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.

Political Affairs from 1536 to 1900

Political Life 1536-1688

"Unlike the great internal struggles of the past, the civil war of the 17th century was waged on both sides with commendable moderation and lack of cruelty. .........yet the precedent that the losers must pay was too firmly established to be ignored and the increasing financial embarrassment of the Commonwealth government inevitably suggested the attractive expedient of forcing the Cavaliers to pay for their defeat................In Wales exceptional difficulty was found in applying the policy (of penalising all those who had given assistance to the king) ...........two Acts were passed in 1648 and 1649 for South and North Wales respectively...............with set amounts to be raised in each county.....................Carmarthen (shire) was to provide £4,000................Among those on whom fines were imposed were......................Henry Middleton of Llanarthney £120......."

Nonconformity and Methodism

The Propagation of the Gospel

"Early in 1650, the whole of Wales was given autonomy in religious matters by the Act for the Propagation of the Gospel, which was to remain in force for three years, a period often referred to as the crown and pinnacle of Puritan domination in this country.................lay-commissioners and preacher approvers were tasked to eject unworthy ministers........eighteen Carmarthenshire clergy were ejected from their livings, nineteen were left unejected.............the treatment of Carmarthenshire ministers was unusually lenient.................at least two of the ejected clergy were allowed to farm the tithes of their old livings; unexplained generosity was shown in paying 'fifths' to Blanche, the wife of William Hughes, the ejected pluralist of Llanarthney and Llangathen......."

"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 )

  • Walter Bowen, Llanarthney, 1657 (the year of presentation to the living)

"All the Puritan preachers were obsequious followers of Cromwell during the Protectorate; their names are found scattered over the latter pages of the loyal address sent from Wales to the Protector in 1656. Nor was Carmarthenshire without its plague of so called Puritan discoverers; Ralph Grundy's catalogue of Cavaliers in 1648 is echoed by a George Hooper's effort in 1659 to prove that tithes were being withheld at Llanarthney under colour of a false lease. "

Independents, 1650-87

"The Restoration came as a shock --- a welcome and refreshing shock--- to the devourers of loaves and fishes that manned the Puritan ranks in Carmarthenshire. Of the nineteen so called Puritans who were nominated to livings by the Triers, eight conformed..............three were promoted to livings outside the county................Walter Bowen from Llanarthney to Ystrad and Trefelin in Cardiganshire....where he died a pluralist..."

"......Samuel Jones who had to surrender Llanegwad in 1660 conformed in 1664 by submitting to the necessary oaths before admission to a new cure, then changed his mind, and was turned out of his new living of Llanarthney early in 1666, incidentally making way for the new vicar, Edmund Meyrick of Ucheldre in Merioneth, who thus was well set on the path of a long course of preferment in the diocese of St David's...."

Calvinistic Methodism

" ......a Carmarthenshire Methodist who became a clergyman but left the county............David Davies of Newcastle Emlyn, who became vicar of Llanfyrnach in Pembrokeshre ( as 'Curate of Llanarthney' he joins in a petition to Howell Harris in 1772 on behalf of the 'Carmarthen Society' begging Harris to revisit Carmarthen)...."

"On September 4, 1744, a 'Monthly meeting' at Abergorlech is found petitioning the bishop not to execute his threat to deprive the Methodists of the chapel. The toleration (if that it was) was evidently continued, for not only preaching services but celebrations of Holy Communion (in both cases, of course, by Methodists who were in orders) were held at Abergorlech for a long time. At Capel Llanlluan again (in Llanarthney parish), Rowland and other Methodist clergy officiated. The exhorter William John of Glan Cothi heard Howell Davies preach there on January 14 1741, 'with much Power', but Griffith Jones of Llanddowror (Howell Davies was at the time his curate) was not so pleased, and Harris had to listen to some sharp remarks on the subject --- 'was cut to the quick' at Griffith Jones's 'hindering Mr H Davies entirely from going abroad'. The legal position at Llanlluan is not quite clear; the Methodist tradition implies that the building was derelict and in lay hands (cf. the celebrated case of Llanybri), and 'Phillips Lloyd Esq' is said to have repaired it for Methodist use, --- yet Griffith Jones had previously used it for holding school. The Methodists used the chapel right down to 1830; and when they abandoned it for a newly built meeting house, it fell (or reverted) into decay. "

A list of early exhorters in Carmarthenshire has the following;

  • James Edward (Llanarthney), deprived in 1748.
  • John Williams.........Llanarthney in 1744

The Gouge Movement

There is a statement that in 1675 there were in Carmarthenshire a total number of pupils of 266 getting some schooling, not just via the Welsh Trust of Gouge and his friends though, a breakdown shows the number in Llanarthney as 12.

Economic and Social Life


"The brunt of the burden of maintaining the roads, however, still fell upon the shoulders of the inhabitants of the parishes............the parishes became responsible for such roads as were not included in the districts over which the turnpike trusts had complete supervision, and the old custom of assessing the inhabitants by the surveyor, which had been established by the Statute of 1664, was still the characteristic feature of the parochial management of roads........sixpence in the pound was levied upon the inhabitants of the hamlet of Trefroyan in the parish of Llanarthney in 1794, who in their turn did the work themselves, either by hiring men or lending carts and implements...."


"....in 1800 the parish of Llanarthney contracted with a mason to build a parish bridge which should cost £4.13.6d., and it was agreed that he should keep it in good repair during the space of four years."

Literature and Literary Associations

Hymnody and Sacred Poetry

".....The power of a hymn in preserving a name is shown by the number of folk who hang on to immortality by the slender thread of a short hymn, or even a single verse.......................perhaps the most striking instance of all is, 'Bydd myrdd o ryfeddodau,'  which may be called the national funeral hymn. In the Llanarthney parish churchyard there is a tombstone on which this, along with other inscriptions is found, 'Hefyd am David G. Jones, Tirwaun, o'r plwyf hwn. Awdwr Bydd myrdd o ryfeddodau ? Bu farw Mai 24 1879'.  It is difficult to authenticate the authorship satisfactorily, but no other claimant has been named..."

History of the Church in the County

Puritan domination, a period of depression

In 1672, Llanarthney church is listed in a long list of Carmarthenshire churches  where "everything was out of repair" in the aftermath of the confusion of the previous 20 years.

From the Subscription book of Bishop Watson (1690s ?);

  • At Llanarthney the church is said to be in good repair. The vicar had a curate ' to supply his absence'.

"........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.............Llanarthney etc...."

A Religious and Educational Movement

"....a manuscript  (MS 25b, NLW) is extant which contains a record of the institution and sequestration of clergy, the licensing of schoolmasters, and the appointment of officials between 1753 and 1761, when Anthony Ellis was titular bishop of St David's...........................another name which figures prominently in these records is that of Thomas Williams, vicar of Llanarthney. Obviously these four men ruled the diocese during the episcopate of Anthony Ellis...."

Boundaries and Local 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 Bychan was divided into three commotes, Hirfryn, Perfedd and Is Cennen. The latter stretched along the south  bank of the Towy and was made up of the parishes of Llanddarog, Llanarthney, Llanfihangel Aberbythych, Llandybie and Betws, with the townships of Glyn Aman, Bryn y Beirdd, Pentre Cwn, Trecastell and Tregib, in the parish of Llandilo......"

"It remains to speak briefly of the ecclesiastical divisions within the county. From the time when diocesan limits became fixed, it lay entirely within the bounds of the diocese of St David's. Previous to the Norman Conquest, it is possible that the lands between the Towy and the Tawy, as they passed from the lords of Ystrad Tywi to those of Glamorgan, may also have transferred their ecclesiastical allegiance from the bishop of St David's to his brother of Llandaff.  At any rate it is well known that the energetic Urban, bishop of Llandaff from 1107 to 1133, claimed for his diocese the whole of Cantref Bychan, Cydweli, and Gower, regions which, he averred, had anciently belonged to to it.........................in support of this contention, particulars were recorded of the exercise of authority in the disputed district by his predecessor, Herwald, who, it is alleged, consecrated churches and ordained priests at Llangadock, Llanarthney, Pembrey and Llanelly...............the argument failed to convince the papal court........and the claim fell into obeyance...."

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 Llanadneu (Llanarthney) etc...............of later foundation, no doubt, was.............as well as the Dewi chapels subordinate to .............and Llanarthney..."

Revival of the English Power

"Rhys Gryg was now growing old, having been for some forty years an active figure in the troubled politics of the realm of Deheubarth...........in 1227 he was seized at Llanarthney, which was within his jurisdiction as lord of  Is Cennen, by his son, Rhys Fychan, and only released on condition of handing over the castle of Llandovery...."

Carmarthenshire under Henry I

"With the Normans military and ecclesiastical aggrandisement went hand in hand. They had little respect for the old Welsh monastic communities, in which, by this time, hereditary succession was the rule, and churches like Llanarthney, Llandeulothog and Llanddowror must have fared badly. Their favour was reserved for the new foundations which they established, and which were constituted in accordance with continental ideas...."

The Later Middle Ages

Iscennen---The Commote

"Near the castle of Carregcennen were the demesne lands of the maerdref of its former arglwydd.........the commote west and south of the demesne and forest lands was divided into maenors. Maenors Vouwen and Gryngar, bordering on Kidwelly commote, corresponded roughly to the ancient ecclesiastical parishes of Llanarthney and Llanddarog;  Maenors Llys and Methennich to Llanfihangel Aberbythych and Llandybie; and, 'between Amman River and the lordship of Gower, bounded by Cathau brook and Lle'r Castell' was Maenor Bettws or Stryveland."

Prehistoric and Roman Times

Early Bronze Age

"In fact only two metal objects found within the county can be attributed to the Early Bronze Age....................the other object is thought to have been a halberd found while digging the foundations of Paxton's Tower in Llanarthney parish.  The implement itself is now lost.  Halberds were common in Ireland in the Early Bronze Age, but there are a few Welsh examples which may have come into Wales from that island....."

List of Carmarthenshire Hill Forts

Slight traces indicate the possible former existence of a hill fort with earthen ramparts at the following sites;

  • Tan-y-lan, Llanarthney

An example of a fortress using promontories etc;

  • Cae'r Castell, Llanarthney

Middle and Late Bronze Age

"When we turn from the funerary vessels of this period .....we are impressed by the comparative scarcity of metal objects in Carmarthenshire, ........the list includes;

  • A looped and socketed spear-head, from Cae-dan-y-cwarren, Drawsdre Isaf, parish of Llanarthney (Arch Camb 1893, V.x, 142; RCAM 208) In Carmarthen Museum.

"......the Llanarthney spear-head (photograph in book)  can be assigned to the middle phase of the age.........(more about spear-heads in book)......"

Gareth Hicks