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A History of Carmarthenshire

Lloyd, Sir John E., (Ed.). 2 vols., Cardiff, London Carmarthenshire Society (1935, 1939).

With the kind permission of the publishers sundry extracts from this book have been extracted by Gareth Hicks.

Here is a list of the book's contents and contributors.  



By G D Owen

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It was in the interests of both farmers and merchants that the interchange of commodities between the trading and agrarian classes in the shire, and between Carmarthenshire and its neighbours, should not be impeded by a defective system of communications. Unfortunately, like most Welsh counties, Carmarthenshire had never felt the desire for a vigorous economic policy which might have stimulated its inhabitants to solve the difficult problem of maintaining communications and intercourse with their neighbours, with the result that the question of roads and transport became a pressing one in the 17th and succeeding centuries.

The native Welsh had never realised the advantages which would accrue from a more communal life in the way of greater economic security, and had preferred  to suffer the inconveniences of unreliable fords, tortuous paths, and treacherous sheep and cattle tracks, rather than devise better facilities for intercommunication. Thus there was very little contact between countryside and towns until the practical application of the economic ideas of the 17th century showed the mutual benefits which would result from a closer relationship. Hitherto maritime activities had been the centre of attraction for all who had vested interests in the growth of trade, or who were genuinely concerned with projects for the promotion of the shire's prosperity. It was now time to turn to the question of improving those muddy tracks which went by the name of highways and which seemed to wander at will over the countryside without any definite end in view.

The state of the Carmarthenshire roads in the 17th century was undoubtedly atrocious. There is an account of one of them from the pen of John Taylor, the "Water Poet", who undertook a few weeks' journey on horseback in 1652. The road from Cardiganshire to Carmarthen was "hilly or mountainous and stony". Overtaken by night in a desolate part of the shire, the author decided to sleep in a rick of oats which stood a few yards from the highway, but, in making his way towards it, both he and his horse were precipitated into a quagmire, from which they extricated themselves with difficulty. His troubles did not end there, for he was forced to spend a quarter of an hour in trying to find the highway which he had left but a few minutes previously. He was fortunate enough to meet a Welshman who guided him to Carmarthen. Lord Ashburnham, who visited Carmarthenshire in 1687 to survey his estates in the neighbourhood of Pembrey and Llanddeusant, complains very bitterly in his diary of the disgraceful state of the roads which he was obliged to traverse.

The reason for this neglect of the highways lay in the absence of an authority which could enforce the statutes enacted by Parliament for the maintenance of roads. The chief institutions upon which the care of the highways had once devolved, namely, the monasteries and the manorial courts, were no longer able to exercise it, and the State had perforce to resort to other means to ensure that the work was done. During the hundred years from 1555 to 1654, several statutes imposed the duty of maintaining the highways upon the parish as the local administrative unit. That of 1654 empowered surveyors appointed by the parish to levy an assessment upon the inhabitants, and to hire labourers and carts to mend the roads. It is hard to say whether these statutes were efficiently executed by the locally-appointed officials. In 1576, the Council of the Marches of Wales felt it incumbent upon them to issue a proclamation, exhorting the county authorities to see to it that the Statute for the Mending of Highways, among others, was carried out more thoroughly. But, while the Government failed to obtain a prompt execution of statutes, help came from the generous donations of local people, who realised, perhaps, that it was to their advantage as traders, merchants or inn-keepers that Government action should be supplemented by private aid. As far back as 1547, a Carmarthenshire will contains a provision that twenty shillings "be bestowed upon the highwayes between Llanstephan and Karmerdyn where nede doth require."

This system of charging parishes with the upkeep of roads was not uniform in its character, for it occasionally happened that certain parishes or portions of parishes formed a part of a great landed estate. In such a case, the proprietor, as lord of the manor, was expected to occupy himself with the preservation of the roads which ran through, or adjoined, his estate.  In the middle of the 18th century, one of the multifarious duties of the Court Leet of the manor of Elvet was to present the persons responsible for the "Decays and Want of Repairs, or Stoppage of Bridges, High and Common Waies (whether of foot or for horse), to Church, Mill or Markett." In the parish of Abergwili, a certain district was known as the lordship of Fyneu and belonged to the Bishop of St David's. It had peculiar privileges, such as holding a Court Leet, appointing constables, and, what is more important, collecting tolls for the repair of its roads, "which are kept in order independently of the parish rate."

On the other hand, some lordships were fortunate enough to escape from the burden of contributing towards the expense of improving bad roads. In the Great Sessions held at Carmarthen in 1729, it was presented that the hamlet or lordship of Cloigyn in Llandyfaelog was exempt from repairing the highway that ran from Kidwelly to the market town of Dryslwyn. The borough of Carmarthen, owing to the number of roads radiating from it like spokes from the hub of a wheel, had an expensive and difficult task in maintaining them in a good condition, but was able to do so with the help of corporation money.

However the work may have been apportioned between the parishes and the lordships which were situated within their boundaries, the result of their joint efforts was an appreciable improvement in the condition of the highways. Nicholas Claggett, Bishop of St David's from 1732 to 1742, recorded his impressions of travelling on Carmarthenshire roads in a letter to a friend, written after a visit to his diocese.

"From Abergwilly to Swanzey... was oblig'd to travel on horseback...The country one goes through is mountainous, and the waies stony. Here and there a decay'd stone causey makes it a little troublesome, and one must be contented to go slowly up an hill that is a little steep or if one is to go down such a place. But there are no precipices, nor dangerous waters in the way, so that in the main it was a pleasure for me to find that the very worst roads in my Diocese are what I am not at all discouraged with, but can at any time go them with pleasure enough. " 

There were two obstacles which hindered the improvement of the roads, and until they were removed there was little hope of solving the problem of transport and communication. One was the want of sound methods for the construction of serviceable surfaces for the highways. Those followed to the end of the 18th century could not cope with the pressure of the increasing traffic, so that the roads rapidly fell into disrepair. The second obstacle was that the highroads, in general, followed the routes of medieval, and even Roman times, which were unsuitable to modern methods of internal trade and transport, owing to the frequency with which they passed over steep hill-tops and through places not adapted by Nature for the passage of carriages and waggons. One traveller informs us that "many hills were so steep that chains had to be used on the wheels," whilst the road from Llannon consisted of "hills high and steep". The road from Swansea to Llandilo was "exceedingly rugged and stony."

During the latter half of the 18th century, the policy of establishing and maintaining a good system of road communications found adherents among all classes in the shire, and great progress was effected towards the end of the century and the beginning of the 19th. Farmers, traders, merchants, and gentry were prepared to shoulder a heavy financial burden for the sake of expediting their business and private affairs. Three main factors in the development of this policy may be singled out, namely the gentry, the parishes, and the turnpike trusts.

The gentry, who were not remarkable for disinterestedness, were foremost in appreciating the advantages of equipping the countryside with good roads. The days of travelling on horseback were rapidly disappearing, and journeys in chaises and coaches were now fashionable and decidedly less fatiguing. Moreover, it had become the custom of the squirearchy to spend a part of the year, not only at the provincial capital of Carmarthen, where they erected town houses in the latest architectural style, but also at distant centres like Bath. A network of  good highways would be a boon of great value to this class, who had previously preferred to remain at home rather than dare the unknown dangers of perilous and untrustworthy roads. Moreover, in this age, when class distinctions were universally recognised and respected, it was essential that the land proprietors should become better acquainted with each other and should co-operate to further their interests as a class. This was impossible without the aid of roads to lessen the distance between one manor house and another.

Towards the middle of the 18th century, the gentry are observed to be stirring and formulating plans for a scheme of useful roads. Sir T Gery Cullum, who would naturally interest himself in the activities of his fraternity in Carmarthenshire during his visit there in 1775, notes that the gentry are exerting themselves, and exercising all the influence that they possess, to have the common roads of the shire repaired. In reality, a movement had taken place ten years previously amongst the squirearchy for the betterment of the road system. They succeeded in getting some of the inhabitants to address a petition to Parliament in February 1765, for an enactment which would authorise them to repair and supervise the shire highways. The petition was referred to a committee which included all the members for Wales and those representing the counties of Gloucester, Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall. Another petition was almost simultaneously brought in, which asked for leave to renovate the roads in the neighbourhood of Laugharne. Ultimately, a bill legalising these demands was introduced and passed.

The most notable success of the gentry was the construction of a new road from Llandovery to Trecastle. The old highway meandered over Trecastle mountain, in such a way as to make intercourse between the two towns almost impossible during the winter months; it was a serious barrier to those who wished to take the shortest route to England. The squires of the neighbourhood decided to circumvent this natural obstacle, and built a new thoroughfare, in some places hewn out of solid rock, along the foot of the mountain. So great was their success in this venture that the new road excited the admiration of many of the tourists who were fortunate enough to travel along it to Carmarthen. It was wide enough for three carriages to drive abreast; Malkin refers to its excellent condition in 1803, while another traveller in 1805 states that " between Brecon and Llandovery, the roads are equal to any in the kingdom," and adds that the local gentry were so enamoured with the happy termination of this adventure in road construction that they were prepared to repeat the experiment on the road from Llandovery to Lampeter. As late as 1812, the Llandovery-Trecastle highway was still being improved and bettered.

The brunt of the burden of maintaining the roads, however, still fell upon the shoulders of the inhabitants of the parishes. For instance, the rate of £5 was collected in 1735 at Llandebie towards repairing the highway; probably other parishes conscientiously renovated the roads which came under the supervision of their surveyors. In 1790, the parishioners of Eglwys Cymyn were able to declare in the presentments of their churchwardens that the church roads, which would comprise most of the parish roads, were (except one) "tolerable", and the same declaration is made in the presentments of the churchwardens of the parish of Newchurch in the same year.

The parishes became responsible for such roads as were not included in the districts over which the turnpike trusts had complete supervision, and the old custom of assessing the inhabitants by the surveyor, which had been established by the Statute of 1664, was still the characteristic feature of the parochial management of roads. Sixpence in the pound was levied upon the inhabitants of the hamlet of Trefroyan in the parish of Llanarthney in 1794, who, in their turn, did the work themselves, either by hiring men or lending carts and implements.

The surveyor's duties were many. He applied to Special Sessions for permission to assess the parishioners; he attended Quarter Sessions and presented a report of the work done every quarter; he supervised the labourers on the highway in person; and if it chanced that a part of a turnpike road passed through his parish, he was responsible for its maintenance to its trustees, receiving from them money for that purpose. The first few decades of the 19th century witnessed the same attention paid to roads by the vestries and surveyors of many other Carmarthenshire parishes, e.g Llanllwni and Llanllawddog. In the parish of Llangeler, much attention was devoted to parish roads between 1825 and 1830, and, in order to ensure a supply of cheap labour, it was decided by the vestry that those who were in receipt of parish relief and who were capable of manual labour, should be given work on the highways.

Gradually, however, the Government perceived that the real solution of the problem of communications lay in the adoption of scientific methods of road construction through the instrumentality of the turnpike system, which embodied the principle that every person should contribute to the upkeep of roads in proportion to the use which he made of them. The burden still fell upon the parishes, for the turnpike trusts, which this system created, were usually bodies of influential local people in whom was vested the right of erecting toll gates on highways and levying tolls for the upkeep and construction of roads; such tolls would naturally press most heavily upon the parishioners, who used the roads daily. 

The beginning of the system of turnpike tolls in England dates from 1663; it became general throughout the kingdom during the 18th century. For evidence of its early existence in Carmarthenshire, one may rely upon references in the diaries and journals of tourists and travellers. In 1774, in the preface to his account of a tour in Wales, one of these refutes the view that "the Welsh roads are impracticable," and "assures the reader that in the low level counties [which would include Carmarthenshire] the turnpikes are excellent and that the mountainous roads are, in most part, as good as the nature of the country will admit of."  In 1775, another observant visitor wrote at Carmarthen that "Wales is certainly an improving state; many good Turnpike Roads have been made of late years, but they have still great faults. Direction posts are much wanting, as also graduated posts so needed in this country. I recollect but one in this Tour."

It may be surmised that turnpike trusts were few in number during the first seven or eight decades of the 18th century, for visitors to Carmarthenshire continued to execrate in vigorous language the deplorable state of the county's highways, which suggests that trusts had not been established in sufficient numbers to take over the more important arteries of communication, and that even those functioning had not performed their duties so thoroughly as to justify their right to levy tolls.

In the south-east of the county the roads were particularly bad, and the same applied to highways in the neighbourhood of Laugharne and St Clears. Even in 1805, the road from the former village to Narberth was terrible. The Milford mail could not proceed at three or four miles an hour, and the unfortunate tourist who records this experience of exasperatingly slow travel suggests that the argillaceous nature of the soil may be responsible. The road from Laugharne to Tenby was even worse. In 1811, it took seven hours to accomplish sixteen miles owing to the rocky surface of the road, and travellers were often forced to walk half the way. If such was the condition of the main highways, that of country roads must have been considerably worse. Fenton was assuredly moderate in his language when he contented himself in noting that there was a "bad road to Myddfai". Other pedestrians and riders did not use such mild expressions. One of them compared the road to Carreg Cennen with another notorious highway --- "it is execrably bad, if possible as bad as the road from Laugharne to Tenby."

The onerous task of supervising and superintending the existing main roads and building new ones devolved upon the turnpike trusts, whose numbers increased substantially during the latter half of the 18th century. The reign of George III saw Carmarthenshire slowly victimised by their exactions. They owed their statutory powers to private Acts of Parliament, which were usually promoted at Westminster by persons of means interested in turnpike trusts, who became trustees of roads within a defined area. A Llandebie trust was established in 1765 to supervise highways which centred at Kidwelly.

In 1788, a trust took over the maintenance of the roads in the Llandovery district of the Lampeter highways, while another trust was set up in 1790 to build and control a new road which ran from the upper valley of the Towy over the Black Mountain to Cwmaman. Again, in 1792, a turnpike trust was created to alter, improve, and maintain the road from Golden Grove Park in the parish of Llandeilo Fawr to the turnpike road which led from Llandilo Bridge to the lime kilns at Llanddarog. Altogether there were about twelve turnpike trusts in the shire, and in order to meet the interest upon debts contracted for the construction of roads, the trustees resorted to every possible artifice for raising money. In the first place, they availed themselves of the loophole offered by private Trust Acts, which limited the amount of tolls to be levied, but not the number of gates to be erected, and established tollgates and tollbars with a profusion which soon excited the active opposition of the public. In 1786, one traveller drew attention to the remarkable number of gates which he encountered on the road ; "Turnpike gates are frequent in Wales, and a traveller to be happy throughout must stand reconciled to the paying twice within a few hundred yards" ; it is significant that he wrote these words whilst traversing Carmarthenshire. Another favourite device for securing a fixed revenue was to farm out tollgates to individuals, who were prepared to pay a certain sum of money down and who recouped themselves with the proceeds of the tollgates. When Twm o'r Nant migrated from North Wales to Abermarlais to take up the occupation of woodman, his employer, a timber merchant, agreed that Twm should receive for his living the proceeds of a turnpike, which he had taken on lease for £108 per annum ; in return, he was to pay the turnpike rent out of the money which he earned as woodcutter and carrier. Sometimes the gates were put up to public auction at Carmarthen in the Ivy Bush Hotel, where one of them realised in 1819 the sum of £335.

There is no doubt that this pernicious system of turnpike gates kept a stranglehold on the economic development of the shire, for the exorbitant tolls hindered the free interchange of manufactured commodities, foreign merchandise, and agricultural produce. The tolls fell heavily upon the lower rural classes, who could barely maintain themselves upon the land, especially after the Napoleonic wars. It was like a system of local protective duties upon the exchange of commodities, with the result that prices gradually increased and added to the difficulties of the farmers.

Yet, although the extortionate tolls, the number of gates and bars, and the dearness of provisions which they indirectly caused, irritated the agricultural population and provoked the nocturnal expeditions of Rebecca and her daughters, it should not be forgotten that the county derived a number of appreciable benefits from the work of the trusts. Many new roads were constructed, useless highways were discarded, and the establishment of new lines of communication added to the resources of some districts and increased their population. The interests of the farming classes were also served by the promotion of improved and new routes. Lime was the manure commonly used in Carmarthenshire, but owing to the concentration of the lime kilns in the south-eastern and south-western districts of the shire, many farmers had to travel a long distance to procure it, and the deplorable condition of the roads had greatly aggravated the difficulties of such journeys. There is no doubt that the construction of new roads facilitated these visits to the limeworks by offering shorter and better-kept roads, such as that from Golden Grove to the turnpike road at Llandeilo and that between Llangadock and the lime and coal works of the Black Mountain which was completed by 1833

Moreover, the capital raised by the turnpike trusts for road-making enabled them to adopt the latest methods in preparing the surface of highways, and especially those discovered and experimented upon by John L. Macadam (1756-1836). A traveller writes in 1826 as he posts towards Carmarthen : "The same admirable road macadamised, for I understand that they are going to macadamise all the roads through Wales, continued from Llandovery to Carmarthen" ; later on he adds that he saw many men and youths macadamising the same highway. Those who had the commercial interests of the shire at heart were greatly indebted to the efforts of the trusts to preserve the roads, the arteries of internal trade. It was due to the solicitude of the Carmarthen District Trust that tourists were able to state that "the nearer we approach Carmarthen, the better they (the roads) become, and for several miles towards the last, they are so good as to excite wonder how they should be kept, by the travelling of the country, in such a state of perfection." One is not thus surprised to read that "the dustiness of the road to Carmarthen (from Llandilo) showed that this was a considerable thoroughfare."


By G D Owen

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Very little attempt was made to deal with the problem of constructing bridges to facilitate trade, traffic, and travel in Carmarthenshire until late in the 18th century. Carmarthen itself could indeed boast of a very ancient bridge, but its existence is accounted for by the important place which the town occupied in the political and administrative business of West Wales, and the necessity for linking it with the outlying centres of royal influence in Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire. The inhabitants of the countryside were content to cross the Towy and the Taf and their numerous tributaries by means of fords. Although this was the easiest and cheapest way of getting across these rivers, it was, at times, the most dangerous and unreliable, for both the Towy and the Taf were liable unexpectedly to flood the meadows and the roads in their neighbourhood, devastating cultivated fields, drowning live stock, and severing, it might be for weeks, all communication between parish and parish. Nevertheless, in spite of the uncertainty of the fords, they continued to be used by travellers on foot, on horse back, and in carriages until the beginning of the 19th century, to the great inconvenience of merchants and tourists and the loss of many lives. Leland notes that a considerable number of people had lost their lives while fording the Towy at Llandovery owing to the absence of a bridge.

As late as  1809, a tourist reports that the mail coach from Brecon to Carmarthen was forced to ford the Towy, "a deep and broad river," at Llandovery, in a district notorious for its frequent floods. Another tourist gives a detailed account of the tragic loss in 1791 of a chaise with all its passengers, whilst attempting to ford the Towy during the rainy season. The ford at Laugharne was an extremely dangerous one, owing to the fact that the Taf was a tidal river, and, although the crossing was usually effected on horseback, many fell victims to its swift currents.

Yet it would be wrong to say that bridges practically did not exist in Carmarthenshire prior to the 18th century. Leland, in the 16th century, says that he crossed the Cothi river by a "great bridge" and the river Cowyn by another, and that Kidwelly, like Carmarthen, possessed a bridge which united its Old Town with the New. Such as they were, they were in a precarious condition towards the end of the 16th century. Much legislation had been enacted by Parliament during this century to secure the preservation of bridges, and in accordance with the policy of the Tudor monarchs, the expense of repairing local bridges and erecting new ones had been imposed on the parishes. In some cases, certain parishioners were responsible for the repair of bridges over a large area, and the gaol files for 1587 contain such a list for the parishes in Cetheiniog and Widigada. Apparently, the parishes did not display much enthusiasm in the practical application of the statutes, for in 1596 the Privy Council complained to the Earl of Pembroke, Lord Lieutenant of Carmarthenshire, of the decay of bridges and other irregularities in the shire, and ordered him to see to the stricter enforcement of the statute, "that doth direct the course how they are to be repayred." On the other hand, the townsfolk of Carmarthen did not experience much difficulty in renovating the town bridge, when needed, owing to the generosity of many of the wealthy burghers, who bequeathed substantial sums of money for that purpose.

During the  18th century, increasing attention was paid to bridges in the shire, and greater activity was displayed by local authorities in erecting serviceable structures. The remarkable progress in bridge-building, which continued until the middle of the following century, may be justly attributed to the close interest which individual parishes, the gentry, and later, the county as a whole, took in the development of all possible means of communication within the shire. One tourist declared in 1775 that bridges in Carmarthenshire "are not only most inconveniently narrow but too few in number, for where a little bridge should be, you have a steep little paved Channel across the road, excessively disagreeable to those who ride in Carriages." It was this deplorable state that it was determined to rectify.

The bridge at Llandilo as late as 1795 was a dangerous wooden structure, which was swept away by the river in the same year. Another was built in its place, also of wood, but appeared to be so insecure that a foreign visitor expressed his great astonishment that it had not been replaced. It was either destroyed by the river, in its turn, or pulled down by the inhabitants, and a new bridge built in its place. Another locality which regarded schemes of bridge-building as an essential part of its economic and social life was Llandovery. Two bridges had been overwhelmed by the Towy floods between 1772 and 1773, and this calamity had roused the inhabitants from their accustomed apathy. The gentry, clergy, and justices of the peace were specially prominent in drawing up a petition to be presented to Parliament, in which the House of Commons was solicited to empower the local justices of peace to build a new bridge at the expense of the county. The Commons acceded to the request, and directed that the justices should also supervise the fords near Llandovery and that the new bridge should not be built on the old site, but as near to it as possible. To ensure that the new structure would be a solid piece of work, the justices hired the services of Thomas Edwards, the son of the architect of Pontypridd, who built a "handsome bridge" at a cost estimated at £800.

During the latter half of the 18th century and the first three or four decades of the following century, bridge-building went on apace in Carmarthenshire. The Clos Glas bridge over the river Dulas on the highway from Llandeilo to Llandovery was built in 1764, that of Dolauhirion over the Towy north of Llandovery, designed and executed by Thomas Edwards of Pontypridd, in 1785 ; another, called Pontardremus, over the Cothi between Llansawel and Caeo, was built in 1777 and replaced by a more modern structure in 1821, to facilitate the stream of traffic that passed over it to Glamorgan from Mid­Cardiganshire. The Pont-rhyd-Owen bridge over the river Bran on the turnpike road from Llandovery to Llanwrtyd was completed by 1826, while the old wooden bridge which served to cross the Towy at Llangadock was replaced by a stone bridge in 1819. Llandovery was privileged to have a suspension bridge, designed by Philip Thomas of Ynysangharad in Glamorgan, who adopted Telford's massive structure over the Menai Straits as his model. The private Act which permitted its construction empowered the justices of the peace to advance £1,000 out of the rates to the trustees of the new bridge, the money being mortgaged on the tolls levied upon the branch road from Llandovery to Llwyn Jack ford.

The burden of maintaining local bridges still fell upon the parishes, but some of them displayed unusual activity in fulfilling the requirements of the statute which had allotted this duty to them in the 16th century, and ingeniously managed to perform it at the minimum cost. The work of repairing the parish bridges was usually undertaken by one or more persons who contracted to execute it at a fixed price. For instance, in 1764 the parish of Llandysul contracted with two persons to repair the walls of Llandysul bridge for twenty-one years. They were to receive five shillings annually, but had to produce their own building material at their own expense. In 1769, this parish erected a new bridge at Rhyd Owen at the cost of £6 13s. 6d., but the floods made such an impression upon it that it was found necessary to resume the system of contracting for repairs. In 1786, a certain Evan Rees was offered the monopoly of holding all parish vestry meetings in his public house, on condition that he repaired the bridge walls annually for the five succeeding years ; there is little doubt that the bargain proved satisfactory to both parties.

At Llansawel there were only footbridges to be maintained, but the cost of repairs was a heavy item in the parish budget. In 1767, five shillings were promised yearly for a term of seven years to John Morgan for repairing those which crossed the rivers Marlais and Melinddwr. The son appears to have succeeded the father in this occupation, for in 1789  6s/8d was paid to Rees Morgan for renovating the same ; in 1798, however, it was found necessary to erect a new footbridge over the Melinddwr. Again in 1800 the parish of Llanarthney contracted with a mason to build a parish bridge which should cost £4. 13s. 6d., and it was agreed that he should keep it in good repair during the space of four years.

It often occurred that parishes would co-operate to erect a bridge which would contribute materially towards the economic development of a large area within the shire. In 1826, for instance, the vestry of Llanllawddog parish decided to contribute £7 towards the building of a bridge "over the River Mere." Another example of parochial co-operation is provided in the case of the parish of Llangadock. In 1819, a stone bridge of five arches was constructed over the Towy at the cost of £2,300;  the expense was shared with the parishes of Llandilo, Llansadwrn, Llanddeusant, and Myddfai.

It was frequently the case that private Bills, which were passed by Parliament to establish trusts for the improvement of highways, contained a clause which authorised the trustees to erect new bridges and impose tolls upon those who used them. Thus, in the Bill which was passed in 1792 for the "repairing, altering and improving" the road from Golden Grove Park to the turnpike road at Llandilo bridge, the trustees were permitted to build two bridges at the fords of Dryslwyn and Rhydycapel to facilitate the transit of lime and coal. Toll­gates were to be placed on them, and each passenger was to pay one penny for the privilege of crossing the bridges, but this was increased to twopence on Sundays and on Dryslwyn and Llangathen fair days. The only concession granted to pedestrians was that the tolls were to be paid once only for passing and repassing.

The county, as a whole, was often concerned in projects for the construction of new bridges. As early as the 17th century, it had had to defray the expenses of repairing all the bridges in the neighbourhood of St. Clears, but its responsibility in this respect increased enormously during the succeeding centuries until the modern system came into being.

Tramroads and Canals

By L W Evans

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Apart from the existing roads, the earliest forms of transport facilities in south-east Carmarthenshire are intimately bound up with the exploitation of the coalfield and the iron-ore deposits. These were the tramroads and canals, which were the main forms of transport and communication in the period 1760-1840. They were constructed not only to bring the coal from the collieries to the coast, but also to connect the inland centres producing iron-ore and limestone with the local ironworks.

Previous to 1750, the coal mined in the Llanelly district was brought to the seaside either by mules and horses or by small canals. From 1750 onwards wooden railroads and waggons were used along with the canals. These waggon-ways were made of wooden rails resting on stone sleepers, and the waggons were drawn by horses. One street in Llanelly is still referred to as "Ffordd Waggen" (waggon-way), which was part of the old waggon-way from the Box collieries to the shore. One or two small canals went from some collieries to the sea­side ; one of these was a small canal from the Wern colliery, and another called "Gwter Goch" also went through the town past the forge.

It was after 1800 that Raby constructed the first tramroad of any importance. This was opened in 1802, and he called it the Carmarthenshire "Railway." This tramroad went past his ironworks to the Great Mountain, fourteen miles inland. It also connected his iron works with the Carmarthenshire dock, which he had constructed near the Flats in 1799. The next main tramroad in the district was opened in 1829, connecting the collieries of the St. David's district with the New Dock. This tramroad was about two and a half miles in length ; by it great quantities of coal were carried to the dock for shipment. To the east of this tramroad, others were constructed, connecting the collieries of the Spitty district with Spitty Bank, whence small ships carried the coal to London and South-Western England. One of these tramroads went from Spitty Bank to the Genwen, Cwmfelin, and Ffosfach collieries, and the other to Penybryn.

Outside the Llanelly district there were two other mineral tram­roads. One of them connected the Pembrey collieries with Pembrey harbour, the other connected Pwll with Llanelly, and followed the coast line for about two miles.

In addition to the tramroads and the small artificial water-ways in Llanelly, four canals were of outstanding importance. (a) Townsend's Canal (1767), in the Spitty district, was a valuable means of transport for the coal from that area to Spitty Bank. (b) Kymer's Canal (1769) was the chief means of transport for the coal of the Forest collieries in the Gwendraeth valley, which was shipped at Kidwelly quay. This canal was subsequently extended to Pembrey. (c) The Llanelly canal (1812) connected some of the collieries with the Flats. (d) In 1825, the Gwendraeth canal was constructed, connecting Pembrey with the Pontyberem colliery district. A railway followed this later on.


In this section, much use has been made of the records left by travellers who passed through the county at various times from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Mention may be made in particular of Leland (c. 1539) Taylor the "Water Poet" (1652), Edward Llwyd (1697), H. P. Wyndham (A Gentleman's Tour through Monmouthshire and Wales, 1775), Sir T. Gery Cullum, Bath King-at-Arms (MS. diary of 1715 in Nat. Libr., Aberystwyth), William Matthews (1786), Mrs. Mary Morgan (1791-A Tour to Milford Haven, pub. 1795), Maudet de Penhouet (1797), Henry Skrine (1798), J. T. Barber (1803), Benjamin H. Malkin (1803), Richard Fenton (1804-13 : Tours in Wales, ed. for C.A.A. by John Fisher, 1917), E. Donovan (1805), W. F. Mayor (1805), and Thomas J. Masteni (1826-see Nat. Libr. Add. MS. 65A).

Other sources utilised were the volumes of Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society ; Mee, Carmarthenshire Notes ; Lewis, Topographical Dictionary of Wales ; Transactions of the West Wales Historical Society ; the parish histories of Llandysul (W. J. Davies), Llangeler and Penboyr (D. E. Jones), and Llansawel (F. S. Price), and the autobiography of Twm o'r Nant (printed in the Merthyr edition of his works, 1849).


Gareth Hicks