In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version, I have expanded the abbreviations for easier reading and added paragraphing and subtitle South The illustrations are in the original. — George P. Landow]

WALES, a principality in the southwest of the island of Great Britain, which gives the title of Prince of Wales to the heir- apparent of the British crown, and consists of a north and a south division, each comprising six counties, as follows: —

As part of the British Empire, and especially of England, Wales has been generally described under these two articles, but its comparatively isolated position, and its very marked features, both physical and moral, demand for it a short additional notice. It is composed of a peninsula, withthe idland of Anglesey situated at its northwest extremity, and separated from itby the Menai Strait, now crossed by two very remarkable bridges, and with a number of smaller islands chiefly at a short distance from the southwest coast. The peninsula, washed north and west by the Irish Sea, and south by Bristol Channel, and bounded west by the four English counties, Cheshire, Shropshire, Hereford, and Monmouth, is 135 miles long; where widest 95 miles and where narrowest only 35 miles broad; and has an area of 7389 square miles. It is very mountainous, particularly in the north division, where Snowdon, the culminating point of south Britain, rises to the height of 3571 feet; is intersected by beautiful valleys, traversed by numerous streams, including among others the Severn, which has its source within it; and is rich in minerals, particularly copper in the north, and coal and iron partially there also, but much more extensively in the south. The Silurian formation, so called after the Silures, the ancient inhabitants of the principality, covers more than two-thirds of the whole surface, extending continuously from the mouth of the Conway to the vicinity of St. David's Head ; but is succeeded in the south by the old red sandstone, above which lies, first the mountain-limestone, and then the large and valuable coal-field already mentioned.

Principal Rivers

Besides the Severn, already mentioned, the principal rivers are the Dee, which has cart of its lower course in Cheshire; the Clwyd, in Denbigh and Flint; the Conway, forming the boundary between Denbigh and Caernarvon; the Dovey, and the united Rheidiol and Ysouthwestth, which have their mouths near the centre of Cardigan Bay; the Teify, separating Car digan on the north from Caermarthen and Pembroke on the south; the Cleddy and Cleddeu, remarkable chiefly from contribut ing, by their junction, to form the splendid estuary of Milford Haven; the Towy and Bury, which both fall into Caermar then Bay; the Ebry and Taf, which have a common estuary in Bristol Channel; the Romney, which forms part of the boundary between Wales and England; and the Usk and Wye, which, though rising in the principality, have only the earlier part of their course within it. The lakes are numerous, but the largest, that of Bala, is only 4 miles long, and scarcely 1 mile broad.


The climate is on the whole moderate and equable, though somewhat keen in the loftier districts. In all the counties, but more especially in the maritime, humidity is in excess, the average fall of rain in the principality being 34 inches, while that in England is only 22. Hence both climate and surface concur in rendering Wales much more adapted for pasture than agriculture. The soil, too, seldom possesses great natural fertility, except in some of the vales, of which those of the Clwyd in the north, and of Glamorgan in the south, are celebrated for productiveness. The latter, rather a plain than a vale, is of great extent, and grows excellent wheat. The system of agriculture, however, notwithstand ing recent improvements, continues on the whole indifferent.

Minerals: Coal and Iron

The minerals, as already observed, are very valuable, and the south contains some of the largest coal and iron works in the kingdom, as well as the smelting-works of Swansea, probably the most extensive in the world. Of manufactures, properly so called, by far the most important are woollens. The prin cipal articles are flannel, for which the principality has long been famous, cloth chiefly of a coarser description, and hosiery. The inhabitants long struggled manfully, first against the Romans, and afterwards against the Anglo-Saxons. They be came tributary to England in the 10th century, and after various vicissitudes, in which their attempts to throw off the yoke only rivetted it more firmly, were finally and completely incorporated with the English monarchy in the reign of Henry VIII.

Language and Culture

Both in language and manners, however, they continue to he a distinct people, and give undeniable evidence of a Celtic origin. Their dialect bears a marked affinity to the Gaelic or Erse, but is much more closely allied to the ancient Cornish dialect, and that which is still exclusively used by the peasantry in the west of the French province Bretagne. Welsh is one of the most ancient languages now spoken in Europe, and has also a literature, composed chiefly of the poetical effusions of bards, some of whom flourished as early as the sixth century, but partly also of prose, of which the translation of the Bible, completed in 1588, is considered one of the best specimens.

Costumes of Welsh Women

Among the peculiarities which characterize the people, one of the most striking, at least to a stranger, is the female dress, consisting generally of a plain or checked gown, a mantle, a napkin of gay flaunting colours around the neck and shoulders, and a black beaver-hat, either cylindrical, like that worn elsouthwestere by men, or broad-brimmed and tapering to the form of a truncated cone.

All classes are distinguished by civility and hospitality; and though among the lower ranks very loose ideas prevail as to the privileges which a declared lover may claim, when once the marriage-knot is tied the duties of married life appear to be faithfully performed. Many curious superstitions, handed down by immemorial custom, still retain their hold, and even the gross imposture of Mormonism has found many followers, particularly in the mining districts; but in addition to the labours of the Established clergy, those of the Methodists have been signally successful in diffusing a knowledge of religion, and the great body of the people belonging to what are called the Calvinistic Methodists, find one of their principal sources of enjoyment either as teachers or taught in the primitive services of their church, or in the Sunday-school almost invariably attached to it. Population 1,005,721. [IV, 1216-17]

Links to Related Material about Wales


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vol. South London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive online version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 23 August 2022

Last modified 23 August 2022