Unitary authority in southeast Wales. A former county, between 1974 and 1996 it became (except for a small area on the border with Mid Glamorgan) the county of Gwent.
Area 851 sq km/328 sq mi
TownsCwmbran (administrative headquarters), Chepstow, Abergavenny, Caldicot, and Monmouth
Physical rivers Wye and Usk; mountainous in north
FeaturesChepstow (1067), Raglan (1435), and Caldicot (11th century) castles; Tintern Abbey (1131), salmon and trout fishing; peak of Pen-y-Fal or Sugar Loaf (596 m/1,955 ft), Wye Valley
Industries manufacturing including electronic and electrical goods, brewing, forestry, financial and service sectors, development of tourism
Agriculture lowlands have rich mixed farming, with arable crops, including wheat; generally employment in agriculture is declining
Population (2001) 84,900
Topography The coast of Monmouthshire is exposed to high spring tides which rush up the Severn in a ‘bore’ from the Bristol Channel, rising at Chepstow sometimes to 18 m/60 ft. The southern part, east and west of the Usk, comprises the Caldicot and Wentloog levels, which are protected from the sea by sea walls. North of the Caldicot level, between the Usk and the Wye, the surface is undulating. The north of the county is more mountainous. About 7 km/4.3 mi from Abergavenny is the peaked mountain called Pen-y-Fal or Sugar Loaf (596 m/1,955 ft), over 8.1 sq km/3.1 sq mi of which have been presented to the National Trust. Between Abergavenny and Usk is the wooded hill-fort of Coed-y-Bonedd, one of several Monmouthshire camps. Skirrid Fawr (486 m/1,595 ft), known locally as the Holy Mountain, has views of the Black Mountains, the Usk valley, and the Sugar Loaf.
Historical features During the Roman occupation the only Roman town in Wales was built at Caerwent. There are also ruins of feudal strongholds at Chepstow, Caldicot, Raglan, and elsewhere, and the remains of Tintern Abbey and the Cistercian abbey of Llanthony are here.
Political history Medieval Monmouthshire was undoubtedly Welsh. The Act of Union of 1536 created the original county out of ‘divers Lordships Marchers within the said Country or Dominion of Wales’. Later, in the Tudor period, it was brought under the jurisdiction of the courts of Westminster in certain matters, while separate courts were provided for the rest of Wales. It has been included in Wales since 1964 when the description Wales and Monmouthshire was dropped.
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