THE LENGTH OF A MILE
In theory, the standard mile was established in 1592 when the miles was defined by Parliament as 1760 yards or 5280 feet. However, it was not fully adopted until ribbon maps were published in the late 17th century, incorporating distances in miles. In Wales, and other parts of the country, the mile (and weights and other measurements) continued to be variable, especially on minor roads, and some tourists became aware of this. Turnpike roads were supposed to have mile stones set out along their length and it is likely that these corresponded to the standard mile.
Welsh miles were generally estimated to be longer than English miles. There were disadvantages and benefits in this: a pedestrian might find that the distance to the next inn was far further than he expected, but as the hire of a horse-drawn vehicle was often charged per mile, then the cost would be less if the distance was estimated in Welsh mile than in standard miles. Directories and some published guide books included distances between towns to assist travellers in calculating a day’s journey.
12 Welsh miles = 36 English miles
Anon (An Idle Lawyer) E.B. [Edward Bysshe?] A trip to North-Wales: being a description of that country and people.. London, 1701, p. 70
‘3 Welsh miles which would I dare say make 6 of ours.’
Mildmay, William ? Essex Record Office, D/Dmy, 15M50/1325, p. 27
I rode with Mr Williams to St. Andrew’s, a little town four Welsh miles from Cardiff.
I set out directly for Llantrisant, eight Welsh miles from Cardiff [now 11 miles]
Wesley, Charles, diary
‘The guide said he knew the route of the road for 4 miles but it turned out to be Welsh miles = 8 modern miles.’
Fenton, Richard, Tours in Wales, 1804-1813, (Ed Fisher, John, London, 1917)
The vulgar notion of a Welsh mile is both extravagant and indefinite, though according to the definition of Dyfnwal it is equal to 3 miles, 6 furlongs, 27 poles and 15 yards English.
Evans, Thomas, Walks through Wales : containing a topographical and statistical description of the Principality : to which is prefixed, a copious travelling guide, exhibiting the direct and principal cross roads, inns, distances of stages, and noblemen and gentlemen’s seats by Thomas Evans ; illustrated by engravings and maps of north and south Wales. , p. 73