposes. Your county is the very definition of where you are and where you are from. Regardless of who empties the bins, or polices the streets, the county or shire defines where places are.
The ancient county or shire of Monmouth - from the Wye to the Rhymney - is a county with an illustrious history and a great future.
If you want to know more about Monmouthshire, please get in touch.