Loughor - Gazetteers
"LOUGHOR, or CASTELL-LLYCHWR, a borough and parish, in the hundred of SWANSEA, county of GLAMORGAN, SOUTH WALES, 7 miles (W. N. W.) from Swansea, 50 miles (W. by N.) from Cardiff, and 211 (W.) from London, containing 945 inhabitants, of which number, 665 reside within the limits of the borough.
This place, which derives its names from its situation on the river Llychwr, or Loughor, the latter of them signifying " the fortification on the river Llychwr," is supposed by many to have been the Leucarum of Antoninus. This opinion is corroborated not only by the similarity of the names, and the discovery, at various times, of numerous Roman relics, among which may be mentioned a coin of the emperor Trajan, found in the bed of the river, about two hundred yards westward from the town, within the last few years, and now in the possession of Mr. Rees Jones of this place ; but also by the direction of the Roman road called the Julia Strata, which from the station Nidus, at Neath, passed westward through this town, and near a place in its vicinity still called Cadley, or " the field of battle," where, at some remote period, a conflict is supposed to have taken place, of which no particulars have been related.
Loughor was anciently called Tre Avane, from the great number of beavers abounding in the neighbouring rivers; Avane, or Afane, being the old Welsh, or Celtic, name of the beaver. Few historical events in connexion with it are recorded : the castle is said to have been erected by Henry Beaumont, Earl of Warwick, who, in or about the year 1099, entered the country of Gower, and, having made himself master of considerable territories, built this fortress and the castles of Swansea, Penrice, and Llanrhidian. In 1150, Meredydd and Rhys, sons of Grufydd ab Rhys, attacked and laid waste the country of Gower, made themselves masters of the town and castle of "Aberllychwr," the former of which, according to Warrington, they levelled with the ground, after plundering the inhabitants, and the latter they completely dismantled. In the reign of Edward II. the castle was granted by that monarch to Hugh le Despencer, by whom it is supposed to have been rebuilt; but it seems never to have regained its original importance, nor the town to have entirely recovered from the desolation it had previously suffered.
The parish is situated on the western confines of the county, and is bounded on the west by the river Loughor, which separates it from the county of Carmarthen, and here discharges itself into the Bristol channel : across this river is a ferry, at a place where it is fordable for two hours before, and two hours after, low water. The present town, though of very small extent and mostly of rather mean appearance, contains a few genteel residences, of which one, called the Sanctuary, is supposed to have been anciently part of the manor of Millwood, or St. John, near Swansea, and the property of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem.
The river Loughor flows on the northern side of the town, and the Llyw, which falls into the former a short distance south-south-westward from the church, runs on the southern ; and as the tide regularly flows and ebbs in these rivers twice in every twenty-four hours, the air is rendered salubrious, and the situation of the town is consequently deemed remarkably healthy.
Some improvements are in contemplation, among which is the erection of a bridge over the Loughor, uuder an act of parliament recently obtained for that purpose, a measure which, from the increasing importance of Llanelly, would bring the thoroughfare between that place and Swansea through this town, and conduce materially to its prosperity, besides saving four miles in the distance between those places : the act also authorises the construction of a turnpike road from Loughor to Carmarthen; and as the Swansea Road Trust are also empowered to make a road from Swansea to Loughor, it is generally expected that this will, at no distant period, be the mail coach road to Carmarthen.
The entire parish, which is divided into two parts, called respectively the parish and the borough, the former containing about two thousand acres, and the latter one thousand, and each separately maintaining its own poor, abounds with mineral wealth. Several veins of excellent coal, of considerable thickness, extend entirely through it, in a direction from east to west, and have been worked to a depth of from twenty to forty fathoms. The Adair collieries, within the limits of the parish, were recently worked under the superintendence of the Llangennech Coal Company, and produced upon an average three thousand tons of coal per week, affording constant employment to one hundred men ; but they have been discontinued. The Broad Oak colliery, within the limits of the borough, is at present in operation, producing from fifty to one hundred tons of coal per diem, and employing about one hundred workmen : it is intended to ship the coal produced at these works at a new shipping-place below the quay. Manufactures of zinc and pyrolignous acid are also carried on in the town : of the former only about one ton per week is manufactured; and the latter manufacture is likewise conducted on a very limited scale. On the western bank of the river, immediately opposite the town, are the Spitty copper works.
The rives Loughor, which from the ferry to its mouth, a distance of twelve miles, is called the Burry river, and expand, to a considerable breadth to the west of the town, is navigable at high tides for vessels of two hundred tons burden ; and the Penclawdd canal, which opens a communication between the coal districts of Swansea, Llangyvelach, and Loughor, joins the Burry river at Aberkiddy, in the parish of Llanrhidian, near the village of Penclawdd. During spring tides there are from eleven to fourteen feet of water in the wharfs here; productive of great advantage to those engaged in the trade of the place, which is principally carried on with Ireland, the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, France, &c.
There is no market : fairs for the sale of live stock are annually held on the first Monday in June and October 10th.
The government of the town, which is a borough by prescription, is vested in a portreeve, recorder, twelve aldermen, and an unlimited number of burgesses, assisted by two serjeants at mace, a layer-keeper, an ale-taster, and four constables. The portreeve is annually chosen from among the aldermen at Michaelmas, and, having qualified at the quarter sessions for the county; may act as magistrate within the borough. The serjeants at mace, layer-keeper, ale-taster, and constables, are elected at the court leet of the lord of the manor, and sworn in before the recorder and the portreeve going out of office.
Loughor was formerly one of the contributory boroughs which, with Cardiff, returned one member to parliament: the right of voting was in the aldermen and burgesses at large, in number two hundred and twelve, of whom forty-five are resident. By the late act for amending the representation of the people it has been included in the newly-formed district composed of the boroughs of Swansea, Aberavon, Kenvig, Loughor, and Neath, which is to send a representative to parliament; and the elective franchise is vested in the resident burgesses only, if duly qualified according to the provisions of the act, and in every male person of full age occupying, either as owner or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of at least ten pounds, provided he be capable of registering as the act demands: the number of tenements of this value within the limits of the borough, which were not altered by the act, is thirty-one. The freedom of the borough is inherited by all the sons of a freeman, acquired by servitude of seven years' apprenticeship to a resident freeman, by marriage with a freeman's daughter, or by gift, in which latter instance it is conferred by a jury of twenty-four burgesses, chosen indiscriminately from the burgesses at large, of whom the portreeve for the preceding year is always the foreman. The corporation are empowered by prescriptive right, recognized by statutes of the 34th and 35th of Henry VIII., to hold a court of record, every third Monday, for the recovery of debts to any amount : but this privilege does not appear to have been exercised within the last forty years, nor is there evidence of any process to hold to bail having ever issued from this court. A court baron, which may be held monthly, is held twice in the year before the portreeve, recorder, and a jury of six burgesses, for the recovery of debts to any amount within the limits of the borough.
The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry of Carmarthen, and diocese of St. David's, rated in the king's books at £9. 10. 5., and in the patronage of the King, as Prince of Wales. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, and situated within the limits of the borough, is not remarkable for any architectural details of importance ; it occupies the summit of an eminence commanding an extensive prospect over the surrounding country. At a place called Groft y Capel there was formerly a chapel of ease, which has been for many years suffered to fall into decay. There is a place of worship for Welsh Methodists.
A National school has lately been established here by subscription, aided by a grant of £60 from the parent society, in which about fifty children receive gratuitous instruction.
Of the ancient castle there are some remains, consisting principally of a large square tower, supposed to have been the keep, and still in a tolerable state of preservation : it occupies the summit of an artificial mount, which is thought to have been originally thrown up by the Romans, and is surrounded by a double intrenchment. The remains of an ancient water course, also supposed to be of Roman construction, by which water for the supply of the garrison was conveyed from the small river Llyw, are plainly discernible to this day. Traces of the Julia Strata may still be seen upon the Carmarthenshire hills on the western side of the river Loughor, pointing directly to this place ; and near the entrance to the rectory-house, and now forming a step to the style leading up to it., is a Roman milliary, which is supposed to have been originally erected on that road. In the vicinity of Cadley, and near the boundary of the parish, are two small square encampments of Roman origin, on a common called Mynydd Carn Goch. The ancient town, which was destroyed by the sons of Grufydd ab Rhys, is supposed to have occupied an eminence to the south-east of the castle ; and the site still retains the name of the Borough : at a short distance to the west, on the marsh, stood the old church, the site of which is still called Story Mihangel.
The strata in the coal districts in this parish furnish specimens of fossilized vegetable remains, among which are fern, acorns, leaves of various trees, pine and oak timber, &c., which substances have been found in that state at a depth varying from seventy to eighty feet below the surface.
A celebrated performer on the violin, named Hugh, who is said to have composed many of the most popular airs in the Beggars' Opera, was a native of this place.
The average annual expenditure for the maintenance of the poor of the parish amounts to £100. 14., exclusively of that for the town, which is £55.11."
It has no regular Market. The Fairs, which are for all kinds of Cattle and holden in the Borough, are on the first Monday in June, St. Anne's day, and 10th of October.
It is one of the Contributary Boroughs, with Caerdiff, which send one Member to Parliament. The Corporation consists of a Portrieve, and 12 Aldermen, with an Ale-taster, and two Serjeants at Mace, all chosen annually; together with two Officers to impound strange cattle upon the Common, and an unlimited Number of Constables, at the will of the Steward of the Court and the Portrieve for the time being: at present there are four only sworn within the Borough.
The Borough contains about 1600 acres of Land; of which, 400 are uninclosed Common, and 100 are Sand, that are overflowed by the Tide. The Parish contains about 288O acres: of which, 300 are uninclosed Common. Within the Borough is a House, called The Sanctuary, which is supposed to have been a part of the Manor of Millwood or St. John's near Swansea, and formerly belonged to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. The entrance to this Parish is near the fourth Mile-stone, on the Road leading from Swansea to Lloughor.
It is supposed that a Church formerly stood about 200 yards to the South of the Ruins of the Castle, on the Marsh; as there is, at this day, a spot in that place, called Story Myhangel, on which it is thought to have been erected. The present Church is situated upon an eminence, and commands an extensive and beautiful view of the surrounding Country. The Rev. JOHN COLLINS, Senr., the present amiable Rector, has been in possession of this Benefice for the last Forty years. According to the Diocesan Report, in 1809, the yearly value of this Benefice, arising from Glebe, Tythes, and Surplice fees, was £105.. 18 ..0 1/2.
This is the Leucarum of Richard of Cirencester, and the fifth Roman Station on the Via Julia. Mr. REES JONES, the present worthy Churchwarden of the Borough, very obligingly adds, " The Name implies, that it was a Fortification on the River Lloughor or Llychwr, which divides the Counties of Glamorgan, and Caermarthen, and over which there is a Ferry". It is, however, strongly conjectured, from traditionary Reports, that the Name, originally given to it by the Romans, was Tre Afange, or Beaver Town, from that Animal then abounding in the River; hence the Place is often called Trewanc, by way of derision.
There are the Ruins of a Castle of a quadrangular form, situate on a Mount with the remains of two ditches which formerly surrounded it. It is not known by whom this Edifice was erected, but I am induced to think, that the Mount was thrown up by the Romans who had a Garrison here, as their Road, called the Julia Strata, passed through this Town; And that the Castle was built by the first Lords Marchers, to whom this district was granted by the Crown. It was destroyed by Grufydd ab Rhys, Prince of South Wales, in 1115. In the reign of Henry the Second it was granted to Hugh de Spenser, who must have repaired, if not built the present remains of the Castle.
Roman Coins have been found here; and on a Common, about three miles East of the Town, there are two small square encampments, evidently Roman, which are situate very near each other, and from their being raised on a Common, called Mynydd Carn Goch, it is probable that they were the hasty effort of some advanced Post to secure itself from surprise; as it is evident, that a Battle was fought near this spot at a place, called at this day Cadley, or, The Field of Battle.
An extensive Colliery is carried on here by Messrs. Pengree and Co.; the Coal is of excellent quality, and in the Summer there is a considerable trade in the River. Copper Works have lately been erected opposite to Lloughor, on the Caermarthenshire side of the River.
Two hours before low Water, and the same time before high Water, the River is fordable from Lloughor to the opposite side. A Ferry-boat is kept here at the expense of Lord Cawdor, the Lord of the Manor, for the convenience of Travellers.
At the entrance into the Court-yard of the Parsonage house, lies a large and curiously wrought stone, which is supposed by some to have been a Roman Miliary Stone: it is a favourite Resort on a Summer's Evening, and forms a good Seat."
[Last Updated : 22 Jan 2005 - Gareth Hicks]