Last updated
Welsh: Meirionnydd
Flag of Merionethshire.svg
Flag of Merionethshire
Ancient extent of Merionethshire
  1831385,291 acres (1,559.22 km2)
  1911/1961422,372 acres (1,709.28 km2)
  183135,315 [1]
  Succeeded by Meirionnydd
Chapman code MER
GovernmentMerionethshire County Council (1889-1974)
   HQ Dolgellau
   Motto Tra môr, tra Meirion
(While the sea lasts, so shall Meirionnydd)
Merioneth arms.png
Coat of arms of Merionethshire County Council

Merionethshire or Merioneth (Welsh : Meirionnydd or Sir Feirionnydd) is one of thirteen historic counties of Wales, a vice county and a former administrative county.



The spelling of the Welsh name in standard modern orthography is Meirionnydd (for the geographical area) or Sir Feirionnydd (for the county), with a double <nn>, but the variant with a single <n> is sometimes found in older works. [2] [3]

The name is derived from that of the earlier cantref of Meirionnydd. This supposedly took its name from Meirion, a grandson of Cunedda Wledig, who was granted the lordship of the area. [4]


Merionethshire is a maritime county, bounded to the north by Caernarfonshire, to the east by Denbighshire, to the south by Montgomeryshire and Cardiganshire, and to the west by Cardigan Bay. With a total area of 1,731 km² (668 sq miles), it is one of the more sparsely populated counties in Great Britain.

The Merioneth area remains one of the strongest Welsh-speaking parts of Wales, although places like Barmouth and Tywyn are very Anglicised. The coastline consists alternately of cliffs and stretches of sand and the area generally is the most mountainous in Wales; a large part of the Snowdonia National Park lies within it. The highest point (county top) is Aran Fawddwy near the village of Dinas Mawddwy at 905 m (2,970 ft), which is also the southernmost mountain in Great Britain to exceed an altitude of 900 metres. However, the mountain of Cadair Idris 893 m (2,929 ft) to the south of Dolgellau is better known and hugely popular with hillwalkers. Other mountains include Arenig Fawr and the Rhinogydd. The chief rivers are the Dwyryd, the Mawddach, the Dyfi and the Dee, while in the south the Dulas forms the county boundary. Waterfalls such as Pistyll Cain and small lakes are numerous, the largest being Bala Lake (4 miles long and 1-mile (1.6 km) broad).


The region which became Merionethshire previously constituted the Cantrefs of Meirionydd and Penllyn, and the Commote of Ardudwy. Prior to the 10th century, Ardudwy formed part of the principality of Dunoding, while Meirionydd and Penllyn were part of Powys.

Welsh records from the end of this period, and later, treat Dunoding as a vassal of Gwynedd, ruled by an ancient cadet branch of the same family. Nevertheless, according to John Edward Lloyd, Dunoding had been independent of Gwynedd, at the time of Cadfan ap Iago (in the early 7th century), and before.

The Norman presence in England, after 1066, was the most significant factor which disrupted this pattern.

In 1067, the rulers of Gwynedd and Powys invaded England, in support of Eadric the Wild, a leader of continued Saxon resistance against the Normans. When Northern England revolted against in 1080, the Normans responded by preemptively attacking, and then occupying Wales, to prevent any further Welsh assistance to the English. In 1094, the Welsh decided to revolt, but Hugh of Chester, the nearest Norman magnate, successfully re-captured North Wales by the end of 1098 (with Norwegian assistance).

Gruffudd ap Cynan, the heir to the principality of Gwynedd, came to an accommodation with the Normans, who restored him to power in Gwynedd, excepting the Perfeddwlad. Once Hugh died (in 1101), Gruffudd made further representations to King Henry I, who in response granted Dunodin to Gruffudd, as well. Gruffudd's sons engaged in expansionist attacks on surrounding territory, taking Meirionydd from Powys in 1123, and annexing it to Gwynedd.

Following the death of Madog ap Maredudd, the powerful ruler of Powys, and the death of his immediate heir, Madog's remaining sons divided Powys between them. Penllyn was the portion which went to Owain Brogyntyn. Unfortunately Owain was too weak, compared with his father, to resist Gwynedd's aggressive behaviour, and was forced to become a vassal of Owain Gwynedd, the son of Gruffudd who now ruled Gwynedd; Penllyn, as a result, became a mere Cantref of Gwynedd.

Dunoding is naturally divided in the middle, by Tremadog Bay and the gorges and marshland of the Glaslyn river; Ardudwy is the portion south of that divide. In the early 13th century, Llywelyn Fawr, Owain Gwynedd's grandson, established a distinct territorial unit comprising Ardudwy and Meirionydd (which is immediately south of Ardudwy), and gave it to his own son, Gruffydd, as an appanage. In 1221, however, Gruffydd was stripped of these lands for ruling them too oppressively.

In 1245, Gruffydd's half-brother, Dafydd, launched an attack against his uncle - King Henry III - eventually resulting in the loss of the Perfeddwlad. When Gruffydd's son, Llywelyn, allied with the enemies of Edward I (Henry's son) and tried to recover the Perfeddwlad, Edward launched a huge invasion of Gwynedd, resulting in the death of Llywelyn in 1282.

Two years later, in 1284, King Edward issued the Statute of Rhuddlan, terminating Gwynedd's existence as a state. The former appanage of Ardudwy-Merionydd, together with Penllyn, which had been part of Gwynedd for less than 150 years, were converted into Merionethshire (taking the name from Meirionydd).

Merioneth was an important part of the Welsh slate industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with major quarrying centres at Blaenau Ffestiniog in the north of the county and Corris in the south.

In 1947, ahead of his marriage to Princess Elizabeth, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten was created Earl of Merioneth, as well as Duke of Edinburgh and Baron Greenwich, by his father-in-law, King George VI.


An administrative county of Merioneth was created under the Local Government Act 1888 on 1 April 1889. The first election to the new authority was held in January 1889. [5] The county was abolished under the Local Government Act 1972 on 1 April 1974. The bulk formed the Meirionnydd district of Gwynedd, with a small area in the north east, Edeirnion Rural District, becoming part of the Glyndŵr district of Clwyd.

As a result of the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, which came into force on 1 April 1996, the Glyndŵr area was made a part of the new Denbighshire principal area, with the rest forming a new Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire principal area. The latter area was, however, renamed Gwynedd almost immediately. [6]

Main towns

The main towns are

The main industries today are agriculture, forestry and tourism.

Places of special interest (with grid reference)

See also

Related Research Articles

Rhys ap Gruffydd Prince of Deheubarth

Rhys ap Gruffydd or ap Gruffudd was the ruler of the kingdom of Deheubarth in south Wales from 1155 to 1197. Today, he is commonly known as The Lord Rhys, in Welsh Yr Arglwydd Rhys, although this title may have not been used in his lifetime. He usually used the title "Proprietary Prince of Deheubarth" or "Prince of South Wales", but two documents have been discovered in which he uses the title "Prince of Wales" or "Prince of the Welsh". Rhys was one of the most successful and powerful Welsh princes, and, after the death of Owain Gwynedd of Gwynedd in 1170, the dominant power in Wales.

Snowdonia Region in north Wales

Snowdonia is a mountainous region in northwestern Wales and a national park of 823 square miles (2,130 km2) in area. It was the first to be designated of the three national parks in Wales, in 1951. It contains the highest peaks in the United Kingdom outside Scotland.

Gruffudd ap Cynan King of Gwynedd

Gruffudd ap Cynan, sometimes written as Gruffydd ap Cynan, was King of Gwynedd from 1081 until his death in 1137. In the course of a long and eventful life, he became a key figure in Welsh resistance to Norman rule, and was remembered as King of all Wales. As a descendant of Rhodri Mawr, Gruffudd ap Cynan was a senior member of the princely House of Aberffraw.


Meirionnydd is a coastal and mountainous region of Wales. It has been a kingdom, a cantref, a district and, as Merionethshire, a county.

Kingdom of Gwynedd Kingdom in north Wales

The Kingdom of Gwynedd was a Roman Empire successor state that emerged in sub-Roman Britain in the 5th century during the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain.

Dolgellau Human settlement in Wales

Dolgellau is a town and community in Gwynedd, north-west Wales, lying on the River Wnion, a tributary of the River Mawddach. It is traditionally the county town of the historic county of Merionethshire, which lost its administrative status when Gwynedd was created in 1974. Dolgellau is the main base for climbers of Cadair Idris. Although very small, it is the second largest settlement in Southern Gwynedd after Tywyn. The community includes Penmaenpool.

Kingdom of Powys Medieval kingdom in Wales

The Kingdom of Powys was a Welsh successor state, petty kingdom and principality that emerged during the Middle Ages following the end of Roman rule in Britain. It very roughly covered the northern two-thirds of the modern county of Powys and part of today's English West Midlands. More precisely, and based on the Romano-British tribal lands of the Ordovices in the west and the Cornovii in the east, its boundaries originally extended from the Cambrian Mountains in the west to include the modern West Midlands region of England in the east. The fertile river valleys of the Severn and Tern are found here, and this region is referred to in later Welsh literature as "the Paradise of Powys".

Powys Fadog

Powys Fadog was the northern portion of the former princely realm of Powys, which split in two following the death of Madog ap Maredudd in 1160. The realm was divided under Welsh law, with Madog's nephew Owain Cyfeiliog inheriting the south and his son Gruffydd Maelor I, who inherited the north.

Perfeddwlad or Y Berfeddwlad was an historic name for the territories in Wales lying between the River Conwy and the River Dee. comprising the cantrefi of Rhos, Rhufoniog, Dyffryn Clwyd and Tegeingl. Perfeddwlad thus was also known as the Four Cantrefs.

Maredudd ap Cynan was the grandson of Owain Gwynedd, a king of Gwynedd and ruler of most of Wales in the 12th century.

History of Gwynedd during the High Middle Ages

The history of Gwynedd in the High Middle Ages is a period in the History of Wales spanning the 11th through the 13th centuries. Gwynedd, located in the north of Wales, eventually became the most dominant of Welsh principalities during this period. Distinctive achievements in Gwynedd include further development of Medieval Welsh literature, particularly poets known as the Beirdd y Tywysogion associated with the court of Gwynedd; the reformation of bardic schools; and the continued development of Cyfraith Hywel. All three of these further contributed to the development of a Welsh national identity in the face of Anglo-Norman encroachment of Wales.

Culture and Society in Gwynedd during the High Middle Ages refers to a period in the History of Wales spanning the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages. Gwynedd is located in the north of Wales.


Edeirnion or Edeyrnion is an area of the county of Denbighshire and an ancient commote of medieval Wales in the cantref of Penllyn. According to tradition, it was named after its eponymous founder Edern or Edeyrn. It was included as a Welsh territory of Shropshire in the Domesday Book.

Owain ab Edwin of Tegeingl or Owain Fradwr was lord of the cantref of Tegeingl in north-east Wales at the end of the 11th century. He was the son of Edwin of Tegeingl. He sided with the Normans in their failed invasion of North Wales, and in the 1090s attempted to become ruler of Gwynedd.

Conquest of Wales by Edward I English annexation of Wales, 1277 to 1283

The conquest of Wales by Edward I, sometimes referred to as the Edwardian Conquest of Wales, to distinguish it from the earlier Norman conquest of Wales, took place between 1277 and 1283. It resulted in the defeat and annexation of the Principality of Wales, and the other last remaining independent Welsh principalities, by Edward I, King of England.


Cyfeiliog was a medieval commote in the cantref of Cynan of the Kingdom of Powys. Cynan also contained the commote of Mawddwy. Other sources refer to Cyfeiliog as a cantref in its own right, possibly as a result of Cynan being renamed for the largest commote within it.

Mawddwy Human settlement in Wales

Mawddwy is a community in the county of Gwynedd, Wales, and is 88.3 miles (142.2 km) from Cardiff and 172.8 miles (278.0 km) from London. In 2011 the population of Mawddwy was 622 with 59.5% of them able to speak Welsh. It is one of the largest and most sparsely populated communities in Wales. The only source for this is compare it with the other communities.

Cadwallon ap Gruffydd was the eldest son of Gruffudd ap Cynan, king of Gwynedd.

Penllyn (cantref)

Penllyn was a medieval cantref originally in the Kingdom of Powys but annexed to the Kingdom of Gwynedd. It consisted of the commotes of Edeyrnion, Dinmael, Penllyn is Treweryn and Penllyn uwch Treweryn.


  1. Vision of Britain - 1831 Census
  2. Double 'nn' is found in the title of a number of Welsh-language books, e.g. Crwydro Meirionnydd, a companion to the area by T. I. Ellis (Llandybie, 1954), and the county atlas published by the old county council (Atlas Merionnydd, Y Bala, 1972).
  3. For the single 'n' variant see, for example, Melville Richards, Welsh Administrative and Territorial Units. University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1969.
  4. Morris. A. (1913) Cambridge County Geographies: Merionethshire, Cambridge University Press, p.3
  5. "Merioneth County Council Elections". Cambrian News. 25 January 1889. p. 8. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  6. "The County of Gwynedd (Electoral Changes) Order 2002, Welsh Statutory Instrument 2002 No. 3274 (W.312)". Office of Public Sector Information. 2002. Retrieved 2008-07-27.

Further reading

Coordinates: 52°50′N3°50′W / 52.833°N 3.833°W / 52.833; -3.833