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.

Items relating to Llanybri which became a separate parish from Llanstephan in 1863 are included in the main sections below.

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............. Llanstephan ..."

Renewal and Growth

"Various church problems affecting Carmarthenshire were awaiting to be solved when Connop Thirlwal became bishop......... In his Primary Charge (in 1842) Bishop Thirlwal referred to ......the need for church extension in various areas........ (several) new churches had been built....new parishes had been created..... inc. Llanybri ....."


Political Affairs from 1536-1900


"The year 1757 witnessed a recrudesence of the rioting which had disgraced 1755..........the rioters who were composed of some hundreds of colliers, miners, iron-work men, and other disorderly persons, having left their work for several weeks to live upon free booty, plundered several storehouses, warehouses and vessels at Kidwelly, Llanstephan and Laugharne, of all the corn and meal they could come at....."


Nonconformity and Methodism

The Older Dissent; Expansion and Organisation

"Less aristocratic, yet distinctly of the older academic stamp were ......... and Evan Davies of Llanybri ...."


"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 the house of Evan Morris in Llanstephan ........"


There is a photograph of Llanybri chapel opposite p162 in the book

"It was William Evans also, according to Tenison, who secured for Dissent the episcopal chapel at Llanybri, attached to the rectory of Llanstephan, one of the six Percy impropriations. It seems that the tenth Earl of Northumberland had alienated the profits of this living to one Henry Champion of the Inner Temple, who was brought up on the Percy estate at Petworth in Sussex, and was one of the Earl's most trusted agents ; upon the decay of the chapel and the discontinuance of the services there, Champion granted a lease of it to William Evans at a rent of 10s. a year (or under), who had it repaired, fitted up, and used as a meeting-house for the Nonconformists of the district. On what precise grounds this distant lawyer from the Inner Temple was persuaded to divert an episcopal chapel from Anglican use is not a little mysterious ; but the legal bonds were so soundly tightened up that neither Archdeacon Tenison, nor all the other powers of the Church, could unloosen them in the least. "We have no chapel in our parish, except that which is possessed by the Independent congregation," is the wailing cry of the churchwardens in 1790. Though the process entered into between Evans and Champion seems to savour somewhat of sharp practice, the upshot was a peculiarly fitting retribution to befall the shameless secularism associated with the Percy rectories. The Puritan powers had succeeded in diverting the revenues of five of these close corporations to the use of four Trier nominees and a Baptist lecturer, a revolutionary scheme that worked for a few years only ; it was left for William Evans and a Gallio-like impropriator to alienate the chapel at Llanybri, dedicated as it was to the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the Church in perpetuity. Thus William Evans stands before us as an active, resourceful, well-informed, 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 wide-spreading oak at Llanddarog, or making his way to Pencader with a bundle of his own translation of the Assembly's Catechism on his saddle. "God's gift to his people ... a public benefaction," are Jeremy Owen's words of him."

Wesleyan Methodism

""By 1808 a Welsh society had been set up at Carmarthen, and in 1809 Edward Jones became superintendent of a 'Carmarthen (Welsh) Circuit'; this began work at St Clears and at Llanstephan, and chapels were built in both places in 1810.."

The census of 1676

"It is idle work to ask too much of the census. Its bare figures cannot tell us anything of the mysterious blind man Lloyd, whether he is hiding behind the fifteen sectaries of Llanwenog in Cardigan, or (as seems to be asserted by David Peter) guiding the flock at Llanybri and simply not heard of by the incumbent of Llanstephan ..."

The Henllan Secessions

"Within a few years, these irriating London conditions--- the four facets of the quadrangle--- were reproduced at the church of Henllan, among a community of people who had been doubly fortunate in welcoming the occasional presence with them of old John James of Llanybri ................"

Calvinistic Methodism

"Griffith Jones's friendly contacts with Dissenting neighbours, in the matter of distributing bibles and founding schools --- ......................with Evan Davies of Llanybri --- were of no advantage to Methodism..."

Carmarthen Academy and Dissenting Education

"William Evans was succeeded by Thomas Perrot, a native of Llanybri, who had been educated at Shrewsbury by James Owen ...... " [a fair bit  more about Perrot in the book]

"David Peter, minister at Lammas Street, .........now placed in charge of the restored Academy.... with him was associated David Davies, minister at Llanybri. Both men were (moderate) Calvinists......"

Arminianism. Arianism. Unitarianism.

"At Llanybri, David Davies (1786-1838), ranking generally as a Calvinist, was yet after 1813 not sufficiently so for some of his people, who, for this and other reasons, went off to found Bethel......."


List of High Sheriffs of Carmarthenshire


  • 1579, Thomas Lloyd of Llanstephan
  • 1787, Hugh Meares of Llanstephan
  • 1815, George Meares of Llanstephan


Economic and Social Life

Agriculture; the sixteenth century

"As in the case of the monastic granges, the demesne lands of the secular landlords were the first to feel the effects of the enclosure movement, for it was imperative that they should be safeguarded as effectively as possible against the encroachments of the tenants, who were diligently casting their eyes around to find small pieces of land which might serve to increase their tenements. ............ In the lordships of Llanstephan and Penrhyn, two or three tenants had enclosed considerable strips of land. ......... In Llanstephan itself, the same Thomas Morris Thomas had enclosed two acres called Rowsedowne, and two parcels of land at the Foreland near the Ferry, as well as a small meadow of two acres near Morfa Mawr. "

Agriculture; The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries

"There were differing opinions as to whether the county was suitable for afforestation, but the gentry did not allow themselves to be troubled with the question of congenial climatic conditions. They realised that trees not only beautified their estates, but also enhanced the value of their land and did not hesitate to embark on an intensive policy of plantation. This was noticeably the case at Llandilo, where every estate bore witness to feverish afforestation, as was also the case in the neighbourhood of Llanstephan. Some of the plantations struck travellers as being more ornamental than useful, but there was a consensus of opinion among them that greater attention was paid to timber in Carmarthenshire than in England. "

The Early Iron and Coal Industry

The Llanelly Coalfield, 1700-1800

".......................A few years before 1790, Thomas Kymer, the Kidwelly coal owner, had started mining for coal at the Great Forest colliery just outside Kidwelly. He built a three mile canal to carry the coal from the colliery to the canal quay, where it was sold. The coal was sent to Carmarthen, Llanstephan, Ferryside, Cardigan, and St Clears. This is the only reference in the period 1700-1800 to stone or anthracite coal......................."



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 .................. The commote of Penrhyn (in full, Penrhyn Deuddwr) lay, as its name implies, in the promontory between the estuaries of the Towy and the Taf. It may be said to be represented by the Norman lordship of Llanstephan.  It extended north to Llangynog, where alone (in that of the manor ) the name Penrhyn survives. ...."

"..............thus in 1536 Henry VIII had only to add outlying lordships to what was already a quite substantial county of Carmarthen............................no mention is made in the act of the districts west of Carmarthen ........in the case of Penrhyn, etc ...the omission was deliberate...by this same act  'Lansteffan' etc ............. were united in the county of Pembroke which was thus to extend almost to the gates of Carmarthen. Leland has a story that the allocation of Llanstephan so strikingly inappropriate, was  ' by cawse it longid in tymes past to the Erle of Penbrooke'. The arrangement however was one which could not stand, and by a clause in the act of 1542 it was provided that 'Llanstiffan etc.... should be transferred to the county of Carmarthen, and form part of the new hundred of Derllys..."

"English holders of land owing suit to the same court (county court of Carmarthen) were the three lords of St Clear's, the lord of Laugharne, and the lord of Llanstephan ..."[13th century]

Prehistoric and Roman Times

Distribution of Forts in the Early Iron Age

"Fortification is concentrated mainly on the spurs overlooking the upper Taf, the Cywyn, the Cynin, and Dewi Fach, and again on the ridge of upland country overlooking the coast between Llanstephan, Laugharne and Marros ......"

The Great Stone Monuments

"A more ruinous dolmen is that at Fron Ucha, in a field north-west of the reservoir near the road leading from Llanstephan to Llanybri, about 200 ft above sea level..."

List of Carmarthenshire Megaliths/Dolmens


  • Fron Ucha Cromlech, Llanstephan
  • Waun-y-felin Cromlech, Llanstephan

List of Carmarthenshire Megaliths/Standing Stones


  • Maenllwyd, Maesgwyn Farm, Llanstephan
  • Maen Melyn, Llanstephan
  • Darkway Hill Maen Hir, Llanstephan
  • Carreg Fawr Nant Jack, Llanstephan
  • Pant yr Athro Maen Llwyd, Llanstephan

List of Carmarthenshire Hill Forts/Forts with earthen ramparts


  • Castell Cogan, Llanstephan

Topographical Index

'Near to St Anthony's Well'. 'As of Domitian of the year AD 88.


Castles, Boroughs and Religious Houses


"Edward II endevoured to establish uniformity throughout the boroughs of Carmarthenshire and, when conceding the right of assise to the lords and tenants of Llanstephan etc............ stipulated that the standard was to be that used by the keepers of the king's measures at New Carmarthen..."

Boroughs/Burgages and other property

"With the lands went all commitments attaching to them; in 1402, Thomas Fort of Robertson granted as farm to another some land at Llanstephan ..............."

"At the end of the fourteenth century the total rent of the free burgesses of Llanstephan amounted to 119/4 1/2 ...."

"Burgage lands were not confined to the boroughs; here and there throughout the lordship were little groups of burgesses who enjoyed much the same conditions of tenure as the townspeople. Such were to be found at Morbrichurch in Llanstephan ......."


"The towns and boroughs of Carmarthenshire fall naturally into two groups --- those who have sprung up around castles and others that owe their origin to churches and abbeys.......to the first group belong ...... and Llanstephan .."

"The towns of Carmarthenshire are older than their first royal charters ................... and Llanstephan had all been established by 1200..."

Castles/The Motte and Bailey Castle

"To the motte castles enumerated above must be added those which preceded the stone castles at .... and Llanstephan.."

The Stone Castles

Ther are two photographs of Llanstephan Castle ruins opposite page 284 in the book. And a diagram showing a plan of the gatehouse on p 290.

"That the old idea of an isolated tower had not altogether disappeared is proved by the conversion of Llanstephan gatehouse into a keep. This castle, too, belongs to the end of the 13 th century or the beginning of the 14th. It stands on an eminence commanding the estuary of the Towy, and the ferry across the river. Its origin is somewhat obscure ; some are of the opinion that the first castle was constructed by the Welshmen who, in 1116, held Carmarthen for the king, while others hold that it was the work of Gilbert Fitz Richard de Clare, in 1112. The castle is first mentioned in 1137, when, according to the Brut, it was burnt by the sons of Gruffydd ap Cynan. In 1146 Cadell, son of Gruffydd ap Rhys, his brothers Maredudd and Rhys, and Hywel ab Owain of South Ceredigion captured the castles of Carmarthen and Llanstephan. The latter was then in the possession of Geoffrey de Marmion or his heirs. In 1158, following the restoration of order in the marches, the Welsh restored the castle to Henry II, who gave it to one William de Camville of Devon, husband of de Marmion's daughter and heiress.

The family of de Camville held the castle for two centuries, but their tenure was not undisturbed, for in 1189 it was attacked and captured by the Lord Rhys, along with St. Clears and Abercoran. In 1200 John regranted it to the de Camvilles, but it was demolished by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth in 1215, and by Rhys Fychan, son of Rhys Mechyll, in 1257. The inner ward was then reconstructed, and the western curtain strengthened by a loophole parapet, but the two gatehouses belong to a later date. In 1263 the castle was back in English hands, and in 1275 the de Camvilles were again in possession ; they retained it until 1336, when an heiress carried it to Richard de Penres. The additions which converted the stronghold into a gatehouse were probably executed by the de Camvilles towards the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century.

The curtain of the outer ward was pushed to the edge of the gentle slope, and the effect was somewhat similar to that at Dryslwyn. Shortly after the construction of the gatehouse, the entrance was blocked and a new one erected against the eastern end. A like circumstance occurred at Dunstanburgh. Access to the inner ward was rendered easy by the construction, sometime in the late 14th or early 15th century, of a splayed archway against the east side of the inner gatehouse. This inner ward could offer little resistance except at the gatehouse itself, and defenders must have trusted solely to the large gatehouse with flanking turrets and the ditches.

The last de Camville died in 1338, leaving Llanstephan to a daughter, Eleanor, who married Richard de Penres ; the castle was sadly neglected, for in 1367 his son Robert is stated to have left it without victuals and armour, and in such a ruinous state that "very great peril to the country was likely to result." The king commissioned Rees ap Griffith to see "that these and other castles and fortresses in South Wales were repaired and munitioned," and to compel Robert to carry out the necessary repairs ; Rees was to certify the king from time to time as to the state of the castles. In 1377 the lordship passed to the Crown through the forfeiture of Robert, and along with the castle was granted by Richard, Prince of Wales, to Simon de Burley, knight. The lastnamed fared no better than his predecessor, for in 1388 the castle again escheated to the Crown and was administered by a royal Steward. In 1391 it was restored to the Penres family, but lapsed to the Crown on the death of John de Penres in 1410. John had been captured by Owain Glyndwr in 1403 and had been released in 1408, but Henry IV gave him half his lordship only. In 1416 the castle and lands were forfeited to the king on the death and rebellion of one Henry Gwyn, who fought with the French at Agincourt. It was then granted to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. In 1454 Llanstephan and Penryn were included in the dower lands of Margaret, Queen of England, and in 1462 they were granted to William Herbert, Kt., later Earl of Pembroke, for good services rendered against Henry VI. Twenty years later, his heir William, Earl of Huntingdon, exchanged the lands with the Prince of Wales, and they became parcel of the Duchy of Cornwall. In 1495 this exchange was annulled, and the castle and lordship fell to Jasper, Duke of Bedford, upon whose death without issue they became permanent Crown property."


"In 1308/9, Llanstephan was garrisoned with 10 men at arms and 20 bowmen..........."

Monastic Lands and Eevenues

""The friars acquired little beyond the land near their enclosure except a burgage or two in the town of Carmarthen; but to the Knights Hospitallers were given......and the church of Llanstephan with 50 acres..........."


The Age of the Native Princes

Opposite page 136 in the book is a photograph 'Llanstephan Castle, Village and Ferry' A Lithograph by J S Templeton, after J Henry Robinson, 1831. (Nat Museum of Wales)

Carmarthenshire under Henry I

"In the former commote of Penrhyn, two small lordships had been erected......the body of the commote formed the lordship of Llanstephan, which cannot be identified in the record, although we may judge, from the importance of the ferry across the Towy at this point, that castle and manor were already in being." [12 th century]

Recovery of the Welsh under Stephen

"Reinforced by the assistance of Hywel ab Owain, the three (Cadell,  and brothers) pressed on to the siege of Carmarthen; the castle was taken, with slaughter of the garrison, and the victors then passed on to the capture of Llanstephan, which commanded the ferry across the Towy. "

The Lord Rhys - Early Struggles

"As the result of the revival of royal authority in South Wales, Carmarthen also reverted to the crown, and was refortified, while Llanstephan etc obeyed once more their foreign masters.."

The Ascendancy of the Lord Rhys

"............Norman lords were seated also at ..... and Llanstephan, fortresses which were now more than ever valuable, in that they commanded the road to Milford Haven and Ireland..."

"The Welsh leader ...................... attacked the foreign colonies in Rhos, Penfro, Carnwyllion and Gower ............so unexpected was the result that the castles of Laugharne and Llanstephan were surrended to him without any resistance..."

The Intervention of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth

"The acceptance by John of the Great Charter in 1215 ..............Welsh resistance flared up once more.....Llywelyn appeared in the valley of the Towy...the castle of Carmarthen was attacked.......and surrended....next followed the capture of the baronial strongholds of Llanstephan, St Clears, Laugharne and Newport................"

Llywelyn and the Barons

"Llanstephan and commote of Penrhyn were in the hands of Geoffrey de Camville...."

Family Feuds

"As the king was at Haverford West (1210).... it is probable he did not visit Carmarthen........but took the coast road across the ferries of Llanstephan and Laugharne..."

The Rise of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd

"No time was lost by the victorious princes in taking advantage of their triumph and of the ensuing paralysis of the English power. Carmarthen was too strongly defended to yield to an assault, but the rest of Dyfed lay open before them......and ......and Llanstephan etc  .... could offer no effective resistence.."


The Later Middle Ages

The Government of the County

"The rest was march land, owing suit to the English county court of Carmarthen.......................in the west, in Cantref Gwarthaf, were the smaller marches of .......... and  Llanstephan ......."

Glyn Dwr and after

"The names of the men at arms and the archers from the commotes and lordships of the county chosen for the Agincourt campaign of 1415 are preserved in indentures for their pay --- from Llanstephan 7 (in number).

"Sir John Penrees, 'for his service in capturing Llanstephan Castle from the Welsh rebels,' was made constable for life..."................................John Sely, a merchant of Llanstephan, whose ship had been seized by Henry Don and William Gwyn at Carmarthen, and later restored to him, was given facilites to use it to bring victuals to the castles of South-west Wales.."

"Cal.Pat Rolls s.d February 20 1416. Grant to the king's brother, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester ....and the castle and lordship of Llanstephan in Wales, in the king's hands on account of the rebellion and forfeiture of William Gwyn, Welshman, and the forfeiture of Henry Gwyn, his son, who was killed...."

"In 1440, Gloucester, 'the Good Duke Hunphrey', who had been earl of Pembroke since 1414, and had been granted Llanstephan Castle in 1416, was made Justice of South Wales..."

The Welshry of Carmarthen

"Pipe Roll 29 Edward I; William le Fort and his descendants were prominent people in Llanstephan in the fourteenth century..."

The Lordships


The Act of Union of 1535 "united, annexed, and joined" the lordships of Llanstephan and Laugharne "to and with the county of Pembroke. Seven years later the Act which established the Courts of Great Sessions restored them to Carmarthenshire. Despite the indignation of George Owen of Henllys, who described this readjustment as an encroachment on his beloved Pembrokeshire, the restoration united with the new shire of Carmarthen parcels which throughout our period had regarded Carmarthen as their county town.


The Camvilles had been established at Llanstephan for over a century before the last war of Llywelyn ; they owed, as lords of Llanstephan, suit monthly at the County Court of Carmarthen. The considerable assistance given by Geoffrey de Camville in the final struggle was recognised by Edward, who was careful to acknowledge that it was more than was due from the marcher lord and was not to be regarded as a precedent.

In 1338 William de Camville's estates in Wales and Ireland were divided between his daughters. Llanstephan fell to Eleanor, married to Richard de Penres ; he died in 1356, seized of the castle and lordship held of the (Black) Prince in chief, and was succeeded by his son Robert. Robert was convicted in 1377, during the short principate of Richard of Bordeaux, of having feloniously killed, seven years previously, Joan daughter of William ap Llywelyn at Llanstephan. The consequent forfeiture of his lordship provided an opportunity to endow Simon de Burley with an estate in Wales ; Burley had been the tutor chosen by the Black Prince for his son, and he remained Richard's councillor until his trial and execution by the Merciless Parliament of 1388.

Llanstephan remained for the next five years in the hands of the Crown, and during this interval there are recorded the activities of two members of the Fort family (land-owners in Llanstephan since the thirteenth century ; the first known sheriff of Carmarthen was a Fort).

Thomas, son of Thomas Fort of Llanstephan, was charged with having harboured one John de Ispannia of Castile "as a servant to ride with him," and shewn him all the secrets of all the castles of South Wales. Fort was pardoned in 1389 ; the danger of invasion was less then than it had been twenty years before, when Owen Lawgoch was arranging in France his expedition to Wales. Fort's brother, John, was also charged, and pardoned, with harbouring this Spaniard ; he was further pardoned for scaling the castle walls of Laugharne and breaking into Guy de Brian's money chest.

In 1391, for a consideration of five hundred marks, Robert Penrees entered into the possessions forfeited by his father in 1377. In 1398 Roger de Burley, nephew and heir of Simon, commenced a suit to recover the lordship against several persons "who held the castle and lordship by feoffment of Robert Penrees." Nothing more of this claim was heard after the change in the dynasty and the rising of Glyndwr. The custodian of the castle in 1403 was John Penrees ; he was captured by the Welsh, and one David Howel was made keeper. Then we learn that, by the surrender of the castle "to Glyndwr and the Welsh rebels by Thomas Rede, who held it in his demesne as of fee of the Prince (Henry.)," the lordship was deemed forfeited to the Crown. On its recovery from the rebels, Henry IV granted it to Sir John Penrees, but only for life ; and after 1411 it reverted to and remained in the hands of the Crown until Henry V granted it to Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, in 1416. He held it till his fall in 1448, and it passed to Pole, Marquess of Suffolk and Earl of Pembroke. It reverted to the Crown after Suffolk's murder at sea in 1450, and became part of the dower lands of Queen Margaret in 1454. After Edward IV's accession to the throne in 1460, it formed part of Herbert's vast estates in South Wales. On his death in 1469, John Dwnn was the steward of Llanstephan during the minority of Pembroke's heir.


The borough of Llanstephan, the burgages of which numbered about one hundred and twenty, did not appear to have been granted a charter by its lord, and it was administered from the castle by the lord's steward, who accounted for the burgage rents among the issues of the lordship. It had a fortnightly court, held on Monday, which took cognizance of all pleas, including pleas of the Crown, with few reservations ; and the chattels of the tenants tried before the justice of South Wales were reserved to the lord. Another borough court was the Court of Piepowder held on market and fair days ; Richard II had granted to Burley the privilege of holding a market at Llanstephan every Monday and two fairs, at Midsummer and on the day of St. Dionisius (October 9). There was, too, a court of Obligations held "at the gate of the castle before the bailiffs" in imitation of Carmarthen. The Carmarthen standards of measure and weight were used in the lordship.

There was a separate "hundred" court held fortnightly by the lord's steward at the hamlet of "La Verie."* And there was a court for the Englishry of the lordship, and another, fortnightly, "Welsh and Foreign" court.

The northern half of the lord of Llanstephan's lands was administered as a separate lordship, Penrhyn, which had its own English and Welsh courts and its own beadle. The demesne lands of Penrhyn were at Castle Richard, and tenants of Maenor Gayn (the district south of Llanllwch and between Penrhyn and Kidwelly lordship) paid dues for pasturing their beasts on the demesne."

(Gareth Hicks 23 July 2003)