Was Caernarfonshire abolished when the new counties were created in 1974?
No! The Local Government Act of 1972 created eight new preserved counties to be used for local government purposes only between 1974 and 1996. This act abolished the administrative counties which came into effect in under the Local Government Act of 1888. Caernarfonshire existed between 1284 and 1888 before any county council law and without any county council! Here are some government quotes which confirm that only the administrative purposes of the county of Caernarfon have been abolished: –
▪ The new county boundaries are administrative areas, and will not alter the traditional boundaries of counties, nor is it intended that the loyalties of people living in them will change despite the different names adopted by the new administrative counties. (Government statement issued 1st April 1974 and printed in the Times newspaper)
▪ I can confirm that the government still stand by this statement,…. that the local authority areas and boundaries introduced in 1974 do not alter the boundaries of traditional boundaries of counties. The 1974 arrangements are entirely administrative, and need not affect long-standing loyalties and affinities. (Michael Portillo MP – Minister of State for Local Government – 11th July 1990)
▪ The Local Government Act 1972 did not abolish traditional counties, only administrative ones. Although for local government purposes some of the historic counties have ceased to be administrative areas, they continue to exist for other purposes, organisations and local groups. (Department of the Environment – 3rd September 1991)
▪ I can confirm that these Acts (1933, 1972) did not specifically abolish traditional counties so traditional counties still exist but no longer for the administration of local government… (Department for Communities and Local Government – 22nd August 2006)
▪ The legislation that currently defines counties for the purposes of the administration of local government is the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended by various Orders in the 1990s). This legislation abolished the previous administrative counties, which were established by the Local Government Act 1933. However, these Acts did not specifically abolish traditional counties, so traditional counties still exist, but no longer for the purpose of the administration of local government. (Parjit Dhanda MP, PUSS at the Department for Communities & Local Government – 16th April 2008)
So what are Gwynedd and Conwy, then?
Collectively, they are unitary authorities, created for the purpose of local government only – not proper counties!
The county motto of Caernarfonshire is “Cadernid Gwynedd” (The Strength of Gwynedd); the Gwynedd referred to here is the historic kingdom of Gwynedd. The historic kingdom comprised of Anglesey, Caernarfonshire, Merioneth and parts of Denbighshire and Flintshire. The boundaries of the historic kingdom would change constantly as territory was won and lost. People from all parts of the former kingdom should be proud of their Gwynedd heritage. In modern times, the name “Gwynedd” was revived in 1950 when the Caernarfonshire, Anglesey and Merionethshire Constabularies were merged as the “Gwynedd Constabulary”; in 1967, Gwynedd, Denbighsire and Flintshire Constabularies were united, again as “Gwynedd Constabulary”. In 1974, in an attempt to avoid confusion, the Gwynedd Constabulary was renamed North Wales Police. Gwynedd is an unitary authority that has been used for the purpose of local government since 1996. The preserved county of Gwynedd (used for local government between 1974 and 1996) is under the Lieutenancies Act 1997 and as a postal county, although, Royal Mail have ceased to use and discourage the use of postal counties on their addresses. Between 2013 and 2016, Royal Mail plan to delete the postal counties completely from their database. Gwynedd has many different meanings and ever-changing boundaries, making Gwynedd totally unsuitable for the purpose of general geography.
Conwy is essentially the name of a town and also the name of a river. Conwy is a unitary authority that has been used for the purpose of local government since 1996. The council, inappropriately, call themselves Conwy “County Borough” Council. All the councils of Wales are free to call themselves what they wish. While none of these are actual counties, Conwy County Borough Council, Denbighshire County Council and Cardiff Council with different names all have the same responsibilities as unitary authorities in Wales. It is not advisable to write Conwy on an address outside of the post town lest the mail would be delivered to the town itself (Royal Mail give the same advice). While most of us know which unitary authority we belong to, the same cannot be said about knowing everyone else’s unitary authority areas. I once knew a man who failed to arrive at a job interview in Betws y Coed because he got lost in the actual town of Conwy, eighteen miles away!
The Caernarfonshire Association discourages the incorrect use of the term “county” to describe unitary authorities as this causes confusion and diminishes the awareness of the historic counties.
Why should I care about Caernarfonshire?
Caernarfonshire is a part of our heritage and culture. Caernarfonshire has remained unchanged since 1284. Wales needs a fixed popular geography that is divorced from the ever changing administrative areas.
Were the historic counties not forced upon Wales due to her conquest by England?
In a way, but the actual boundaries of the historic counties are based on the ancient boundaries of cantrefs and commotes. The shire-ing of Wales was more of a rebranding than a completely new set of boundaries.
This is what the historian William Rees said in his “Historical Atlas of Wales”:
” … the boundaries of the modern shires have largely been determined by the ancient divisions of the country. The survival of these ancient local divisions within the pattern of historical change constitutes a vital element in the framework of the national life and helps to preserve its continuity.”
What can I do to promote Caernarfonshire?
The best way of promoting Caernarfonshire is to use the historic counties every time you give your address (it is usually not enough to give just the name of your town as there is a great chance that the person taking your address will write the unitary authority or soon to be completely abolished postal county instead of the proper county). It is now acceptable to use the historic counties on Royal Mail addresses. This instantly tells people which county you belong to and that you are proud of it. If you hear the media making incorrect use of Caernarfonshire or other historic counties, let them know (politely, of course). Likewise, if you receive mail with Gwynedd or Conwy used as the county, let then know that Gwynedd and Conwy are unitary authorities or a postal-county not proper counties. Direct them to the Gazetteer of British Place Names.
Is the Caernarfonshire Association campaigning for a local government re-organisation and to bring back the Caernarfonshire County Council?
No. Caernarfonshire exists as a separate entity to the County Council. The actual county has existed since 1284; the administrative county existed only between 1889 and 1974.
We would like to see the boundaries of the traditional counties respected however. Administrative units should not be partly in one county and partly in another. For example, Conwy unitary authority is partly in Caernarfonshire and partly in Denbighshire – we do not agree with this.
We want to see the traditional counties used for the purpose of general geography, sports and cultural events. The countries of Britain need a fixed popular geography that is divorced from the ever changing administrative areas.