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Gwent. County of the south-east Wales border, which has had a singularly complex administrative history. Its basis was the Welsh kingdom of Gwent, which emerged on the lower Wye river in the 7th cent. It was quickly seized by the Anglo-Normans moving west after 1066 and a series of lordships created in both upper (Gwent Uwchcoed) and lower (Gwent Iscoed) Gwent. These were merged in 1536 to form the new county of Monmouthshire, which took its name from the royal lordship. The anomalous position of the county was evident when, after the Act of Great Sessions of 1542, it was not included in a Welsh judicial circuit. But after the Local Government Act of 1972, Wales was defined formally to include Monmouthshire, which, with some minor territorial adjustments, was renamed Gwent. The county town was moved from Monmouth to Cwmbran. In 1996, in yet another reorganization, Gwent was divided into four new unitary authorities, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Monmouthshire (reviving the old name), and Newport. As might be expected from its location, Gwent was highly Anglicized and only 2.4 per cent of its population spoke Welsh. In 1991 the population was 442,212, and the estimated population of the new authorities is Blaenau Gwent 73,000, Torfaen 91,000, Monmouthshire 81,000, Newport 137,000. It will be interesting to see if this tug of war, which has lasted a mere 900 years, continues in the future. See also Monmouthshire.
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Gwent, kingdom of
Gwent, kingdom of. A post-Roman kingdom situated between the rivers Wye and Usk that took its name from the Roman town of Caerwent, and lasted until Norman incursions in the late 11th cent., though it had been incorporated with Glywysing in the kingdom of Morgannwg from the 8th cent. From 1070 the Norman conquerors quickly created several marcher lordships in more accessible parts; native dynasties survived elsewhere, even acknowledging the overlordship of the lord Rhys of Deheubarth and, in the 13th cent., of the princes of Gwynedd. The new county of Monmouth (1536) was old Gwent together with the marcher lordship of Newport (formerly Gwynllwg); it took its name from one of the larger lordships and survived until 1974, when Gwent reappeared with only minor border adjustments.
Ralph Alan Griffiths
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