The National Gazetteer of Wales

Gazetteer Main Page · Place Name Index · Map of Wales · Counties of Wales · Administrative Wales


Place Name Index Users' Guide


The Place Name Index comprises seven columns.

Column 1. Place Name
Column 2. National Grid Reference
Column 3. County
Column 4. Unitary Authority
Column 5. Police Area
Column 6. Health Authority
Column 7. Alternative versions of place name


Column 1. Place Name

The history and orthography of Welsh place names is a fascinating subject but one which we did not attempt to deal with in detail here. Several excellent books on this subject are available: A Gazetteer of Welsh Place-Names, edited by Elwyn Davies (University of Wales Press 1957, 1967); The Place-Names of Wales by Hywel Wyn Owen (University of Wales Press 1998); The Names of Towns and Cities in Britain by Gelling, Nicolaisen and Richards (Batsford 1970, 1986).

The Place Name Index is concerned with the names of settlements. It lists the names of hamlets, villages, towns and cities. Each district within an urban area which has a distinct name and identity is given as a separate entry. The Place Name Index does not explicitly include other geographical features (e.g. rivers, mountains, valleys etc.).

Within Column 1 we have attempted to include every version of a place-name which could have been commonly encountered since the start of the twentieth century. Any alternative versions of each place-name are then listed in Column 7 (every entry in Column 7 should also be included in the relevant place in Column 1). There are in Wales many places for which there is more than one accepted place name or more than one spelling of a particular place name:

It should also be born in mind that the notion of a standard spelling of a place name is a relatively modern one. It is only since place names began to be marked on Ordnance maps, used in postal addresses and denoted by road signs that any kind of "official" version of names has come to be accepted.

In the English version of the Gazetteer, all place names are included in alphabetical order based upon the English alphabet. For example, place names beginning with "Ll" can be found in the "L" place name listing.

Place names which start with the definite article or with another affix (e.g. "Y", "Yr", "The", "Old", "New", "North", "South", "East", "West", "Lower", "Upper" etc.) are included twice, e.g. as "New Radnor" and "Radnor, New" and as "Y Barri" and "Barri, Y".


Column 2. National Grid Reference

The position of any point in Great Britain can be described by its National Grid reference. The National Grid is an imaginary metric grid covering the whole of Great Britain. It was devised by the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain in the 1930s. The National Grid is marked on most commercial OS maps and on many maps produced by other publishers.

The National Grid references used within the Place Name Index consist of two components: two letters and 4 digits.

The two letters uniquely identify a 100km x 100km square of the National Grid. The 100km x 100km National Grid squares which cover Wales are noted on the Map of Wales. These are labelled SR, SS, ST, SM, SN, SO, SH, and SJ in the standard National Grid terminology.

The four digits uniquely identify a 1km x 1km square within the 100km x 100km square idenitified by the two letters. The first two digits denote the "Easting" and the second two the "Northing" relative to the origin of the 100km x 100km square. For example, the 1km x 1km square SN5623 has a point of origin 56km east and 23km north of the origin of the SN 100km x 100km square.

On the Map of Wales each 100km x 100km square is shown divided into 10km x 10km squares. Hence to locate SN5623, firstly one needs to locate the 100km x 100km square "SN" and then find the 10km x 10km square at 50km east and 20km north (marked by "5" along the X axis and "2" along the Y axes). Within this 10km x 10km square one can roughly locate the position of the grid reference since it will be 6km east and 3km north of the origin of the 10km x 10km square.

For more information see National Grid References - An Introduction.


Column 3. County

This column lists the County within which each settlement lies. Where a significant part of a settlement lies in more than one County, both Counties are listed, e.g.

Pentrebach        SN8233  Carmarthenshire / Brecknockshire 

Settlements which lie within a part of a County detached from the main body of the County are noted thus:

Marford           SJ3656  Flintshire (det), loc. in Denbighs

A brief description of each County can be found in the Counties of Wales section.


Column 4. Unitary Authority

Under Section 20 of the Local Government Act 1972 (LGA 1972), "for the administration of local government" there are two types of local government areas in Wales: the "principal areas" and the "communities".

There are 22 principal areas. By Section 21 of the LGA 1972 each of the principal areas has a "principal council". The principal councils are responsible for a wide range of service provision within their areas (e.g. education, social services, economic development, highways, housing, planning, street lighting, public health, leisure and amenities and waste management). The phrase "unitary authority" is generally used to refer both to the principal areas and to the principal councils (e.g. by the Ordnance Survey, Royal Mail, Office of National Statistics, the Welsh Local Government Association). In the National Gazetteer of Wales we follow this terminology.

Note that the legislation has led to a degree of confusion in two main ways. Firstly, Section 21 of the LGA 1972 enables some of the principal councils to adopt the style "county council" and others the style "county borough council". Alternatively all principal councils can be known simply as "council". Hence a diversity of terminology can be encoutered for what are equivalent bodies (e.g. "Conwy County Borough Council", "Vale of Glamorgan Council" and "Denbighshire County Council" all have exactly the same legal status and responsibilities). Secondly, several of the principal councils were given or have adopted the name of one of the 13 Counties of Wales. The principal areas of "Pembrokeshire", "Carmarthenshire", "Anglesey" and "Ceredigion" are almost exactly identical to the Counties of these names. However, the principal areas presently called "Flintshire" and "Monmouthshire" only cover a part of the Counties of these names. The principal area called "Denbighshire" only covers about half of the County of Denbighshire, but also covers a significant part of the County of Flintshire (including Prestatyn, Rhyl and St. Asaph) and part of Merioneth.

A map of the unitary authority areas of Wales can be found in Administrative Wales. Below is a key to the abbreviations used in Column 4 for each of the unitary authorities of Wales.

B Gwent      Blaenau Gwent
Bridgnd      Bridgend
Caerphy      Caerphilly
Cardiff      Cardiff
Carm'th      Carmarthenshire
Ceredig      Ceredigion
Conwy        Conwy
Denbigh      Denbighshire
Gwynedd      Gwynedd
Flintsh      Flintshire
IofAngl      Isle of Anglesey
Merthyr      Merthyr Tydfil
Monm'th      Monmouthshire
NeathPT      Neath Port Talbot
Newport      Newport
Pembrok      Pembrokeshire
Powys        Powys
RhoCyTa      Rhondda Cynon Taff
Swansea      Swansea
Torfaen      Torfaen
Va Glam      Vale of Glamorgan
Wrexham      Wrexham

There are about 900 communities in Wales. They are not explicitly noted in the Place Name Index. Some information regarding them can be found in the Administrative Wales section of the Gazetteer.


Column 5. Police Area

The Police Act 1996 divides England and Wales into "police areas", each of which has both a "police force" and a "police authority". Police authorities are responsible for maintaining an effective and efficient police force in their areas.

There are 4 police areas in Wales. A map of them can be found in Administrative Wales. Below is a key to the abbreviations used in Column 5 for the police areas.

Dyf-Pow     Dyfed-Powys
Gwent       Gwent
N Wales     North Wales
S Wales     South Wales


Column 6. Health Authority

The National Health Service Act 1997 places a duty on the National Assembly for Wales to establish "Health Authorities" in Wales. The Health Authorities are responsible for the provision of health care services in their areas.

There are 5 Health Authorities in Wales. A map of their areas can be found in Administrative Wales. Below is a key to the abbreviations used for them in Column 7 of the Place Name Index.


Bro Taf     Bro Taff
Dyf Pow     Dyfed Powys
Gwent       Gwent
Morgann     Morgannwg
N Wales     North Wales


Column 7. Alternative versions of place name

See the notes to Column 1.



Gazetteer Main Page · Place Name Index · Map of Wales · Counties of Wales · Administrative Wales



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