The Monmouthshire Association is a branch of the Association of British Counties, a society dedicated to promoting awareness of the continuing importance of the 86 ancient counties of Great Britain. Our patron is the Right Reverend Dominic Walker, OGS, the 9th Bishop of Monmouth.
We believe that our ancient counties are an important part of the culture, geography and heritage of the nation. For centuries the counties were the universal frame of reference in Britain and were therefore used as the basis of modern local government in 1889. In recent decades however there have been frequent and wide-ranging changes to local government in Britain, and unfortunately the map makers and media tend to use these ever-changing local government areas as their frame of reference.
In the case of Monmouthshire, our identity has become increasingly muddled. In the mid-20th century the author Fred Hando used the name Monmouthshire and the name of the Ancient British Kingdom of Gwent interchangably. For example, his books The Pleasant Land of Gwent (1944) and Out and About in Monmouthshire (1958) were both about the county of Monmouth, which was universally still well-known.
The confusion in identity really began in 1967. In that year the Monmouthshire Constabulary and Newport Police were disbanded and in their place was created a single new force. However rather than continuing the name of Monmouthshire Constabulary it was instead called Gwent Constabulary, despite covering the exact same area.
In 1974 the Monmouthshire County Council and Newport County Borough Council were disbanded, along with the Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire. In their place was a new single authority which took the name Gwent County Council with a Lord Lieutenant of Gwent. The Ordnance Survey's insistence that only local government areas should appear on maps meant that the name of Monmouthshire disappeared from most maps. From 1975, the Royal Mail insisted that Gwent should now be used on letters. The identity of Monmouthshire was now well and truly obscured.
By the early 1990s another round of local government reorganization was looming. By 1996 the short-lived Gwent County Council was disbanded. In its place were constituted a smaller Monmouthshire County Council, with the remaining 40% of the county covered by new county boroughs. The Ordnance Survey naturally followed suit, displaying these new local government areas on their maps. However the Lord Lieutenant of Gwent remained.
As of 2010 we are in state of total identity confusion. Some people believed that in 1974 they ceased to be residents of Monmouthshire and were transported to a new land called Gwent. Then in 1996, some in the eastern half of the county of Monmouth thought they had been transported back to Monmouthshire, while others believed they still lived in the land of Gwent. Yet others in the new county boroughs saw those as their primary frame of reference. By this time the Royal Mail had given up trying to follow this confusion and stopped mandating the use of anything other than the post town and postcode on letters.
The Monmouthshire Association wants to see an end to this confusion. Although we do not wish to see another huge reorganization, there are aspects of the current local government system that can be improved. There are also other simple things that can be achieved to bring about a proper recognition of the county of Monmouth.
We wish to see:
- The Monmouthshire Flag flown across the county.
- An end to the use of the Welsh-language Gwent to refer to the county of Monmouth in an English-language context.
- An improvement in Local government terminology — replacing the confusing terms "county" and "county borough" for unitary local government districts with the universal term "district".
- The existing "Monmouthshire" local government district renamed "East Monmouthshire".
- The current system of lieutenancy areas realigned to match the counties. From a purely Monmouthshire perspective, the existing Gwent lieutenancy area could simply just be renamed "Monmouthshire".
- Border signs erected marking the boundaries of the county of Monmouth, as has happened with other counties.
- The media encouraged to use Monmouthshire as their primary frame of reference rather than the wholly unsuitable local government districts or present lieutenancy areas.
- Any future censuses producing statistics for the counties as well as local government geography.
How we can help
There are many simple things we can do to further promote the identity of our county:
- Use "Monmouthshire" as part of your postal address.
- Encourage businesses that deliver mail with an incorrect address to update their address database.
- Fly the Flag and encourage local businesses and councils to do so too.
- Direct people to the Gazetteer of British Place Names and ABC FAQ.
- Make use of the digital boundary data at the County Borders Project. We also have Google Earth KMZ files of Monmouthshire as well as the hundreds and ancient parishes available.
Want to know more?
If you want to know more about Monmouthshire, please get in touch.Follow @monassociation