CARMARTHENSHIRE, a maritime county of SOUTH WALES, bounded on the west by Pembrokeshire, on the north by Cardiganshire, on the east by Brecknockshire, on the south-east by Glamorganshire, and on the south by the broad aestuaryof the Burry river, and Carmarthen bay, in the Bristol channel: it extends from 51º 30' to 52º 2' (N. Lat.), and from 3º 45' to 3º 58' (W. Lon); and includes nine hundred and seventy-four square miles, or six hundred and twenty-three thousand three hundred and sixty acres. The population, in 1831, was 100,655.
The territory at present forming the county of Carmarthen, at the period of the Roman invasion of Britain, was, according to Ptolemy, included in the country of the Dimetae, the Dyved of British writers; and contained one of their chief cities, called by the same author Maridunum and by Antoninus Muridunum which has been identified with the present Carmarthen. The subjugation of this district is ascribed to Julius Frontinus,about the year 70; and from that commander the name of the road which crossed it from east to west, called Julia Strata, or Via Julia Maritima was derived ; according to Sir R. C. Hoare, Bart., and others, it was also traversed by the Via Julia Montana, or Superior. Besides the station of Maridunum,on the first-mentioned road, it contained another important one at Llan-vair ar y bryn, or " St. Mary's church on the hill," near Llandovery.
When the Romans had withdrawn their forces from Britain, and the country became divided into numerous petty states, modern Carmarthenshire was for the most part included in the principality of Caredigion, or Cardigan, the history of which, for a long period, is involved in obscurity. About the middle of the ninth century it was annexed to the other dominions of Rhodri Mawr, or Roderic the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, who united the whole of Wales into one kingdom. On his death, in 876, he allotted to his son Cadell the territory of Caredigion, or South Wales, including, besides the present counties of Cardigan and Carmarthen, those of Brecknock, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Pembroke, and fixed the seat of government at Dynevor, in the vale of Tywi, where he had erected a palace, though the successors of Cadell removed it to Carmarthen, where it continued, until the progress of the Anglo-Norman invaders compelled the native princes to retire to the former residence. Cadell, the year after he had entered upon his government, invaded the dominions of his brother Mervyn,and took forcible possession of the kingdom of Powys, but was, in his turn, invaded by his other brother, Anarawd, sovereign of North Wales, who committed dreadful ravages in the counties of Carmarthen, Cardigan, and Pembroke, burning the houses and destroying the corn.
On the death of Cadell, in 907, he was succeeded in his government of South Wales and Powys by his eldest son Hywel, who holds so distinguished a rank in Welsh history, by the nameof Hywel Dda, or Hywel the Good, and who, in 940, on the decease of Idwal Voel, son of Anarawd, added the kingdom of Aberfraw to his other dominions, and became sovereign of all Wales. During the compilation of this monarch's celebrated code of laws, which continued in force throughout the principality until its subjugation by Edward I., and was retained, in some districts, until its union with England in the reign of Henry VIII., he held an extraordinary council in this county, at his hunting seat of Whitland, in the vicinity of St. Clear's. Hywel died, after a long and peaceful reign, in 948, leaving four sons, Owain, Rhun, Roderick, and Edwin, who, relinquishillg the kingdom of North Wales to Ievav and Iago, the sons of Idwal Voel, partitioned among them the principalities, or lordships, of South Wales and Powys : the government of Dynevor fell to Owain, who, though defeated with his brothers in a battle fought with the princes of North Wales, in Cardiganshire, yet, in the year 950, when the latter were making a predatory incursion into Pembrokeshire, compelled them to retreat with such precipitation, that a great part of their army was drowned in the Teivy, which forms the northern boundary of Carmarthenshire.
The contest thus begun, between the sons of Hywel and the princes of North Wales, was long maintained by both parties, but at last terminated in favour of Ievav and Iago, who subjected the whole of Wales, and held the kingdom of Dynevor under their dominion for several years. Owain, being driven from his own government, seized, in 958, upon the district of Ewyas, in the Vale of Usk. forming part of the territories of Morgan Mawr, King of Glamorgan; but the quarrel to which this gave rise having been referred to the arbitration of Edgar, the Anglo-Saxon king of England, that monarch gave his award in favour of the king of Glamorgan, and forbade the encroachments of Owain. On a rupture between the two princes of North Wales, Owain seems to have seized the opportunity to regain possession of his dominions, for, in 966, he met Edgar at Caerlleon, in Monmouthshire, to arrange with him for the payment of the tribute which the laws of his father adjudged to be due to the king of England. Einon, son of Owain, with some of his father's troops, invaded Gower, and afterwards assisted in repelling all incursion of the Saxons under Alfred, Earl of Mercia, into Brecknockshire and Gwent.
On his death, he was succeeded in the command of his father's troops by his youngest brother Meredydd, who, in 985, invaded North Wales, and having slain its prince, Cadwallon, in battle, shortly subjugated the whole of that kingdom. On the death of his father, Meredydd took possession of the government of South Wales also, to the exclusion of the sons of his elder brother, the eldest of whom, Edwin, having raised an army, and obtained considerable succours from the Saxons and Danes, entered Cardigan, and advanced through Pembrokeshire and along the coast of this county to Kidwelly, and into Gower ; but a reconciliation being speedily effected between Edwin and his uncle, their united forces proceeded to ravage the territories of Ithel, Prince of Glamorgan, in which expedition they sustained a signal defeat. The frequent invasions of the Danes, and the hostilities of the neighbouring states, afforded exclusive employment in South Wales for the whole of Meredydd's forces ; so that the people of North Wales, having the power of exercising their own choice, transferred the government to Idwal, son of Meirig, whom Meredydd, on being informed of this revolution, made an immediate attempt to dethrone, but without success.
Both these chieftains died soon after, Meredydd leaving issue only one daughter, who had been married to Llewelyn ab Sitsyllt, lord of Essyllt, in Powys, when he was only fourteen years of age; and who was yet in his minority. Aedan, who had succeeded to the dominion of NorthWales, after a contest in which he slew his rival, Conan ab Hywel, in battle, taking advantage of Llewelyn's youth, reduced the kingdom of South Wales, without much difficulty, in the year 1000 but in 1015, the young prince, being then of full age, and having assembled a sufficient number of forces, gave battle to Aedan, routed his army, and slew that prince himself. By this signal victory Llewelyn became not only master of the kingdom of Dynevor, or South Wales, but also of that of North Wales. In 1020, an adventurer from Scotland, calling himself Rhun, and pretending to be the son of Meredydd, appeared in South Wales, and, having prevailed upon some of the most powerful chieftains to espouse his cause, found himself in a short time at the head of a sufficient force to take the field. Llewelyn, who was then in North Wales, hearing of these proceedings, hastened southward with his forces, and encountered Rhun at Aberguilly, near Carmarthen, where the latter had already arrayed his army in order for battle : the conflict was long and pertinaciously maintained, but at last terminated in favour of Llewelyn, who pursued his advantage with so much vigour, that Rhun was overtaken and slain.
In the following year, Hywel and Meredydd, sons of Edwin, accompanied by Eulaf, or Aulaf, and a large army of Irish and Scots, landed in South Wales, with a view to the conquest of that kingdom, and, having pillaged the church of St. David's, in Pembrokeshire, advanced to Carmarthen, where they were met and routed by Llewelyn and his brother Conan: this engagement, however, proved fatal to Llewelyn himself, through the treachery of Madoc Min, Bishop of Bangor. Llewelyn left one son, named Grufydd, who was in his minority: availing themselves of this circumstance, Iago, son of Idwal, took possession of the principality of North Wales, while the kingdom of Dynevor was usurped by Rhydderch, son of Iestyn, lord of Glamorgan; but the latter, in 1031, lost both the kingdom and his life in an engagement with Hywel and Meredydd who had again invaded South Wales with a powerful army of Irish and Scots. The sons of Conan ab Sitsyllt soon rose in arms against these princes, to avenge the murder of their uncle Llewelyn, and, in this enterprise, they slew Meredydd, but failed in their efforts to dethrone Hywel. Grufydd, being now of age, asserted his claims to his father's dominions, and the people, flocking to his standard from all quarters, soon took the field against Iago, Prince of North Wales, whom he defeated and slew; then, marchillg southward, he compelled the states of South Wales also to acknowledge his sovereign authority, and defeated Hywel in various attempts to recover his dominion there. The latter, undismayed by his ill fortune, still repeatedly took the field, aided by parties of Danes, who pillaged the country ; but at last, being attacked unawares, he was defeated and slain by Grufydd.
On the death of Hywel, the sovereignty of South Wales was claimed by Rhydderch and Rhys, sons of Rhydderch ab Iestyn, who, with a powerful army raised in Glamorgan, fought an obstinate but indecisive battle with Grufydd, after which both parties withdrew their forces. Soon after this event, some partisans of Caradoc, son of Rhydderch ab Iestyn, came from Gwent and Glamorgan into this county, where, in alliance with some of Grufydd's discontented subjects, they attacked the possessions of that prince's friends, of whom they put several todeath; but Grufydd, leading his forces southward, punished his rebellious nobles by laying waste their estates in Dyved, Ystrad Tywi, or Carmarthenshire, and Gower in Glamorganshire. In 1056, Grufydd's brother Rhys was defeated and slain in his invasion of Glamorgan and Gwent; and, soon after, Grufydd himself experienced a similar catastrophe in a battle fought against Caradoc, son of Rhydderch ab Iestyn, aided by the Saxon chieftain, Harold, with a powerful body of forces. Harold gave the sovereignty of Dynevor to Meredydd ab Owain, thought to have been descended from Hywel Dda, who, in 1069, was defeated and slain on the border of Glamorgan, by Caradoc, who had engaged in his cause a considerable body of Norman forces from England. Caradoc died in the following year, and was succeeded in his government of South Wales by his son Rhydderch.
In 1072, Rhys ab Owain, the grandson of Hywel Dda, who had for some time remained in obscurity in the Isle of Man, suddenly appeared in South Wales, to assert his claim to the dominion of that principality; and, having collected a considerable body of forces in this county and that of Brecknock, marched northward, and defeated the troops of Bleddyn ab Cynvyn, the reigning prince of North Wales, who was himself treacherously slain during the action. Rhys then turned towards Dynevor, but gave Rhydderch a friendly meeting, in which terms were entered into so little satisfactory to Rhydderch's relatives, that the latter was soon after put to death by his cousin, Meirchion ab Rhydderch, and Rhys became sovereign of all Wales. In 1074, however, he was attacked by Goronw and Llewelyn, the sons of Bleddyn ab Cynvyn, aided by a large force from Glamorgan, by whom he was twice defeated, and in the last engagement taken prisoner, and afterwards put to death.
In 1077, Rhys ab Tewdwr, a descendant of Hywel Dda, who had been compelled to take refuge in Armorica, on the usurpation of the principality of Dynevor by the princes of Glamorgan, came into South Wales, with the view of recovering to himself that sovereignty, now held by Iestyn ab Gwrgan, Prince of Glamorgan; and his pretensions being favoured by the hatred which prevailed against the latter, the native chieftains consented to his assumption of the sovereign authority. Rhys, in 1080, assisted to place Grufydd ab Conan on the throne of North Wales, and afterwards invaded the territories of Iestyn ab Gwrgan, in Glamorgan; but he had no sooner withdrawn his troops, than the latter retaliated by ravaging Ystrad Tywi, or Carmarthenshire, and Brecknockshire, whence he carried away a large booty. In the same year also, William the Conqueror marched an army into South Wales, and, abstaining from all hostilities, received the feudal homage of the Welsh princes, and performed a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. David, in Pembrokeshire. In 1087, the sons of Bleddyn ab Cynvyn raised so formidable an insurrection in South Wales, that Rhys was compelled to retire to Ireland; but having obtained from his brother-in-law, the king of Dublin, a large body of Irish forces, he returned to South Wales, where he was joined by many of his friends, and gained a complete victory over his enemies. Having suppressed a rebellion in Dyved, Rhys had shortly afterwards to oppose Iestyn, Prince of Glamorgan, and his Norman auxiliaries, by whom he was totally defeated withill the limits of the present county of Glamorgan, and, according to the Welsh chronicles, was soon after taken and beheaded by Iestyn; but Mr. Jones, in his History of Brecknockshire, thinks that he retired to Caerbannau, in that county, and was slain fighting against the Normans under Bernard Newmarch.
From this period the kingdom of Dynevor, in consequence of civil dissensions, fomented by the Norman monarchs of England, and the encroachments of the Norman barons, rapidly declined in power and extent, and was soon reduced withill the boundaries of the present counties of Carmarthen and Cardigan. The defeat and death of Rhys and his eldest son left the government without a head, until the year 1092, when Cadwgan ab Bleddyn, Prince of Powys, a man of bold and enterprising spirit, assumed the sovereignty of South Wales. and carried on an almost uninterrupted series of contests, either with the Norman lords, or with the English monarch himself. William de Londres, one of the Norman knights who had assisted Robert Fitz-Hamon in the conquest of Glamorgan, led a powerful force, in 1094. into Kidwelly and Ystrad Tywi, now included in this county, and at the former place built a castle to secure his conquests. Cadwgan, and Grufydd Prince of North Wales, were both compelled, at one time by a formidable insurrection of the subjects of the latter, to withdraw to Ireland ; but they returned the next year with a large body of Irish mercenaries, and re-established themselves in their respective governments. Cadwgan continued for some time upon amicable terms with Henry I., but at last became embroiled with that monarch, owing to the misconduct of his son in forcibly carrying away to Powys, Nest the wife of Gerald de Windsor, governor of the castle of Pembroke. Henry urged the nobles of Powys to avenge the insult, not only by the destruction of Owain himself, but also............
by attacking the possessions of his father Cadwgan, both of whom, finding the whole country in arms against them, fled to Ireland; but in the following year Cadwgan returned, and, having made his peace with Henry, was restored to his dominions. Owain also returned after a short interval, and, being unable to appease the king's displeasure, engaged in a desultory warfare with the lords marcher, which once more drew upon Cadwgan the resentment of Henry, who sent for him to London to answer for the conduct of his son, and there detained him a state prisoner. Henry, however, once more restored to him his honours and possessions, which he enjoyed only for a short time, being assassinated, in 1110, by his nephew, Madoc ab Rhyrid.
On this event, Henry was enabled, by the divided and unsettled state of the whole country, to effect the conquest of the sovereignty of South Wales, which he held for several years, to the exclusion of various competitors. In 1113, Grufydd ab Rhys, eldest surviving son of Rhys ab Tewdwr, who, during his minority, had resided in Ireland, came to South Wales, where he was encouraged by Gerald de Windsor, who had espoused Grufydd's sister, to assert his claim to the principality; but Henry, being soon apprised of his designs, took prompt steps to frustrate them, and Grufydd was obliged to seek refuge at the court of Grufydd ab Conan, Prince of North Wales, where he was shortly joined by his brother Hywel, who had effected his escape from Montgomery castle. But Grufydd ab Conan entertaining a design of delivering up these young princes into the hands of the king of England, they made their escape by sea to South Wales, and Grufydd ab Rhys, having reached this county in safety, determined to prosecute his claims by open warfare. His cause was eagerly espoused by his countrymen, and he soon commenced active hostilities, at the head of a large body of warriors, by entering Gower, where he made an unsuccessful attack on Swansea, and, having ravaged the surrounding country, returned into Ystrad Tywi with great booty. He afterwards successively attacked the Norman castles of Llandovery and Carmarthen, but without success ; and in 1114, he again marched towards Gower, capturing on the way the castle of Kidwelly from William de Londres.
Giraldus Cambrensis, in his Itinerary, states that, a few years after, Grufydd's wife, Gwenllian, attended by her two sons, led in person a body of troops into the vicinity of this fortress, where she was defeated, made prisoner, and put to death, with several of her followers, by Maurice de Londres, grandson of William. Whether or not this may have been, the reputation which Grufydd acquired by these expeditions greatly added to the number of his followers; and Henry, regarding this affair as important, encouraged his Norman and Flemish vassals, and such Welsh adventurers as had somethillg to expect from his favour, to unite their forces against him. Grufydd, aware of the advantages derived by his enemies from the king's possessing so strong a fortress as the castle of Carmarthen in the heart of his little dominion, led his forces against it with great secrecy, and took it by surprise: he then marched into Cardiganshire, where he was frequently successful against the Norman lords, but experienced a severe loss in an incautious attack upon the castle of Aberystwith.
The English sovereign, finding that Grufydd was completely master of the country, engaged Owain ab Cadwgan and Llywarch ab Trahaern, by liberal promises, to lead their forces into South Wales to the assistance of his vassals, and they accordingly entered the Vale of Tywi ; but Gerald de Windsor, who had recovered his wife from the hands of Owain, and was now in arms in support of Henry's dominion, in revenge for the injury he had received from that profligate chieftain, fell upon him unawares, when attended only by a few forces, and slew him, after a short conflict; and this event terminated the expedition, for Llywarch, seeing that the king's vassals, on whose co-operation he depended, were not to be trusted, withdrew his forces. Some other expeditions were undertaken, but with the like in success; and, in 1121, Henry concluded a peace with Grufydd, ceding to him a large portion of the ancient kingdom of Dynevor. In 1130, however, the English monarch, on the complaints of the Norman lords, ordered Grufydd to be again attacked; but the latter, with his own troops and the assistance of Hywel ab Meredydd, a chieftain of Brecknock, acting wholly on the defensive, succeeded in driving the Norman and Flemish invaders from his territories, and then despatched an embassy to Henry, to ascertain the particulars of his offence, which information was refused him.
On the accession of Stephen to the English throne, in 1135, he sent to Grufydd a peremptory summons to attend him without delay in London, to answer complaints which had been preferred against him; but the latter, instead of complying, having been joined by several native chieftains of both North and South Wales, overran the whole of Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire repeatedly defeating the forces of the Norman lords with great slaughter: after this series of victories, which had nearly proved fatal to the English settlers in South Wales, Grufydd held a grand festival at his palace in this county, to which he invited all the princes and nobles of Wales and the Marches, and which continued for forty days. Grufydd, after having revised the existing laws of his people, died in 1136, and was succeeded by his eldest son Rhys, the earlier part of whose reign seems not to have been marked by any important event. One of the first transactions recorded is an expedition of Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales, against the Normans and Flemings in Cardiganshire and the contiguous counties, in which he is stated to have destroyed the castle and town of Carmarthen, of which the Norman lords had again obtained possession.
A similar incursion was made a few years afterwards, in 1144, by Owain's sons; and Stephen was so fully employed in maintaining himself on the English throne, that he was unable to exercise any power in behalf of his vassals in this country, who, however, carried on hostilities independently of their sovereign ; and, in 1145, we find the Earl of Clare in possession of the castle of Carmarthen, though the chief exertions of Rhys and his brothers, at this time, seem to have been directed against the attempts of these lords to reinstate themselves in their dominion over this part of Wales. In the same year, Rhys and his brother Cadell recovered possession of the castles of Carmarthen, Dynevor, and Llanstephan, all on the Tywi. The last-named fortress was immediately after beset by a large force of Normans, English, and Flemings, but was successfully defended by Meredydd, the brother of Rhys. The castle of Carmarthen was committed to the custody of Cadell, who repaired and strengthened the works, and made repeated incursions from it into the neighbouring territories of the Norman settlers, devastating more particularly the lands of Kidwelly and Gower.
He afterwards joined his forces to those of his brother Meredydd, in an expedition with a powerful army into Cardiganshire, from which they returned laden with booty. Other similar expeditions were afterwards undertaken ; and Rhys, having nearly rebuilt and greatly strengthened his royal castle of Dynevor, began to concert a plan for the total expulsion of the foreign settlers from Wales, in which, however, he could obtain no co-operation from the other Welsh chieftains. On the accession of Henry II. to the English throne, Rhys refused to join in the general peace offered to that monarch by the Welsh; but, being summoned to the English court, an accommodation was speedily effected, by which Henry was to cede to Rhys the district of Cantrev Mawr, in which stood his castle of Dynevor, and some other lordships, at that time in his possession; and to deliver up to him several castles, which he was to hold as securities for the ratification of the treaty: for these the Welsh prince rendered homage, and returned to his country, leaving two of his sons at the English court, as hostages; but the conditions, on the part of the English king, were but partially fulfilled. Gilbert Earl of Clare, after recovering some of those estates, in Cardiganshire, which had been taken from him in the reign of Stephen, proceeded to attack the possessions of Rhys in Carmarthenshire : the latter complained to the king of England, but receiving only evasive answers, he attacked and destroyed several of the castles of the English, and obtained forcible possession of the territories, which, in violation of the agreement before mentioned, had been withheld from him. While he was besieging the castle of Carmarthen, King Henry despatched against him a powerful army, under the command of the Earls of Bristol and Clare, augmented by the forces of the prince of North Wales : Rhys withdrew his men to the mountains of Cevn Rhester, and the confederated army, finding no enemy to oppose, encamped for a short time in the Vale of Tywi, and then removed into North Wales.
On the return of Henry from Normandy, in 1163, being informed that Rhys had, during his absence, continued to molest his vassals, he led an army into South Wales, as far as Pencader, in this county, ten miles north of Carmarthen, where, before the commencement of hostilities, some of the chieftains of Brecknockshire interfering, matters were so arranged that Rhys on condition of retaining certain districts, gave two of his nephews as hostages for his future submission. These the king delivered into the custody of the Earl of Gloucester,who inhumanly put them to death; and, on this act of treachery, the Welsh prince again flew to arms, and proceeded against the possessions of Gloucester, in Cardiganshire, and afterwards against those of other English proprietors, in Pembrokeshire. After this expedition, which proved completely successful, he was joined in his operations against the English by Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales, and the chieftains of Powys : this confederacy was soon attacked by the English monarch, but the blow fell upon North Wales, whither Rhys led his troops to the common defence of their country. He afterwards again invaded Cardigan and Pembroke, and returned to his castle of Dynevor, loaded with spoil ; but, for a long period subsequent to this expedition, he remained on the most friendly terms with the English monarch, whom he met at Cardiff, on his way to Ireland, in 1172 and again at Talacharn, now commonly called Laugharne, in this county, on the king's return from that country. Some time after, when Henry was about to leave England for France, he appointed Rhys chief justice of South Wales.
On the accession of Richard I. to the throne, in 1189, Rhys once more became the enemy of English power, and, having mustered his forces, laid siege to the castle of Carmarthen, which he took and demolished, and then proceeded towards the Marches, where he captured several castles, and returned to Dynevor in triumph : on this occasion he strengthened the castle of Kidwelly, rendering it handsomer than any of his other fortresses. Rhys died in 1196, being then styled Arglwydd, or lord, which title was transmitted to his descendants, having lost his rank and authority as a sovereign by his forced submissions to the English monarch. He was succeeded in his territories and his lordship of South Wales by his son, Grufydd ab Rhys who was attacked and made prisoner at his castle of Aberystwith, in Cardiganshire, by his brother Maelgwyn, aided by Gwenwynwyn, son of Owain Cyveilioc, lord of Powys, but was released in the year following by the English lords, into whose custody he had been given by Gwenwynwyn, and, in 1199, succeeded in expelling his usurping brother from his domains in Cardiganshire: on the death of his brother Meredydd, in 1201 he also seized upon his estates and his castle of Llandovery, the latter of which, on the death of Grufydd in the year following, fell into the possession of Maelgwyn, from whom it was taken, in 1204, by Rhys son of Grufydd, who had succeeded to the territory of his father. Rhys afterwards took and fortified Llangadock castle, in this county; but his uncle, assisted by his ally Gwenwynwyn, forced him to abandon his conquests, of which, however, he repossessed himself on Maelgwyn's withdrawing his forces into Cardiganshire.
About the year 1209, Rhys Vychan, or Grug, brother of Maelgwyn, who had hitherto been on friendly terms with his nephews, Rhys and Owain ab Grufydd, turned his arms against them, and took the castle of Llangadock; but they marched against that fortress with all their forces, destroyed the garrison, and razed it to the ground. Rhys Vychan, fearing also the power of Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, who had espoused the cause of the younger chieftains, departed for England, where he obtained a supply of troops from King John; and returning with these reinforcements he invested and took the castle of Llandovery : Maelgwyn also, on making submission to the English monarch, was allowed a large body of English auxiliaries, with which he marched into Cardiganshire. After some refractory conduct on the part of the young lords, who had refused to do homage to the English king, they were received into favour : but the uncles soon after throwing off their allegiance, Rhys and Owain carried on a protracted warfare against them, and at last implored the assistance of King John in the recovery of their property, of nearly the whole of which their uncles had by degrees deprived them. That monarch ordered Viscount Foulke to demand of Rhys Vychan the castle of Llandovery, with the territory appertaining to it, for the use of young Rhys and his brother; but all accommodation of that kind being refused, the English commander, attended by the two brothers, with all the forces they could collect, marched towards Dinevor, and, being met on the way by Rhys Vychan, a battle ensued, in which the latter was defeated with considerable loss. From the field of action he retreated towards Dynevor, and, having reinforced the garrison of that fortress, burned the town of Llandilo-Vawr to the ground, and retired to the most inaccessible parts of the neighbouring country. Foulke and the young lords assaulted the castle with such vigour, that the next day the garrison surrendered, on condition of being allowed to depart with their arms; and the remainder of the district submitted without resistance. Rhys Vychan. removed his family to Aberystwith, in Cardiganshire, but was himself shortly after taken prisoner at Carmarthen, and committed to the king's prison there, but soon released on giving hostages : after the departure of Foulke, the castle of Llandovery surrendered to Rhys ab Grufydd.
This young prince having been reconciled to his uncle Maelgwyn, their united forces invaded Pembrokeshire: these chieftains afterwards did homage to Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, Prince of North Wales ; and Rhys attacked several of the English vassals, taking first the castle of Kidwelly, in this county, and afterwards advancing into Glamorganshire. The same year, Llewelyn ab Iorwerth led a large army into South Wales against the English settlers ; and in the course of the expedition, in which he was assisted by the forces of Rhys ab Grufydd, his brother Owain, and their two uncles, he took the castle of Carmarthen, which he razed to the ground, and afterwards those of Llanstephan, St. Clear's, Talacharn,or Laugharne, and Emlyn, in this county, besides others in Cardiganshire. Afterwards, young Rhys and his brother, in alliance with Llewelyn, attacked the territories of Llewelyn's son-in-law, Reginald de Breos, in Brecknockshire : Llewelyn placed a strong garrison in the castle of Carmarthen, and is also stated to have given Rhys Grufydd permission to do homage to the king of England for some of his lands. Rhys afterwards quarrelled with Llewelyn concerning the possession of his castle of Cardigan, but was reconciled to him through the mediation of Henry III., and died in the course of the same year.
In the absence of William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, then engaged in Ireland on behalf of theEnglish monarch, Llewelyn took several of that nobleman's castles in South Wales, the garrisons of which he put to the sword, and replaced with his own soldiers; but the earl, on his return in 1223 retaliated upon the possessions and subjects of Llewelyn, taking the castles of Cardigan and Carmarthen. The Welsh prince, to oppose his progress, despatched into Carmarthenshire his son Grufydd, who, having arrived at Kidwelly, intended to have taken up his quarters there; but hearing of a conspiracy that had been formed by the inhabitants to betray him to the Earl of Pembroke, he set fire to that town, and marched towards Carmarthen, where the earl was then posted. The latter crossed the river Tywi, and gave him battle ; and the obstinate engagement that ensued was terminated only by the darkness of the night, when both commanders withdrew their forces, neither of them having obtained any advantage : the earl kept his troops in Carmarthen, and Grufydd encamped for a few days at some distance on the opposite side of the river, but his provisions beginning to fail, he withdrew into North Wales, and the earl retired into Cardiganshire.
Rhys, son of Rhys Vychan, having made his father prisoner, in 1226, obtained from him, as the condition of his liberation, the castle of Llandovery, in this county. In 1233, Richard Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, in consequence of a quarrel with Henry III., in which he was aided by Owain ab Grufydd, Vychan,and Maelgwyn, son of Maelgwyn ab Rhys, who had died in 1230, committed great devastations on the lands of many of the English settlers, and laid siege to the castle of Carmarthen, which successfully resisted his assaults for three months, when the arrival of succours by sea compelled the earl to abandon his enterprise. About this time Rhys Vychan died at Llandilo-Vawr, in this county; and his death was followed soon after by that of his nephew, Owain ab Grufydd, whose possessions descended to his son Meredydd, while those of Rhys were shared between his sons Meredydd and Rhys, also named Rhys Vychan in the Welsh annals. On the death of Davydd ab Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, King Henry sent Nicholas de Myles to Carmarthen, with a commission for Meredydd ab Rhys Vychan and Meredydd ab Owain to assist in dispossessing Maelgwyn Vychan, son of Maelgwyn ab Rhys, of his territories, which the latter abandoned, and retired into North Wales.
Rhys Vychan, in 1254, obtained possession of the castle of Carreg Cynnen, in this county, which his mother had placed in the hands of some of the English settlers : and having his territory of Builth, in Brecknockshire, taken from him by Llewelyn ab Grufydd, Prince of North Wales, who gave it to Rhys' brother Meredydd, he obtained from King Henry a powerful force to aid him in recovering that portion of his territories which was held by Meredydd ; and, with these auxiliaries, commanded by Stephen Bacon, he came by sea to Carmarthen, and thence marched against Dynevor castle. Llewelyn, however, sent a large force to the relief of this fortress ; and the Welsh leaders, Meredydd ab Owain and Meredydd ab Rhys, being thus reinforced, gave battle to the English army, which they totally routed, in one of the most sanguinary conflicts that ever occurred in the principality, with the loss of about two thousand men : Llewelyn's troops afterwards proceeded towards Pembrokeshire, destroying in their march the castle of Llanstephan, in which it is thought that the remains of the English army had taken refuge .
In 1258, the Welsh nobility held a convention, in which they solemnly bound themselves to maintain the common cause of their country against the attacks and encroachments of the English ; but Rhys soon passed over to the side of the English king, and, during a truce which existed about this period, was sent, in company with Patrick de Canton, the king's lieutenant, to Carmarthen, to negociate a peace with Llewelyn, who, on his part, appointed commissioners to meet them at Emlyn, now called Newcastle-Emlyn, in this county, and among the number sent his own brother Davydd. Patrick, learning on his journey that his own followers were more numerous than those of the Welsh deputies, attacked the latter unawares with great fury, and slew several of their men, while the chieftains themselves escaped with great difficulty: Davydd their leader, however, immediately raised the surrounding country, and, overtaking the offenders, slew Patrick, with the greater number of his attendants.
Edward I., soon after his accession to the English throne, at the same time that he invaded North Wales in person, sent into South Wales a powerful army under the command of Payen de Chaworth, who laid waste the territories of several of the native chieftains, and took possession of the castle of Dynevor, which he had found in the hands of Rhys ab Meredydd, who at that time took part with the English. Edward, on his second and final invasion of North Wales, again had a powerful force actively employed in the southern part of the principality, under the Earl of Gloucester and Sir Edward Mortimer: these noblemen encountered the Welsh forces opposed to them at Llandilo-Vawr,where they completely defeated them. Edward, having accomplished the subjugation of Wales, provided for its future government by the laws contained in the celebrated statute of Rhuddlan, the provisions of which did not interfere with the territories of the lords marcher, in which they exercised jura regalia, but erected the districts which had of late years belonged more immediately to the princes of the house of Dynevor, and were then in the possession of the crown, into the present counties of Carmarthen and Cardigan, which were placed under the same laws and regulations as those of England.
For some years the country remained peaceable; but, during Edward's absence in France, Rhys ab Meredydd, whom that monarch had knighted for his services in aid of the subjugation of South Wales, revolted from his allegiance, took the castles of Llandovery and Dynevor, and burned several towns . Edward sent against him the Earl of Cornwall, who, advancing with his forces into this county, compelled Rhys to abandon the field, and then proceeded to attack his castles. On account of the approach of winter, the Earl of Cornwall suspended his operations, and granted the enemy a truce; and as soon as Rhys found that the English commander had withdrawn his forces, he again took the field, and besieged the castle of Emlyn ; but Robert de Tibetot, the justiciary of South Wales, suddenly raising a large force, with the intention of opposing him, he fled to Ireland. Three years afterwards Rhys returned into South Wales, and, having collected a large body of partisans, fought a fierce and sanguinary battle with the justiciary, in which he was defeated with the loss of four thousand men; and being himself taken prisoner, he was shortly after executed as a traitor at York, and his possessions were bestowed on Tibetot in reward for his services.
The only important manifestation of public opposition to the authority of the king of England after this period, in which this county had any share, was at the time of the great revolt under Owain Glyndwr: at this period the French landed twelve thousand men in aid of that chieftain at Milford Haven, whence they marched towards the English border, by way of Carmarthen, the castle of which they took ;but on the retreat of the French, the chief men of the county soon after abandoned the cause of Glyndwr, and renewed their allegiance to the English sovereign. On the landing of the Earl of Richmond in Pembrokeshire, in August 1485, to contest the possession of the English crown with Richard III., he was immediately joined from this county by Rhys ab Thomas of Abermarlais, the most powerful subject in this part of the island, attended by a numerous body of his friends and adherents, who afterwards led part of the earl's small army through Carmarthenshire into Brecknockshire, in which progress its ranks were swelled by great numbers favourable to the cause, collected by the light of the beacons.
Rhys was knighted on Bosworth Field, being the first who received that honour from Henry VII. : and, for his eminent services throughout this contest, Henry appointed him governor of all Wales, constable and lieutenant of Brecknockshire, chamberlain of South Wales in the counties of Cardigan and Carmarthen,, and seneschal of the lordship of Builth in Brecknockshire. Invested with these powers, Sir Rhys calmed the disorders which had arisen frorn the unsettled state of the supreme government, and fully restored obedience to the laws. During the civil war of the seventeenth century, Richard Vaughan, the first earl of Carberry, about the year 1644, enjoyed the rank of general over this county, together with those of Pembroke and Cardigan, by commission from Charles I; but, although the forces under his command were far more numerous than those of the parliamentarian leaders sent against him, he made no opposition to their progress, and the latter made themselves masters of the country : nevertheless, Vaughan was shortly after created Baron Emlyn, and lord of Carmarthen, yet received not the least molestation from the parliament, and was in high favour with Cromwell. After the great battle of St. Fagan's, in Glamorganshire, this county was the scene of several skirmishes between Colonel Horton, the victorious parliamentarian commander in that engagement, and Colonel Poyer, his defeated adversary.
Carmarthenshire is in the diocese of St.David's, and province of Canterbury : it is almost wholly included in the archdeaconry of Carmarthen, which comprises the deaneries of Carmarthen, Kidwelly, Llandilo, and Llangadock, in Carmarthenshire, and that of Gower in the county of Glamorgan: four of its parishes are comprised in the archdeaconry of Cardigan : the total number of them is seventy-six, of which fifteen are rectories, thirty-eight vicarages, and twenty-three perpetual curacies.
For purposes of civil government it is divided into the hundreds of Cathillog, Cayo, Derllys, Elvet, and Perveth (each of which has Higher and Lower divisions), and the three comots, or hundreds, of Carnwallon, Iscennen, and Kidwelly, which form a separate liberty, distinct from the rest of the county, having its own bailiff, coroner, &c. It contains the boroughs, market towns, and ports, of Carmarthen and Llanelly; the incorporated market and sea-port towns of Kidwelly and Laugharne ; the market towns of Llandilo-Vawr, Llandovery, Llangadock, and Newcastle-Emlyn; and the small sea-port of St.Clear's.
One knight was formerly returned to parliament for the shire, which, by the late act for amending the representation of the people, will henceforward send two, and one representative for the borough of Carmarthen, to which that of Llanelly has been made contributory: the county member was, prior to the passing of the act, elected at Llandilo-Vawr, but they are now to be elected at Carmarthen: the polling-places are Carmarthen, Llandilo-Vawr, and Llandovery. This county is in the South Wales circuit : the assizes, and the Epiphany, Easter, and Michaelmas quarter sessions are held at Carmarthen, and the Midsummer quarter sessions at Llandilo-Vawr: the county gaol and county house of correction are at Carmarthen : there are thirty-five acting magistrates for the county. The parochial rates raised in the county for the year ending March 25th, 1830, amounted to £37,957, and the expenditure to £37,978, of which £30,863 was applied to the relief of the poor.
Nearly the whole of the surface of Carmarthenshire is hilly, but it seldom attains a mountainous elevation: by far the greater portion is comprised in the slate tract of South Wales, which occupies all the northern part of the county, from Cwm y Dwr and the river Tywi to its northern and western confines. Here a broken chain of hills, connected with the mountain of Plinlimmon, in Montgomeryshire, and forming for the most part one side of the Vale of Teivy, extends from Brecknockshire towards the sea. On the eastern side of Carmarthenshire commences the long chain called the Black Mountains, which thence extends into Monmonthshire, a conspicuous summit of which, called Y Van, or Ban Sir Gaer, "the Carmarthenshire Beacon," is the highest summit in the county, being two thousand five hundred and ninety-six feet above the level of the sea. This striking and picturesque eminence is separated by a deep and narrow chasm from another of similar appearance, but rather superior elevation, in Brecknockshire; and the summits of both are usually noticed together as Bannau Sir Gaer, or the Carmarthenshire Beacons, to distinguish them from the hills near Brecknock, called Bannau Brecheiniog, or the Brecknockshire Beacons. They are included in the line of red sand-stone soils which extends in a direction generally from. east to west across the whole of the southern part of the principality; and hence, suddenly contracting, passes south-westward in a tract of a few miles broad, bounded on the north by the slate district, and on the south by limestone, to the innermost part of Carmarthen bay, and thence west by north into Pembrokeshire.
From this, beyond a narrow range of limestone, the rest of the county, forming its south-eastern extremity, is included in the great coal field of South Wales, and contains Bettws mountain, being part of a chain which diverges from the Black Mountain, near the upper end of the Vale of Tawe, in Brecknockshire, and thence stretches along the banks of the Amman and Loughor nearly to the sea. The valleys, through which run the rapid and sometimes impetuous streams descending from the more elevated districts, are distinguished for their picturesque beauties, more especially that of the Tywy, or Towy, one of the most extensive in South Wales; but the smaller valleys are of more uniform appearance than those of Glamorgan and Cardigan. The mountainous tracts are for the most part bleak and dreary, except to the north of Llandilo-Vawr and Llandovery, where the scenery has the general character of that of Cardiganshire, upon which it borders.
On the shores of the Burry river and the bay of Carmarthen, from Loughor to Kidwelly, are several extensive salt marshes ; and Laugharne marsh, on the northern side of the bay, comprises two thousand acres of excellent land, besides a large sandy tract. This county contains several small lakes worthy of notice: of these, Llyn Tegwyn, sometimes called Pwll yr Escob, or the "Bishop's Pool," of a circular form and about half a mile in diameter, is remarkably situated at its northern extremity, and on the highest summit of Mynydd Mawr, or the Great Mountain, a few miles to the westward of Llandebie. A lake of the most limpid water, in form nearly a parallelogram, and about a mile in length, is situated at the bottom of the almost perpendicular declivity of the upper part of the Carmarthenshire Beacon : its scenery is rendered awfully grand by the precipitous rocks which overhang it; while, so great is its elevation, that the snow remains unmelted on its shores for seven months in the year. There are also two small. lakes at the foot of a lofty hill, near which stand the ruins of the abbey of Talley.
The climate partakes of the great humidity which characterizes that of the western parts of Wales, and which, though favourable to the production of grasses, prevents, in many situations, the perfect and seasonable ripening of corn; more particularly in the Vale of Towy, which opens south-westward to the accumulated vapours of the Atlantic, and up which are attracted dense clouds and mists that are broken by the mountains towards the source of that river, and fall in frequent showers : the harvest commences in few places before the third week in August, except in the south-western part of the county, where it begins towards the close of July, or early in August. Except on the mountains in the eastern and northern parts, the air is in general extremely mild, and hoar frost scarcely ever occurs in the Vale of Towy, save on the southern side, where, the sun being excluded, the frost, after having set in, commonly continues the whole day. The Vale of the Teivy, on the northern side of the county, is not subject to the same degree of humidity as that of the Towy, the range of mountains separating them intercepting the rains from the south, and causing them to be precipitated almost wholly on the southern side. The climate of the higher mountains is cold, wet, and tempestuous.
The soils are very various. In the slate and coal tracts, occupying so much of the surface, they are for the most part of an inferior quality: peat is here found in all the hollows, and sometimes upon the slopes of the mountains ; while unfertile clay abounds near their surface in many other places. The soils resting on the slate, which is for the most part of a greyish colour, are poorer wherever the latter assumes a blue cast. The clay of the coal tract contains a considerable admixture of sand. and is therefore less stubborn and more easily brought under tillage than that of the slate. The red soils are in general of an excellent kind and depth for either tillage or pasture; and barley produced on this land, southward of the Vale of Towy, is in great request for seed on the soils of the slate tract. In general, the limestone soils are very shallow ; but limestone forms the substratum of a part of the rich tract of Laugharne marsh. The soil of the valleys is for the most part of a light brown or red colour, and a very rich quality, which increases in their descent towards the sea, in proportion to the length of the course of the streams which traverse them: the banks of the Towy and the Taf are more particularly distinguished for their exuberant fertility.
The general system of farming is injudicious, the ground being exhausted by a constant succession of corn crops. Agricultural societies for the encouragement of improved systems of culture, by the distribution of prizes, have been formed in different parts of it ; and the Norfolk system has of late years been introduced on several extensive farms, and various superior modes of management adopted in other places. In the enclosed lands the proportions under grass and under tillage are about equal. Wheat is most extensively cultivated in the Vales of Towy, Llangendeirn, and Llandebie, in the neighbourhood of St. Clear's, and in Laugharne marsh, which is, nevertheless, chiefly a dairy farm ; but the climate not being favourable to the growth of this grain, good samples are very scarce, and the quantity raised not near sufficient for the supply of the inhabitants of the county, who are therefore under the necessity of importing a great deal from Bristol.
The produce in the vales of Towy and Teivy, and in the other richer lowlands, is from twenty to twenty-five bushels per acre, but on the uplands only from ten to fifteen. Barley succeeds better, and produces good crops in bulk, but generally ill-coloured, and frequently thill-bodied, owing to almost incessant rains and damps: the best quality grows on the northern side of the hills separating the vales of Towy and Teivy: the produce on the uplands averages about thirteen bushels per acre, though it is sometimes as low as nine, and sometimes as high as twenty. Oats are very extensively cultivated, more particularly on the uplands, and are the most profitable crop grown : the produce is generally small, but in the vale of the Teivy it is sometimes as much as fifty bushels per acre : large quantities of oats, though of an inferior quality, are annually exported to Bristol and other markets, together with some barley. On some of the hills, separating the vales of Towy and Teivy, oats and barley are sown together, and the produce, being kiln-dried and ground, is made into a kind of bread, called sipris : oaten bread is also frequently used among the hills. Peas are very little cultivated, and beans only in Laugharne marsh. Buckwheat is occasionally grown; potatoes commonly.
Turnips are sometimes grown, but suffer greatly from being choked by the natural grasses produced by superabundant moisture. Vetches are sown in some instances, as also are flax and hemp, more particularly in Laugharne marsh. The principal artificial grasses are trefoil, red and white clover, and rye-grass: lucern is cultivated in a few places. After a course of tillage, more particularly in Laugharne marsh, the land is sometimes left to recover its native sward without being sown with any kind of grass seeds, but this practice is gradually falling into disuse. The beautiful Vale of Towy is the tract most distinguished for the excellence of its grass lands, more particularly from Llangadock down to Carmarthen, and thence to the sea, in which latter extent they consist chiefly of drained marshes : next to this the banks of the Taf are most noted. In those parts of the county which border on Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire the pastures are frequently fogged; that is, they lie ungrazed from June until March, when the grass becomes of great value, and, owing to the mildness of the winter, has suffered no damage. Meadows conveniently situated have, in a few instances, been brought under a system of artificial irrigation. The chief produce of the dairy is butter and cheese: the former is exported in considerable quantities to Bristol and Merthyr-Tydvil, in casks containing about one hundred lb. ; while the cheese, which is made almost exclusively of skimmed milk, is chiefly consumed in the county.
Lime is the most common manure, and is frequently brought from a considerable distance : the practice of folding sheep is generally pursued on the upland farms. The agricultural implements are for the most part of a light and improved construction ; the ploughillg teams generally consist of two horses with a driver. Waggons are sometimes seen in the more level parts of the county, but carts are every where in more common use: these are drawn by one horse in the shafts, and two abreast before him, which are usually driven in hand, and guided by a single rein fastened to the bridle of the nearleader. The most common kind of cattle is a native black breed: on the mountains they are very small, but in the vales and richer lands attain a middling size, though they are every where ill-shaped and unprofitable for the dairy. Besides these, Carmarthenshire contains also black Pembrokeshire cattle, better known as the Castlemartin breed, which are chiefly found in the parts bordering on that county ; some of the brown Devonshire breed; and, in the neighbourhood of Llandovery, Llan-gadock, &-c., a few of the Herefordshire sort.
The breed of sheep for which it is most distinguished is that of its mountains, which occupies more particularly the high bleak and open tracts between the Teivy and the Towy. Little attention is in general bestowed on these sheep : some of them are horned, and for the most part they have white faces and legs : their wool is short and coarse, and is used in the manufacture of flannels, blankets, ordinary cloths, and felt hats : the general average weight of the wethers of this small, hardy, and intractable race is from eight to twelve lb. per quarter. Many South Down sheep have been introduced. The horses are in general compact, bony, and of a middling size, and many for the saddle are handsome. The hogs are partly of the old slouch-eared kind, and partly of the same intermingled with the short-eared Chillese breed : great numbers are reared, and exported chiefly to Bristol.
The genial climate of the districts bordering on the coast is particularly favourable to horticulture : there are but few orchards. This county, which was formerly well wooded, is now the reverse: various plantations have, however, been made of late years by different gentlemen ; and at Velindre, near Newcastle-Emlyn, are several extensive nursery-grounds for forest trees. About one-third of the county consists of wastes, many of which are not common, but have been appropriated in respective portions to the adjacent estates. One-half of them is supposed to be capable of improvement by cultivation, and is now being enclosed; but the other half, owing to superior elevation and other difficulties, can never receive such amelioration. They are depastured by the occupiers at large withill the several manors to which they belong, subject only to the restriction that no one must turn upon them more than his farm will support during the winter. Numerous flocks of the small mountain sheep are kept upon most of the hills, together with a few inferior cattle and horses: but the highest elevations, during the winter, are occupied by no kind of stock. The greatest extent of these wilds is on the hills between the rivers Towy and Teivy: the rest lie to the south-east of the Vale of Towy, on the red sand-stone tract, on the limestone hills, and on the mountains of the coal tract: those on the Black Mountains, occupying parts of each of these three districts, on the eastern side of the county, are very extensive and elevated. A greater number of acres of waste land has, of late years, been enclosed (under the sanction of acts of parliament), in this county than in any other of South Wales. In the south-eastern parts of it coal is the principal fuel, being there obtained in great abundance: in the parts remote from the coal tract, peat and turf are frequently used.
The mineral productions are various and important, but consist chiefly of coal and iron. The south-eastern part of the county is included in the great coal and iron tract of South Wales, bounded on the north by a narrow range of limestone, which, running eastward from the border of Pembrokeshire, appears first in the parish of Pendine below Laugharne, and then dips under the inner part of the bay of Carmarthen, to Llanstephan, whence it takes a north-easterly direction through the parishes of Kidwelly and Llangendeirn, by the lake on the Great Mountain and the village of Llandebie, and over the Black Mountain into Brecknockshire. The deepest part of the mineral basin, of which this limestone range forms the northern rim, ex-tends from the vicinity of Llanelly eastward nearly to Neath in Glamorgan shire; and from this tract the strata of the whole formation rise to the surface in every direction.
The beds of coal rising immediately to the north and south of Llanelly are of a bituminous quality, but those lying lower in the formation, and appearing on the surface, between four miles north of Llanelly and the limestone range, are of the kind called by the Welsh glo caled, and by the English " stone coal," and of excellent quality : the latter species neither soils the fingers, nor flames when ignited, being entirely devoid of bitumen: this coal is the sort chiefly burned in the county, for which purpose the culm or dust of it is mixed with clay and formed into balls, which, when ignited, emit a strong beat. Of the bituminous coking coal of the higher strata, which is of excellent quality, large quantities are raised in the neighbourhood of Llanelly, of which part is consumed in the county, and the rest exported.
The iron-ore accompanying the coal strata is worked near Llanelly, as it also was formerly on the Great Mountain, from which latter situation it was con-veyed by a tram-road to the furnaces at Llanelly. In the vicinity of Kidwelly, accompanying the limestone which forms the northern edge of the coal and iron tract, copper-ore is found in great abundance, but at present is worked only on a limited scale, and is conveyed by land carriage to Llanelly, where it is smelted. The only lead mine is one belonging to Lord Cawdor, situated in the slate tract, at Rhandir y Mwyn, in the parish of Llanvair ar y bryn,about six miles above Llandovery, in the Vale of Tywi: this was formerly one of the most extensive works of the kind in the kingdom, and its produce was conveyed by land car-riage to Llanelly, to be smelted; but it is now dis-continued.
The principal building stones obtained are, anomalous ranges of freestone in the slate tract, one of which is worked at Cwm. Cerrig Nadd, near Ystyfylan Carn, about three miles north-east of Carmarthen; the siliceousstone of the red sand-stone tract ; the freestone of the coal measures; and semi-indurated shale, which. for want of better materials, is frequently used in the slate tract. Great quantities of slates of a good quality, are raised at Coed Gwili, two miles from Carmarthen: several other quarries are worked in the dingles to the north-west of the Towy; and micaceous schist forms part of the strata of the Carmarthenshire Beacons, and of the coal tract. Firestones, for ovens, are obtained in some parts of the red sand-stone and slate tracts. In the parish of Llangendeirn are several marble quarries, in the range of limestone forming the northern border of the coal tract : this marble has a black ground variegated with white, bears a beautiful polish, and is wrought on the spot into chimney-pieces &c., which are exported chiefly to Bristol : it is also used for tombstones in the surrounding country. Lime is obtained from some detached rocks about Llandilo and DrysIwyn, in the Vale of Towy; as well as in the continued line from the southern side of the Carmarthenshire Beacons, westward by Clogau Mawr, Cerrig Cynnen, Llandebie, Mynydd Mawr, Llangendeirn, &c.; and under the head of Carmarthen bay, to Llanstephan Castle and Pendine. Fossil impressions of plants are common in the strata of sand-stone, alumshale,lying contiguous to the coal beds.
The manufactures and commerce of Carmarthen shire are by no means extensive. The chief manufacturing district is that of which Llanelly forms the centre, where the great abun-dance and excellent quality of the coal obtained in this part of the county have caused the establishment of three copper-works and two iron-foundries. A few years ago there were also iron and tin works at Carmarthen and Kidwelly, the former of which have been wholly aban-doned at both places ; and the tin-works at the latter are now conducted only on a very limited scale. All these works have been established in their present situa-tions for the convenience of obtaining coal, and of ma-ritime conveyance. Considerable quantities of woollen stockings are knitted by the women in the mountainous districts, and many of them brought for sale to the fairs : many hides and skins are tanned, dressed, and exported.
The principal articles of export are, butter for the English border counties, Bristol, the great mineral tract of Glamorgan, &c. 3 considerable quantities of wool for the manufactures of the North ; leather for Bristol, &c. ; coking and stone coal, and culm 3 iron, in pigs, bars, bolts, and castings; tin plates ; copper, in plates or un-manufactured ;lead; and marble. The chief' imports are shop goods, for the most part from Bristol; copper-ore, from Cornwall, Anglesey,&c., to be smelted; and tin, from Cornwall, to be manufactured. According to the custom-house regulations, this county has but one port, that of Llanelly, to which all the rest are creeks. The fishery off the coast is nearly monopolised by a Dartmouth company, which supphes the market of Bristol with much of its white fish, by trolling here : the main bed of fish extends from Worms Headin Gower, westward towards Tenby, in Pembrokeshire, and southward several leagues around Lundy Island: the species are basse, mullet, whitings, cod in small quantity, turbot, bret, soles, maiden rays, and flat-fish.
The principal rivers are the Tywi, or Towy; the Taf, or Tave; the Llychwyr, or Loughor; the Teivy; and the GwendraethVawr and Gwendraeth Vach,or Greater and Lesser Gwendraeth. The largest of these, and one of the finest in South Wales, is the Towy, which rises in the wildest part of Cardiganshire, between Strata Florida and the border of Brecknockshire: after a southerly course of about ten miles, it enters Carmarthenshire near Ystrad-Fin, and pursues the same direction through a romantic valley, for about eight miles further, to Llan-dovery: approachillg this place, the mountains recede on each side, leaving in the interval a rich and beautiful valley of considerable width, through which the Towy winds south-westward, gradually assuming a more ma-jestic character : after a further course from Llandovery of about twenty-seven miles, it reaches the metropolis of the county, where it becomes navigable for vessels of three hundred tons' burden, and whence it winds south-ward a distance of eight miles through fertile marshes, and falls into the Bristol channel in Carmarthen bay, near the village of Llanstephan: the influence of the tide extends upwards to the distance of about a mile above Carmarthen.
The fish of this river are much esteemed, more particularly its salmon and sewin, the latter of which are found only in the rivers of South Wales that take a southerly or westerly course. This river, running through the centre of the county, collects the great mass of its waters : its chief tributaries from the north are the Gwili, which joins it at Aberguiny; and the Cothi, which rises at Cwm Cothi, near the bor-der of Cardiganshire, and falls into the Towy above the mouth of the Gwili, after a course of about twenty-four miles : from the south it receives the waters of the Bran,near Llandovery; those of the Sawddwy (which descends from the small lake at the foot of the northern steep of the Carmarthenshire Beacon), near Llangadock; and those of the Cynnen to the south of Llandilo; be-sides innumerable smaller streams on both sides. The Taf, or Tave, has its source in the Llanvyrnach mountains, in Pembrokeshire, and, having formed for a short distance the boundary between that county and Carmarthenshire, enters the latter, and flows south-eastward to St. Clear's, where, on receiving the Cowyn, it becomes navigable, and thence flows through a rich and level tract, by the town of Laugharne, emptying itself into the bay of Car-marthen through a small aestuary, after a course of about twenty-four miles: this river is navigable to Laugh-arne for large ships, and to St. Clear's for those of one hundred tons' burden: besides inferior streamlets, the Taf receives the small rivers Morlais and Cathgenni.
The Loughor rises in a copious stream from a limestone rock called the Eye of Loughor, in the parish of Llandilo-Vawr, and near the western extremity of the Black Mountain : near its source it forms a fine cascade in pre-cipitating itself over a ledge of limestone rocks, eighteen feet in height, and thenceflowing southward, is joined from the north-east by the Ammana stream consider-ably larger than itself: stin proceeding southward, and receiving the waters of various smaller streams, it soon becomes the boundary between this county and that of Glamorgan; and at last, after a course of about fourteen miles, enters the creek of Loughor, near the town of that name, in Glamorganshire: this noble aestuary, how-ever, on being joined by an insignificant stream from Gower, receives the name of Burry River, and, sweeping westward round the south-easternextremity of the county, joins the bay of Carmarthen a little below Llanelly, where its mouth is contracted by the north-western extremity of the county of Glamorgan: this creek is navigable for vessels of small burden up to Loughor, and is distinguished for its fine salmon and sewin. The Teivy, which has its source in the mountains of Cardiganshire, becomes the northern boundary of Carmarthenshire at Kellan, and so continues for a dis-tance of twenty-seven miles, until it is joined by the small stream of the Cuch, which, for some distance, separates the counties of Carmarthen and Pembroke: the scenery on the banks of this river, below Lampeter, is beautifully picturesque : its salmon is of a particularly fine sort, and it is the most northern river in which the sewin is found.
The Gwendraeth Vawr has its source in the lake on the Great Mountain, and thence flows south-westward: the Gwendraeth Vach, taking a nearly paral-lel course, flows through the town of Kidwelly, and joins the Gwendraeth Vawra little below that town: their united waters are discharged into the bay of Carmarthen through a small aestuary opening westward, after a course of about six miles : the lesser Gwendraeth is navigable for vessels of small burden up to Kidwelly. Various canals have been projected in the mining parts of the county, but the only one yet constructed is the Kidwelly canal, made about the year 1766, which is about three miles long : it was originally called ---Keymer's," and was private property, having been formed for the purpose of a ready communication be-tween some coal mines and the small harbour of Kid-welly. Some years ago, however, it was transferred to a company known as the---Kidwelly Canal Company," by whom it was extended a distance of two miles up the Vale of Gwendraeth 3 and a branch, three miles and a half in length, was constructed to communicate with Pembrey harbour.
The rail-roads are of small extent, pervading only the limited district which comprises the mines and manufactures. The principal one, which forms a communication between the mines and works of Mynydd Mawr, or the Great Mountain, and the port of Llanelly, commencing at the former, where coal and iron were formerly raised in vast quantities, is car-ried down to Llanelly, a distance of thirteen miles ; and from this place a branch three miles in length has been extended westward, under the provisions of an especial act of parliament, to Pembrey, a distance of three miles. Carmarthenshire is intersected in almost every direction by good turnpike roads. The road from London to St.David's, by Oxford and Gloucester, runs the whole length of the county from east to west, entering from Trecastle,in Brecknockshire, and passing through the towns of Llandovery, Carmarthen, and St. Clear's, into Pembrokeshire: that from London to Cardigan branches from this at Llandovery to Lampeter, in Cardiganshire ; and from Trecastlethere is a branch into this comity through Llangadock to Llandilo-Vawr.The road from London to Haverfordwest by Cardiff enters from Loughor in Glamorganshire, and passes through Llanelly, Kid-welly, and Laugharne, into Pembrokeshire.
Among the most remarkable ancient British remains is a large Druidical circle of upright stones, of about twenty yards in diameter, in the parish of Llanboidy: this is called " Buarth Arthur," and sometimes " Meini Gwyr," and the entrance to it is by an avenue of smaller stones of a similar description. Near this is a large crom-lech, called ast,or Bwrd Arthur,---Arthur's Table," formed by a rough flat stone. of about ten feet in diameter and three feet thick, supported upon four others placed perpendicularly in the ground. Near Convil in Elvet is another very large cromlech, now nearly de-stroyed, surrounded by upright stones placed at irregular distances ; and in its vicinity is a large tumulus, or barrow : other tumuli occur in different places, more particularly in the parish of Llanvihangel ar Arth, near the banks of the Teivy; higher up the same valley is one called Y Castell, or "the Castle," in the adjoining parish of Llanllwny; another in the parish of Newchurch, or Eglwys Newydd; another, a very remarkable one, at Trelechar Bettws, consisting of loose stones with a thill covering of earth; and several others in the parish of Penboyr. In the parish of Convil in Elvet is a very remarkable earthwork, consisting of an embankment about eighteen feet in height, and nearly a mile and a half in length, called the Line. In the same neighbourhood is also a very large British encampment, of an oval form; and near this are two tumuli.
Other encampments of similar origin may be traced on Grongar Hill, overlooking the Vale of the Towy, and near Golden Grove, in the same neighbourhood. Near Llanduvaen, in the vicinity of the Black Mountain, are some remarkable excavations, supposed to have been the sites of ancient British habitations ; and south-eastward from Llangadock is a hill, forming the extremity of the Black Mountain range in this direction, called Tri Crug, or the " Three hillocks," from three large heaps of stones raised upon its summit, which are conspicuous objects to a great distance around, and near which are the remains of a large circular encampment. The Roman road, the Via Julia Maritima, entered Carmarthenshire at Loughor, and proceeded to the present town of Carmarthen, whence it is judged to have been continued by or near the village of Llanboidy to the station Ad Vicesimum, in Pembrokeshire; but no traces of it have yet been discovered in this county. The Via Julia Montana, the course of which rests only on conjecture, is thought by some to have entered from Brecknockshire at Tal y Sarn, in the parish of Mothvey, and thence proceeded by Llangadock and Llandilo-Vawr to Carmarthen, where it joined the Via Julia Maritima; but others, among whom is Sir Richard Colt Hoare, are of opinion, that, from Rhyd y Briw, in Brecknockshire, it reached the same point by Trecastle and Llandovery.
Several vicinal ways have been traced through parts of the county: one of these, called the Sarn Helen, entering from Lampeter in Cardiganshire, may be traced as far as the New Inn on the road towards Carmarthen, where all appearance of it is lost: this formed the communication between the station Loventium, in Cardiganshire, and that of Maridunum, at Carmarthen. Another, also called the Sarn Helen, led from the station at Llanvair ar y bryn, to that of Loventium in Cardiganshire, and may be traced from the former place, passing near Llanycrwys church, to the valley of the small river Twrch; while a third, from Llanvair, takes a north-easterly course along the Vale of the Bran into Brecknockshire, through which it was continued to the station on the Ython, in Radnorshire. The remains of Roman occupation discovered at Llanvair ar y bryn are remarkably numerous, consisting of bricks, pottery, coins, lamps, &c. A great variety of Roman coins has been found, more particularly at Killymaenllwyd, in the parish of Llanboidy; in that of Convil-Cayo; and in that of Penboyr: some of these are among the most ancient that have been found in the island: various other minor relics of that people are occasionally discovered in other places, more especially near Convil-Cayo, where a golden torques has been found; and Roman encampments may yet be seen on Grongar hill, and in a field on the northern side of the town of Carmarthen, called the Bulrack, and near the church of Penboyr.
At the period of the Reformation there were in this county, at Aberguilly, a considerable college of prebendaries, priests, &c. ; at Albalanda, or Whiteland, called in Welsh Ty Gwyn ar Taff (the white house on the river Taf), a Cistercian abbey; at Carmarthen, an Augustine priory and a house of Grey friars; at Kidwelly, a Benedictine priory ; and at Talley, a Premonstratensian abbey: prior to that era there was also a small alien priory at St. Clear's. There are remains of the abbeys of Talley, near Llandilo-Vawr, and Whitland, about five miles from St. Clear's, and also of the priory of Carmarthen : in the parish of Llanllwny, near the church, are some remains of a priory, called by the inhabitants Yr hen Briordy; and upon a farm, called Maes Nonny, or the " Nun's Field," in the same neighbourhood, are those of a nunnery. The most remarkable specimens of ecclesiastical architecture are seen in the churches of Carmarthen, Kidwelly, and Laugharne.
There are remains of the castles of Carmarthen; Carreg Cynnen, about four miles east of Llandilo-Vawr; Dynevor, near Llandilo-Vawr; Dryslwyn, on a singular detached eminence in the Vale of Towy; Kidwelly; Laugharne; Llandovery; Llanstephan, near the mouth of the Towy; and Newcastle-Emlyn: the remains of the castle of Kidwelly are more perfect than those of any other similar edifice in the principality: Carmarthen and Dynevor castles were the chief residences of the princes of South Wales.
The modern seats are numerous; some of them are noble edifices, and many of them elegant. Among those more particularly worthy of notice are, Aberguilly, now the only episcopal residence belonging to the see of St. David's; Aberglasney, the residence of John W. Philipps, Esq. ; Abermarlais, that of Admiral Sir Thomas Foley, G. C. B.; Court Henry, that of the Rev. Henry Green; Dolcothy, that of - Johnes, Esq. ; Dolhaidd, that of - Lloyd, Esq.; Glanbran, that of Col. Gwynne; Glanrhydw, that of J. E. Saunders, Esq.; Glyn hir, that of Mrs. Dubuisson; Golden Grove, that of Earl Cawdor; Iscoed, that of the Rev. Edward Picton; Kilgwyn, that of Major J. P. Gwynne Holford; Killymaenllwyd, that of John Rees, Esq.; Llanelly House, that of William Chambers, Esq. ; Llanstephan Place, that of George Meares, Esq.; Llys Newydd, that of Thomas Lewis, Esq.; Llwynbran, that of Captain Rice; Maes Gwynne, that of Walter R. H. Powel, Esq.; Middleton Hall, that of - Adams, Esq.; Dynevor Castle, that of Lord Dynevor, lineally descended from the celebrated Rhys ab Thomas, who was knighted by Henry VII.; Rhydygors, that of D. J. Edwardes, Esq.; Stradey, that of - Lewis, Esq.; Taliaris, that of the late Lord Robert Seymour; Ystrad, that of John Jones, Esq.; &c. The farm-houses and offices, and the cottages, are in many instances of an inferior kind, the chief cause of which in the slate district is the want of proper materials for their construction: in that district, and in some places in the other parts of the county, the walls of the cottages are often built of mud, about five feet high, the roof being of thatch, and the chimney of wattle and dab, held together by bandages of hay-ropes.
In different parts of the county are springs possessing medicinal properties, and noted in their respective vicinities for the cure of various disorders: those of the greatest celebrity and most resorted to are chalybeate, and are situated in Middleton Hall Park, near the village of Llanarthney, about seven miles above Carmarthen, in the delightful vale of Towy. in the parish of Convil-Cayo are two very strong sulphureous springs, of ancient fame, and a chalybeate spring; and near Convil in Elvet is a chalybeate water, called "the spring of Fos-Sana," which, from its name, is supposed to have been known to the Romans, and called by them Fons Sana: other mineral springs occur in the parish of Penboyr and some other places. in the parish of Llandeveyson, near Llandilo, is a spring which ebbs and flows twice every day, and is called Fynnon or Nant y Rheibio, " the bewitched well or brook."
The fences in the slate and coal tracts frequently consist of dry stone walls : in these districts the holly is very common and flourishing. In this county, as in those of Pembroke and Cardigan, there is a remarkable intermixture of landed possessions, a small patch of land often lying isolated in the midst of an estate belonging to another individual: this was particularly the case with the estates of Sir Rhys ab Thomas, which, besides the demesnes attached to his castles and manors, were scattered all over this part of the country, in small and unconnected tenements.
The manners of the people are considered to be, on the whole, less pleasing than in most parts of Wales: this is more especially remarked at the western extremity of the county, the rudeness of the inhabitants of which is attributed to their habitual jealousy and dislike of their neighbours of Pembrokeshire, who are descended from the Anglo - Norman and Flemish colonists of that region.
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[Gareth Hicks 5 April 2001]
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