The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868] by Colin Hinson ©2018

"CARMARTHENSHIRE, a maritime county of South Wales, bounded on the N. by Cardiganshire, on the E. by Brecknockshire, on the S. by the Bristol Channel, and on the W. by Pembrokeshire. It extends in length from N.E. to S.W. about 50 miles, and its greatest breadth is about 33 miles. It has a coast line of 35 miles. The entire circuit of the county is about 160 miles, being the largest county in the principality. It has an area of 972 square miles, or 606,331 acres. It is situated between 51° 4' and 52° 8' N. lat., and between 3° 4' and 4° 50' W. long. Under the Roman dominion this county formed part of that division of the island called Britannia Secunda, and was occupied, like the neighbouring counties of Pembroke and Cardigan, by the tribe named Demetæ. The Romans constructed several military roads across it, the principal of which were the Via Julia Maritima and the Via Julia Montana. After the withdrawal of the Romans, this county, with Cardigan and other parts of South Wales, formed the territory of Caredigion (Cardigan), and with the rest of Wales fell under the dominion of Rhodri Mawr (Roderick the Great), in the 9th century. On his death this district fell to the lot of his son Cadell, who had his palace and seat of government at Dynevor. Disputes and armed conflicts occurred between him and his brothers, and the country was ravaged by war. The successor of Cadell, in 907, in the sovereignty of South Wales was the illustrious Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good), who obtained afterwards the sovereignty of North Wales, and compiled the celebrated code which bears his name, and remained in force for centuries. Partitions and bloody contests followed the death of Hywel, and before the close of the century the district was invaded and wasted by the Danes. In 1015 Llewellyn, by the defeat of Aedan, made himself master of both North and South Wales. His position was strengthened by another victory obtained five years later over Rhun, a Scottish adventurer, at Abergwili. Llewellyn fell in a battle fought near Carmarthen the following year (1021), in which, however, his rivals, and the Irish and Scotch forces supporting them, were defeated. From that time to the close of the 11th century, the same tale is repeated of ambitious princes, rivalries, contentions, and arbitrament of the sword. The Normans made their appearance in South Wales about 1080, when the native princes did homage to the Conqueror. After a few years the ancient kingdom of Dynevor began to decline, till it comprehended no more than Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. Norman castles were founded, and a new series of troubles and conflicts began. For a few years Henry I. held the sovereignty of South Wales. It was claimed by Gruffydd ab Rhys, and after the unsuccessful but harassing struggles of several years, the king made peace with this prince, about 1120, and gave up to him the greater part of Dynevor. A century and a half had yet to elapse before these petty wars of prince with prince, and of both with Norman lords, were brought to a close by the complete subjugation of the principality by Edward I. After that event, and the passing of the Statutes of Rhuddlan for the future government of Wales, Carmarthen was made the seat of the courts of law. A revolt was headed some years later by Rhys ab Meredydd, who was at last captured and executed as a traitor. During the more serious revolt under Owain Glyndwr, the French forces sent to aid him took the castle of Carmarthen. -Carmarthenshire, like the rest of Wales, is almost entirely mountainous. The more level tracts are in the S. and, W. parts of the county, where extensive salt marshes exist along the coast, which forms the N. side of Carmarthen Bay. In the N. is an irregular line of hills curving in a direction parallel with the course of the river Teify, the valley of which it separates from that of the Cothy, a branch of the Towy. The highest point in this range is 1168 feet above the level of the sea, and is near New Inn. A shorter range of hills parts the Towy from its chief tributary, the Cothy. The loftiest summit in the county is that called the Carmarthenshire Beacon (Y Van, or Ban Sir Gaer), which has an elevation of 2,596 feet. It forms the principal hill in the chain of the Black Mountains. There are several isolated mountains in the county, among which are Talsarn and Trecastle, which nearly equal in height the Beacon. Much of the scenery in Carmarthenshire is bleak and uninteresting, but along the river courses, and especially that of the Towy, many rich and beautiful landscapes are presented. The Towy is the chief river of Carmarthenshire. It takes its rise in Cardiganshire and Brecknockshire, and entering this county near the N-E. corner, runs southward to Llandovery and Llandeilovawr. Near Grongar Hill, 3 miles below the latter place, it takes a westerly course to Carmarthen, and thence runs southward, about 8 miles, to Carmarthen Bay. Its entire length is about 65 miles. It receives the waters of numerous tributaries, of which the most important is the Cothy. This stream also rises in Cardiganshire, and runs across the county in a southerly direction, about 25 miles, joining the Towy between Carmarthen and Llandeilovawr. Other feeders of the Towy are the Braen, which falls into it near Llandovery; the Sawddwy, near Llangadock; and the Gwili, near Abeigwili. The Teify flows along the north-western border of the county, separating it from Cardiganshire, but does not enter the county, The Tave, which takes its rise in Pembrokeshire, crosses Carmarthenshire from N. to S., passing St. Clare and Laugharne, where it falls into the bay, after a course of nearly 30 miles. The Cowyn joins the Tave at St. Clare, and from that village it becomes navigable. Other small rivers are the Gwendraeth and the Loughor, the latter of which rises in the Black Mountains, divides the counties of Glamorgan and Carmarthen, and enters the bay below Loughor, where it forms a broad shallow estuary, and takes the name of the Burry. Carmarthenshire has no lake of importance. A small one under the Carmarthen Beacon, of remarkably pure water, and another of smaller size on Mynydd-Mawr, are the only ones deserving of notice. They both abound in good fish. Most of the northern part of this county is occupied by the slate rocks of the Silurian system, which extend as far southward as Carmarthen. The S. part of the county belongs to the great coal-field of South Wales, which is here intersected by a belt of carboniferous limestone. A strip of the old red sandstone occurs N. of the coal district. The limestone is quarried for farming purposes, and at Llangyndeirn a good blue marble, veined with white, is obtained. Iron is found and worked in the neighbourhood of Llanelly, and copper at Kidwelly. There is a lead mine at Nanty-Meryn. The coal found in this district is mostly stonecoal, and contains many interesting fossil plants. The climate of Carmarthenshire is remarkably mild and pleasant, except on the higher hills. It is, however, damp and rainy. The soil is mostly poor, resting on the slate or coal, except in the river valleys and the rich marshes S. of Carmarthen, the substratum of the latter being limestone. Peat is abundant in the mountains, and forms there the chief fuel. The quantity of wheat grown in the county is small, and a large supply is imported. Barley and oats are grown more extensively, the latter forming the principal crop. The finest pastures are in the Vale of Towy. The cattle and sheep are mostly of the small native breed, with others of the Pembrokeshire, Devonshire, and Herefordshire breeds. South Down sheep are also reared. Butter is made and exported in large quantities. Cheese is also made for local consumption. The methods of agriculture have been improved. The farm buildings and the dwellings of the labourers are very poor. For purposes of civil government Carmarthenshire is divided into eight hundreds viz.: Carnwallon, Cathi-nog, Cayo, Derllys, Elvet, Iskennen, Kidwelly, and Perfedd. It contains 76 parishes, of which two, Carmarthen and Llanelly, are boroughs, and the same two, with Kidwelly, Laugharne, Llandeilovawr, Llandovery, Llangadock, and Newcastle-Emlyn, are market towns. Carmarthen is the county town. There are five Poor-law Unions and five County Court districts, the seats of both of which are Carmarthen, Llandeiovawr, Llandovery, Llanelly, and Newcastle-Emlyn. The county is in the South Wales circuit. The assizes are held at Carmarthen, as are the quarter sessions, except at Midsummer, when they are held at Llandeilovawr. Since the Reform Act Carmarthenshire returns two members to parliament, and Carmarthen, with the contributory borough of Llanelly, one. The county election takes place at Carmarthen. The polling places are, besides that town, Llandeilovawr, Llanduvery, Newcastle-Emlyn, St. Clear, Llanelly, and Llausawel. The local government is vested in a lord-lieutenant, high sheriff, and a body of about 35 magistrates. Carmarthenshire is included in the home military district. It is in the diocese of St. David's, in the province of Canterbury, and forms an archdeaconry. A small part of the county is in the archdeaconry of Cardigan. The only manufacture carried on in this county is that of coarse cloths and flannels made from the short wool of the native sheep. Among the remains of antiquity are a stone circle and cromlech at Llanboidy; a very large cromlech, a tumulus, and a great earthwork at Convil, in Elvet; an oval entrenchment in the same neighbourhood; a camp on Grongar Hill; and barrows at Llanfihangel, Newchurch, &c. No traces are found of the two principal Roman roads which crossed this county. The Sarn Helen has been traced between Llanvair and Carmarthen, and many Roman relics have been discovered at the former place. On the banks of the Towy is the Ogofan mine, which, there seems reason to believe, was worked by the Romans for gold. Several monastic houses existed in Carmarthenshire, but most of them have perished entirely. The only remains are those of the abbeys of Whitland and Talley, and the priories of Llanllwny and Carmarthen. Ruins of castles are found at Carmarthen, Kidwelly, Laugharne, Dynevor, Carreg-Cennen, Llandovery, Dryslwyn, Llanstephan, and Newcastle-Emlyn. The county contains many fine seats and residences of the gentry. The principal are: Abergwili, the palace of the Bishop of St. David's; Newton, the seat of Lord Dynevor; Golden Grove, that of Earl Cawdor; Iscoed, that of Sir J. Mansel, Bart.; Edwinsford, of Sir J. Williams, Bart.; Llwyny Wormwood, of Sir E. Williams, Bart.; Dolcothi, Aberglasney, Llanstephan Place, Maesgwynne, Llanelly House. The county is crossed by the South Wales railway, which enters at Loughor, at the south-eastern corner, and passes by Llanelly and Kidwelly to Carmarthen, and thence by St. Clear and Whitland auto Pembrokeshire. The length of that part of the line which is in this county is 36 miles. At Llanelly this line is joined by the Llanelly and Vale of Towy railway, which is at present completed as far as Llandovery. It passes by Pontardulas, Llandeilovawr, and Llangadock. There are railways for conveying the produce of the mines and stone quarries to Llanelly, and a canal from Kidwelly to the same place, 5 miles long, and the only one in the county. Good roads run through all parts of Carmarthenshire. Some of the most important are the following: that from Llandovery down the Vale of Towy, by Llangadock, Llandeilovawr, to Carmarthen, and thence by St. Clear and Whitland Abbey to Haverfordwest, or by Amroth Castle to Pembroke. This is part of the great road through Oxford, Gloucester, and Brecknock. Another is from Carmarthen, through Kidwelly and Llanelly to Swansea, part of the great road through Bath, Bristol, and Neath. Other roads run from Carmarthen northward to Newcastle-Emlyn and Cardigan, and to Llanfihangel-ar-Arth, Lampeter, and Tregaron."


[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2018