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 extracts from this book have been extracted by Gareth Hicks onto some parish pages, these snippets below are in random order.

Here is a list of the book's contents and contributors.

Turnpikes and lime kilns

In the C18 and early C19 lime remained the most popular  and cheapest manure, in the words of one visitor " the Welsh seem to know the use and value of lime better than the English "[Mavor]. Carmarthenshire was fortunate in its abundance of lime, there were kilns dotted all over the countryside.........including at Llandilo.

In 1792 a Turnpike Trust was created to alter, improve and maintain the road from Golden Grove Park in the parish of Llandeilo Fawr to the turnpike road which led from Llandilo Bridge to the lime kilns at Llanddarog.

Competition for least desirable town in CMN ?

A lady tourist in 1791 described  Llandovery as " the meanest and dirtiest town I have yet seen in Wales" although she afterwards confessed that Llandilo was even worse.

Lands in Llandeilo

Anthony Rudd[1594-1614] was a great preacher and a wealthy man, he was buried at Llangathen Church in which parish he had owned the estate of Aberglasney. In his will he gave four poor men a sum of money to be derived annually from lands in the parish of Llandeilo, with a provision for securing a suitable house for them..

The Independents

The decade 1664-1674 saw the rise of Simon Hughes as a leader of the Independent group of dissenters in the county. He was later referred to by writers as the " Apostle of Carmarthenshire".

In the records of the Indulgence of 1672-5 his area of influence  in the middle years of Charles II is well defined; he took out one licence to preach at the house of Evan Morris in Llanstephan; and another at the house of the widow Jenkins in Pencader; Llanstephan west of Towy; Pencader south of Towy; the Llandeilo hinterland; and the Llanedi district.

The entry of Dissent into some of the municipal or quasi-municipal towns in CMN was late, or even very late. In Llandeilo Fawr , the first Independent chapel was an old stable , converted to religious use in 1803.


The heavy hand of the Restoration bore down more heavily upon the Quaker than the orthodox Puritan. For two years he even had a special Conventicle Act all to himself [ 14 Chas II,c 1].
For refusing a demand of 14s for tithes in 1660, John Williams of Llandeilo had a horse worth £4 taken from him[ two years later, fate was kinder to him when another horse was forfeited for a demand of 20s].
The stress and storm was so severe that a few Quakers from Carmarthenshire joined with those from other counties in emigrating to North America.

The religious census of 1676 was commissioned by Archbishop Sheldon who inter alia wanted to know how many dissenters and "Popish recusants" there were in each parish in his province.However the  accuracy of the figures produced was questionable on several fronts, for instance, the clerics put down a zero against Llandeilo when authentic records testify to a respectable  Quaker colony in the parish long before 1676, they had apparently never heard of the smith's house in Llandeilo parish.

Agricultural matters

Malkin in his book The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales 1804, following his 1803 visit  said ;

In the neighbourhood of Llandilo, " besides the mansions belonging to large estates, there are more gentlemen's houses on a small scale within 5 miles ......than anywhere else in South Wales, excepting some parts of Glamorganshire."

These it would appear were mostly occupied by retired English army captains and naval officers , who took a deep interest in agricultural matters. Their first venture was to establish an Agricultural Society to instil into their own tenants their progressive ideas.........meetings of the society were held 4 times a year, twice at the Bear Inn at Llandeilo, and twice at the Ivy Bush, Carmarthen.

And another tourist wrote in his diary that " the country [around Llandilo] was fertile to a degree which we had not yet witnessed in Wales, and the state of agriculture seemed very flourishing." [ NLW. Add. MS 687B, p 129].

Theer were differing opinions as to whether the county was suitable for afforestation........ the gentry realised that trees not only beautified their estates but also enhanced the value of their land....and  embarked on an intensive policy of plantation.......which was noticeably the case in Llandilo where every estate bore witness to feverish afforestation.

Llandilo bridge

During the C18 increasing attention was paid to bridges in the county, and greater activity was displayed by local authorities in erecting serviceable structures. The bridge at Llandeilo , as late as 1795, was a dangerous wooden structure, which was swept away by the river in that year. Another was built in its place, also of wood, it was either again destroyed by the river or pulled down by the inhabitants, and a new bridge built.


In the C17 and C18 enclosures and encroachments  were made both secretly and openly, usually by the process of squatting on unclaimed waste and common land. They sometimes met with violent opposition from the tenants affected or discontented farmers. At Llandilo in 1655 , a yeoman called Thomas Griffiths forcibly attacked the close of Phillip Lloyd, gentleman, and destroyed the fences to such an extent that cattle entered it and trod down the corn and grass grown there to the value of 66/-.[Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society Vol XI, p.11]

Railways and fairs

In 1835 an Act was passed authorising the construction of a railway from Llanelly to Llandilo, with branches to Cwmamman and Brynamman. This was called the Llanelly Railway, opened in 1841, it followed the Loughor River for the greater part of its length.

It is interesting to note the increase in the number of fairs held in various towns in CMN which were on the principal rail routes. For instance, there were no fairs in Llandeilo Fawr in 1792 but 10 were held in 1888.


In the late C18 there were 2 problems which hindered the improvement of roads in Carmarthenshire,and elsewhere, the first being the lack of a suitable method of constructing a serviceable and permanent  surface, the second was that highways in general followed the routes of medieval or Roman times and were often routed  in a direct line over steep hill tops. The road from Swansea to Llandilo was said to be " exceedingly rugged and stoney".

Schools and the Welsh language

In the first half of the  C19 it is clear that the Welsh language received hardly any attention in the day-schools,as opposed to the Sunday schools. According to the 1846-7 Blue Book Reports, in not one Carmarthenshier day school was Welsh exclusively used. Welsh and English books were found only in nine of them. The Vicar of Llandilo testified how he had arranged to have the older children taught to read their bibles at the day school in their mother tongue, Welsh, as well as in English, but the parents had objected that their children could " learn Welsh at home".

The workhouse schools

Again from the Blue Books; conditions in the five workhouse schools [Llandovery, Llandilo, Carmarthen, Llanelly and Llandysul] were, as might be expected, somewhat cheerless. At Llandilo the schoolmaster united " with his educational duties, the somewhat anomalous functions of porter, barber and layer-out of the dead." Furthermore,  "the children's hair was cut in a sort of tonsure, only they were clipped where a priest would be shaven."

Secondary schools

According to the County Scheme established in 1894, six school districts were formed..Llandilo being one. The school at Llandilo was originally for boys only.

Making ends meet

In the C18 and early C19 the standard of living of the rural labouring classes was low.  One way of making ends meet is described in this extract from Arthur Young's A Tour in Wales 1776;

"The poor people spin a great deal of wool, and weave it into flannel for their own wear; no linen is worn by them, flannel supplying the place.....The poor live on barley bread, cheese and butter, not one in ten have either pigs or cows, they fare very poorly and rarely touch meat. Their little gardens they plant with cabbages, carrots leeks and potatoes."  

Around Llandilo, the labourers had a more prosperous look;

"among the poor there is a little spinning and weaving of flannel , but few of them wear linen, they all manage to buy some wool, spin and send it to the weavers, who earn 1/- to 1/3 a day. Some spin hemp and flax for canvas sacking. Many in the mountains knit stockings , which are bought up in small fairs , and carried to Worcester, etc. They live on barley or oaten bread and cheese; most get meat once a week ; Very few keep cows but some have pigs fed on acorns."

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 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.

The commote of Perfedd  also included the hamlet of Maenor Fabon in Llandilo.

John Williams [1819-69]

John Williams was born at Ffrwdwen, near Llandilo, educated at Ffrwd y Fal Academy and ordained as an Independent minister at Llangadock in 1841. He went to Newcastle Emlyn in 1851 and was in charge of Ebenezer, Capel Iwan and Bryn Seion. He made an attempt to start a Welsh weekly newspaper  called Y Byd Cymreig in Newcastle Emlyn  but it failed after 5 years and broke him financially and in  health.

The Baptists

The entry of Dissent into some of the municipal or quasi-municipal towns in CMN was late, or even very late

The Baptists were were found applying in 1828 for the site of an old house that had belonged to the abbots of Talley, and they were careful to state that it is " remote from any of the principal streets in Llandilo, actually their first chapel there was built in 1831.

The New Stone age

From about 3000 BC onwards elements of civilisation began to percolate into Western Europe from Egypt and Mesopotamia, signalling the beginning of the Neolithic or Stone Age.
With the westward spread of new ideas came ways of making tools, first in stone and later in metal.
Some 9 or 10 examples of the polished stone axe are known from Carmarthenshire
One was found on an allotment in Llandeilo Fawr in 1917.

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 Llandeilo fawr.........."


See the county page for a general introduction to The Early Iron and Coal Industry


"The village of Llandyfan is situated a little to the north east of Llandebie. Here, there were good supplies of timber, coal, iron-ore, and limestone --- the essentials of the iron industry. In the old records, the word is variously written as Lannovaine, Llandyvane, and Llandyfaen.

The forge is situated about half a mile to the east of Llandyfan. Not far from the forge, to the south-east, the Loughor river has its source in Llygad Llychwr on the western side of the Black Mountains. A small stream, Nant Gwythwch, joins the Loughor just where the forge is located, at an elevation of 500 feet. The general scenery is that of wide moorland, marshy in the higher levels, with numerous springs. Forge Mill Farm is nearby, with a ford and a weir.

The place-names in the locality suggest certain types of woodland, e.g Pantymangoed (dingle of stunted trees), and these are above the 700 foot contour. Limestone quarries are numerous in the Gwythwch valley to the north-east, and near Carreg Dwfn mountain to the north-west. A highland road passes the forge from Llandyfan to Llandilo.

The Llandyfan forge produced on a small scale; in 1750, 100 tons of bar-iron was produced. During the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the 19th century, large quantities of armaments were produced. The processes of bar-iron manufacture at this forge show that they were similar to those at the other ironworks in the county.  The pig-iron was brought from the furnace nearby , and alternately heated and hammered. The heating was done in the finery --- an open hearth fed with charcoal, and furnished with bellows. The pig-iron was then placed under a big hammer worked by a water-wheel and beaten into a thick square of half 'bloom'. The same process was repeated and the result was known as a 'bloom' --- a square bar with knobs at either end. These knobs were reheated and hammered and were finally turned into bars. The whole process was lengthy and laborious and all the work was done at the forge.

An inventory of stock taken at the forge in 1799 shows the amount of material left over at the end of the year. In addition to these accounts there are references to sacks of charcoal, barrows, anvils, hammers, bellows, and stocks of timber such as oak, ash, deal and sycamore. "

"About the middle of the 18th century, Robert Morgan, who owned ironworks at Kidwelly, Carmarthen, Llandyfan, Cwmdwyfran, and at Stackpole (Pembrokeshire), came into possession of the Whitland Abbey forge.........the latter was not as important as the other ironworks at Carmarthen and Kidwelly,  and the smaller ones at Cwmdwyfran and Llandyfan.."

The Iron and Early TinPlate Industry

"The ironworks which declined in importance were those at Cwmdwyfran, Cwmbran, Whitland Abbey, and Llandyfan. The ironworks at Kidwelly and Carmarthen had commenced making tinplate with a great measure of success and were the sole representatives of this industry for the first half of the 19th century in Carmarthenshire..."

Gareth Hicks