CBHC / RCAHMW > News > Mapping the Historic Boundaries of Wales: Commotes and Cantrefs
This map gives an approximate indication of the boundaries of the larger cantrefs (cantrefi ) of Wales, as listed by Gruffudd Hiraethog (d.1564) in NLW Peniarth MS.147.

Mapping the Historic Boundaries of Wales: Commotes and Cantrefs

Understanding the historic administrative boundaries of Wales and how they have changed over time is integral to our understanding of the Welsh landscape. The Royal Commission has developed two digital geospatial layers using late-medieval sources and historic parish boundaries to recreate the boundaries of the commotes (cymydau) and cantrefs (cantrefi) of medieval Wales.

Historic Boundaries of Wales

Future developments will examine how these boundaries have changed over time and map them in further detail. These digital resources will be made freely available to the public as an aid to encouraging research.

This data will be an important addition to our on-line services, particularly the List of Historic Place Names of Wales and The Inventory of Historic Battlefield in Wales.

Commotes of Wales

This map gives an approximate indication of the boundaries of the smaller commotes (cymydau) of Wales, as listed by Gruffudd Hiraethog (d.1564) in NLW Peniarth MS.147.
This map gives an approximate indication of the boundaries of the smaller commotes
(cymydau) of Wales, as listed by Gruffudd Hiraethog (d.1564) in NLW Peniarth MS.147.

Cantrefs of Wales

This map gives an approximate indication of the boundaries of the larger cantrefs (cantrefi ) of Wales, as listed by Gruffudd Hiraethog (d.1564) in NLW Peniarth MS.147.
This map gives an approximate indication of the boundaries of the larger cantrefs
(cantrefi ) of Wales, as listed by Gruffudd Hiraethog (d.1564) in NLW Peniarth MS.147.

18/05/2017

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owain
owain
8 months ago

did the welsh border change in the time beetween now and the laws in wales actsor is this just parishes crossing the border also why are some areas on google maps lacking borders and how was the border agreed opon when the dee silted up? also reading about welsh biknor it seem the it only became part of monthouthshire after the laws in wales acts please answer

Last edited 8 months ago by owain
Scott Lloyd
Scott Lloyd
8 months ago
Reply to  owain

Hi Owain, The discrepancies on the polygonal dataset will be down to the source used which was some 20 years old and not designed to be viewed at a large scale. We are currently involved in a project to map the medieval marcher lordships of Wales which will tidy up the polygonal data in detail. The boundary between England and Wales was formalised with the Laws in Wales Acts in 1536 and 1543. An article by William Rees in 1937 provides a useful overview of the places and boundaries mentioned in the Act which it also prints, you can view… Read more »

Owain
6 months ago
Reply to  Scott Lloyd

thank you this was very helpful thank you good luck with this project

Owain
6 months ago
Reply to  Scott Lloyd

and also could you possibly tell me about the historic border of monmouthshire that seems to jut out towards welsh newton? sorry if im asking too much

owain
owain
3 months ago
Reply to  Owain

Llanrothal cp

owain
owain
3 months ago
Reply to  Scott Lloyd

 I to need to know if anyone mapping the historic boundaries of wales even knows weather or not any changes happened prior to the 18th century if the welsh bicknor wiki states it was not in wales before 1651 I don’t think that’s true but if it is what about other areas? I’ve found nobody that knows about this who does? 

Last edited 3 months ago by owain
owain
owain
8 months ago

did the border change much between the the laws in wales acts and now?

Michael Athanson
Michael Athanson
10 months ago

Many thanks for this extremely useful dataset. I am looking at the 2019 shapefiles, and I see three discrepancies between the modern England-Wales border and the eastern extent of the commote/cantref polygons. I don’t know enough about the historic changes in the border to know whether these differences are valid etc, but worth checking. In all cases, these are communities that are within modern Wales, but not included in the commote/cantref shapefiles. Six communities in three parishes, as listed below. I can send maps, if useful. Apologies if this proves to be a wild goose chase! Thanks again, Mike 1.… Read more »

Jon Dollery
Jon Dollery
10 months ago

Hi Mike, Thanks for your comment and pointing this out. The discrepancies between the England / Wales border could be caused by two things. Firstly, we used Peniarth 147 which lists the parishes which lists the parishes which were in each Commote, and then by extension which Commotes where in which Cantref. If the parish was missing or not listed, this may have caused the discrepancy. Alternatively, the issue could also have been created from the vector dataset we used. For this project we used Kain and Oliver’s 1851 Parish Record Census data which was vectorised from the 1 inch… Read more »

Kirk Bush
Kirk Bush
1 year ago

Any progress on historic parish boundaries?

Scott Lloyd
Scott Lloyd
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Bush

Hi Kirk, We are currently doing some work on Anglesey and hope to have a new dataset for the island available later in the spring. There is a new project looking at the Marcher Lordships which will be creating new historic boundary datasets that we are also working with, so we should start to see some progress in 2023. As ever, I wish it could be quicker, but we are working on it, in between other commitments, and eventually hope to complete a dataset for township boundaries as well. We are planning an event later in 2023 to look at… Read more »

Peter Cross
Peter Cross
2 years ago

These maps are really great but I would really like to have a look at what Pen. 147 says.

I’ve not been able to find a transcription of Pen. 147 – has a transcription of the Cantrefi a Chymydau text ever been published, or are there page images available anywhere?

If anyone on the project would be able to point me in the right direction, I’d be extremely grateful. Diolch.

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter Cross
Scott Lloyd
Scott Lloyd
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Cross

Hi Peter, Thank you for your comment. Here is a link to the transcription of the relevant section of Peniarth 147, the source we used in the datasets https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.c026025176&view=1up&seq=967&skin=2021 The datasets were the first attempt to try and create a digital layer of these medieval boundaries and should be considered as a useful draft version, as we have a long way to go fully work this out. It is not a straightforward task. The current historic parish boundary layer needs revision and we need to better understand boundary changes over time. There is not as yet a comprehensive boundary layer… Read more »

Tom Pert
3 years ago
Charles Mathieson
Charles Mathieson
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Pert

Have downloaded but what sort of software do I need to open it?

Tom Pert
2 years ago

Hi Charles, you’ll need some form of GIS software. There are lots of free options available, such as QGIS. Here’s a list of various options: https://gisgeography.com/free-gis-software/

cartogeek
9 months ago

Hi Charles you can access all the Gis related software like Erdas,Envi and ArcGIS and pdf book from Here thanks me later https://cartogeek.com/free-gis-software/

Charles Mathieson
Charles Mathieson
3 years ago

This seems to have all gone quiet about 3 years ago. Is the project still running? Is anyone there to read this?

Andy Mabbett
7 years ago

“freely available” is vague. Please can you clarify the licence that will apply to the data, and to your images?

The current page, for example, is labelled “Non-commercial Government Licence” – that does not not meet the definition of an “open licence”.

Tom Pert
7 years ago
Reply to  Andy Mabbett

Hi Andy, we hope to make this data available under an Open Government Licence (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/) which is different to the Non-commercial Government Licence that applies to the content and images on this website.

Marc
Marc
7 years ago

Seriously guy’s really appreciate this, awesome work

vivienne Kincaid
vivienne Kincaid
7 years ago

It would make the project more interesting if there was a modern-day overlay that would show people the history of where they live 🙂 I am sure this is possible 🙂

Marc
Marc
7 years ago

I was thinking exactly the same thing

Gwyn Hughes
Gwyn Hughes
7 years ago

Very interesting, but you need to improve the resolution to magnify

Paul Tubb
7 years ago
Reply to  Charles Green

I’d be very interested in seeing these maps overlaid on a topographical map. Will these be available as ESRI compatible files?

Tom Pert
7 years ago
Reply to  Paul Tubb

Hi Paul, we will be enhancing the metadata for this layer over the next month and hope to make it available as a Web Feature Service for use within GIS.

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