Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Forgotten Referendum

The current talk of referenda and national identity reminds me of a largely forgotten referendum, that of the Radnorshire border parishes who opted to stay with the Church of England at the time of Welsh disestablishment.

There's a fair bit of disinformation out there about these votes:  when were they held, who took part, which parishes were involved.   First off any parish wholly within Wales but which had previously been part of an English diocese was transferred, without a vote, to the Church in Wales.  This was the fate of Knighton and New Radnor for example.  Likewise parishes which were wholly within England but had been part of a Welsh diocese were transferred to the Cof E.

The vote was restricted to parishes that actually straddled the border.  Presteigne parish for example covered quite a sizable chunk of Herefordshire, as did Old Radnor.  Brampton Bryan must have strayed over the border to include a few Welsh acres, so it, too, was given a choice; as was the parish of Brilley (England) and Michaelchurch (Wales).

The vote for seventeen cross-border parishes, including those in Radnorshire, was held in February 1915; everyone within the parish being allowed to vote - although there were plenty of moans about the fairness of the process:

Brampton Bryan:  For Wales 23, For  England 168
Old Radnor: For Wales 99, For England 344
Presteigne:  For Wales 289, For England 595
Brilley and Michaelchurch: For Wales 27, For England 168

Keen eyed patriots travelling into Wales along the A44 can blame this vote for the sight of the flag of St George brazenly displayed on Old Radnor church.

The full results for the seventeen cross-border parishes voting in February 1915 can be found in a parliamentary reply shown here.   The two parishes who did not declare were Rhydycroesau which voted for England and Llansilin which, uniquely, voted for Wales 255-228.  Two other parishes, Whitewell and Trelystan, were also subsequently adjudged worthy of inclusion in the English church.

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