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History of local government in Wales


History of local government in Wales

The history of local government Wales in a recognisably modern form emerged during the late 19th century.


  • Local Government Act 1888 1
    • Administrative counties 1.1
    • County boroughs 1.2
  • Local Government Act 1972: Counties and districts 2
    • Counties 2.1
    • Districts 2.2
  • 1996 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5

Local Government Act 1888

From 1889 to 1974, counties made up of administrative counties and county boroughs were used for local government purposes. The counties were created by the Local Government Act 1888 (51 & 52 Vict, c. 41) based on the historic counties of Wales, but they were not entirely identical.

Administrative counties

The table shows the area and population of administrative counties in Wales as recorded at the censuses of 1891 and 1961.[1][2]

Administrative county Area 1891
(Statute acres)
Population 1891 Area 1961
(Statute acres)
Population 1961
Anglesey 175,836 50,098 176,694 51,705
Brecknockshire 469,894 51,393 469,281 55,185
Cardiganshire 443,071 63,467 443,189 53,648
Carmarthenshire 587,816 130,566 588,271 168,008
Caernarfonshire(1) 360,138 117,233 364,108 121,767
Denbighshire 424,235 118,843 427,978 174,151
Flintshire 164,051 77,277 163,707 150,082
Glamorgan 505,815 467,954 468,808 523,253
Merionethshire 427,810 49,212 422,372 38,310
Monmouthshire 342,548 203,347 346,779 336,556
Montgomeryshire 510,111 58,003 510,110 41,165
Pembrokeshire 392,710 88,296 393,008 94,124
Radnorshire 301,164 21,791 301,165 18,471

(1)Renamed from Carnarvonshire, 1 July 1926[3]

County boroughs

There were also a number of administratively independent county boroughs:

  • Cardiff created in 1889 (associated with Glamorgan)
  • Swansea, created in 1889 (associated with Glamorgan)
  • Newport, separated from Monmouthshire in 1891
  • Merthyr Tydfil, separated from Glamorgan in 1908
County borough Area 1911
(Statute acres)
Population 1911 Area 1961
(Statute acres)
Population 1961
Cardiff 6,373 182,259 15,085 256,582
Merthyr Tydfil 17,761 80,990 17,760 59,039
Newport 4,504 83,691 7,691 112,298
Swansea 5,202 114,663 21,600 167,322

Local Government Act 1972: Counties and districts

In 1974, the existing administrative counties and county boroughs were abolished and replaced by eight new two-tier authorities, instead called 'counties' by the Local Government Act 1972 (1972 c. 70). These counties were sub-divided into lower-tier districts.

The counties were all given names in English names as well as Welsh. The creation of these new administrative areas effectively separated the administrative function from the traditional counties, although in reality this had occurred in 1889.

When these two-tier counties were abolished in 1996, their names and areas were retained with slight modifications for some purposes such as Lieutenancy, and became known as the preserved counties of Wales. These were further amended in 2003 by S.I. 2003/974 to ensure that each unitary area is wholly within one preserved county.


  1. Gwent
  2. South Glamorgan
    (De Morgannwg)
  3. Mid Glamorgan
    (Morgannwg Ganol)
  4. West Glamorgan
    (Gorllewin Morgannwg)
  5. Dyfed
  6. Powys
  7. Gwynedd
  8. Clwyd


The counties were sub-divided into districts, these were:


The redistribution of these districts into the current unitary authorities is as follows:

Unitary authority Previous districts
Blaenau Gwent most of Blaenau Gwent
Bridgend most of Ogwr
Caerphilly Islwyn, Rhymney Valley
Carmarthenshire Carmarthen, Llanelli, Dinefwr
Cardiff Cardiff, part of Taff–Ely
Ceredigion Ceredigion
Conwy Aberconwy, most of Colwyn
Denbighshire Rhuddlan, parts of Glyndwr and Colwyn
Flintshire Alyn and Deeside, Delyn
Gwynedd Arfon, Dwyfor, Meirionnydd
Isle of Anglesey Anglesey
Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr Tydfil
Monmouthshire Monmouth, part of Blaenau Gwent
Neath Port Talbot Neath, Port Talbot, parts of Lliw Valley
Newport Newport
Pembrokeshire Preseli Pembrokeshire, South Pembrokeshire
Powys Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire, Brecknock, part of Glyndwr
Rhondda Cynon Taf Rhondda, Cynon Valley, most of Taff-Ely
Swansea Swansea, parts of Lliw Valley
Torfaen Torfaen
Vale of Glamorgan most of Vale of Glamorgan
Wrexham most of Wrexham, parts of Glyndwr

See also


  1. ^ Census of England and Wales 1891, Vol. I, Table III. Administrative Counties and County Boroughs; Area, and Houses and Population in 1891 (Historic GIS Project, Queen's University, Belfast)[3]
  2. ^ 1961 Census England and Wales: County Reports ( [4]
  3. ^ 1931 Census of England and Wales, county report for Caernarvonshire
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