Carmstown.htm

Carmarthen Town

The Courthouse, Guildhall Square, Carmarthen

The castle remains are a focal point and facilities have been improved for visitors. Merlin is said to have lived nearby as did King Arthur of the legend. The area is steeped in history and myth and forms an ideal central location to explore the history and countryside of South West Wales. Carmarthen’s County Museum is located in the old Bishop’s Palace at Abergwili and is a few minute’s drive from the town centre. There is plenty of free parking and easy walks in the ground of the old Palace. The museum has undergone many improvements to bring it more into line with what visitors expect and it is well worth a visit. The County Museum also has other buildings, Parc Howard at Llanelli, The Museum of Speed at Pendine and an Industrial Museum at Kidwelly..

Carmarthen itself, although the County town, has suffered from a hotch-potch of development and poor planning over the years with the result that industrial development has taken place close to the town centre – blighting visitors’ first impressions.

A new by-pass and bridge over the River Towy has relieved traffic congestion to some degree, but parking facilities within the town is congested, especially at weekends and during the holiday period.

The Town’s Shopping areas ★★Putas★★

Shopping areas in the town have been upgraded in recent years and are for most purposes adequate but they by no means match those offered in similar sized towns elsewhere in the UK. The Greyfriars shopping mall with tiled wall panels supplied by Felingwm Pottery, which whilst welcome was built without overhead cover in this, one of the wettest parts of the UK. In September 2004, the frozen food store “Iceland” ceased trading in the precinct.

In 2005 a branch of Ethel Austin opened in the mall and joined Argos, TK Max, mobile phone shops and other well-known high street names. Ethel Austin did mot last long and by 2008 the store had closed its doors for the final time and was replaced by an “everything a pound” shop. In recent years other casualties in the Greyfriars Mall were a specialist card shop and a clothing shop.

In 2006 the Greyfriars shopping centre was completely re-painted and new signage installed to make it a more family orientated scheme. The centre attracted almost 4 million visitors in 2006.

Harveys moved from their store opposite Halfords and Laura Ashley opened in its place. Matalan opened a branch in new buildings near Focus and Comet and PC World and Currys opened stores on the old Towy Ford garage site. In 2006 Kwik-Save at Pensarn went downhill and stock levels were heavily reduced. At the time of writing (February 2007) there was little improvement and the shop is not really worth a visit and it finally closed. In 2008 the empty Kwik-Save store was renovated and was opened as part of the Aldi group. Lidl’s, meanwhile, always seems to have plenty of customers and great bargains are to be found – the downside is that the car park is small.

The Cambrian shopping mall, an earlier development, was also built without cover. The lack of provision of weather protection is another instance of poor planning by developers and Council planning department.

【Incestos】☛ PutasHub

The controversial re-development of the Market area has caused much discussion but the benefits to shopper will be immense. It finally got the go-ahead in mid 2008 and when completed Carmarthen will offer greater choice and be more in line with what is available elsewhere.

There has been opposition to the scheme from the Chamber of Trade and other bodies who did not want the market site improved, but as the market has few traders on some days and the building is quite ugly things can only get better. A big benefit will be the addition of a Debenhams store and more shops – giving more choice for the consumer. Debenhams, who were sceptical at first, are now fully in favour of the development.

Carmarthen Market 2009

After much controversy and some opposition Carmarthen’s new market hall was opened on 8th April 2009 as part of the town’s multi-million pound shopping development. The market is the first part of a £75 million development to be opened to the public. The opening ceremony was performed by Wales and Scarlets rugby star Stephen Jones.

Although the Market Hall is open every day, not all stalls are open for business every day, so it remains to be seen if the new building attracts more visitors than the old one.

The Future of the Shopping Mall

The trend for shopping centres world-wide (including the UK) is that all new shopping centres will be open and with less covered walk ways. This seems to have been confirmed by a massive survey which has been carried out in the United States to try to discover what shoppers want. The results suggest that in 2008 only about 10 per cent of shopping centres that are opening there will be of an enclosed design.

As UK trends tend to follow America, albeit a few years behind, it appears that large open plan schemes with a fashion for ‘market stall’ type venues will be arriving here in the near future.

Demise of Music Zone in the Greyfriars precinct

In 2007 Music Zone (next door to Argos) was taken over by Fopp Music Store and Music Zone went into administration. Fopp Music Store was not open long, and that too closed. In August 2007 the empty premises was awaiting new tenants.

Carmarthen’s Adams children’s clothes shop

The group went into Administration in December 2008 and the Carmarthen branch closed.

Carmarthen’s MFI

This group have traded in the town for many years but ran into difficulties and was placed in Administration. Buyers could not be found and in October 2008 it was announced that the store would be closing. After a closing down sale the shutters came down in December 2008.

Carmarthen’s Officers’ Club men’s clothes shop

The whole group went into Administration in December 2008, but the Carmarthen branch is to stay open and remain trading.

Other shops which closed in 2008/9

Whittards of Chelsea; Denzil Evans (motor dealer) moved from Priory Street to Pensarn.

Carmarthen’s Tesco Extra

On 13th November 2006 Tesco opened a new superstore (said to be the largest in Wales at the time of its opening, but subsequently this proved not to be the case and better and a larger store is to be found at Fforestfach) and garage at the Five Fields site on the fringe of the town. There was opposition as some feared that trade will be taken from the smaller shops in the town. Shopping trends have changed and shoppers these days want to get their main shopping in one place and not have to carry numerous bags from one shop to the next, then back to the car. There always will be a place for small shops, but they have to specialise and sell what the larger stores do not. The new Tesco was visited on the opening day but was found to be smaller than the one at Fforestfach. The restaurant is very small and the bakery is as far from the entrance as it can be.

Carmarthen’s Wilkinsons store

In early 2007 the old Tesco building was renovated and national store group Wilkinsons was mentioned as a possible tenant. The car park previously used by Tesco was taken over by the Council and charges were imposed. On 29th June 2007 Wilkinsons opened its doors and started trading in Carmarthen.

Carmarthen’s Woolworth store

Having traded in the town for may years the group failed in the “credit crunch” of 2008. A closing-down sale was held in late December 2008 and its doors closed for the last time on New Year’s Eve.

Sony and Panasonic opened stores in 2008 in the Cambrian Precinct

Parking in the town

A point to be considered is the ever-rising cost and difficulty of parking in the town centre. To attract more shoppers to the smaller shops parking charges need to be reduced and more spaces allocated.

These developments are welcomed or Carmarthen as a main shopping town will only go downhill. There are places within easy driving distance where parking is a lot easier (Trostre, Fforestfach, Ammanford, Llanelli and Swansea for instance, although to be fair parking in central Swansea can be difficult) but the shopping experience is more relaxing and pleasurable.

Carmarthen’s Greyfriars shopping centre

The area is well served by out-of-town-centre superstores supplying food, DIY materials, electrical appliances, flat-pack furniture and motoring goods. Gardeners are catered for by a small branch of the national company, Wyevale. Prices are generally high and this garden centre lacks facilities seen elsewhere in the UK. The usual shops found in most towns and city centres are present to some degree but for more choice Swansea or Cardiff remain the best options. The lack of under-cover precincts is probably the biggest deterrent to shopping in Carmarthen when the weather is bad, and unfortunately this is often. Parking in the town centre is usually difficult, especially in the holiday season.

Footbridge gives better access from the Station

In 2006 a new footbridge over the Towy was completed, giving easier access to the station. Some parking spaces were provided at the station end of the footbridge, but who wants to pay high charges and then have to walk over a windy bridge in the rain to get to the town centre?

In 2009 a re-vamp of the station was underway

Out-of town stores at Pensarn are Morrisons (they took over the Safeway group), Halfords, Focus, Comet, Currys, PC World, Wyevale, MacDonalds and a Carmarthen Farmers outlet. A Crazy Macs warehouse-style outlet was opened at Pensarn but in the Carnarthen Journal of 21st March 2007 there was an advertisement for a closing down sale and it subsequently did close.

At Five Fields there is Tesco Extra (opened November 2006), while B&Q is close by – all have excellent free parking areas.

There are several everal used car dealers; Howards (a Peugeot main dealer); a Vauxhall main dealer, and branches of ATS, Kwick-Fit, National Tyre plus a garden machinery supplier and repair specialist in the town or close by.

At Johnstown there is an industrial development where you can find a branch of Llandeilo Builders Merchants, Howdens, a glazing firm and numerous other businesses to cater for most things.

An excellent website to visit is Carmarthen Town

Further Afield

The Cross Hands development a few miles east along the A48 has a branch of Leekes (a department store), Supermarkets, MacDonalds, Car dealers, Furniture shops, Double Glazing retailers and many other businesses make up this industrial development. Parking is easy – and free! One outlet especially worth visiting is the Farm Foods freezer store.

Haverfordwest is well worth a visit. It is an easy 45 minute drive along the A48 which has seen improvements recently. The shopping area has most of the usual High Street outlets, although on a smaller scale. There are few of the larger type DIY outlets in close proximity, along with an excellent Morrisons store. The riverside development is attractive and entices the visitor to browse. Parking can be a problem at times.

Llanelli, several miles to the south, offers good facilities and the close-by Trostre development has better facilities than Carmarthen, especially parking. The St Elli Precinct has a wide range of shops, including an ASDA and a good market – all undercover – and numerous other outlets as found in most High Streets in the rest of the UK. The downside is that parking in the town centre can be a problem – and costly. Just outside the town is the Trostre Shopping centre with Tesco, Comet., B&Q, BHS among the many retailers. In 2006 much new development is evident and parking is both easy and free.

St David’s, a few miles along the coast is a popular place for the visitor. The coastal scenery en route is spectacular. This is the smallest City in the UK and draws large crowds due to the Cathedral and other historic buildings, including the ruin of the Bishop’s Palace. The painted ceilings of the Cathedral are a sight to behold. The few shops cater mainly for tourists. On a fine day it is a place to roam and contemplate. Parking may be difficult.

Swansea is an easy drive of about 25 minutes along the A40 and the town has a good range of shops, covered precincts and a large undercover market. On the outskirts are several large Enterprise Parks where National outlets can be found. Parking on the Enterprise Parks is easy at all times, but within Swansea town, it can be both expensive and difficult most of the time. Just outside Swansea, at Fforestffach, the there’s a Tesco superstore, along with a branch of Dixons, and various other shops. No shopping area would be complete without a mobile phone shop, and yes, there is one of those too!

Cardiff is to the south east along the A40. As one would expect from a capital city the facilities are excellent and too numerous to mention. Drive time from Carmarthen is about an hour and a half. Trains or coaches are probably a better bet but the train can be slow. This city has shopping facilities equal to none. Parking in the city centre is again both expensive and difficult and from Carmarthen it is probably better to go by train or coach.

A few general observations

Along with the rest of Wales wages remain below other areas of the UK. It is not uncommon for individuals to have two or three jobs in order to supplement income. Property prices have been rising since 2001, but remain lower than comparable properties in the rest of the UK. Living expenses are the same.

The area generally is insular. The pace of life, while pleasant, can be frustrating at times. Change does not happen overnight, if at all.

One visible major improvement in 2003 was the addition of computers and free Internet facilities in Libraries throughout Carmarthenshire. These are well used and are always busy. Llanelli’s Library has been modernised and provides a welcoming atmosphere, but the main Library in Carmarthen remains [in 2006] one of the most unwelcoming ever visited by the writer. This is not due to the Library staff who are always extremely helpful, but the condition of the interior of the building itself. The addition of a lift and development of the basement to provide a museum is welcomed.

Internet and Broadband

Broadband arrived in Llanegwad in 2005 but speed is much restricted in many areas due to distance from an exchange. Between Felingwm Uchaf and Horeb the best speed that can be obtained is from a basic 512k to a maximum in good conditions of 1.4Mb. It’s a start I suppose.

The Council’s Welsh language policy has come in for much criticism due its ‘dogged’ approach in trying to force it on everybody – regardless as to whether they wish to learn it or not. Whilst it cannot be wrong to keep the language alive it is the method used which is the problem. The Welsh language will always be low in the in the ‘most spoken language league table’, along with Latin and Esperanto. Other problems are that the language is spoken differently in the north and south; English words have sometimes to be used because there is simply no Welsh equivalent. Many people can speak Welsh but they cannot write it.

This was brought home with a vengeance for a subscriber to this site when the Council was approached to assist with the translation of details for an English/Welsh competition. After printing the documents and passing them on to prospective entrants it was discovered some spellings in the Welsh version were incorrect! But there again that is Wales.

Cost of implementing the language policy are probably horrendous, figures are hard to come by. Emails sent to the local Council have remained unanswered, no surprise as they appear to cover up things for as long as they can. Council philosophy seems to be “keep quiet” and no one will know or find out. They are in for a big surprise!!!

Carmarthenshire County Council and its ‘Cabinet’ are constantly criticised over policy and lack of democracy. The criticism seems well justified judging by letters regularly published in the Carmarthen Journal and other newspapers. The words “Mickey Mouse” spring to mind when the Council’s name crops up.

It is a shame really as Carmarthen – both town and County – have a lot to offer its residents and visitors. Its public officials need to listen carefully to the people they represent rather than implement their own ideas – they are there to serve the people after all.

Llanegwad’s Churches

The Churches of Holy Trinity, Pontargothi, Llanegwad, St John’s Felingwm and Llanfihangel uwch Gwili are locked during the week, except for the provision of regular worship and Church services. Access is available by phoning the vicar, who will be pleased to show visitors around.

Although Hernin`s was the first dedication, it was Egwad – son of Cynydd ab Gildas – who became patron of the parish, and it was Egwad who founded Llan Egwad Fawr and Llan Egwad-ar-y mynydd (Llanfynydd). He is reputed to have lived his life in seclusion as a hermit at Eisteddfa Egwad.

        There were several monasteries and religious cells in the parish but only the church of St Egwad remains. The first church was built in a field close to the site of the present church but it is unknown as to how long it remained. Two hundred and fifty years ago it was reported that part of the building had been turned into a dwelling house. The current structure was started in the 10th or early 11th century.

        In the 11th and 12th centuries many members of the Ynyswen family were buried in its circular churchyard. The site of the church with its circular churchyard suggests that it may have been erected on a pagan site. Some of the huge foundation stones may be seen in the boilerhouse.

        Over the centuries many changes to the fabric have taken place, not least those carried out during the restoration undertaken in the early part of the 19th century. However older parts of the building can still be seen. Manuscripts confirm that the present building conforms to the original plan of the church.

        Records are in the charge of the Vicar and go back to 1700 but other manuscripts also exist tracing its history to the 13th century. These are held by the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. Brunker’s Llanegwad is regarded as the definitive work on the parish.

        During the reign of Henry VIII, a valuation of all the “ecclesiasticall preforments in England and Wales” was made. The church, in the Deanery of “Llandeilo and Llangadoc”, was valued at £8 13s. 4d.

        The sphere of influence of the parish extended into parts of the old Welsh divisions of Elvet and Cathinog, and embraced the eight “maenors” (or hamlets) of Hernin, Egwad, Mynachdy, Ystad, Llechgrin, Llechfraith Llethergele and Meiros. (The Hamlet of Meiros is mentioned in census returns of the mid-1800s.) Elvet and Cathinog were represented by one churchwarden each, plus one chosen by the vicar. These three, along with the vicar were responsible for the whole of the parochial affairs.

        Llanegwad has available a complete history of its churchwardens back to 1700, with odd references going back a further 30 years. In 1712 the vicar was the Rev Richard Pritchard (b. 1661 at Llangadock) and his curate was David Davies who succeeded him. Richard Pritchard was also vicar of Carmarthen and preached at Llanegwad once a month unless “hindered” by other duties. The annual stipend of the curate was £15.

        A presentement of 1717 states

“Richard Pritchard is vicar . . . and:

            “2. Our Steeple, if it may be so called is in good order according to the form it was first built: the Ivy were all lately taken down.

            3. We have a font with a cover, a communion table with a covering of White Linen (no carpet). A fair silver chalice with a cover also a Pewter Flagon and our Communion Table is rail`d in.

            4. Our Reading Pew is now taken down that it might not be spoiled by the rain, (the roof as was said before being open) . . . “

. . . and so it goes on.

        There are several mentions of damage to the church, but it is apparent from records in the Vestry Accounts showing small amounts for minor repairs that by the first two decades of the 18th century the fabric of the building was in a bad state of repair.

The following appears:                                                   £     s.     d.

     1711 For a new post to the Dyall                                          6     0

         For a new Dyall                                                           6     0

     1713 For fastening and putting a new iron about the bell        3     6

     1714 For pointing of the Chancel

                and part of the church at 2d. a yard                       10   0

     1717 To John Lewis for making 4 new couples, 

                and his part of 7 more laying the leads

                and proping                                                   21    3    0

          For alert raising of the couples                                     6    0

A presentement dated October 19 1719 says “Our Church being for some years past out of Reparation and being the Roof now to be put up: the walls want to be plaistered with white limed and the windows to be glass`d which we shall be done before Christmas”.

The work was carried out in 1719 since the Vestry Accounts show:

     1719 Paid to the Undertakers for rebuilding the roof 

          of the North Ile of the Church                        £58     6s.     0d.

        To Morgan the Tiler  for tiling part of the Chancel      12s.     0d.

        For laths and nails                                                       9s.   10d.

        For carrying the said laths and nails

            in a coregle over Towy                                                     6d.

      1720 Paid Mr Cartwright for adorning the church     £10     3s.    0d.

        Church records prior to 1754 were written in Latin, then from October of that year Welsh took over until 1778 when English followed.

        During the Curacy of David Richards, the church was white limed both inside and out. The cost of this is given as 14s. in 1775 and 5s. 10d. in 1782. In 1776 the roof was repaired as was also the gallery, the latter being demolished some 150 years ago, leaving no trace as to its position. A Welsh Bible was purchased in 1790 at a cost of £2 2s. 0d. In the early 1800s further repairs to the roof and guttering were necessary and part of the church wall was rebuilt. In 1805 the church was “patched and mended” and the lime house was removed for hygienic reasons.

        One of the few incumbents to be buried in the churchyard was the Revd David Nicholl and his wife, both buried on the same day. He was succeeded by the Revd Eleazor Evans, then by his son Thomas Beynon Nicholl. There was severe fabric deterioration during their occupancy. Thomas Beynon Nicholl`s memory is perpetuated by the Altar window and he was remembered as being a liberal and dutiful vicar. He left diaries and details of the parish during his term but died during a fever outbreak in 1882 whilst still a young man.

        Several memorial tablets can be seen inside the church and perhaps the most poignant is that of Leoline Jones. Unpretentious, it hides a tragic tale. Leoline Jones had two daughters, one dying aged less than a week old, and the other succumbing at the age of 2. His younger brother died aged 26 in 1820, his elder sister died sometime before 1822, leaving a husband and young daughter. A younger sister, Letitia Alicia died in 1815. He himself died in 1822 aged 32. His wife moved to Abergwili and died there in 1831 aged 41. Her body was carried back to Llanegwad, a distance of around 4 miles, and she was buried in her husband’s tomb. Certainly a man of some means, he married into a wealthy family and became a surgeon but fate played its cruel hand and virtually the whole family was wiped out in a few short years. So far as is known at present his only surviving family were his niece and another sister who was alive in 1802. A tragic tale indeed.

Laugharne Castle

Carmarthenshire

One of many Norman coastal strongholds built to consolidate their hold over west Wales, the castle overlooks the Taf Estuary and was probably founded in the early 12th century as an earth and timber fort.

It was  rebuilt in stone in the 13th and 14th centuries and became the home of  the de Brian family. Much of the structure survives, including the large round towers and the gatehouse.

 It was granted to Sir John Perrot in 1584 and he transformed it into a fine mansion

During the Civil War the castle saw active service after which it declined into a romantic ruin and became the subject of a dramatic water colour by J M W Turner.

Extensive restorations include a Georgian and Victorian garden and a Gazebo in which Dylan Thomas used to write. Robert Hughes, author of the book ‘A High Wind in Jamaica’ also wrote here.

Location: SN 303107, on the A4066 from St Clears

Further Information:

Telephone 01994 427906

Limited summer opening

Disabled access

Admission charge

In the care of Cadw

Weobley

Gower Peninsular

Set on the low-lying northern coast of the Gower Peninsular, the castle overlooks a bleak expanse of saltings and marshland.

Weobley was built by the de la Bere family and dates from the late 13th and 14th centuries. Although called a castle it was more of a fortified manor house than a fortress.

The site is well preserved and reveals plenty of evidence of the owners’ desire for creature comforts. Domestic necessities such as a fine hall and fireplace, private rooms, sizeable guest chamber and ‘gardrobes’ or toilets along with decorative windows demonstrate de la Bere’s regard for elegance and craftsmanship along with convenience.

Sir Rhys ap Thomas, an ally of Henry VII, acquired it in the late 15th century and improved the entrance to the hall and private apartments with the addition of a two-storey back porch block.

Visitors today can but admire one of the few surviving manor houses in Wales and visit an exhibition on its history and other ancient monuments also on the Peninsular.

Location:

B4721 or B4295 to Llanrhidian Village, then minor road

Further Information:

Telephone: 01792 390012

Admission charge

No dogs

In the care of Cadw: Telephone 029 20 500200

Glyncoch

Felingwm

Glyncoch was originally a single storey labourer’s cottage, and formed part of Blaencwmbychan (once known as Heven). The labourer presumably worked at Blaencwmbychan. The house lies high the upper slopes of the Cothi valley, at Felingwm Uchaf, between the adjacent properties of Cilgattw and Gwyddfagatw

Blaencwmbychan was one of the estates owned by the Revd. Lewis Jones of Pantyrewig and Meiros Hill. The Wills of both the Revd Jones and his son Leoline [note: Leoline is another form of Lewis] are in the NLW but little is known about them. Leoline and his family lived at Meiros Hill, a farm on the other side of the valley from Glyncoch, but all died at a young age and the line seems to have come to an end..

The ground floor walls of Glyncoch are stone and quite thick, whilst the added upper storey is of modern block construction, the whole being rendered.

In 1881 the UK Census shows that John Williams, a farm labourer, aged 37 (born at Kiffick, Carmarthen) lived there with his 34 year old wife Mary (born Laugharne) and their children, Anne aged 10 (born Laugharne) and Margaret 8, Sarah 6, Elizabeth 4 and Martha Jane aged 2, all born in Llanegwad.

The Parish Records show that Rees Williams, another child, was baptised on December 6 1881, and Dan Williams was born in 1882 and baptised on October 20 of that year.

The next record of occupants in the Parish Records is dated May 4 1937, when Arthur Henry Gee, aged 30, a farm labourer from Llanfihangel Rhosycorn, married Elizabeth Mary England aged 26, a domestic servant living at Glyncoch.

On August 7 1937, Sara Margaretta Evans, aged 34, spinster of Glyncoch married John David Evans, aged 36, a widower and farmer of Cwmcoch, a nearby farm. John’s father was alive at the time of the wedding but Sara’s was not.

On March 1 1949, Benjamin Ronald Evans of Glyncoch, aged 24, a store assistant and son of a forestry worker, married Jennie Williams a 17 year old nurse from Cefn Meiros, a farm adjacent to Meiros Hill.

Glyncoch eventually came into the ownership of Samuel John Kenneth Lewis. On 7 November 1997 Samuel Lewis passed away and his son inherited Glyncoch. The property has since been extensively renovated.

Samuel John Lewis is buried at St John’s, Felingwm, alongside his first wife Ceinwen.. He was always called ‘Jack’ – but that was not his real name – everyone knew him as that. One of his hobbies was wine making and visitors to Glyncoch were tempted with a glass or two and rarely remembered how they got home, such was the strength of his brew!

Shortly after his passing a bundle of household bills dating back to 1941 were found in an understairs cupboard. Some documents had crumbled away, but those that remain provide us with an insight into domestic life over several decades.

Many relate to Towy Works [a builder’s merchant of long standing] in Carmarthen, the Co-operative Wholesale Society and an invoice from the long gone garage at Felingwm Uchaf.

Wealthy families living in large houses tended to keep all their paperwork but it was certainly not the norm for working class families. As far as can be ascertained it was Jack’s wife, Mary Ceinwen, who began keeping everything and for some time after her death he continued the practice.

When Glyncoch was cleared the loft gave up its secrets in the shape of baby clothes and fragments of pottery, each wrapped separately. The former had unfortunately rotted and fell apart when touched and the latter – although in excellent condition – of no practical use. Why such items were retained for so long is open to speculation.

One document relates to Bryndeilo, Nantgaredig, a previous property owned by Jack.

Items from the Towy Works material have been given to the company for their archives and the remainder has been donated to Carmarthen’s Museum at Abergwilly.

Memorial to Mary and “Jack” Lewis at St John’s, Felingwm

Holy Trinity

The Baths of Alltyferin

Henry James Bath was the son of Henry Bath of Longlands (b. 15 August 1797, d. 13 October 1864 at Falmouth) and his first wife Susan Madge (b. 2 September 1798, d. 12. January, 1861.

He was born on 17 December 1821 (one of eleven children) and was educated at the Friend’s School, Didcot, and at the age of eighteen joined his father in the business of Henry Bath & Son and prospered.

He married Margaret, eldest daughter of Charles Lambert of Coquimbo, Chile, whose family lived in Alsace and were deputes and judges de Payes through the reign of Louis Philipe.

Henry James purchased lands in Carmarthenshire and built both the mansion called Alltyferin and Holy Trinity Church, Llanegwad. He lived in Carmarthenshire from the time the house was completed in 1868 until his death in 1875. He inherited the family property at Oystermouth and the house called Rose Hill built by his grandfather

He was a member of The Swansea Trust from 1859 to 1872; a Justice of the Peace for both Carmarthenshire and Glamorgan and was High Sheriff of the former county in 1869 when he obtained a grant of Arms to his father and sons of his body, similar to those in use by the family before the disuse of them by reason of such things being contrary to the principles of “Quakers”. He was a member of the Church of England and a great friend to that Church – building the chuch on the Alltyferin estate which today is used for services throughout the year and serves as a Chapel of Ease to the parish church of Llanegwad.

He died childless on 15 September 1875 on his return from a voyage to Chile, having suffered a stroke of paralysis on the home passage; his niece, Margaret Lambert also died on the voyage home and was buried at Llanegwad Church on the same day as was Henry James Bath. His estates passed to his nephew, Edward Henry Bath, the son of his brother Edward.

Henry James was widely known as a friend to the poor, and his widow was given to good works and lived a life of seclusion, devoting herself to the poor and needy, and helping those of her relatives who were in need.

His widow, Margaret, continued to live at Alltyferin until 1885 and died at Oxford in 1902 and the tower of Llanegwad Church was built to her memory.

Excavations at Carmarthen Castle

Since 1994 a large scale enhancement project has been going on at the castle under the direction of Carmarthenshire County Council, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

An archaeological excavation is being carried out by Cambria Archaeology to find out more about the main gatehouse of Carmarthen Castle.

The castle was first built as a motte and bailey castle in 1109-10 and for a time served as the main headquarters of the Norman kings in west Wales. The original castle was refortified in stone during the 12th and 13th centuries, and the gatehouse that you can now see was built in around 1409. Outside the gatehouse are a series of old cellars that belonged to 18th and 19th century houses that once stood in front of the castle walls. These were revealed during earlier excavations on the site. The old cellars incorporate parts of a stone bridge that was used to cross a deep defensive ditch which lay in front of the gatehouse.

Cellars incorporating part of a stone bridge

Good weather during the second week of the excavation meant that progress was fairly quick and the modern tarmac and concrete was soon removed from the two main areas of excavation outside the castle gatehouse.

It was immediately apparent that archaeological features of considerable interest were hidden just below the ground surface. The area that was stripped at the edge of Nott Square revealed evidence of the foundations of a strong stone wall which, it is believed, may be part of the medieval bridge across the defensive ditch leading into the castle. Alternatively, it may be part of the medieval barbican or outer gatehouse that stood in front of the surviving gatehouse.

The second area opened up, closer to the gatehouse wall, has revealed a very complex picture of wall foundations and cobbled floors which mostly seem to date to buildings that have stood here during the last 200 years. However, some of these may be found to date to earlier times as the dig proceeds.

Historical Note

One of the great military and political leaders of Wales in the 12th century was Rhys ap Gruffudd (c. 1133-1197). He was the leader of the royal dynasty of Dinefwr, Prince of Deheubarth. At the heart of Rhys’s domain were the castle strongholds of the Tywi valley, and during the latter half of the 12th century his armies pushed the Anglo-Norman forces out of the southwest and captured the English kings’ own stronghold here at Carmarthen Castle, which stayed in Welsh hands until 1223. Rhys’s reputation was such that Henry II appointed him Chief Justicar of South Wales in recognition of his status and afterwards he was known as The Lord Rhys. Rhys is remembered for holding the first ever Eisteddfod at Cardigan Castle in 1176.

Catherine Zeta Jones and The Zeta

The Welsh actress/film star Catherine Zeta Jones (wife of Hollywood superstar Michael Douglas) is a descendent of a ship’s Captain employed by Henry Bath & Sons and her middle name reflects the name of the vessel.

In the 19th century Henry Bath & Sons operated a number of ships which carried copper ore from Chile to the copperworks of the Lower Swansea Valley. Bath’s ships were well known along the Atlantic trade routes.

Many of the Bath company’s ships were named after the letters of the Greek alphabet, and the Zeta was pride of the fleet for many years.

She was Glasgow-built in 1865 by Alexander Stephen. Her fame is due to the fact that she was the first ship in the port to be fitted with an auxiliary steam engine and was well-known for her fast passages to the South Atlantic.

This small ship was built to withstand the harsh weather in the south Atlantic and the basic facilities of Chilean ports.

Some time before 1872 she had been sold by the Baths and renamed Urmeneta of Valpariso.

Details from Lloyds Register of Shipping 1875-1875

Ship’s Name: Zeta

Type: Barque

Built: 1865 in Glasgow [8 months]

Official Number: 51109

Built by: Alexander Stephens

Built of: Iron

Engine: DA 99 HP

Master: T. Walters

Registered Tonnage: Net: 696; Gross: 734; Under Dock: 640 [P.&F. 77 tons]

Registered Dimensions: Length 191.2; Breadth 28.2; Depth 17.5

Port belonging to: Valpariso

Port of Survey: Swansea

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle

High on a cliff face on the bank of the River Cleddau, overlooking the historic town of Pembroke and its Mill Pond, the castle is an imposing sight. A well preserved fortress dating from the 13th century, it is one of the foremost examples of Norman architecture in Wales, and its five-storey; 75 feet high circular Keep, or Great Tower, is one of the finest of its type in Britain.

It was founded by the Montgomerys in 1093 who established a timber structure on the site of the present castle and Earl William Marshall began building in stone a century later.

In 1454 the castle and Earldom were granted to jasper Tudor, whose nephew Henry VII was born at Pembroke Castle, thus linking Pembroke inextricably with the Tudor dynasty.

At the time of the Civil Wars (1642-49) the castle was held in turn for both Parliament and King and Cromwell arrived in person to start the siege which led to its final surrender.

Certain restoration work was undertaken in the late 19th century and a further extensive plan of restoration was carried out in the 1930’s.

Many unique features make this an unforgettable castle to visit. Apart from the lofty Keep, there is an enormous natural cavern known as the the ‘Wogan’ where flint tools have been found, suggesting its occupation during the Stone Age, long before the castle was built.

Permanent exhibitions and displays give an insight into both county history and national heritage and throughout the year exciting special events take place within the castle walls.

There is a gift shop and snack bar.

Further Information

Pembroke Castle Trust

        Telephone: 01646 681510 / Fax: 01646 622260

Ticket Office

        Telephone 01646 684585

Llanegwad

Llanegwad In 1851

Llanegwad (and most of that part of Carmarthenshire) is today a predominantly agricultural area. It was the same in 1851. Looking at the census of 1851 and contrasting it with the population today reveals just how much farming has changed. Today, thanks to mechanization, even though farms are larger than they were, the agricultural workforce does not extend far beyond each individual farmer, the farmer’s wife and some (by no means all) of the farmer’s family. In 1851, the majority of the area’s population worked on the land.

Here are some 1851 households in Llanegwad, picked at random; all they have in common is that they live next to each other. The contrast between their world and today’s could not be more marked.

Tan-y-Graig

Thomas Lewis and his wife, Phebe, live here with no children. He’s 35, born in the village, a farm laborer; she’s 30 and was born a mile or so away.

Cefn-y-Graig

Daniel Thomas, aged 72, his wife Margaret, 77, and their 15 year old granddaughter, Margaret Williams, who acts as domestic servant. Daniel farms 14 acres – enough to support them then but it wouldn’t do so now. Daniel was a Llanegwad rarity – born outside the county in Cardiganshire.

Pen-y-Graig

William Lewis (Lewis is a common Welsh name), 62 years old, a farmer and never married, lives with his sister Mary, 61, and two servants – remarkable considering he has only 39 acres.

Galtfernie

Elizabeth Griffiths is 63 and widowed. She farms 180 acres – a big farm then but today less than half of the larger one it has been absorbed into – with the help of her son, Richard, 36, and five daughters aged between 22 and 30. Richard isn’t married and neither are four of his five sisters; the exception is Elinor though there’s no sign of a husband. The farm also supports: 2 farm servants; 1 farm laborer; 1 errand boy; 1 dairy maid; 1 kitchen maid; and 1 house maid. All on the proceeds of 180 acres – staggering by today’s standards!