The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868
"CARMARTHEN, (or Caermarthen), a parish, market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, forming a county of itself, but locally in the hundreds of Elvet and Derllys, in the county of Carmarthen, South Wales, 218 miles to the W. of London, or 245 miles by railway. It is a station on the South Wales railway, which meets the Great Western at Gloucester. A town has existed on this spot from a very remote period, and was called by the Welsh Caer-fyrddin, and by the Romans Maridunum. It was the point of meeting of the two great roads called the Via Julia Maritima and the Via Julia Montana, and traces of Roman camps and various Roman antiquities have been found. Under the rule of the native princes it was the chief town of South Wales, and the seat of the prince till near the close of the 9th century, when the seat of government was transferred to Dynevor. The castle was erected by the Norman lords, and became the object of endless contention and struggles both between the native princes themselves, and between them and the Normans. In 1113 the castle was besieged and captured by the Welsh under Gruffyd ab Rhys, the prince to whom Henry I. soon after ceded the greater part of the kingdom or principality of Dynevor. The Welsh again seized it about 1140. After repeated changes of possession it was taken by the Earl of Pembroke in 1223, and remained in possession of the English till the great insurrection, under Owain Glyndwr, when it fell into the hands of his French supporters. During the civil war of the 17th century it was first held for the king, but was taken by order of the parliament, and soon after dismantled. Carmarthen stands on very hilly and irregular ground, on the N. bank of the river Towy, about 9 miles above its mouth. The river, which is navigable to this place, is crossed by a bridge of seven arches, over which the Swansea road passes. The scenery of the neighbourhood is remarkably beautiful, and the aspect of the town is pleasing and picturesque. There are several good streets, but the old part of the town is irregularly built and the streets narrow. They are mostly paved and lighted with gas. In the middle of the town is the guildhall, a modern structure supported on columns, the lower part serving as a market-house. There is a market-place outside the town. The county gaol stands on part of the site of the old castle; and in the parish of Llanllwch is a lunatic asylum erected in 1863, on a grand scale, for the counties of Carmarthen, Cardigan, and Pembroke. There are a custom-house, gas-works, water-works, and a fish-market. Carmarthen is the seat of a thriving trade, chiefly in connection with the port, which is subordinate to the port of Llanelly. Vessels of 150 tons burthen can approach the quay. They are for the most part engaged in the coasting trade, timber, slates, marble, lead ore, oats, and some provisions being exported. The salmon fishery is carried onto a great extent, and with considerable profit. The primitive light boat called the coracle is still in use among the fisher-men on the Towy as well as on the Teify. Shipbuilding employs some of the inhabitants. In the vicinity are tin-works and iron foundries. The town was incorporated by a charter of Henry VIII. Under the Municipal Act the borough is divided into wards, and the Corporation consists of a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors, bearing the style of the "mayor, burgesses, and commonalty of the town and borough of Carmarthen." With the contributory borough of Llanelly it returns one member to the imperial parliament. The revenue of the corporation is about £1,900 per annum. Carmarthen is the seat of a Poor-law Union, the head of a County Court district, the chief place for the county election, and the headquarters of the Carmarthenshire militia. The assizes and quarter sessions are held here, except at Midsummer, when the latter are held at Llandeilovawr. Two weekly newspapers, called the Welshman and the Carmarthen Journal, are published here. Carmarthen is the head of an archdeaconry and a deanery in the diocese of St. David's. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St. David's, of the value of £130, in the patronage-of the bishop. The church is dedicated to St. Peter. It is a very ancient building in the early English style, with a square tower, but has been disfigured by modern alterations. It is said to have been of the form of a cross, but there is now no transept on the N. side. Although in the middle of the present town, this church stood outside the old walls. It contains several very interesting old monuments, foremost among which is the altar-tomb, with recumbent effigies of Sir Rhys ab Thomas and his lady. Sir Rhys was made a knight of the Garter on Bosworth Field, in recognition of his services to the Earl of Richmond (Henry VII). Here are also monuments to Lady Vaughan and the Scurlock family, and the grave of Sir Richard Steele, who married a Scurlock and died in this town. There are two district churches. The living of Llanllwch is a perpetual curacy, value £120, in the gift of the Bishop of St. David's; and that of St. David's is a perpetual curacy,* value £190, in the gift of the Vicar of Carmarthen. There are two chapels belonging to the Independents, two to the Baptists, two each to the Wesleyan and Calvinistic Methodists, and one to the Unitarians. Carmarthen has several important educational establishments. The grammar school was founded and endowed by Dr. Morgan Owen, Bishop of Llandaff, about the middle of the 17th century. It has an income of £20 a year, and an exhibition at Cambridge University, besides the preference to two exhibitions at Oxford, open to the county. The Presbyterian College is for the education and training of young men for the ministry. In 1847 was founded here the South Wales Diocesan Training School for 60 pupils. The buildings, which comprise dwellings for the masters and scholars, chapel, lecture-rooms, &c-, occupy 10 acres of ground, and have a handsome front in the Gothic style. There are National, British, infant, and other schools, and a literary institution. Almshouses for six aged men were founded in 1687 by Charles Powell; and a hospital, or almshouse, in St. Peter's-street, has an endowment of £25 per annum, the gift of Sir Rice Rudd, Bart., about 1640. The charitable endowments of the parish are worth about £180 per annum. The remains of antiquity in Carmarthen consist of portions of the old town walls, and some inconsiderable remains of the castle, of St. Mary's church, of the priory of St. John, and of the Grey Friary, the latter of which was a cell to the abbey of St. Augustine, Bristol. The famous enchanter, Merlin, is said to have been a native of Carmarthen or its neighbourhood. This town was the birthplace of Dr. Bailey, Bishop of Bangor, General Sir Thomas Picton, and General Lord Nott. There is a monument to Picton on a hill near the town. An Eistedfodd, or "Assembly of the Bards," was held at Carmarthen in 1450. The town was several times visited by the plague during the first half of the 17th century. The drainage and water supply of the town are reported to be seriously defective. Carmarthen gives the title of marquis to the Osbornes, dukes of Leeds. Saturday is the market day. Fairs are held on the 12th March, the 16th May, the 12th August, the 20th September, and the 6th December, chiefly for the sale of cattle. The parish extends about 5 miles in length and 4 in breadth.
"PONT-AR-COTHY, a hamlet in the parish and county of Carmarthen, 4 miles N.E. of Carmarthen. It is situated on the river Cothi."
[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868]
by Colin Hinson ©2018