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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 snippets from this book have been extracted by Gareth Hicks onto some parish pages, these below are in random order.

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


Economic and Social Life

Highways

"The brunt of the burden of maintaining the roads, however, still fell upon the shoulders of the inhabitants of the parishes............In 1790, the parishioners of Eglwys Cymyn were able to declare in the presentments of their church wardens 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 Cwmdwyfran Ironworks

See the county page for a general introduction to The Early Iron and Coal Industry

"These works were started by Robert Morgan, and were carried on for many years by his son, John Morgan (senior). The date of origin is not known, but it is certain that they were producing in 1740. In that year, and in 1750, 120 tons of bar-iron were manufactured.

An important tributary of the Towy, the Gwili, flows down from the highlands north of Llanpumsaint and joins the Towy near Abergwili. Cwmdwyfran is in the bend of the Gwili, about four miles from its junction with the Towy. In this section of the river the valley is narrow, and the average elevation is over 500 feet. The main Carmarthen-Newcastle Emlyn road runs alongside of the river; in modern times, road, rail, and river are juxtaposed. The valley and slopes are well wooded, and examples are Allt y Betws, Allt y Ffarm, Troed Rhiw Fawr and Forge woods.  The forge was on the main road, near Forge farm, connected to the Gwili by a mill race which joined a large pond near the forge. The iron-ore, limestone, and (later in the 18th century) coal (which was coked and mixed with the charcoal) were brought by road from the port of Carmarthen.

Iron working was carried on at Cwmdwyfran for nearly 100 years, and the works did not close until about 1830. The iron-ore was conveyed in small vessels as far as Carmarthen, and was carried to Cwmdwyfran in baskets on the backs of mules. The manufactured bar-iron was again carried to Carmarthen, whence it was shipped to supply the country as far as the Cardigan coast to New Quay, and Aberayron.

The letters of the Morgan family abound in references to the large quantities of charcoal produced in the Cwmdwyfran area. Large amounts of bark (from the oak) were exported from Carmarthen. The ironworks at Carmarthen were also supplied with fuel from this region. Even for many years after 1800, this area continued to be rich in supplies of timber, and in 1825 there is a reference to the fact that extensive areas were deforested to provide fuel for the ironworks.

The only extant illustration of the Cwmdwyfran ironworks is an engraving on the coins or tokens issued by Morgan in 1792, in order to facilitate his business, which were payable in London, Bristol, and Carmarthen. Although the making of such coins was illegal, the shortage of small coins had become so acute that in 1792 the prohibition was in many cases ignored.

A bank was started in Carmarthen about 1791, but in that year David Morris acquired it. He also took over the Carmarthen Furnace Bank which had been established by John Morgan, the owner of the Carmarthen tinplate works.

(the book has photographs of 5 and 8 notes issued by the Carmarthen Bank, 1828/9)

The annual production of the Cwmdwyfran forge was about 100 to 120 tons of bar-iron. Around the forge were the cottages of the iron workers, and in 1830 Charles Morgan received a letter from the inhabitants of the village, beseeching him to help the unemployed. They stated that there 'was still sufficient water power (2,000 tons running waste daily) to work the forge'. Charles Morgan ordered a survey to be carried out of the Cwmdwyfran Estate in December, 1835. The sketch map of the forge was preserved in the correspondence, and is the only one available which shows the location of the forge. (In the book is a sketch of the 'Site of Cwmdwyfran Forge---after Morgan).

In October, 1836, Morgan received an application from Hugh H Downman to lease him the Cwmdwyfran forge. Morgan was most anxious to let the forge, particularly since Downman's friends were the tenants of the Carmarthen tinworks at that time. He describes the forge, stating ;

"....I am very willing to let the Cwmdwyffron Forge..............and if your friends.................the present lessee of the Carmarthen Tin works will acquire them it will be most advantageous to them. The great command of wood and water makes the forge a producer of high-grade iron. The admixture of charcoal with coke in smelting and drawing out the iron , makes it rank higher than any other product in the London market. This, together with stamping and making iron for county uses, was the chief occupation of this forge for many years, being embedded as it now is in wood, and having such a great facility for the procuring of charcoal. The annual rent is 120.6s.2d"

This evidence bears out two important facts;

Nonconformity and Methodism

The census of 1676

"......in 1676, to all appearances, they had not even made their first home at Pal in the parish of Cyffig. There was not a sectarian soul in the neighbourhood, neither in the three Pals nor in the whole parish. Nearer to Carmarthen, in the parish of Newchurch, nine appear, the small band which was later to develop into the prosperous Independent community at Bwlch. The Bowen family, the mainstay of these Nonconformists, were already taxed for four hearths in 1670."

"It is idle to ask too much of the census.....................who now can write down the exact names of the nine Nonconformists of Carmarthen town who, in all probability, often walked out by devious ways to join the other nine in the parish of Newchurch .............."

1687-1715, Independents

"....Archdeacon Tenison is the best authority for the exact dates when meeting houses were set up ad hoc in place of the casual and improvised rooms in private dwellings.........................the old Henfwlch chapel, right on the Newchurch boundary, but actually in the parish of Merthyr, was already up before 1710: Mr Vaughan of Derllys was glad to say that not a single person from the latter parish attended it (which might have been true)..."

The History of the Church in the County

Puritan Domination; A period of Depression;

In 1672, Newchurch is listed in a long list of Carmarthenshire churches  where "everything was out of repair" in the aftermath of the confusion of the previous 20 years.

Medieval boundaries

The western limb of Carmarthenshire belonged to the ancient kingdom of Dyfed, as opposed to  the adjacent Ystrad Tywi. One of the seven cantrefs of Dyfed was Y Cantref Gwarthaf, signifying  the 'topmost' division of the realm, i.e the one furthest from the governmental base. The size of Cantref Gwarthaf in Dyfed is shown by its containing the unusually large number of eight commotes, viz., Elfed, Derllys, Penrhyn, Ystlwyf, Talacharn, Amgoed, Peuliniog, and Efelffre, all of which except the last are now in Carmarthenshire. The data for fixing their boundaries is not so conclusive as up until this point, six of the eight commotes were merged under Henry VIII in the hundred of Derllys and the thorough Norman settlement of most of this region previously makes it difficult to disentangle the ancient areas.

Elfed alone appears to be a simple case; when the parishes which belong to Emlyn and Widigada have been detached, the rest of the hundred of Elfed stands out clearly as representative of the original commote. The parishes left are Cynwyl Elfed, Newchurch, or Llan Newydd, Carmarthen, Merthyr, Abernant and Trelech a'r Betws...............

The Age of the Native Princes

Carmarthenshire under Henry I

"Cantref Mawr (or at least the bulk of it) is still held by the Welsh ........... Bleddri the Welshman owes twenty shillings as compensation for the killing of a Fleming by his men; this is Bleddri ap Cydifor ..... and to be referred to later as the holder of land near Newchurch ....."

"From the start the priory (Carmarthen) was enriched with gifts of land conferred upon it by local magnates. ..........another gift was of four carucates in 'Eglwys Newydd' or Newchurch, bestowed upon the priory about 1130 by Bleddri the 'latimer' or interpreter............."

Prehistoric and Roman Times

Human Settlement and Economy in the Early Iron Age/Fortresses utilising promontories etc

includes ;

The Topgraphical Index includes this entry;

Newchurch. In a field. Coin (AE) of Nero (54 - 68 AD) but with (?modern) brooch attachment (RCAM 661)

Castles, Boroughs and Religious Houses

Castles/The Motte and Bailey Castle

"Eleven of the motte castles show trace of a baily.....................where nature provides a knoll,  as at Llangadock, Llanwrda and Llanllwni, the Norman contented himself with  heightening the site by throwing up the earth excavated from the ditch .......... the motte varies in height  ......... In the case of Waunllannau (Newchurch).... there is an unmistakable saucer-like depression....... the timbered towers were round or polygonal, where the mound was circular, rectangular where(sic) oval, as at Newchurch ......""

Monastic Lands and Revenues

"To Carmarthen belonged the Grange of Pentwyn and the vills of Llangaurge and Newchurch ......."


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[Gareth Hicks  13 July 2003]

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