Wales (Welsh Cumrie The Land Of The Cymri; Lat. Cambria), a principality of the British empire, occupying a large peninsula on the W. side of the island of Britain, and bounded N. by the Irish sea, E. by the English counties of Chester (Cheshire), Salop (Shropshire), Hereford, and Monmouth, S. by Bristol channel, and W. by St. George's channel. Its English name is supposed to be akin to the Saxon wealh, a foreigner, wanderer (Ger. wallen, to wander), to the name of the Swiss canton Valais or Wallis, once also the home of a Celtic people, and to Wälschland) the popular Ger-' man name of Italy. Its length from N. to S. is 136 m. and its greatest breadth about 90 m. The coast line is about 360 m. long, exclusive of minor indentations. Its first indentation at the northeast is the estuary of the Dee; this is succeeded by Beaumaris bay, formed by the island of Anglesea, which is connected by Menai strait, separating the island from the mainland, with Carnarvon bay on the S. side of the island. Between Braich-y-pwll head and St. David's head is Cardigan bay, the largest on the coast.
Other indentations are St. Bride's bay and Milford haven in Pembrokeshire, 'Carmarthen bay, Swansea bay, and the estuary of the Severn. The islands, besides Anglesea and the adjoining Holyhead or Holy island, which are described under their own titles, are Bardsey off the extremity of Carnarvon peninsula, Mochras in Cardigan bay, Skomer and Skokham off Pembrokeshire, Caldy in Carmarthen bay, and Barry in Bristol channel. The surface is almost all mountainous. The chief ranges are the Snowdon mountains in the north, which extend from near the mouth of the river Conway S. S. W. to Cardigan bay, and have several peaks more than 3,000 ft. high, Moel-y-Wyddfa, the highest, being 3,590 ft.; the Berwyn, S. of the Snowdon, the highest peaks of which are Arran Mowddwy and Cader Idris, the latter about 3,000 ft. high; the Plinlimmon, the natural boundary between North and South Wales, which reaches a height of 2,481 ft.; and the Black mountains, or Forest Fawr, in South Wales, the highest points of which, the Carmarthen and Brecknock Beacons, are respectively 2,596 and 2,862 ft. North Wales contains many picturesque valleys, but a large part of it is at a high elevation and unfit for cultivation.
S. of the Plinlimmon range is an extensive and desolate mountain region, but E. and W. of it are beautiful and fertile valleys. In South Wales, on the S. side of the mountain system, is the plain of Glamorgan, the most fertile part of the country. The scenery of the Welsh mountains, which is noted for its picturesque beauty, attracts many visitors. Of the rivers of Wales, the Dee, Severn, Wye, and Usk flow into England. There are several smaller streams, of which the Clwyd flows into the Irish sea on the N. coast; the Dovey, Rheidol, Aeron, and Teifi into Cardigan bay; the Towy and Neath into Carmarthen bay; and the Taff into Bristol channel. The only lake of importance, Bala, is but 4 m. long. About two thirds of Wales, extending from the river Conway on the N. coast nearly to Carmarthen bay, belongs to the Silurian formation. All S. E. Wales is Devonian or old red sandstone, above which lie the coal fields of South Wales, the one occupying the greater part of Glamorganshire and a part of Carmarthen, and a narrower one crossing the Pembroke peninsula to St. Bride's bay. These coal measures are estimated to be from 7,000 to 12,000 ft. thick, with more than 100 coal beds, 70 of which are worked.
Wales abounds in useful minerals of great variety, Anglesea is rich in copper and lead ores, the latter containing silver enough to render its extraction profitable. The Parys copper mine, which once produced annually 70,000 tons of ore, is now much less valuable. In Carnarvonshire are great quarries of slate, which employ many thousand hands. The gross value of the annual product of the Penryn quarries, under Snowdon, is £150,000. Denbighshire exports roofing slates, paving flags, and immense quantities of limestone to be used as a flux for blast furnaces in England. It has also beds of iron ore, coal, and lead. The adjoining county of Flint is rich in iron, zinc, lead, coal, and limestone. The leadsmelting works at Bagillt are among the most extensive in the world. Lead mines are worked in the N. E. part of Carmarthenshire. In the same part of Wales, 10 m. W. of Llandovery, are the gold mines of Gogofaw, which were worked by the ancient Romans. The galleries made by them in the rock are still to be seen, and there are traces Of aqueducts, built probably to convey water to wash the gold, at the adjacent Roman station of Cynfil-Cays, where many gold ornaments have been found. These mines have not been worked in modern times.
Other ancient gold mines are found in Merionethshire, N. of Dolgelly, which have been worked of late years. The lodes contain also small quantities of copper ore and galena. Glamorganshire is one of the richest of the mineral districts. Its coal field is almost inexhaustible. The anthracite coal occurs chiefly near Llanelly, and E. of it lie great deposits of blast coal. The collieries employ about 10,000 hands. Blackband ironstone is found at Cwm Avon and other places, and there are several great iron works, which employ more than 5,000 hands. Copper is extensively worked at Swansea, Michaelston, Neath, and Taebach, and tin at Aberavon, Cadoxton, and Treforest. Zinc, lead, manganese, gypsum, and firestone are also worked to some extent. The climate is moderate and equable, though somewhat cold and excessively humid; the average annual rainfall is 45.5 inches. The soil is fertile in the valleys, but often barren on the hills, though affording tolerable pasturage. The principal vegetable products are the cereals, grasses, and some fruits. Agriculture is backward, but gradually improving. The domestic animals are generally small, but of good quality. The Hereford cattle are preferred.
A small active breed of ponies, the "Merlins," are reared in considerable numbers, and hardy sheep are raised in the mountain districts. In the vicinity of Cardiff, near Newport, and on the island of Anglesea, as well as in other parts of Wales, are numerous remains of the druidical age, called cromlechs, some of them of great extent and composed of stones of immense size; and evidences of the occupation of some portions of the country by the Romans are found in the ruins of camps, walls, etc, and in the Roman coins occasionally exhumed. - Wales is divided politically into 12 counties, whose area, population in 1861 and 1871, and capitals are as follows:
Area, sq. m.
The other considerable towns are Merthyr Tydfil and Swansea in Glamorganshire, Haverford West in Pembrokeshire, Holyhead on Holyhead island, Llanelly, Welshpool, Wrexham, Bangor, Holywell, Llangollen, and Neath. The greater part of the inhabitants are of Celtic origin, and are called by their English neighbors Welsh, but by themselves Kymry or Cymri. In some of the larger towns are considerable numbers of English, and the English language is spoken in nearly all the towns, but the peopie of the rural districts adhere to the Welsh. (See Celts, Languages and Literature of the, vol. iv., p. 178.) There is a small colony of Flemings in the district of Gower in the S. W. part of Glamorganshire, who settled there in the time of Henry I., and who still maintain their isolated condition, speaking the Flemish language, and rarely intermarrying with the Welsh. The Welsh are brave and generous, but irascible and impulsive, superstitious, and somewhat fanatical. They adhere with great tenacity to their national customs and traditions, and take much pride in their antiquity. A large part of the population are engaged in pastoral or agricultural pursuits, and the production of butter, cheese, wool, mutton, and grain is very large.
The most important manufactures are those of iron in Glamorganshire, and those of flannel throughout the principality. The direct foreign commerce is not large, as its productions mainly pass through English ports. Cardiff, Swansea, Carmarthen, Pembroke, Milford, Cardigan, Holyhead, Beaumaris, Carnarvon, and Flint are ports of considerable importance. Most of the principal towns are connected by railway. Two of the chief lines are the Gloucester and Haverford West, passing through the southern tier of counties, and the Chester and Holyhead, following the northern shore from Chester, crossing the Menai strait by the Britannia tubular bridge, and terminating at the port of Holyhead on Holyhead island, the extreme N. W. point of Wales. Both lines have branches and connect by other railways with London. There are several canals in Wales: the Montgomery canal, 24 m. long, extending from Newton in Montgomeryshire to its junction with the Ellesmere canal in Shropshire; the Ellesmere and Chester canal, commencing in Denbighshire, and passing through Flintshire, Shropshire, and Cheshire to join the Mersey; and the Brecknock and Abergavenny canal, 35 m. long, which joins the Monmouth canal and connects through it with the Usk. The two former connect the Severn and the Mersey. The coach roads or turnpikes, especially the great highway from Shrewsbury to Holyhead, are excellent, but the roads generally are inferior to those in England. Education is still far below the standard of England or Scotland. There are nine collegiate institutions: University college, Aberystwith, with ten instructors; St. David's college, Lampeter, with six instructors; the Presbyterian college at Carmarthen; Independent colleges at Bala and Brecon; the Baptist college at Llangollen; St. Beuno's Roman Catholic college at St. Asaph; and the Calvinistic Methodist colleges of Bala and Trevecca. The people are almost entirely Protestants, and a majority of them dissenters.
There are four episcopal sees in the principality, St. David's, Bangor, LlandafF, and St. Asaph's. Among the dissenting denominations, the Calvinistic Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians are most numerous. The Mormons have made a large number of converts in Wales. - When the Romans invaded Britain in A. D. 43 Wales was inhabited by a people of Celtic origin divided into three tribes. The Ordovices occupied the northern part and the island of Mona (Man), the Demetse the western part, and the Silures the central and southern parts. The Silures were the most numerous and powerful. The country was repeatedly invaded by the Romans, and Caractacus, king of the Silures, was captured and carried to Rome. Though many times overrun, Wales was not subdued, and remained a place of refuge for those Britons who fled from the Roman rule. Many more fled thither from the invading Saxons, and, becoming incorporated with the original inhabitants, formed a people who have in many places preserved their language and customs to the present day. The origin of their name Kymry has been long discussed, but no generally admitted result has been attained.
After the Romans abandoned Britain in the early part of the 5th century the Welsh were engaged with varying fortune in continued contests with the Saxons. In the latter part of the 8th century Offa, king of Mercia, constructed a dike, traces of which remain, from the mouth of the Dee to the Wye, as a defence against the Welsh. Wales was divided into a number of petty kingdoms, and was repeatedly ravaged by the Danes. During the 9th century it was nearly all brought under the dominion of Roderick the Great, who divided it into three principalities, Gwynedh (North Wales), Dyved (South Wales), and Powys, which on his death (about 875) he left to his three sons. About 930 Athelstan, king of England, reduced the country so far as to compel it to pay an annual tribute. About 940 it was again united under one king, Howel Dda ("the Good"), who reformed and digested its laws. On his death it was again divided, and from this time the Welsh people were continually engaged in war with the Danes and the English, or in civil strifes. Just previous to the Norman conquest they were compelled to pay tribute to King Harold. They refused the tribute to William the Conqueror, and he invaded the country and reduced them to submission.
From this time the English kings claimed Wales as part of their dominions, but the claim was constantly resisted, and the country was also distracted by intestine warfare. In 1267 Llewellyn ap Gryffyth, having obtained the sovereignty of the greater part of Wales, and having defeated the English in battle and inflicted great damage on their territory, was acknowledged as prince of Wales by Henry III., and a treaty was concluded. In 1275 Edward I. summoned Llewellyn to a parliament at Westminster. Soon afterward Eleanor de Montfort, daughter of the earl of Leicester and betrothed to Llewellyn, was made prisoner by Edward when on her way to Wales. Llewellyn refused to comply with the summons unless she was released and hostages for his own safety were given. War immediately commenced, and Llewellyn was compelled to conclude a peace on humiliating terms, though Eleanor was released and married to him. In the spring of 1282 Llewellyn again rebelled, but in December was defeated and slain. His brother David, who succeeded him, was captured and executed as a traitor at Shrewsbury the next year; and by the statute of Rhuddlen (12 Edward I., c. 5) Wales was united to England. The title prince of Wales was given by Edward to his son, the future Edward II., who was born in Carnarvon castle, April 25, 1284, and has ever since been borne by the eldest son of the English sovereign.
Rebellions against the English rule broke out in 1287, 1294, and 1315, but they were suppressed and their leaders executed. In 1400 the Welsh, led by Owen Glendower, made their last attempt to recover their independence. They maintained the struggle until his death in 1415. (See Glendower.) The laws of Wales were now gradually assimilated to those of England, until in 1536, by the statute 27 Henry VIII., c. 26, the complete identity of the two countries in all essential points was established; and in the reigns of George IV. and William IV. the last traces of political distinction were abolished.