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Welsh: Sir Faesyfed
Pre-1974 extent of Radnorshire
 • 1831272,128 acres (1,101.26 km2)
 • 1911301,165 acres (1,218.77 km2)
 • 1961301,165 acres (1,218.77 km2)
 • 183124,651[1]
 • 190123,281
 • 197118,271
 • 201125,821
 • 18310.1/acre
 • Created1542
 • Abolished1974
 • Succeeded byRadnor
Statushistoric county, administrative county
Chapman codeRAD
GovernmentRadnorshire County Council (1889–1974)
 • HQPresteigne
 • MottoEwch yn Uwch
(Go Higher)
Coat of arms granted to Radnorshire County Council in 1954. Now used the Radnorshire Shire Committee of Powys County Council
 • TypeHundreds, sanitary districts, urban districts, rural districts

Radnorshire (Welsh: Sir Faesyfed) is a sparsely populated area, one of thirteen historic and former administrative counties of Wales. It is represented by the Radnorshire area of Powys, which according to the 2011 census, had a population of 25,821.[2] The historic county was bounded to the north by Montgomeryshire and Shropshire, to the east by Herefordshire, to the south by Brecknockshire and to the west by Cardiganshire.

The county was formed from the cantrefs of Maelienydd and Elfael and the commotes of Gwrtheyrnion and Deuddwr (the area formerly known as Rhwng Gwy a Hafren) by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542. New Radnor was the original county town, although the assizes sat at the Shire Hall in Presteigne and the County Council met at Llandrindod Wells. Most administrative functions, and later the District Council, were based at Llandrindod Wells, which is currently the largest settlement.

The administrative county formed under the Local Government Act 1888 was abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, with its area forming the Radnor district of Powys.[3][4] The district was renamed Radnorshire in 1989. Since Powys became a unitary authority in 1996, Radnorshire has been one of three areas formed under a decentralisation scheme. A "shire committee" consisting of councillors elected for electoral divisions within the former district of Radnorshire exercises functions delegated by Powys County Council.[5]


In the east and south are some comparatively level tracts, including the Vale of Radnor, but much of the county is forest, moorland and low mountains, with the Cambrian Mountains running through the west of the county beyond Rhayader. The Radnor Forest is a slightly isolated dome of hills in the middle of the county near the village of New Radnor, and includes the highest ground in the county. Here is found the county top of Great Rhos, at a height of 660 metres (2,170 ft) above sea level. The Elan Valley contains several huge man-made reservoirs supplying water to Birmingham. The main rivers are the Wye, the Teme, the Elan and the Ithon. The Teme forms the boundary with Shropshire.

The chief towns are Knighton, Llandrindod Wells, Presteigne and Rhayader. The backbone of local incomes are tourism, hill farming and the public sector such as care, education and road/public land maintenance. Sheep, dairy/cattle and poultry farming provide more revenue than crops which like much of Scotland, the Pennines and Wales receive more than national average precipitation and can be subject to late frosts.



On the creation of the county it was divided into six hundreds. The names of the hundreds, which were not always consistently spelt, were as follows:[6]

  • Colwyn
  • Cefnllys (Kevenlleece or Cevnllŷs)
  • Knighton
  • Painscastle
  • Radnor
  • Rhaiadr (or Rhayader)

Local government districts[edit]

Poor law unions[edit]

In the 19th century new structures of local administration were introduced. The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 grouped parishes into poor law unions. While these were not themselves local authorities, their boundaries were to later be used to define local government districts. PLUs did not conform to county boundaries, but consisted of catchment areas for workhouses. Most of Radnorshire was included in the three unions of Knighton, Presteigne and Rhayader.[7] Parishes on the edges of the county were included in unions based in other counties: Builth and Hay on Wye in Brecknockshire and Kington in Herefordshire.

Local boards of health[edit]

There were no town councils in the county until 1850, when a local board was formed at Knighton.[8] Similar bodies were later formed at Llandrindod Wells (originally named Trefonen) and Presteigne in 1891.[9][10]

Sanitary districts[edit]

The Public Health Act 1875 divided England and Wales into sanitary districts, each governed by a sanitary authority. Instead of creating new bodies, existing local board districts became urban sanitary districts (USDs) and the remaining areas of poor law unions became rural sanitary districts (RSDs). The existing local board or poor law guardians became the sanitary authority for their area. By 1891 therefore, Radnorshire was divided between the following sanitary districts:

  • Builth RSD (part)
  • Hay RSD (part)
  • Kington RSD (Part)
  • Knighton RSD
  • Knighton USD
  • Llandrindod Wells USD
  • Presteigne RSD (dissolved in 1877, with parishes redistributed to Kington and Knighton RSDs)[11]
  • Presteigne USD
  • Rhayader RSD

Urban and rural districts[edit]

Urban and rural districts of Radnorshire 1894 - 1974:
a) Llandrindod Wells UD, b) Knighton UD, c) Presteigne UD, 1) Rhayader RD, 2) Knighton RD 3) New Radnor RD, 4) Colwyn RD, 5) Painscastle RD

The Local Government Act 1894 created urban districts (UDs) and rural districts (RDs) in place of the sanitary districts. Directly elected urban and rural district councils became the governing bodies. The new districts were identical to the sanitary districts, with the exception that where a RSD was divided by a county boundary it was split into separate rural district in each county. Radnorshire was divided into eight UDs and RDs, which were unchanged until their abolition in 1974:

Coat of arms[edit]

Until 1954 Radnorshire County Council used a version of the arms of the Mortimers, Earls of March: Barry of six or and azure on a chief of the last two pallets azure between as may gyrons of the first.[12][13] The council received a grant of armorial bearings by the College of Arms in 1954.[14] The arms were made up of charges from local families. A gold reguardant lion on red was for Elystan Glodrhydd, Prince of Wales c. 1000; black boars' heads on white for his son Cadwgan. Around these was placed a gold and blue compony bordure based on the Mortimer arms. The motto adopted by the county council was Ewch yn Uwch ("Go Higher"). In 1974 the arms were transferred to Radnor District Council.[15] In 1996 the arms were transferred a second time to Powys County Council, for use by the Radnorshire Shire Committee.[16]

History and culture[edit]

The geographic territory of the historic county roughly corresponds with the Welsh territory of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren which fell under the control of the Marcher Lords at the end of the 11th Century. Radnorshire was a poor county and has been an historical backwater but occasionally has drifted to the forefront of history. The most notable historic events are the founding of Cwmhir Abbey and the Battle of Bryn Glas, fought on 22 June 1402 during the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr.

The county's poverty was remarked upon thus in the 17th century by an anonymous visitor:

Poor Radnorsheer, poor Radnorsheer,
Never a park, and never a deer,
Never a squire of five hundred a year,
Save Richard Fowler of Abbey-Cwm-hir

Apart from a handful of parishes along the English border the Welsh language remained the first language of the county well into the second half of the eighteenth century.[17] By 1850 the language had retreated to the western parishes of Rhayader, Llanyre, Cwmdauddwr, St Harmon and Nantmel.[6] By 1900 Welsh was still spoken by a sizeable minority west of the town of Rhayader, the language disappearing as the century progressed. Of course there were Welsh speakers living in Radnorshire who had come from other parts of Wales, and today their number has been swelled by children being educated through the medium of Welsh in school.

Until the Acts of Union, Radnor was outside the Principality of Wales. This peculiar Marcher status and its want of Welsh speakers gave weight to the traditional local expression, "Neither Wales nor England, just Radnorsheer"[18]

The renowned 18th-century artist Thomas Jones was born in the area, in Cefnllys, Radnorshire.


The former Gwalia Hotel in Ithon Road, Llandrindod Wells: headquarters of Radnorshire County Council from 1950 to 1974

From an early stage the full county council established a tradition of holding its meetings at the Pump House Hotel on Spa Road East in Llandrindod Wells.[19] However, the county council also needed premises for council officers and their departments and established the "County Buildings" in the High Street at Llandrindod Wells in 1909.[20] The county council then moved their staff to larger offices at the former Gwalia Hotel in Ithon Road in 1950: the former hotel remained the county council headquarters until the county council was abolished in 1974.[20][21]

Places of special interest[edit]

St Mary's Church, Pilleth

Principal towns and villages[edit]

No centre in Radnorshire exceeds a population of 6,000; only one (Llandrindod Wells) exceeds 5,000:

Culture and Community[edit]

The Radnorshire Society was established in 1930 to promote the study of the archaeology and history of the county.

The Royal Welsh Show takes place each July at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Showground at Llanelwedd. The show lasts for four days and attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually.

Radnor Young Farmers Club has 13 clubs throughout the county. It is affiliated to the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs.

The Radnorshire Museum website, in Llandrindod Wells, collects, preserves and interprets the rich cultural heritage of Radnorshire. This is reflected in its diverse collections of Geology, Palaeontology, Archaeology, Natural History, Social History and Fine Art.

The Radnorshire Wildlife Trust manages 17 nature reserves across the county.

The Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival is held annually at the end of August. It offers open-air and street theatre and music, a fairground, craft fair, historical re-enactment, entertainments at the Albert Hall and exhibitions of old items.

Notable people[edit]

Eleanor Bufton (b. Llanbister 2 June 1842 – d. London 9 April 1893), actress, spent most of her career in London, playing in Shakespeare, Victorian burlesque, and a range of drama and comedy roles.

John Corrie Carter (b. Birmingham 29 December 1839 – d. Rhayader 5 June 1927), barrister, author, sportsman, High Sheriff

Chaz Davies (b. Knighton 10 Feb 1987), motorcycle racer, was the 2011 World Supersport champion and 2011 BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year.

Thomas Jones (b. Cefnllys 26 September 1742 - d 29 April 1803), landscape painter, works broke with the conventions of classical landscape painting in favour of direct observation.

Sir Harford Jones-Brydges (b. Presteigne 12 January 1764 - d. Presteigne 17 March 1847), diplomat and author, lifelong interest in the welfare of the Persians and the natives of India.

Emmeline Lewis Lloyd (b. Nantgwyllt 18 November 1827 - d. London 22 September 1913), alpine mountaineer, first woman to climb Monte Viso.

Radnorshire Diaspora[edit]

Poverty and agricultural change, decline and industrial progress elsewhere has always made Radnorshire a place of net emigration. Emigrants employed the name of the county in the United States:

Others may have formed part of the Welsh community in Patagonia.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vision of Britain - 1831 Census
  2. ^ "Powys County Council - Census" (PDF). Retrieved 18 December 2007.
  3. ^ Local Government Act 1972 c.70 s.20 and 216
  4. ^ "Local Government Reorganisation". Hansard 1803 - 2005. 15 December 1972. Retrieved 26 July 2008.
  5. ^ "Article 10 - Shire Committees" (PDF). Articles of the Constitution. Powys County Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Radnor - Radnorshire". A Topographical Dictionary of Wales. British history Online. 1849. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  7. ^ "Poor Law: Board of Guardians". Archives Office. Powys County Council. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  8. ^ "Knighton". Kelly's Directory of Monmouthshire and South Wales. Historical Directories. 1895. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  9. ^ Census of England and Wales 1901, County Report, Radnorshire
  10. ^ "Presteigne". Kelly's Directory of Monmouthshire and South Wales. Historical Directories. 1895. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  11. ^ "Presteigne Registration District". GENUKI. UKBMD. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  12. ^ A C Fox-Davies, The Book of Public Arms, 2nd edition, London 1915
  13. ^ Mary O'Regan, Heraldry of the Old Welsh Counties, Part 2, in Aspects of Heraldry, Vol.9, Yorkshire Heraldry Society, 1995
  14. ^ Geoffrey Briggs, Civic and Corporate Heraldry, London, 1971
  15. ^ "Radnorshire District Council". Civic Heraldry of England and Wales. Retrieved 26 July 2008.
  16. ^ "The Local Authorities (Armorial Bearings) (No. 2) (Wales) Order 1996 (S.I. 1996 No. 1930)". Office of Public Sector Information. 1996. Retrieved 26 July 2008.
  17. ^ F G Payne, Crwydro Sir Faesyfed Vol I (1966) & Vol II (1968), Llandybïe
  18. ^ "Judges Lodgings". Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  19. ^ "Radnorshire County Council". Powys: a day in the life. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  20. ^ a b "County Buildings, Llandrindod Wells". History Points. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  21. ^ "Gwalia Hotel; Radnor District Council Offices (30680)". Coflein. RCAHMW. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  22. ^ "Stanner Rocks National Nature Reserve (in Powys), Near Kington, Herefordshire". www.first-nature.com. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  23. ^ "Rare Radnor lily spotted at Stanner Rocks quarry". 18 February 2019 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  24. ^ "Radnor Township". Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2007.

Further reading[edit]

The leading texts on Radnorshire history are:

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°15′N 3°15′W / 52.250°N 3.250°W / 52.250; -3.250