Wales (Welsh: De Cymru) is the region of
Wales bordered by
England and the
Bristol Channel to the east and south, and Mid Wales
Wales to the north and west. The most densely populated
region in the southwest of the United Kingdom, it is home to around
2.2 million people. The region contains almost three-quarters of
the population of Wales, including the capital city of Cardiff
(population approximately 400,000), as well as
Swansea and Newport,
with populations approximately 250,000 and 150,000 respectively. The
Brecon Beacons national park covers about a third of South Wales,
containing Pen y Fan, the highest mountain south of Snowdonia.
The region is loosely defined, but it is generally considered to
include the historic counties of
Glamorgan and Monmouthshire,
sometimes extending westwards to include
Pembrokeshire. In the western extent, from
Swansea westwards, local
people would probably recognise that they lived in both south Wales
Wales — there is considerable overlap in these somewhat
artificial boundaries. Areas to the north of the
Brecon Beacons and
Black Mountains are generally considered part of Mid Wales.
3.1 Industrialised areas in the 19th and 20th centuries
6 Industry today
9 Local media
11 See also
The expression 'south Wales' is not officially defined, and its
meaning has changed over time.
Statute of Rhuddlan of 1284 and the Laws in
1535, crown land in
Wales formed the Principality of Wales. This was
divided into a Principality of South
Wales and a Principality of North
Wales. The southern principality was made up of the counties of
Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, areas that had previously been part of
the Welsh kingdom of
Deheubarth ('the southern land'). The legal
responsibility for this area lay in the hands of the Justiciar of
Wales based at Carmarthen. Other parts of southern
Wales were in
the hands of various Marcher Lords.
The Laws in
Wales Acts 1542 created the Court of Great Sessions in
Wales based on four legal circuits. The
Brecon circuit served the
counties of Brecknockshire,
Glamorgan while the
Carmarthen circuit served Cardiganshire,
Monmouthshire was attached to the Oxford circuit for
judicial purposes. These seven southern counties were thus
differentiated from the six counties of north Wales.
The Court of the Great Sessions came to an end in 1830, but the
counties survived until the
Local Government Act 1972
Local Government Act 1972 which came into
operation in 1974. The creation of the county of
Powys merged one
northern county (Montgomeryshire) with two southern ones (Breconshire
There are thus different concepts of south Wales.
Monmouthshire are generally accepted by all as being in south Wales.
But the status of Breconshire or Carmarthenshire, for instance, is
more debatable. In the western extent, from
Swansea westwards, local
people might feel that they live in both south
Wales and west Wales.
Areas to the north of the
Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains are
generally considered to be in Mid Wales.
A further point of uncertainty is whether the first element of the
name should be capitalized: 'south Wales' or 'South Wales'. As the
name is a geographical expression rather than a specific area with
well-defined borders, style guides such as those of the BBC and The
Guardian use the form 'south Wales'.
The most densely populated region in the southwest of the United
Kingdom, it is home to around 2.2 million people. The region
contains almost three-quarters of the population of Wales, including
the capital city of
Cardiff (population approximately 400,000), as
Swansea and Newport, with populations approximately 250,000
and 150,000 respectively. The
Brecon Beacons national park covers
about a third of South Wales, containing Pen y Fan, the highest
mountain south of Snowdonia.
Wales Valleys and upland mountain ridges were once a very
rural area noted for its river valleys and ancient forests and lauded
by romantic poets such as
William Wordsworth as well as poets in the
Welsh language, although the interests of the latter lay more in
society and culture than in the evocation of natural scenery. This
natural environment changed to a considerable extent during the early
Industrial Revolution when the
areas were exploited for coal and iron. By the 1830s, hundreds of tons
of coal were being transported by barge to ports in
Newport. In the 1870s, coal was transported by rail transport networks
to Newport Docks, at the time the largest coal exporting docks in the
world, and by the 1880s coal was being exported from Barry, Vale of
The Marquess of Bute, who owned much of the land north of Cardiff,
built a steam railway system on his land that stretched from Cardiff
into many of the South
Wales Valleys where the coal was being found.
Lord Bute then charged fees per ton of coal that was transported out
using his railways. With coal mining and iron smelting being the main
trades of south Wales, many thousands of immigrants from the Midlands,
Cornwall and even
Italy came and set up homes and
put down roots in the region. Very many came from other coal mining
areas such as Somerset, the
Forest of Dean
Forest of Dean in
Gloucestershire and the
tin mines of
Cornwall such as Geevor
Tin Mine, as a large but
experienced and willing workforce was required. Whilst some of the
migrants left, many settled and established in the South
Abergavenny as English-speaking communities with a
unique identity. Industrial workers were housed in cottages and
terraced houses close to the mines and foundries in which they worked.
The large influx over the years caused overcrowding which led to
outbreaks of Cholera, and on the social and cultural side, the
near-loss of the
Welsh language in the area.
The 1930s inter-war Great Depression in the
United Kingdom saw the
loss of almost half of the coal pits in the South
Wales Coalfield, and
their number declined further in the years following World War II.
This number is now very low, following the UK miners' strike
(1984–85), and the last 'traditional' deep-shaft mine, Tower
Colliery, closed in January 2008.
Despite the intense industrialisation of the coal mining valleys, many
parts of the landscape of South
Wales such as the upper
the Vale of
Glamorgan and the valleys of the
River Usk and River Wye
remain distinctly beautiful and unspoilt and have been designated
Special Scientific Interest. In addition, many once heavily
industrialised sites have reverted to wilderness, some provided with a
series of cycle tracks and other outdoor amenities. Large areas of
forestry and open moorland also contribute to the amenity of the
View north into Cwm Llwch from Corn Du, in the
Industrialised areas in the 19th and 20th centuries
Merthyr Tydfil (Welsh: Merthyr Tudful) grew around the Dowlais
Ironworks which was founded to exploit the locally abundant seams of
iron ore, and in time it became the largest iron producing town in the
world. New coal mines were sunk nearby to feed the furnaces and in
time produced coal for export. By the 1831 census, the population of
Merthyr was 60,000—more at that time than Cardiff,
Newport combined—and its industries included coal mines, iron works,
cable factory, engine sheds and sidings and many others. The town was
also the birthplace of Joseph Parry, composer of the song Myfanwy.
Heads of the Valleys
Heads of the Valleys towns, including Rhymney,
Tredegar and Ebbw
Vale, rose out of the industrial revolution, producing coal, metal
ores and later steel.
Aberfan: The Merthyr Vale colliery began to produce coal in 1875.
Spoil from the mine workings was piled on the hills close to the
village which grew nearby. Tipping went on until the 1960s. The
industry was by then nationalised, but even the National
failed to appreciate the danger they created. In October 1966, heavy
rain made the giant coal tip unstable. The recent dumping of small
particles of coal and ash known as 'tailings' seems to have been
partly responsible. A 30-foot-high (9 m) black wave tore downhill
Glamorganshire Canal and swept away houses on its path
towards the village school. 114 children and 28 adults were killed.
Rhondda Valleys (
Rhondda Fach and
Rhondda Fawr) housed around
3,000 people in 1860 but by 1910 the population had soared to 160,000.
Rhondda had become the heart of a massive South
industry. Mining accidents below ground were common and in 1896
fifty-seven men and boys were killed in a gas explosion at the
Tylorstown Colliery. An enquiry found that the pit involved had not
been properly inspected over the previous 15 months.
Ebbw Vale, the valley of the
Ebbw River which stretches from the town
Ebbw Vale to Newport, includes the mining towns and villages of
Newbridge, Risca, Crumlin,
Abercarn and Cwmcarn. The Carboniferous
Black Vein coal seams in the area lay some 900 feet (275 metres) below
the surface and the mining activity associated with it was responsible
for many tragic subsurface explosions, roof collapses and mining
Now the Valleys' heavy industrial past is overprinted with urban
regeneration, tourism and multi-national investment. Large factory
units, either empty or turned over to retail use, bear witness to the
lack of success in replacing older industries.
Bilingual road markings near
Cardiff Airport, Vale of Glamorgan
The native language of the majority of people in South
English, but there are many who also speak Welsh. In western parts of
Glamorgan, particularly the
Swansea Valleys, there remain
significant Welsh-speaking communities such as
Ystalyfera, which share a heritage with other ex-anthracite mining
areas in eastern Carmarthenshire, as much as with the Glamorgan
The local slang, dialect and phrases of the south
communities have been referred to as 'Wenglish', and are often used
with comic effect. The dialect is found in such coastal towns as
Barry, as featured in the
BBC comedy series, Gavin & Stacey.
Welsh is now a compulsory language up to
GCSE level for all students
who start their education in Wales. Several secondary schools offering
Welsh medium education operate in this area, for example Ysgol Gyfun
Llanhari in Pontyclun,
Ysgol Gyfun Y Cymmer
Ysgol Gyfun Y Cymmer in
Porth in the Rhondda,
Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun
Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun in
Penywaun in the Cynon Valley, Ysgol Gyfun
Gwynllyw in Pontypool,
Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni
Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni in Blackwood, Ysgol
Gymraeg Plasmawr in
Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg
Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg in Church
A significant number of people from ethnic minority communities speak
another language as their first language, particularly in
Newport. Commonly spoken languages in some areas include Punjabi,
Bengali, Arabic, Somali and Chinese, and increasingly Central European
languages such as Polish.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries there was a vigorous literary and
musical culture centred round eisteddfodau. Despite a few
timid attempts to emulate this literature in English, it can be argued
that few writers seem to connect with either the landscape or the
literary tradition. The one exception, to some extent, can be
considered to be Dylan Thomas.
Wales landscape is marked by numerous chapels, places of
worship (past and present) of the various Christian Nonconformist
Baptist congregation at Ilston, Gower, moved to
Swansea, Massachusetts, but after the restoration of the Anglican
worship with the issue of the
Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer in 1662, several
"gathered" churches survived belonging to the Baptist, Independent and
Presbyterian denominations. In the 18th century members of some of
these congregations became dissatisfied with the theological
innovations of some trained ministers, and created new congregations
such as that at
Hengoed near Ystrad Mynach. In the same century,
churches were sometimes involved in the
Methodist movement, especially
at Groeswen and Watford near Caerphilly, which both received frequent
visits from John Wesley The largest denomination, however,
became the Calvinist Methodists (later the
Presbyterian Church of
Wales), whose distinctive grey stone chapels can be seen in many
These were mainly Welsh-language congregations. Anglicanism in south
Wales became autonomous from the Church of
England with the Welsh
Church Act 1914, but the immediate demise of the denomination feared
at that time has not taken place in the Church in Wales. There
are a number of Brethren Assemblies in
Cardiff and in the
Presbyterian Churches in Rhiwderin, near Newport and at
Merthyr Tydfil. The
Roman Catholic community, despite systematic
persecution, survived in the 17th to 19th centuries, especially in
Brecon and among minor gentry such as the Vaughans of Welsh Bicknor,
on the Monmouthshire–Herefordshire border. Among members of
foreign origin of later urban Catholic congregations were the Bracchi,
Italians in the café and catering trades often from Bardi in the
Post-war diversity has brought mosques, especially in
Sikh gurdwaras, including one on the mountain near Abercynon
and a growing number of
These often add a strongly international element into local life, such
as the "Pont" twinning project between
Pontypridd and Mbale, Uganda,
and the creation of "Fairtrade" relationships with primary producers
The former heavy industries of coal and iron production have
disappeared since the economic struggles of the 1970s, with the
closures of that decade continuing sharply into the 1980s, and by July
1985 just 31 coal pits remained in the region. Further closures
left the region with just one deep mine by the early 1990s, and
this finally closed in January 2008, by which time it had transferred
to private ownership after being sold off by the National Coal
These industries have since largely been replaced by service sector
The cities along the
M4 corridor are home to a number of high-profile
blue-chip companies such as Admiral Insurance, Legal & General and
the Welsh-based Principality Building Society. A large number of
telephone call centres are located in the region and in particular in
the Valleys area.
Merthyr Tydfil is home to the principal UK call
centre for German mobile telephone company, T-Mobile. Many jobs are
also provided in small-scale and family businesses. It is clear
from anecdotal personal contacts, apart from official figures, that
the new industries have so far failed to cope with the task of
providing stable employment for the large number of employable people
resident in the area.
The television and film sectors are fast becoming a major industry in
South Wales, with the development, by the BBC, of a vast dedicated
production studio in Nantgarw, near Pontypridd, for the highly
Doctor Who series. Lord Attenborough is shortly[when?] due
to open the first completely new film studio in the UK in over fifty
years. Dragon International
Film Studios, a huge purpose-built studio
complex located alongside the
M4 motorway between
Llantrisant, contains a number of large soundstages which have already
attracted the interest of a number of
Hollywood directors and
producers alike, looking for suitable facilities in Europe.[citation
Served by the South
Wales Main Line and associated branches such as
the Valley Lines. The Intercity 125 High Speed Train (HST) introduced
British Rail is the mainstay of services between
Swansea and London
The busiest stations are
Cardiff Queen Street,
Newport and Swansea.
The line from
Cardiff to Paddington is being electrified.
There are many areas devoted to mixed farming reflecting the nature of
the topography of South Wales.
Dairying is still undertaken in the
coastal areas such as the
Gower and Vale of
Glamorgan where there is
also some arable farming production. Inland hill farms would be
devoted to sheep.
Radio stations in the area include:
Heart South Wales
Capital 97.4 & 103.2
96.4 The Wave
Swansea Bay Radio
97.1 Radio Carmarthenshire
102.5 Radio Pembrokeshire
107.9 GTFM community radio Pontypridd
97.5 Scarlet FM
106.3 Bridge FM
BBC Radio Wales
BBC Radio Cymru
The Welsh national media is based in Cardiff, with the BBC, ITV and
S4C all having their main studios and offices in the capital.
Cardiff also has its own television station, Capital TV, based in the
Link Trade Park in Penarth Road, Cardiff. The channel broadcasts to
Cardiff on terrestrial frequency 49. The company runs
alongside a local media studies centre, Media4Schools which produces
small videos in co-operation with local schools (CardiffTV4School and
The countryside of the Vale of Glamorgan
Section of the south-eastern
Cardiff from the
Cardiff Eye (60m
The Big Pit National
Coal Museum at
Blaenavon – exhibiting South
Wales' economic past in coal mining
The view from
Ebbw Vale in the South
Wales Coastline overlooking the
Bristol Channel at Llantwit
Sunny Porthcawl, showing the seafront
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for South Wales.
South East Wales
Geography of Wales
Subdivisions of Wales
Wales Police and Crime Commissioner
New South Wales
New South Wales in Australia
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Ieuan, Caniadau Cwm Rhondda: Detholiad o Delynegion, Sonedau a
Chaneuon Cymraeg a Saesneg, London: Foyle's Welsh Depot, The rust has
gathered on the plough, The tide of Autumn here is high, The hills are
at their reddest now ... .
^ Davies, Aneurin Talfan (1955), Crwydro Sir Gâr, Llandybie:
Llyfrau'r Dryw, pp. 104ff .
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y Drindod a Duwdod Crist, yn bennaf yn ei pherthynas â Chymru,
Liverpool: Gwasg y Brython .
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^ Wesley, John (1903), Journal (abridged ed.), London .
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Directory. Great Smith Street, London SW1, 1999: Church House
Publishing. 2000–2001. .
^ Cusack O'Keefe, Madge (1970), Four Martyrs of South
Wales and the
Marches, Archdiocese of Cardiff .
^ A Mill Hill Father (1969) , Remembered in Blessing: The
Courtfield Story, London: Sands & Co, Until the 1890s Courtfield
Welsh Bicknor parish were part of Monmouthshire, and hence in
South Wales .
^ popular accounts (display)format= requires url= (help), Cardiff:
St Fagans Museum .
^ "1984 strike", Events, UK: Agor .
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^ Business analysis with the former INDIS, Mid
Coordinates: 51°41′N 3°23′W / 51.683°N 3.383°W /