Wales Present and Past

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Wales Project | Wales History

Wales Present and Past presents the present political boundaries within Wales and a brief history of the country.

* Categorization: The primary location for a Wales based profile is one of the Historic Counties. Sub-categories exist for locations within these counties. The requirements are outlined at Wales Categories. Also, see Category: Wales for a list of the categories for Wales.
* County Teams: A list of the teams that work with the Historic Counties can be seen at Wales County Teams.



The alignment of political boundaries has changed several times over the years. The current alignment listed below is the result of the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 which was effective April 1, 1996.


Current Administrative Counties of Wales

  • Anglesey
  • Carmarthenshire
  • Ceredigion
  • Denbighshire
  • Flintshire
  • Gwynedd
  • Monmouthshire
  • Newport
  • Pembrokeshire
  • Powys
  • Glamorgan

Current County Boroughs of Wales

  • Blaenau Gwent
  • Bridgend
  • Caerphilly
  • Cardiff
  • Conwy
  • Merthyr Tydfil
  • Neath Port Talbot
  • Rhondda Cynon Taff
  • Torfaen
  • Vale of Glamorgan
  • Wrexham

Current Major Cities of Wales

  • Cardiff
  • Swansea
  • Newport
  • Merthyr Tydfil
  • Wrexham
  • Neath

Past/Preserved/Ceremonial Counties of Wales

The preserved counties of Wales are the current areas used in Wales for the ceremonial purposes of lieutenancy and shrievalty. They are based on the counties created by the Local Government (Wales) Act 1972 effective April 1, 1974. They were abolished by the Local Government (Wales) Act of 1994 effective April 1, 1996. Their territory was realigned into other counties.

Lieutenancy – A lord-lieutenant is the British Monarch’s personal representative in each county of the United Kingdom.
Shrievalty – A high sheriff is a ceremonial officer for each shrieval (related to a sheriff) county.
  • Clwyd
  • Dyfed
  • Gwent
  • Mid Glamorgan
  • South Glamorgan
  • West Glamorgan


A Brief History of Wales

The area now known as Wales has been inhabited for at least 29,000 years. Mesolithic hunter-gatherers migrated from central Europe to Great Britain over the landmass known as Doggerland which connected to the two areas.

The Romans arrived in AD 48 and took 30 years to complete their conquest of Great Britain. Today there is evidence of Roman occupation in several areas of Wales.

Independent Wales

After the Romans left in AD 410, various Germanic tribes occupied England driving many of the British inhabitants westward into Wales. By the year 500 much of Wales had divided into kingdoms free from Anglo-Saxon rule. These independent Welsh successor states included the kingdoms of

  • Gwynedd,
  • Powys,
  • Dyfed and Seisyllwg,
  • Morgannwg and
  • Gwent

Statute of Rhuddlan of 1284

The Normans conquered England in 1066. Their attempts to conquer Wales began in 1075 and went on for over 200 years ending with the victory by King Edward I in 1283. The Statute of Rhuddlan of 1284 defined all of Wales as “annexed and united” to the English Crown and created counties. In effect Wales became England’s first colony until finally annexed through the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542 in the reign of King Henry VIII.

Modern geographic divisions of Wales include the Local Government (Wales) Act 1972 effective April 1, 1974, and lastly the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, which was effective April 1, 1996.

Historic (Ancient) Counties

King Edward I in 1284, by the Statute of Rhduddian, created the first four counties, Anglesey, Caernarfonshire, Flintshire and Merionethshire. Others were added over time. The Local Government Act 1972 effective April 1, 1974, abolished these historic and administrative counties. Their territory was realigned into newly formed counties.

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