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.

Economic and Social Life

The Pembrey Ironworks

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

"There was no iron-working in Pembrey until the first decade of the 19th century. Situated about four miles to the west of Llanelly, it was an area in which small concerns had been interested from time to time on account of the good quality of the coal mined there. Various iron masters started on a small scale, but the first really important venture was that of Messrs Farquharson & Simons (1810), who also owned some of the local collieries. This concern did not last very long, and in 1812 Messrs Grant & Co built a furnace for iron smelting. No records are available of the quantities of iron produced, but for a time they seem to have carried on quite successfully, for they built Pembrey House and Pembrey Harbour.

There was great activity at this harbour for a few years, but in the course of time Grant & Co gave up the business, having lost a great deal of money in the venture. All the iron produced at Pembrey, with the coal from the local collieries, was shipped from this port. The iron-ore and limestone was obtained from the Gwendraeth valley, and brought down to Pembrey by means of the Gwendraeth Valley canal.

At this time Burry Port was inaccessible to vessels owing to sandbanks, until John Wedge of Goodig (Pembrey) diverted the land streams in order to scour out a new channel.  Several attempts were again made after 1820 to improve the approach to Burry Port; persons like Sir Joseph Banks, Captain Ropey, and Wedge attacked the problem in turn, until eventually an Act of Parliament was passed which gave power to maintain a harbour.

With the closing down of these early ironworks, large amounts of anthracite coal were shipped from Pembrey after 1817, and later on also Burry Port became a very important exporter of this type of coal. After 1840, copper-smelting took the place of the ironworks, and this in turn gave way to the manufacture of tinplate towards the end of the 19th century."

Agriculture/The Sixteenth Century

"During the Middle Ages, trade with France had formed the main branch of the overseas commerce, and it continued to do so during this century. Formerly, it had been, for the most part, inward trade connected with the salt and wine products from La Rochelle and other ports, but with the exploitation of coal in Pembrey district, outward traffic developed considerably. Between 1566 and 1603 about fifty­eight ships carried salt, wine, tar, fruits, and other goods to Carmarthen, while some eighty-nine barks left the port for France, Ireland, and Scotland, carrying corn, coal, and provisions of all kinds. "

Agriculture/The Seventeenth Century

"It was during this century that a greater interest was shown in the efficacy of land drainage as a means of enhancing the value and stimulating the fecundity of the land ; certain parts of the shire became the experiment ground of the reclamation methods which then prevailed. In  1629---the year of the corn scarcity---three gentlemen were granted permission by the Crown to assume proprietary rights over certain marshes in the county---probably in the neighbourhood of Kidwelly and Pembrey ---on the condition that they undertook to drain them and protect them from inundation by the sea ; for this right, they paid the insignificant annual rent of fourpence to the king"

The Coal Industry in Carmarthenshire

"The Carmarthenshire coalfield may be divided into two well-marked regions;-

  • (1) The 'Llanelly Coalfield', the bituminous region, occupies the area around Llanelly and extends north-eastwards to, and includes Llangennech. A section drawn across the Carmarthenshire coalfield shows that the workable coal seams are divided into an upper and lower series by a thick band (3,000-4,000 feet thick) of the hard Pennant Grit formation. The upper coal series is worked in a belt from Pembrey-Llanelly on the west to Neath on the east, all these coals being bituminous.
  • (2) The anthracite or 'Gwendraeth Coalfield'. The north crop of the lower coal series in Carmarthenshire extends along the Gwendraeth valley in a gentle curve towards the upper valleys of the Tawe and Neath. This northern crop is wider, and the dip of the seams less steep than on the southern crop. The coal is anthracite in character. "

"In 1768, Edward Rees of Towyn worked the seams under the sea at Pwll, between Pembrey and Llanelly."


"The state of the Carmarthenshire roads in the 17th century was undoubtedly atrocious. There is an account of one of them from the pen of John Taylor, the "Water Poet", who undertook a few weeks' journey on horseback in 1652.  ............. He was fortunate enough to meet a Welshman who guided him to Carmarthen. Lord Ashburnham, who visited Carmarthenshire in 1687 to survey his estates in the neighbourhood of Pembrey and Llanddeusant, complains very bitterly in his diary of the disgraceful state of the roads which he was obliged to traverse. "

Tramroads and Canals

"Outside the Llanelly district there were two other mineral tram­roads. One of them connected the Pembrey collieries with Pembrey harbour, the other connected Pwll with Llanelly, and followed the coast line for about two miles. "

"In addition to the tramroads and the small artificial water-ways in Llanelly, four canals were of outstanding importance. (a) Townsend's Canal (1767), in the Spitty district, was a valuable means of transport for the coal from that area to Spitty Bank. (b) Kymer's Canal (1769) was the chief means of transport for the coal of the Forest collieries in the Gwendraeth valley, which was shipped at Kidwelly quay. This canal was subsequently extended to Pembrey. (c) The Llanelly canal (1812) connected some of the collieries with the Flats. (d) In 1825, the Gwendraeth canal was constructed, connecting Pembrey with the Pontyberem colliery district. A railway followed this later on. "

The Woollen Industry

"A perusal of local records for this period will show an increasing number of references to the distribution of the industry within the confines of the county.........during the C18th there are references to weavers at ...... Pembrey (1705)......"

"Furthermore, clothiers appear in ...... and Pembrey (1704/5)....... and felt makers in ......... Pembrey (1703 and 1710)..."

The Copper Industry

"The copperworks at Pembrey were erected in 1846 by the English copper-masters, Messrs Mason and Elkington, who hailed from Birmingham and London. (the book has data on their activities in the period 1868 to 1880). The works were situated on flat, marshy land on the estate of Lord Ashburnham, near good supplies of cheap coal. These were the most westerly copperworks in the county."

Minor Industries, Railways, Docks etc

"Pembrey Harbour was built in 1810......."

Lead and Silver Industries

In 1864, a lead-smelting house was erected at Pembrey (Pembrey Lead Works) , utilising ores mainly from Carmarthenshire.

List of High Sheriffs of Carmarthenshire


  • 1557, Walter Vaughan of Pembrey
  • 1566, Thomas Vaughan of Pembrey
  • 1570,  ditto
  • 1682, William Ball of Pembrey
  • 1730, Rawleigh Mansell of Pembrey

Political Affairs from 1536 to 1900

Political Life 1536 -1688

"Two acts were passed in 1648 and 1649 for South and North Wales....in South Wales £20,500 was to be raised ....(by fines)...... Amongst those on whom fines were imposed were ...... Sir George Vaughan of Pembrey (£2609)...."

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 ........ Pembrey ......"

"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................. Pembrey church was quite out of repair, as well as the churchyard wall...."

Renewal and Growth

"In his Primary Charge (in 1842) Bishop Thirlwal referred to ......the need for church extension in various areas........ (several) new churches have been built .....two at Pembrey ......"

Nonconformity and Methodism

Calvinistic Methodism

A list of early exhorters in Carmarthenshire has the following;

  • Edward Meyrick (Loughor and Penbre, 1743)
  • John Meyrick (Penbre, 1743)

Wesleyan Methodism

"........there was preaching at Penbre, though no society until 1833......"


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.......................In addition to these two cantrefs Ystrad Tywi was generally assigned a third (mentioned in the Mabinogion)........with the doubtful name of Cantref Eginog..............the names of the commotes into which this cantref was divided were undoubtedly well known..........hence it would appear as if Cydweli, Carnwyllion, and Gower had been at some time or other combined to make up a cantref which was not an ancient and recognised division of the country...............the names Gwyr (Gower) and Cydweli (Kidwelly) are to be found in Nennius and other ancient authorities, so that there can be no doubt that they go back to a remote past as descriptive of the tract between Carmarthen and Swansea......................the historic commote of Cydweli consisted of the six parishes of Llangynnor, Llandyfaelog, Llangyndeyrn, St Ishmaels, Kidwelly and Pembrey ............"

"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...."

Castles, Boroughs, and Religious Houses

Monastic Lands and Revenues

Kidwelly;- "At the time of its foundation the burgesses, French, English, and Flemish, gave their tenths of Penbray and Pennallt, and sometime subsequent to 1122 Richard FitzWilliam bequeathed in perpetuity to the Abbot of Sherborne the churches of St Ishmael at Pennallt; All Saints , Kidwelly; and St Illtyd, Pembrey, with all chapels, lands, tenths, and adjacent lands."


Kidwelly; --- "......between 1139 and 1148 Maurice of London granted to the Priory of Ogmore (Ewenny), amongst others, the churches of Carnwyllion, Pembrey, St Ishmaels and Llandyfaelog .............A document dated 1358 testifies that the advowsons of Llandyfaelog and Pembrey had been vested by Henry, Earl of Lancaster, in the Dean and Canons of the Hospital in honour of the Annunciation of the Blessed Mary in the suburbs of Leicester....."

Castles/The Motte and Bailey Castle

"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 site chosen was the forward slope of a spur rather than the summit of the hill. This is strikingly illustrated at Llanwrda, Pembrey and Pant Glas (Llanpumsaint); at Pembrey it is possible to leap the ditch from the high ground beyond....................Low secondary mounds situated at one of the terminals of the rampart, for resting one end of the bridge, may be seen at St Clears, Ystum Enlli, Twrla in Talley, and Pembrey; the last named at the most inaccessible spot..."

The Age of the Native Princes

Carmarthenshire under Henry I

"The two ancient churches of St Illtud at Pembrey and St Ishmael at Penallt were not only shorn of some of their territory to form a new parish of St Mary's; they were also attached to the priory (Kidwelly) as appropriate churches."

The Later Middle Ages

The Lordship of Kidwelly

"........... a payment by the beadle of Penryn deserves noting --- one of two shillings yearly for candles for the church of Pembrey, a grant in perpetuity dating from the time of William of London........."

The Lordship of Kidwelly/Messor Patrie

"The Messor (literally, the reaper) in England was the officer responsible for the cultivation of the manor....here he was the officer who administered the 'forinsecus of the demesne lands of Kidwelly......Professor Rees suggests that, while the Welshry or patria was normally the forinsecus i.e the lands 'without', the term forinsecus was reserved in some lordships, of which Kidwelly was one, to describe the outer portion of the Englishry, possibly the former Welshry. 'Messor Patrie' lay west and south of Kidwelly; it included the manor of Pembrey, but was chiefly located at St Ishmaels................."

Prehistoric and Roman Times

List of Carmarthenshire Hill Forts/Fortresses utilising promontories etc


  • Camp on Moat Farm, Pembrey

List of Carmarthenshire Megaliths/Standing Stones


  • Llety'r Ychen Fach Farm, Pembrey

[Gareth Hicks  18 July 2003]