A History of Carmarthenshire


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.

Items relating just to Pencader are listed after those for Llanfihangel

Nonconformity and Methodism

The Propagation of 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 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 ) "

  • 1654, Robert Thomas, Llanfihangel Ioreth

Independents, 1650-87

"The Act of Uniformity was followed by the first Coventicle Act and the Five Mile Act, the one designed to prevent the growth of organised Dissent, the other to divorce the erstwhile Puritan minister from his old flock. These days of bitter and prolonged persecution were to test to the utmost the endurance of Nonconformists, be they preachers or followers, their great achievement was to winnow out the wheat from the chaff, to isolate the conscientious Dissenter from the sham Puritan............................. the poor persecuted were literally driven to earth - then arose the traditions of Cwmhwplin cave in Llanfihangel Ioreth.....................in all of which the the small but brave remnant could worship God bereft of the company of opportunists and self-seekers."

"........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..........Somewhat surprisingly, the warden's report for Llanfihangel Ioreth is not preserved...."

The Census of 1676

This was commissioned by Archbishop Sheldon 'who wanted to know the numbers of inhabitants, Popish recusants and other Dissenters...in every parish in his province'. The section dealing with the numbers of Dissenters includes the sentence ;-  For example, twenty is the number of Nonconformists returned for Llanfihangel Ioreth. How many of these were Baptist followers of William Jones, how many were wont to foregather at Cwmhwplin ? As only one person from this parish had been enrolled on the Rhydwilym register at the date of the census, it is natural to argue that the rest were Independents."

History of the Church in the County

Puritan Domination: a Period of Depression

"The bishopric remained vacant until ...the appointment of George Bull.........the presentment of church wardens at his primary visitation in 1705 ..... supply evidence as to the state of the churches in the various parishes at the beginning of the 18th century.................The vicar of Llanfihangel Ioreth lived at Carmarthen, and the parish was served by a subsitute."

"........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............. Llanfihangel Ioreth etc...."

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 the seven commotes of Mallaen, Caeo, Maenor Deilo, Cetheiniog, Widigada, Mabelfyw and Mabudrud.  To the latter belonged the parishes of Llanllwni, Llanfihangel Rhosycorn, Llanfihangel Ioreth and Brechfa.

Castles, Boroughs, and Religious Houses


"....... right conferred upon the burgesses of Carmarthen by Edward II in 1326, of having a boat and collecting all passage dues of travellers for the purpose of repairing the bridge, presumably destroyed. That many people requiring hospitality were attracted to the town by reason of the bridge was one of the causes given by the Prior for the poverty of his house in 1362, when the Bishop of St David's conferred upon it the advowson of Llanfihangel Ioreth. A bridge of sorts had existed there from early Norman times and is specifially mentioned in 1233 and 1250. "

Monastic Lands and Revenues

"The bulk of the possessions of Talley is set out in the inspeximus charter of Edward II dated 1324, which confirms the gifts of the Lord Rhys and his family. The lands are as follows.........................................the grange of Gwyddgrug (in the parish of Llanfihangel Ioreth......"

"The churches that came into possession of the religious houses were as follows;

  • Carmarthen Priory; - ....................(includes)   Llanfihangel Ioreth, with a chapel at Pencader..............

"In 1363, in return for the advowson of Llanfihangel Ioreth and Llanybydder, the Prior and canons of Carmarthen were asked to pay an annual pension of 40s and contribute 13s.4d yearly towards the expenses of two lamps at the Cathedral Church of St David's, pledging the emoluments of the two churches as security.."

Castles/The Motte & Bailey Castle

"Eleven of the motte castles show traces of a bailey, rather a small number compared with those listed in the Inventories of other counties in Wales. The bailey is frequently absent from Wales, but in some cases it has been obliterated by the plough......Both types are present in the parishes of Llanfihangel Ioreth.................and generalisation is not possible...."

Prehistoric and Roman Times

List of Carmarthenshire Hill Forts/Hill Forts with ramparts of dry walling


  • Craig Gwrtheyrn, Llanfihangel Ioreth (In fair preservation)

List of Carmarthenshire Hill Forts/Hill Forts with earthen ramparts


  • Yr Hen Gastell, Llanfihangel Ioreth (in fair preservation)

Fortresses utilising promontories, cliffs and tongues of land at the confluences of upland streams and defended in part only by artificial works


  • Castell Pant farm, Llanfihangel Ioreth
  • Castell, Llanfihangel Ioreth

List of Carmarthenshire Megaliths/Standing Stones


  • Cwm Cathen Maen Hir, Llanfihangel Ioreth


Nonconformity and Methodism


"It is the records of the Indulgences of 1672-5 which most authoritively proclaim the place of Stephen Hughes in the story of Carmarthenshire nonconformity; they also tell pretty definitely of the exact areas where his influence was most felt ........he took out a licence to preach at ..... and another at the house of the widow Jenkins in Pencader ..........To say, however, that a chapel was built at Pencader about the year 1668 (as did the Pencader minister who sent up the old church book to the Home Secretary in 1838) betrays an imagination far too sanguine. Who would dare build a chapel four years after the passing of the Conventicle Act ?  If a chapel had been built about 1668 , why should Stephen Hughes trouble to take out a licence for the house of the widow Jenkins in 1672 ? "

Independents; 1687-1715

"The Indulgences of 1687 and 1688, for all their cunning words and ambigious policy, had opened doors that were never to be closed again. The Dissenters of the county reacted to this new world in a wonderfully dramatic manner; five of its preachers were ordained in 1688 ...........[including] William Evans at Pencader ...."

"....in the period 1690-1.....the main Independent causes in the county were  ..... and Pencader where William Evans had not received more than 15s in two years time............. William Evans had a wife , from whom 'he hath £5.10s during her life' ( per annum is not added), and some pupils in a small school he taught at Pencader ...""

"Thus William Evans stands before us as an active, well informed, resourceful, eminently practical person, set free by the Toleration Act for the most varied and fruitful enterprises, whether reading with his group of students at the seminary, or preaching under a widespread oak at Llanddarog, or making his way to Pencader with a bundle of his own translation of the Assembly's Catechism on his saddle..."

"...............William Evans in 1702/3 (moved from) Pencader to the town of Carmarthen.."

".....under the sunshine of freedom, fed by increasing numbers, reinforced with sound sense, the subsidiary meeting places became separate causes .......... Llangeler (freed from the tutelage of Pencader) setting up its own hearth.....Rhydybont rose to meet the convenience of those who lived too far west of Pencarreg, much too far east of Pencader...."

The Henllan Secessions

"....it is not without interest that the school held in Pencader chapel used the shorter Cathechism of the Presbyterians as translated into Welsh by William Evans himself...."

"......the moderate party thought it high time to invoke the the principles of the Savoy Conference and the Happy Union by appealing to a synod of ministers ..... such a synod actually met, first at Pencader, afterwards at the Rock chapel in Trelech ...."

Calvinistic Methodism

"......in 1740; in the same year Rees Davies of Canerw and James Lewis of Pencadair write to him (Howell Harris)...."

The Older Dissent/Expansion and Organisation

"Thus William Perkins, minister of Pencader (1772-5), who had been expelled by his congregation, played his trustee as a trump card and turned the congregation out of the chapel..."

".......it is very difficult to tease apart the early histories of the Independent churches at Abergorlech and Gwernogle, which again for a long time were closely associated with Mynydd Bach (Capel Isaac) and Pencadair respectively. "

"In 1774, Evan Griffiths, pastor of Capel Seion Independent Church, compiled statistics of Dissenting 'hearers'. He names nineteen Independent churches, with a total of 6,340 'hearers', and ten Baptist churches with 1500. ....the largest Independent churches being ....... and Pencader (700).............."

The Older Dissent/Church Life

"The register was usually posted up by the pastor. An awkward result of this is that a minister who was pastor of more than one church tended to make his entries in a single register; so, for example, Pencader particulars are for some years entered in the Rhyd y Bont register................."

".... at Pencader and Llandysul, (we find) James Lewis (1706-47), of the landed family of Dinas Cerdin....."

"...the beginnings of a more general advance along the new lines may be dated  approximately at 1785. David Davies, the son of an inn-keeper, was already a married man, and had none of the educational advantages which the older Independents thought requisite in a minister, when in 1784 or 1785 he was accepted as a preacher by the church at Pencadair. .............. By common consent, David Davies is regarded as the leader of the new school among the Independents of Carmarthenshire, and indeed, of Wales in general. "

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.............. At times between 200 and 300 hearers , from Llanfihangel Ioreth and other parishes, came to hear William Evans when he visited Pencader ......the Lists cannot be severely criticised for putting the hearers at Pencader and Rhydybont together at 450......"

".................it is certain that the great majority of Dissenters were poor indeed, like the unfortunates of Cruglas and Pencader who were helped by Tirdoncyn briefs.............."

Literature and Literary Association

John Griffiths (1752-1818)

"He was a native of Pencader and was trained for the ministry at the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen, He was ordained as minister of Pendref Independent church, Llanfyllin, in 1780, removed to Caernarvon in 1782.....left.....returned there in 1796 and remained there for the rest of his life.... He translated Dr Philip Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul into Welsh (1788).... also edited a collection of hymns....."

James Davies (1648-1722)

"He is better known as Iago ap Dewi, the name which he himself attached to all of his published books and MSS. A native of the neighbourhood of Llandysul, he lived for a good part fo his life at Pencader, attached to the Independent church there under the ministry of Stephen Hughes. ........... a man of many parts, a collector of prose and poetry of former days, a poet himself............valued contributions were his translations of English  religious books........."

History of the Church in the County

Puritan Domination: a Period of Depression

"The bishopric remained vacant until ...the appointment of George Bull.........the presentment of church wardens at his primary visitation in 1705 ..... supply evidence as to the state of the churches in the various parishes at the beginning of the 18th century................. There was a 'meeting house' for Dissenters at Pencader ....."

The Age of the Native Princes

Hywel the Good; Gruffydd ap Llywelyn; Rhys ap Tewdwr

" In 1041 he (Gruffydd) had made his way to the borders of Dyfed, and there defeated Hywel in a battle fought at Pencader ..."

The Lord Rhys;Early Struggles

"The king, after his long absence, reappeared in England in January 1163, and in April or May led a large expedition into South Wales.  His progress was triumphal; as he passed through Glamorgan, Gower and Carmarthen, opposition melted away, and at Pencader,  Rhys was forced to submit...."

The Death of Llywelyn, and its Results

"...there was a controversy between Rhys Mechyll and Maredudd ap Rhys..............occasions of quarrel would easily arise between the two princes whose territories at this moment bordered upon each other from Pencader to the mouth of the Aman...."

Castles, Boroughs, and Religious Houses

Castles/The Motte and Bailey Castle

"In the matter of names, some of the castles assumed those of the old territorial divisions; such are Talacharn, Cydweli, and Carnwallon. The Welsh chronicles refer to Pencadeir, Gueithtineuur, and 'ecclesie aquilensium' (Llan Ddyfr Wyr).."

"Eleven of the motte castles show trace of a baily.....................where nature provides a knoll,  as at Llangadock, Llanwrda and Llanllwni, the Norman contented himself with  heightening the site by throwing up the earth excavated from the ditch .......... the motte varies in height  ......... where there is a precipice, as at Allt-y-ferin and Pencader, ......................it does not completely surround the mound and generally ends in a bell-mouth."

"In almost every case, notably at Llandovery and Pencader, the bailey is elevated some feet above the natural ground level.."

"....several of our castles  are distributed along the highways, Roman and medieval, radiating from Carmarthen. Such are ...... and Pencader and Pant Glas to the north."

"Were these mottes exclusively Norman ? For answer, let us consult the chronicles. Pencader is mentioned as early as 1041, but only as the site of a battle between two native princes. In 1145, we learn that Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, built the castle of Mabudrud, which Sir John Lloyd equates with Pencader. ............................. Pencader had already come under the influence of Carmarthenshire in 1116...."

Monastic Lands and Revenues

"The churches that came into possession of the religious houses were as follows.

Carmarthen Priory;

  • a chapel at Pencader