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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

Agriculture---the 16th century

In the context of enclosures;

"In North Carmarthenshire, following an inquisition held at the manor of Caeo in 1581 to examine the condition of the waste land within the parish of Cynwyl Gaeo, it was announced by the jury that it had formerly consisted of fifty-one acres of mountain land and twenty acres of meadow, each acre being worth a penny annually. By the year of the inquisition, however, it had been completely enclosed by hedges and ditches, the work of one of the tenants, David Thomas Llywelyn ap Howell, a yeoman, who had separated, enclosed, and fenced half of it in 1569, and the other half in 1572, under the pretence that it was his private property."

Medieval divisions

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.
About the time of the Norman conquest, Cantref Mawr was divided into 7 commotes, one of these was Caeo which included the parishes of Llansawel and Cynwyl Gaeo (so called to distinguish it from Cynwyl Elfed)

The Anglican Church

"No vestige remains of any ecclesiastical building erected during this period (400-1282)......the abundance of wood led to the neglect of the use of stone for this purpose............but stone was used.......setting up memorials to the dead...........these are found in association with many sacred sites in Carmarthenshire........indicate places of Christian interment as early as the sixth century............... inscriptions with the Latin character only are recorded from..........and Cynwyl Gaeo.........."

"The two Dolau Cothi stones were found at Maes Llanwrthwl, which was believed to be the site of an extinct chapel............little is to be gleaned from the inscriptions beyond the name and parentage of the dead...........the one clear exception is Vortiporius; perhaps another may be found in the Paulinus praised on one of the Dolau Cothi stones as ' a keeper of the faith, a lover of his country, a most fervant champion of justice' if we are to identify him with the saint of that name who appears in the lives of St David and St Teilo"

Castles, Boroughs and Religious Houses

Monastic Lands & Revenues

"The lands that fell into the possession of the monastic houses were carved into manors and vills and were administered precisely as any other lordship. On them were established granges or farms where conversi tilled the land, and, if they were situated at some distance from the abbey, were housed.........attached to Talley were.................. and Kilmaren in Cynwyl Gaeo............"

The Motte and Bailey Castle

" Dolau Cothi, however, both Roman and Norman sought the same product --- gold, and the motte commands both workings......"

Prehistoric and Roman Times

Roman roads---Brecon---Y Pigwn---Llandovery---Dolau Cothi---Llanio (section)

".....from Llanfair, modern roads and tracks seem to represent approximately the further course of the road north-westwards towards Cynwyl Gaeo and the Roman gold-mines at Dolau Cothi. Thence it turns northwards in the direction of the Roman fort at Llanio in Cardiganshire. For the first half of this stretch , its course is doubtless that of the so-called Sarn Elen, a name frequently applied in Wales to ancient roads of certain or probable Roman origin."

The Gold Mines

The Dolau Cothi Gold Mines

"According to Tacitus (Agricola, xii), one of the factors that determined the Roman annexation of Britain was the mineral wealth of the country.Whatever the truth of this statement, it is certain that already, before the completion of the conquest, the minerals of southern Britain were being exploited, and thereafter we can trace a steady extension of the industry to all parts of the province, including the frontier districts.

So in Wales, after the final subjugation of the country, we meet with traces of mining operations in Flintshire, Anglesey, the Monmouthshire border, and in our own area, Carmarthenshire. In the last-named region, the objective was the gold-bearing quartz found in the northern part of the county in the hills round about Dolau Cothi, near the junction of the Twrch and Cothi rivers. Here, as has already been shown, the military road connecting the forts at Llanio and Llandovery crossed the two streams, evidently in order to take in the mining station and so bring it under the surveillance and protection of the neighbouring garrisons. The gold-workings were located in the hillside bordering the east bank of the Cothi, in what is now the parish of Cynwyl Gaeo, near Dolau Cothi House. The ground hereabouts for nearly a mile along the river bank, starting from Cwrt-y-Cilion Farm is scarred and pitted with numerous workings laboriously quarried by the primitive open-cast method, with other more developed gallery workings of apparently later(? Norman) date. Water for the workings and the dressing floors  where the quartz was crushed , sifted and washed was brought by an aqueduct, partly rock cut and partly (it would seem) constructed of wooden troughs or pipes carried on trestle-bridges, that trapped the Cothi at the nearest point , seven miles away, where the river could be suitably dammed. The water channel varied from two and a half to four feet in breadth, and from one and a half to four feet in depth, and was equipped with two large rock-cut tanks and a reservoir, from which sluice gates fed the water to the workings (there is a detailed diagram of these in the book).

The settlement attached to the mines seems to have stood on the low ground fringing the river-bank. Slight excavations carried out here in 1831 brought to light traces of rooms floored with tessallated pavements and heated by hypocausts, which are thought to represent part of a bath-house, a normal adjunct of these industrial establishments. The personnel of the mines --- officials and workmen --- were doubtless accomodated in houses or barracks nearby. No certain trace of these has yet been revealed, though vestiges of old occupation and one or two cremation burials have been noted in the open ground immediately to the north, between the baths and the modern village of Pumsaint. (linked photo of broken pottery in book). This area has also yielded one of the richest finds of Roman gold objects yet made in this country, including two chains with wheel-clasps and crescent pendants, and two snake-armlets, one inset with jewels, all probably of the second or third century AD. The objects, which are partly in the British Museum and partly in the Carmarthen Museum, were apparently found together and probably formed a buried treasure or hoard (photos in book). Finally, the presence of soldiers about the station is suggested, though not proved, by finds of stamped tiles (inadequately recorded) and a stone inscribed P (for passus or pedes) CXXV, i.e "125 paces (or feet)", evidently a record of constructional work done under official auspices.

How long the gold-mines remained in operation is uncertain.  Odd scraps of early Samian pottery , however, suggest that the site was already active by the beginning of the second century AD. Its end-date is perhaps indicated by the hoard of gold objects already described, with which perhaps should be correlated a hoard of 3,000 coins of late third century emperors " dug up in....Kynwil Gaio last year (1762) " (For detailed account see RCAM etc , Carmarthenshire Inventory pp 25 and 36; also O Davies, Roman Mines in Europe, 1935, p 154)

Castles, Boroughs and Religious Houses


"...there was but one town in Roman Wales ---Caerwent; other settlements such as Dolau Cothi......were nothing more than hamlets or mining villages..."

High Sheriffs of Carmarthenshire, 1541-1900

Includes entries;

  • 1667, James Jones of Dolaucothi and Abermad
  • 1803, John Johnes of Dolaucothi
  • 1886, Sir James Hills-Johnes of Dolaucothi


Figures given for respective stations in "British Rainfall", 1930 include;

  • Lower hill country (c 300-700 feet)...........Dolau Cothi, Cynwyl Gaeo --- 57.5 inches

Gareth Hicks