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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.

The section relating to Newcastle Emlyn follows after that for Cenarth parish


Early Puritanism, 1620-1660

In the context of Puritan domination and a London Committee for Plundered Ministers is mentioned....

"Four others were directly appointed by the Upper House, which was then composed of the few lords who had refused to follow the king to the wars.............the four were................ Nicholas Owen, vicar of Cenarth...........the other three (including Owen) lay snugly in their livings until 1660 and then promptly conformed.............As far as is known all were good men but not one of them, though each had to take the Covenant and prove satisfactory to the devines of the Westminster Assembly, had the slightest claim on the name Puritan. The Lords, again, had been thoroughly deluded by the Carmarthenshire committee."

"In 1643, the House of Commons pledged itself to 'endeavour the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, that is, Church government by Archbishops, Bishops, their Chancellors and Commissaries'. ................the confiscated possessions of the bishops and cathedral clergy, and even their private estates, fell into the hands of a small committee which 'enjoyed almost complete autonomy of jurisdiction'..........So far Carmarthenshire had escaped rather well, but the Puritan Committee, succeeded in appropriating   Cenarth, Llanegwad, Llanddowror, Llangadock, Llangeler and Meidrym........."

The Census of 1676 and Nonconformists in Cenarth

This census was ordered in 1676 by Archbishop Sheldon who wanted to know the most accurate numbers available of the inhabitants, Popish recusants, and other Dissenters respectively in every parish in his province.

"..........nor does the census disappoint those who believe that Nonconformity could never be flourishing in those parishes served by the feckless 5 Anglicans who managed to throw dust into the eyes of Puritan office-holders between 1645 and 1649.........At first sight the 31 sectaries at Cenarth , where another quasi-Puritan ministered from 1648 to 1661 (when he was presented to the living at Aberporth) seem to furnish a startling exception. On closer enquiry however, the spiritual descent of those 31 , quite the largest number of Nonconformists entered opposite any parish in the county , is to be traced, not to the ministrations of Nicholas Owen, but to the pastoral care of the James Davies who was ejected from Merthyr in 1662, and who held a licence to preach at the house of J ohn James in Cenarth from 1672 to 1675. No doubt the strategic position of the place, hard by the junction of three counties, had also much to do with this concentration of Nonconformists. "


"......... James Davies , the Cenarth missioner so eloquently revealed in the census of 1676, had passed away in 1678."

" one part of the county, the north western angle of the hundred of Elvet, the advance of Independency is frankly disappointing, when one remembers the 31 sectaries reported by the vicar of Cenarth in 1676 who must have been Independents for the most part, guarded and guided by the Independent James Davies. Not a single chapel in this angle had been built before 1715. What had become of the sons and daughters of the 31 Nonconformists ?"

Boundaries and local divisions

"One of the seven cantrefs of Dyfed was Emlyn, occupying the south bank of the Teifi from the Tyweli to the Broyan. It was an important lordship, with a castle at Cilgerran overhanging the gorge of the Teify, until, about 1240, its owner, Gilbert Marshall, earl of Pembroke, gave the portion which lies east of the river Cuch to Maredudd ap Rhys, who built, in the parish of Cenarth, the 'New Castle' ever since known by that name. The two halves of the ancient cantref were never again united , and in Henry VIII's groupings of lordships into counties Emlyn Uch Cuch went to Carmarthenshire and Emlyn Is Cuch to Pembrokeshire. The former comprised the parishes of Penboyr, Llangeler, and Cenarth, with the hamlet of Cwm Morgan in the parish of Cilrhedyn; thus the river Cuch, familiar to legend as the scene of the hunting of Pwyll, prince of Dyfed, forms the county boundary throughout its length."

Prehistoric and Roman Times------ The Great Stone Monuments

The following is included in examples of meini hirion (standing stones) within  the county;

"........A maen hir within a few yards of the gate of the field opposite Cilfod Fach farmhouse in the parish of Cenarth (RCAM No 57). This stone is about 5 1/2 feet high, and its girth at the base is 9 feet."

Castles, Boroughs and Religious Houses --- Material and Garniture

"...where iron and lead existed locally, they were minded, iron nails were bought at Llawhaden, and in 1542 George and walter Blunt were granted a licence to search for lead at Cenarth."

The Age of the Native Princes--- The Norman Conquest of the Towy Valley

"..In 1109 Owain ap Cadwgan of Powys made his famous onslaught upon the castle of Cenarth Bychan, which was perhaps Cilgerran, and which was the private fortress and home of Gerald of Windsor, keeper of the king's castle of Pembroke...."

The Age of the Native Princes --- The Early Church, Rise of the Kingdom of Deheubarth

"There are not many examples in the county of the cult of the local saint, greatly honoured and revered within his own narrow domain, but unknown elsewhere. One conspicious instance, however, is afforded by Llawddog, who drew his origin from Nudd Hael, a sixth century prince of Northern Britain, and who was the patron saint of Cenarth Mawr, Penboyr and Llanllawddog. We know from Giraldus Cambrnsis how the salmon leap on the Teify, at the first of these places, was believed to have been fashioned by the hands of the saint himself, and how the community founded by him, had at this spot, a church, a mill, a bridge a fishery, and an orchard, all at the service of the 'clas' when in olden times it was a monastic establishment. Llawddog was also the original patron of Cilgerran, so that his authority would seem at one time to have been paramount throughout the whole cantref of Emlyn".

Newcastle Emlyn

History of the Church in the County

A Religious and Educational Movement

"The revival movement was also preceded by  remarkable literary activity around Carmarthen and Newcastle Emlyn. would seem that the pioneers of the Newcastle Emlyn group were Samuel Williams, rector of Llangynllo, and William Lewes of Llwynderw. Both were writers of note...........Theophilus Evans was also a product of the Emlyn literary group..."

Renewal and Growth

"Various church problems affecting Carmarthenshire were awaiting to be solved when Connop Thirlwal became bishop......... In his Primary Charge (in 1842) Bishop Thirlwal referred to ......the need for church extension in various areas........ (several) new churches had been built ..... he referred particularly to the new school buildings at..... and Newcastle Emlyn ..."


Political affairs from 1536-1900


"But the more general attitude towards the questions of the day is expressed in a resolution adopted by a joint meeting of the Dissenters of West Wales held at Newcastle Emlyn in February, 1793. They expressed their loyalty to the constitution as established in 1688, and their determination to oppose all attempts to change it...."


Nonconformity and Methodism

Calvinistic Methodism

" ...a word about two Carmarthenshire Methodists who became clergymen but left the county ---  and David Davies of Newcastle Emlyn, who became vicar of Llanfyrnach in Pembrokeshire, and in 1811 followed the lead of the influential David Griffiths of Nevern in leaving the Connexion as a protest against the ordination of that year.."

Wesleyan Methodism

"Elswhere in Wales, Wesley seems to have been content to leave the work to the Welsh Whitefieldians,...... and this arrangement was apparently embodied in a sort of 'gentleman's agreement' at the instance of the Calvinistic Methodists, whose Association at Newcastle Emlyn in 1746/7 resolved 'that Bro Harris should speak to Mr Wesley about some method to prevent division'..."

The Older Dissent;Expansion and Organisation

""At Newcastle Emlyn the order is reversed; the Baptists built Graig chapel in 1777, and the Independents did not follow until 1807."

" times of crisis the 'Three Denominations' could assemble, as at Newcastle Emlyn in 1793 --- to protest their loyalty to the Crown and to the Constitution..."

The Older Dissent/Church Life

" the seventies (1770s) the 'new spirit' had begun to work very strongly among West Wales Baptists. Their church at Pant Teg was affected in 1773/4; the activities of Methodism around Newcastle Emlyn had produced a revival among the younger people , many of whom became members of Pant Teg. Apparently the new wine was too much for the old bottles, and the position of the newcomers became very difficult. They decided (1775) to leave Pant Teg.........the new Baptist chapel was known as Graig  ..........from 1788 to 1792 its minister was David Jones of Pontypool..."

Arminianism, Arianism, Unitarianism

"...a terrific war of pamphlets two instances the congregations were so evenly divided that arrangements had to be made for the alternate use of the meeting houses --- Salem, Meidrym itself, and Graig at Newcastle Emlyn."


Economic and Social Life

Opposite page 296 is a photograph ' Inside of a Kitchen at Newcastle Emlyn' (from the engraving by Rowlandson, 1800, in the National Museum of Wales)

Agriculture/The Seventeenth Century

"Apart from a few disorders, the tenants of Carmarthenshire seemed to have accepted the enclosure movement with equanimity, partly because it did not interfere with the normal routine of the cultivation of the soil, and partly because they themselves welcomed it as a means of increasing and consolidating their lands, and upholding and intensifying the principle of private does not seem to have penetrated into the more remote manors of the shire. For instance, there are no indications that it in any way influenced the economic life of such lordships as those of Llandovery and Newcastle Emlyn...."

"On the Crown estates and those of the lay landlords, there was a more widespread movement for the relaxation of duties and the evasion of services. ........ In the manors of Newcastle Emlyn and Llandovery, they refused to grind their corn at the manorial mills, and allowed them to fall into decay. Most of these cases of the deliberate withdrawal of customs and dues were of a pacific nature, but it sometimes happened that an attempt on the part of an unpopular landlord to reimpose them on his tenants led to a hostile demonstration by the latter. "

"By the end of the century, agriculture was a flourishing industry in Carmarthenshire. Edward Llwyd, in his Parochialia, praised the soil of the county, which grew wheat, barley, and oats in considerable quantities, and which was regularly manured with lime and muck. Lime, in fact, tended to replace marl as the most popular compost. At Newcastle Emlyn, where the soil was generally barren and bore no sort of grain without manure, the inhabitants journeyed to Ludchurch in Pembrokeshire and to Carmarthen town to procure lime, and went as far afield as Mount in Cardiganshire for loads of sand ; and this, despite the fact that every valley throughout the district was sufficiently stored with marl. "

The Woollen Industry

"Two major types of factory appeared. They may for convenience be classified as a) rural general factories, and b) non-rural factories. The rural factory, usually situated at the junction of highland and lowland at about 500 feet above sea-level, near a stream, had fairly good access to the surrounding highland and to the industrial south............................... The non-rural factory was usually of a larger type, employing between 50 and 100 people; it had good railway or road facilities. Such were those at Carmarthen, Drefach, Pentrecourt, Newcastle Emlyn, and Henllan. These, like the others, produced a variety of products, but specialised in the production of fine flannel for shirting, mainly from fine English or foreign wool, for they used little of the coarser local wool. They disposed of their goods wholesale, rather than by the more or less retail system of the rural factories. "

Elementary Education

"Mr Longueville Jones's report for the year 1849 pointed out that many Church schools in the county were in what might be called a transition stage. ......... In the following year, it was pointed out that comparatively few Church schools were under Government inspection. After noting that new ones had arisen at Newcastle Emlyn, Llangeler and Llandybie, the report went on to state; "From what I know personally of this district (county), I am still induced with regret to infer that the advantages of education are not appreciated as they ought to be.".................."


Literature and Literary Associations

Evan Herber Evans (1836-96)

"He was born at Pantyronnen, near Newcastle Emlyn ( Herber comes from Pen yr Herber, his grandfather's home in the same district), trained at Brecon Independent College, and ordained in 1862 at Morriston. But most of his ministry was spent at Salem, Caernarvon (1865-93); he only relinquished it at the call of a higher duty to become principal of the Bala-Bangor Theological College situated at Bangor................the prince among pulpit orators of Wales..........became joint editor of Dysgedydd (a Congregational monthly) in 1874.............wrote a single hymn, 'Dal fi'n agos at yr Iesu' which seems to have secured for itself a sanctuary in Welsh hymnody."

John Jones (1821-78)

"'Mathetes' was born at Tanrhelig, near Newcastle Emlyn, but when a lad removed to Dowlais to work as a miner. He returned home as a young preacher, and was educated for the Baptist ministry at the Haverfordwest College. Ordained at Porthyrhyd in this county in 1846, he subsequently held several pastorates for two or three years, the longest being at Rhymney (1862-77), and the last at Briton Ferry. He was the compiler of a bible dictionary, Geiriadur Beiblaidd a Duwinyddol (3 vols 1864-83) ........ also published a volume of sermons and articles..."

Benjamin Davies (1840-1930)

Born at Dinas Rhondda, ordained in 1867, pastor  in Carmarthenshire for 45 years divided between Trelech and Capel Iwan (1885-1902, and Capel Iwan and Newcastle Emlyn (1902-30)..........".


The Age of the Native Princes

Llywelyn and the Barons

"At the accession of Edward I, matters stood thus in what is now the county of Carmarthen. Maredudd ap Rhys had been succeeded at Dryslwyn and Newcastle Emlyn by his son Rhys........"

The Last Years of Independence

"During the autumn (1277 ?), Rhys ap Meredudd and Rhys Wyndod were escorted to the king's presence and duly rendered their homage. The former was reinstated without difficulty in his castles of Dryslwyn and Newcastle Emlyn...."


Castles, Boroughs, and Religious Houses


"The towns of Carmarthenshire are older than their first royal charters ....................... Newcastle Emlyn does not appear until 1303...."

"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 the first group belong ...... and Newcastle Emlyn...."

Boroughs/Burgages and other property

"In 1303 Newcastle Emlyn held 26 burgages, in 1304  54; they were never more than 62....."


"The chapel of Emlyn castle stood at the eastern end of the hall and over the steps leading from the ward to that building. Adjoining it was the kitchen. It was built in 1340 and measured 26ft by 21ft.."

Castles/The Garrison

"There were 10 men-at-arms at Newcastle Emlyn in 1404....."

Castles/The Main Gatehouse

"At Newcastle Emlyn there were two floors.................." [Diagramon p290  in book of the Gatehouses of (4) Carmarthenshire castles)

Material and Garniture

"In 1347, all workers at Newcastle Emlyn were granted a bonus of 6d for the week. Wages were highest in 1226, when the carpenters received 9d a day. In 1281 they dropped to 5d a day, and in 1338 to 3d. The masons kept pace with the carpenter but the smith was highest paid of all, receiving in 1280 12d a day. In 1347, the carpenter received only 16d a week, and the mason 14d. ........................................................Labourers included men, women, boys and girls. In 1347, a girl carried water at Newcastle Emlyn for 1d a day, a woman for 7d a week, and a man 8d; but Isabel Hamond carried  mortar and stones for 8d., and a boy doing the same work received 9d a 1347 two men at Newcastle Emlyn throwing stones from step to step into the hands of the workers got 1s.4d a week...."

The Stone Castles

" Newcastle Emlyn affords a striking contrast to the other gatehouse castles. It stands on an eminence within one of the curves of the Teify, which surrounds the castle on three sides. There is but one ward, a truncated triangle. The material is shale. The original castle was built probably by Maredudd ap Rhys Gryg about 1240, on the partition of the commote of Emlyn between him and Walter, brother of the Earl Marshal, who replaced Cynan ap Hywel Sais, grandson of the Lord Rhys and rebel against the king. Maredudd was confirmed in his possession by Henry III. In 1287 it was seized by Rhys ap Maredudd, but was recovered by Tibetot after having been battered by a siege engine brought from Dryslwyn. It was then a castle of stone. The work of reconstruction was begun in 1300, following upon Edward's visit to the locality ; the repairs were not completed until 1318, by which date it had more or less assumed its present plan. In 1340 there is mention of the gateway, with two small towers 14 ft. high. The gate was in a ruinous state and, if it were not repaired, the adjoining wall would fall into decay. The castle gate was in such poor condition that no horse could go through it. Within the precincts stood a kitchen, bakehouse, and a brewhouse of inferior character. Repairs were executed in 1347-8 and -9 ; three houses were reroofed, and a new hall and bridge constructed by and at the expense of Richard de Bere. The lands belonged to the Black Prince, who had granted the lordship to de Bere for the term of his life. The latter died on 20th September, 1380, whereupon the castle was entrusted to Simon de Burley. In 1389 it passed to the Earl of Pembroke, and in 1399 to John Ayschell. In 1403 Emlyn was given up to the Welsh rebels, but was garrisoned by the English in 1404 and for the rest of the Glyndwr period. When, on the death of his father John, the castle fell to William Burley, it was in ruins ; it was in the same condition when the son died in 1446. Thomas Hopton succeeded. In 1454 Edward, Prince of Wales, was confirmed in possession. Then followed the rapid changes of the Wars of the Roses. In 1469 the district was in the hands of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, who handed it on to his son of the same name. In 1471 the owner was Edward Plantagenet, Prince of Wales ; thence it passed to Sir Rhys ap Thomas and to his grandson Rhys, on whose attainder in 1532 it came into the hands of the Crown. Rhys, the elder, presumably made extensive alterations to the gateway and castle."


The Later Middle Ages

The Government of the County/Divisions, Officers, Courts, Revenues

"The borough and the castle of Carmarthen.......these were the nucleus of the 'English county of Carmarthen' .....................The New Castle of Emlyn and the lordship of Emlyn Uch Cuch came into the king's hands at the same time..."

The Wars of the Rose; Gruffydd ap Nicholas; Rhys ap Thomas

"In addition to Abermarlais in Llansadwrn, his (Rhys ap Thomas) seats in the county were Derwydd in Llandybie and Newcastle Emlyn Castle, which he rebuilt as a residence..."

The Lordships

Newcastle Emlyn

Emlyn Uwch-Cuch

"The separtate destinies of the commotes of the cantred of Emlyn divided by the Cuch had been determined before the end of the thirteenth century. The western commote, forming the lordship of Cilgerran, remained under the influence of the earldom of Pembroke ; Emlyn Uwch Cuch, taken into the king's hands by Robert Tibetot, became a royal lordship answerable to Carmarthen ; no re-shuffling was needed after the Act of Union, as was the case with Llanstephan and Laugharne, to restore it to its historical connection with the county of Carmarthen.

The custodians of the new castle of Emlyn and the commote or lordship, appointed by the king or prince for life, included Gilbert Talbot, Justice of South Wales. His successor, Richard de la Bere, appointed by the Black Prince in 1349, enjoyed possession until his death in 1382, rendering nothing therefor to the exchequer of Carmarthen. Simon de Burley, already lord of Llanstephan, received in May of that year a grant for life of the castle and lordship of Emlyn Uwch Cuch 'in recompense of his labour and expense in journeying to Germany and Bohemia to conduct the King's consort (Anne of Bohemia) to England.' This grant for life was extended later in the year to a grant in fee simple with licence to alienate, except in mortmain, both Emlyn and Llanstephan. After Burley's fall in 1388, Emlyn was held by Pembroke and Thomas Percy for short periods. Restored by the Crown to the Burley family after the devastation wrought during the rebellion, its lords were Simon's brother John (died 1428) and William Burley (died 1446). The latter's successor was Thomas Hopton, great grandson of John Burley; but from the inquisition held after the death in 1461 of Walter Hopton, his son and heir, we learnt that Thomas had been dispossessed forcibly by Griffith ap Nicholas, and fear of the redoubtable Welshman had kept Walter away from his patrimony. Griffith maintained his hold on the castle and lordship of Emlyn, and they passed to his grandson, Sir Rhys ap Thomas, in whose time the castle was restored.

Town and Commote.

The town of Newcastle Emlyn is first mentioned in 1304. The vill of Trefcastell, presumably the former maerdref of the commote of Uwch Cuch, was converted with some adjacent commote lands into some fifty burgages, rented at the usual shilling to the townsmen, who were mostly Welshmen.

The town had its court, distinct from the commote court, held fortnightly in the fourteenth century ; after the Rebellion it was a three-weekly court.

The accounting officer of Newcastle Emlyn was the reeve ; and one of them, Lewis or Lodwig Peyntour, deserves mention by name. His account for his year of office ending at Michaelmas, 1414, shewed a deficit of some 28s. Reduced to 14s. 8d by 1417, his debt was noted on the accounts for the next six years ; in 1424 it was cancelled "by consideration of the chamberlain of Carmarthen and the auditor for divers paintings done and to be done by him in the chapel within the castle of Carmarthen and in the king's exchequer there."

Fairs were held at the Feasts of St. Barnabas (June 11) and St. Martin, and in 1347 the Black Prince ordered a weekly market to be held there on Thursday.

The erection of a fulling mill at Easter, 1315, points to a local weaving industry, which seems to have ceased to thrive even before the economic set-back following on Glyndwr's rising.

In the lordship without the town there were six and a half gwestfa units, gwestfa and a "potura" of the lord's horses ( cil march) being paid at the four usual terms ; serjeant silver ( porthiant cais) fell due at Michaelmas. A curious entry in the account for 1331-2 indicates that the commote of Emlyn Uwch Cuch was not, even before the era of plague and rebellion, as prosperous as other lordships in West Carmarthenshire ; as an explanation of the small profit of the mill in that year, it was stated that "the lands of Emlyn lie uncultivated, and the tenants of the parish of Cenarth have withdrawn to England through poverty."

The Commote Court, the Welsh Court, was held by the lord's steward ; in the fifteenth century it was a three-weekly court."

(Gareth Hicks 22 July 2003)