A History of Carmarthenshire


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.


Medieval Boundaries

"In early medieval terms Carmarthenshire was made up of Ystrad Tywi [without Gower], Emlyn Uch Cuch and Y Cantref Gwarthaf [without Efelffre]. At some point pre the Norman conquest  Ystrad Tywi itself was divided into Y Cantref Mawr and Y Cantref Bychan..................the course of the river Towy , from Ystrad Ffin to Abergwili, was adopted as the dividing line, a boundary which could cause no confusion or dispute, save for the vagaries of a stream, which , flowing over alluvial flats, was liable without watrning to change its bed in times of flood.
About the time of the Norman conquest, Cantref Mawr was divided into 7 commotes; .............Farthest to the west of the commotes of Cantref Mawr was Widigada, a name which refuses to yield to any analysis. It comprised the parishes of Llanpumsaint, Llanllawddog, and Abergwili, with a considerable part of the parish of Llanegwad, which lies west of the Cothi...................."

"....the line of demarcation between Dyfed and Ystrad Tywi was well defined ..... it followed the course of the Towy from its outfall into Carmarthen Bay as far as Abergwili ...."

History of the Church in the County

The Reformation; the Early Stuarts

"The next bishop of St David's was Richard Davies, a great Welshman and a real reformer .........after a troublous episcopate of twenty years he died in 1581 and is buried within the chancel of Abergwili Church. A marble monument was erected above his grave in 1859 by Bishop Thirlwall....."

" His (Bishop Barlow) proposal to remove the see to Carmarthen and the college of Abergwili to Brecon......"

"In his efforts regarding Abergwili College, Barlow was successful. The college was shifted in 1541, on the plea that no opportunity was given to hospitality, and that the people in the southern parts of Wales were rude and ignorant and unskilled in the English tongue......."

"The reformed Church, especially in Carmarthenshire, made real progress during the episcopate of Anthony Rudd (1594-1614).......... he spent a considerable sum in restoring the episcopal residences of St David's and Abergwili ....."

Puritan Domination; A Period of Depression

"The Church now began to revive in the diocese, and especially in the county of Carmarthen, because Carmarthenshire men were prominent as members of three great societies ---The Society for the Reformation of Manners, founded in 1692, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, founded in 1698, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, founded in 1701. ....................and David Havard of Abergwili and ............ became active members......"

"The bishopric remained vacant until ...the appointment of George Bull.........the presentment of church wardens at his primary visitation in 1705 ..... supply evidence as to the state of the churches in the various parishes at the beginning of the 18th century................. at Abergwili, 'the church roof was out of repair, and some of the walls and windows,' but the churchyard was decently kept and fenced. The vicar, who had another benefice, resided in the parish. He is described as earnest and studious. There was an assembly of Dissenters, but no reputed Papists. The free school founded by Griffith Lloyd was still maintained. "

Renewal and Growth

"...the society (a Christian Knowledge and Church Union Society)..........was founded in 1804 at a meeting of a number of rural deans at Abergwili. Its treasurer and secretary was W Morgan, vicar of Abergwili ......"

The Episcopal Palace of Abergwili

"Abergwili was of old a manor of the bishops of St David's, occupying the  hamlet of Fyneu in the parish of Abergwili. In the Black Book of St David's (1326) it appears as a borough, with a market, and a fair. The church was collegiate, having been made such by Bishop Beck. Until the Reformation, the place had, however, no special pre-eminence. It was Bishop Barlow (1536-48) who, after he had been foiled in his endeavour to transfer the see from St David's to Carmarthen, fixed upon Abergwili as the episcopal residence, at the same time alienating Lamphey to the king, and making the palace at St David's uninhabitable by unroofing the Great Hall. The college was translated to Brecon. Thereafter the Carmarthenshire village retained the advantage it had won. Little is known of the buildings which provided the bishops with a home, but it is on record that Laud built a chapel at his own cost in 1625, and that extensive improvements were carried out by Bishops Ottley, Murray, Jenkinson. All traces of the past were swept away on April 28, 1903, when the palace was destroyed by fire, to be replaced by an entirely new building...."

A Religious and Educational Movement

"There were plenty of good Welshmen who would have adorned the episcopal bench. There were such men as ...... and David Havard of Abergwili ....."

"Bishop Adam Ottley (1713-23).........took up residence at Abergwili, repairing the house and chapel........"

"Richard Trevor (1744-52) was succeeded in the bishopric by Anthony Ellis (1753-61).....his commissioner was Thomas Eynon, vicar of Llangynnor, later vicar of Abergwili ...."

Nonconformity and Methodism

The Propagation of the Gospel

"The three years' Propagation Act expired in 1653 and was not re-enacted......early in 1654 the Commissioners for Approbation of Public Preachers came into force (fortunately known for short as Triers)......who had the fullest powers to to review and revise all previous Puritan appointments...............the Triers also made a bold attempt to fill some of the vacant parishes by approving new ministers...........(the following name is in the list of the Trier nominees )

  • 1658, John Parry, Abergwili

Independents, 1650/87

"....... otherwise three sectaries at least ought to be reported;.............................. and the wife of Evan Thomas of Cwmeiddon in Abergwili. All three were disciples of Stephen Hughes at Pencader in this very year 1684......"


"He (James Picton)  had been an inmate of Haverfordwest and Carmarthen prisons for nearly ten years, before he was set free by Charles II's Declaration of Indulgence. No sooner was he free than he went on with his old work of teaching publicly and without licence. Such contempt of the constituted powers, almost at the door of the episcopal palace of Abergwili, could not possibly be tolerated ; he was put back in prison once more."

Economic and Social LIfe

The Woollen Industry

"A perusal of local records for this period will show an increasing number of references to the distribution of the industry within the confines of the county.........during the C18th there are references to weavers at ........ Abergwili (1795) ...."


"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'. "

"Tolls varied in different districts, in 1792 a waggon and cart cost its owner 2/71/2  to pass through the Abergwili gate. "

Literature and Literary Associations

John Howell (1774-1830)

" 'Ioan ap Hywel' was a native of Abergwili; he learnt the trade of a weaver, but the spirit of adventure led him to join the Carmarthenshire militia; and he was for a while with his regiment in Ireland. His early education was of the scantiest, but he made use of his leisure hours to educate himself, and became regimental schoolmaster. .........he returned to his native county (after discharge), settling at Llandovery where he spent his days as schoolmaster. .............His best gift to literature was his volume entitled ' Blodau Dyfed (The Flowers of Dyved', a collection of poems by 18th century poets, mostly of this county......."

The Age of the Native Princes

The Early Church; Rise of the Kingdom of Deheubarth

"The fame of the Christian pioneers has been eclipsed by that of the men who filled Wales with monasteries. Among those no name is more renowned than that of St David (Dewi Sant), and nowhere is his activity more apparent than in what is now the county of Carmarthenshire. In a poem in honour of St David, composed in the twelfth century by Gwynfardd Brycheiniog, five, if not six, of the leading churches of the county are ascribed to the patronage of this saint. They are...................... Abergwili etc........"

Hywel The Good; Gruffydd Ap Llywelyn; Rhys Ap Tewdwr

"........an Irish adventurer named Rhain......was defeated by Llywelyn at Abergwili in 1022....."

Llywelyn and the Barons

".......and it was then arranged that a conference should be held at Abergwili on the ensuing 14th of January (1257?) to discuss breaches of the truce in West Wales....."

Castles, Boroughs and Religious Houses


"The towns and boroughs of Carmarthenshire fall naturally into two groups --- those who have sprung up around castles and others that owe their origin to churches and abbeys.......to the second group belong ...... Abergwili etc ..."

"The ecclesiastical boroughs remained semi-manorial.....................if free tenants left the borough without paying the fines, they paid double rent. There was prisage of beer, and all burgages at Abergwili and Llanegwad were subject to a relief of 131/2d. each....."

"..... Abergwili (in 1302?) was a town of 25 burgesses 53 burgages..............."

"According to Ancient Petition No 15527, the Bishop of St David's (Henry Gower) held a weekly market at Abergwili ....."

Monastic Lands and Revenues

"The churches that came into possession of the religious houses were as follows.

Carmarthen Priory;

  • Abergwili"

" a complaint by Adam, Bishop of St David's, against the Prior of Carmarthen in 1381....... as a result.....the perpetual vicar of Abergwili was given an annual stipend of 15 marks, (and) those of etc.................."

"Until 1269 the Prior and canons of Carmarthen possessed half only of the interest in Abergwili Church, the remainder belonged to Hywel, son of Trahearn,  upon whose death in that year they acquired the whole....................."

Prehistoric and Roman Times

List of Carmarthenshire Hill Forts/Hill Forts with earthen ramparts


  • Croes Arthur, Abergwili

List of Carmarthenshire Hill Forts/Fortresses utilising promontories etc


  • Peny-y-gaer, Abergwili

List of Carmarthenshire Megaliths; Standing Stones


  • Pentre Ynys Stone , Abergwili
  • Abergwili Churchyard Maen Hir, Abergwili
  • Pant y Glien Maen Hir, Abergwili
  • Carreg Fyrddin, Abergwili
  • Ystrad Wrallt Stone, Abergwili
  • On Tyllwyn Farm, Abergwili

[Gareth Hicks  18 July 2003]