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.

Nonconformity and Methodism

The Propagation and 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 ) ..........John Rice, Henllan, 1655 (the year of presentation to the living)....."

Independents, 1650-1687

"........the records of the time leave no doubt regarding the weakness of Independency. .......in 1684---when persecution was at the hottest, it is true--- the churchwardens have very few schismatics to present in the districts where Independency would naturally be expected to have made some ground --- none in Trelech, one in Pencarreg, three families in Henllan..."

The census of 1676

"In the western projection of the hundred of Derllys, especially in the land drained by the rivers Taf and Marlas, where the powerful church of Henllan was being gradually built up, seventeen sectaries were counted; nor must it be forgotten that Henllan drew much of its sustenance from Llanddewi Velfrey across the Pembroke border........the term Henllan (to be exact) for this aggregate of sectaries will not be correct till their chapel is built more than 20 years after the census.............."

The Henllan Secessions

This section covers 5 pages in the book and describes in great detail the rift between Presbyterians and Independents over who should succeed David Lewis in c 1695 as pastor at Henllan, David Owen of Pwllhwyaid, or Lewis Thomas of Bwlchsais, Llanfyrnach, the first being Presbyerianly inclined............Owen was chosen. The unhappy moderates invoked the principles of the Savoy Conference and the Happy Union by appealing to a synod of ministers which met at Pencader and Trelech, however these only served to strengthen the hand of the Presbyterians and estrange the extreme Independents still further. One upshot was that Lewis Thomas and his friends started  a new cause at Rhydyceisiad in the neighbouring parish of Llangynin, later extending to Aberelwyn in the north-west, and other places. By 1709, Lewis Thomas had succeeded in surrounding 'the Laodiceans' of Henllan with a triple band of fierce and implacable Independents. The death of David Owen in 1710, and the choice of his son Jeremy to succeed him, hardened the resolve of some guileless 'gwirioniaid' who yet remained to swell the ranks of Lewis Thomas by yet another succession. They took with them Henry Palmer of Llwyndrysni.......it was a little awkward that the farms of Llwyndrysni and Pwllhwyaid stood so close to each other.

Mathias Maurice wrote in 1726 a Byr Hanes of the controversy, he was in the Independent's party, to him the synods were unwarrentable interference in other people's rights. He was answered five years later by Jeremy Owen's pamphlet, Golwg ar y Beiau, in which he roundly refuses to admit that the Henllan church was either lax in discipline or unsound in doctrine; they were Calvinists, without being hyper-Calvinists. He gave an interesting account of the so-called synods at work, emphasising again and again that their function was consultative not coercive.

The Older Dissent--Expansion and Organisation

"It may be well to exemplify this process (of expansion) by giving some detail of the 'life history' of one or two of the 'mother-churches'...............No better example could be chose than the historic Presbyterian-Independent church of Henllan Amgoed. Henllan meeting house itself (1696-7) was but the metropolis of a far flung community which straggled over the whole of Carmarthenshire west of the river Cynin, and even strayed across the eastern Cleddau and the Crunwear brook into Pembrokeshire. Its members had been worshipping at private houses, duly registered in accordance with the Toleration Act; such were Canerw in Llanboidy parish, an un-named house in Egremont, and Pal Mawr in Cyffig. The householder at Pal died, and the house ceased to be available, whereupon its congregation was diverted in part to Cefn Farchen, becoming in 1696 the Henllan congregation proper, which in turn threw off Rhyd y Ceisiad.......in part to a house called Moor between St Clears and Laugharne................"

" Westward, Henllan church, with a fine disregard for county boundaries, threw out off shoots at Carfan in Llanbedr Efelffre (1804, autonomous in 1847), at Llandeilo Maenclochog, where there was a chapel as early as 1714 ( from which a 'split' at Maenclochog went out in 1786), but no church until 1837;  at Whitland (Soar chapel, 1840; church, 1847), replacing an earlier nucleus at 'the Forge'; at Bethel in Llanddewi Efelffre; at St Florence, and elsewhere...."

" The upshot, as will be seen, is that the single church called 'Henllan Amgoed' in 1715 is today represented by more than a dozen separate churches.......................the obvious difficulty of working so large a district from one centre was for a long time met by having two co-pastors at Henllan, with a large staff of 'teachers' or lay-readers......"

............subject to these cautions we reckon that there were in 1715 seventeen Presbyterian or Independent churches (in Carmarthenshire);.............................Henllan Amgoed etc..........."

"....when Thomas Morgan left Henllan (1760) for Yorkshire, he seems to have dropped quite naturally into 'the West Riding Class', and later on in life (1794) he notes that he was the sole survivor of '12 or 14 Welsh Dissenting Ministers' in that class, and that since 1760, '10 or 12 C(ongregations?) had turned Independent. Here too, one wonders whether Presbyterianism may not actually have had a real meaning for Thomas Morgan."

"Among the Presbyterians and Independents there seems at first  to have been no larger ambit than the ministers' quarterly meeting..........The synod was purely an ad hoc body, called into existence from time to time merely to advise churches in emergencies. Any claim that the 'synods' which met to compose the Henllan disputes were of Presbyterian character is at once disproved by the fact that such 'synods' were again called in to settle the troubles at Glandwr (Pembrokeshire) in 1789/90, for Glandwr was definitely Independent being a product of the revolt from Henllan..............."

The Lists of Dr John Evans (1714+)

"Nearer ......in time to the Lists are the numbers of Dissenters in the various parishes as supplied by by Archdeacon Tenison in the Visitation of 1710.............when his numbers are added up, allowing them the most favourable interpretation by accepting the highest of his alternative figures, he is found to admit that there were over 1200 Nonconformists in his archdeaconry, very handsomely (if indirectly) describing the efflorescence of Independency at Henllan, Pencader and Crugybar..."

"......impossibilities begin. At Henllan, quoting an admission of the rector's, the hearers sometimes numbered '2 or 3 hundred; the Lists run them up to 700."

"......Of the five ministers who attended the synods concerned with the Henllan controversy, only William Evans confined himself to work in this county..."

"The Lists attain their chief interest when they record (as one of the latest Carmarthen entries in the MS) the return of Henry Palmer from Rhydyceisiad to Henllan, a piece of news amply confirmed later in the writings of Mathias Maurice and Jeremy Owen. According to the former, the people of Henllan were so downcast through the dispensations of Providence ( which were really none other than the mysterious backslidings of Jeremy Owen himself) that they were driven to beg for the return of Palmer to act as their pastor..............."( more in book on this theme)

The Independents, 1687-1715

".......Under the sunshine of freedom, fed by increasing numbers, reinforced with sound sense, the subsidiary meeting places became separate causes..........(but)........the historic church of Henllan refused to follow the general policy of decentralisation, and fixed the position of its new home as a central meeting ground for its outlying members in the parishes of Llanboidy and Cyffig. The ravishes of schism succeeded where the wisdom of the saints had failed; within ten years of the erection of the chapel, a large party had left the Henllan congregation to establish a new cause at Rhydyceisiad to the east."

Calvinistic Methodism

"In 1748...William John notes that at Henllan  'several Dissenters have left us, being threatened with excommunication (by their own people) for having joined us' ......................In 1749....at Henllan, a Dissenting newcomer was admitted ' on trial'  to the society"...

Church Life

"This High Calvinism, characteristic also of other Independents and Baptist ministers who have been mentioned in the last two paragraphs, and especially of.........and Richard Morgan of Henllan etc........will be better understood when we have briefly considered the trend of theological opinion among Carmarthenshire Dissenters during the 18th century....."

"Some of the more prominent figures in the Dissenting ministry may be mentioned here..........of the older 'squarson' type, we may name, among the Independents, the Henllan ministers Henry Palmer of Llwyn Drysni (1721-68); the dates are those of pastoral office; and Lewis Phillips (1748-84).............."

Carmarthen Academy and Dissenting Education

"The figures given in the report of 1847 show that the county had only four 'British' schools (the British and Foreign School Society, like the National Society, accepted state aid) but it had thiry two voluntarily provided 'Dissenting Schools' of which fifteen belonged to the Independents. Even after the logic of events had compelled the abandonment of voluntaryism in South Wales (about 1853)...........and the Dissenting schools, one after the other, had taken shelter under the wing of the British & Foreign School Society, there were stalwarts in Carmarthenshire who would not bend the knee. Of these, the most noted was Joshua Lewis, pastor from 1838 to 1879 of Henllan Amgoed Independent church, whose ministers --as we have seen from time to time--- have rarely been nonentities. Joshua Lewis was a good 18th century Dissenter planted in the mid-19th; a hard worker in his wide pastorate; a diligent student of philosophy  of all sorts; a 'political Dissenter' to the backbone. He had worked hard to plant day-schools and night-schools in his countryside, but now had to stand by while even his own school at Henllan was taken over. But he never abandoned his voluntaryist creed; at the Aberystwyth Conference of 1870, he sat in grim silence, and the passing of the Education Act of that year left him still unconvinced."

Concluding Remarks

"Times have clearly altered since the days when Carmarthenshire Dissent exported (as indeed it still exports) ministers in abundance, but scarcely ever imported them. Yet David Rees at Llanelly and Joshua Lewis at Henllan, both Trelech men, continued to represent the older state of things."

History of the Church in the County

Puritan Domination; a Period of Depression

"........in addition to the commissioners, twenty five Puritan ministers, or 'approvers' ,were selected......these 'approvers, or any five of them, were responsible for the filling of the churches ordered vacant by the Commissioners. Carmarthenshire again had not a single representative among the approvers. The clergy were ejected from the following parishes.............Henllan Amgoed  etc...."

Medieval boundaries

The western limb of Carmarthenshire belonged to the ancient kingdom of Dyfed, as opposed to  the adjacent Ystrad Tywi. One of the seven cantrefs of Dyfed was Y Cantref Gwarthaf, signifying  the 'topmost' division of the realm, i.e the one furthest from the governmental base. The size of Cantref Gwarthaf in Dyfed is shown by its containing the unusually large number of eight commotes, viz., Elfed, Derllys, Penrhyn, Ystlwyf, Talacharn, Amgoed, Peuliniog, and Efelffre, all of which except the last are now in Carmarthenshire. The data for fixing their boundaries is not so conclusive as up until this point, six of the eight commotes were merged under Henry VIII in the hundred of Derllys and the thorough Norman settlement of most of this region previously makes it difficult to disentangle the ancient areas.

Amgoed and Peuliniog were combined to form the Norman lordship of St Clears. The situation of the former is clear from the name Henllan Amgoed, given to a Dewi church in this region, in order to distinguish it from another Dewi church, also called Henllan, and situated on the Teifi..........The exact boundaries of these two commotes cannot be determined, but together they filled the space between the East Cleddau and the Cynin, with the Taf as the southern boundary, this forming the domain of the lords of St Clears.

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......................and, possibly, Henllan Amgoed...."

"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 Henllan Amgoed etc.........."

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.........Whitland possessed Iscoed in the parishes of Llanboidy, Llangan and Henllan Amgoed............Llanwinio and Henllan Amgoed in Carmarthen and Llanfyrnach.......

Gareth Hicks