Breconshire, Wales


Brecknockshire or Breconshire, an inland county of South Wales. It is bounded on the NW by Cardiganshire, on the N and NE by Radnorshire, on the E by Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, on the S by Monmouthshire and Glamorgan, and on the W by Carmarthenshire. Its outline is not far from being roughly triangular, with the sides toward the NE, the S, and the W. Its length from N to S is 38 miles, its greatest breadth from E to W 32 miles, its circumference about 108 miles, and its area 469,894 acres. The greater part of the surface is mountainous and wild. A region of hills coming in from Cardiganshire occupies most of the NW and the N, to the vicinity of the Yrfon river, culminating in Drygarn, 2120 feet high, and many of them well clothed with wood and heather. A barren chain, called Mynydd-Epynt, commences at the western boundary, 3 miles above Trecastle, and extends north-eastward across the county to Builth, presenting abrupt acclivities to the NW and gradual ones to the SE. A series of mountain masses and ridges, intersected by narrow valleys, occupies all the southern half of the county, culminating successively from W to E in the Talsam Mountain, the Capellante Mountain, the Brecon Beacons (twin peaks), and Pen-y-cader-fawr, respectively 2596, 2382, 2910, 2862, and 2545 feet high, and exhibiting a great variety of form and character. The valleys are larger and more level than in some other parts of Wales, and; together with the slopes of the hills and the skirts of the mountains, give a great aggregate of ground to the plough.

The chief rivers are the Usk, the Wye, and the Yrfon, and the minor ones the Tawe, the Taf, the Cilieri, the Brem, the Yscir, the Hepste, the Mellte, the Honddû, the Cray, the Senni, the Tarell, the Pyryddin, the Llech, and the Dulas. Picturesque falls occur on the Hepste, the Mellte, and the Llech. The chief lake is the Llyn-Safaddau, the largest in South Wales, and the chief others Llyn-y-Fan-fawr and Llyn-y-Carw. Mineral springs are at Builth, Llanwrtyd, and Llangammarch. A large tract in all the NW, to within 5 miles of Builth, consists of lower Silurian rocks. A tract in the N, around Builth, together with two narrow belts thence to the SSW, are upper Silurian. An extensive tract across all the centre of the county, filling more than half of its area, is old red sandstone. A narrow belt along all the southern border of this tract is carboniferous limestone and shale, and some parts intermixed with that belt, and S of it to the boundary, belong to the coal measures, which extend thence into the great coal-field of Monmouthshire and Glamorgan. Limestone is singularly scarce in the Silurian regions. Excellent fireclay is worked at Penderyn. Chert is quarried for hearths and millstones, and pennant stone for roofing. Limestone, coal, and iron are worked in the S. Some lead, copper, and tripoli are found.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5
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Archives and Libraries

Powys County Archives Office
Powys County Hall
Spa Road East
Llandrindod Wells
Tel: 01597 826088

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

List of Registration Districts in Breconshire from 1837 to 1974.

Land and Property

A transcript of the Breconshire Return of Owners of Land in 1873 is online.


Old map of Brecknockshire circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)

Old map of Brecknockshire circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers online:

Parishes and places

The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.