St Clears, situated at the tidal limit of the tributaries of the river Taf and 14 miles west from the county town of Carmarthen, is a small town in an agricultural area. There are some small shops and the ruins of a Norman Castle.
The Census of 2001 gave the population as about 2,800 with 69% speaking Welsh.
The community is supported by a variety of services which include a doctor’s surgery, chemists, butchers, bakers, restaurants, veterinary practices, hotel/B&B accommodation, primary/junior school, post office and banks.
Villages in the vicinity include Backe, Bancyfelin and Pwll Trap.
St Clears was, in recent times, a shipbuilding center and has earlier associations with the Rebecca Riots and a visit by Lord Nelson.
The Priory Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Christian – Methodist) is the church of St. Clears. It is an active church and fund-raising events ensure that the church and graveyard are well maintained.
St Mary’s is one of a group of four churches served by the same incumbent, the others being St. Teilo’s (Llanddowror); St. Michael’s (Llanfihangel Abercywyn) and St. Gynin’s (Llangynin). The present structure is not the original but is the oldest place of worship in the town and is thought to be one of the oldest churches in Wales. The founding of St Mary’s is likely to date to the late 11th or early 12th century. There is no evidence that a church or settlement existed on the present site of St Clears before the Norman invasion.
St Clears Priory was never a large establishment, a Prior and two monks are the maximum recorded. Along with other priories it was dissolved in 1414. Its property, income and the right of appointing its vicar were granted in 1446 to All Souls College, Oxford. This right survived until 1920 when the Church in Wales became responsible for the appointment of the vicar. All Souls College continue to make a token annual grant to the St Clears church, originally for repair of the chancel.
The priory buildings adjoined the church on its south side and extended into the enclosure long known as “Parc Priordy” [Priory Field]. In the 17th century there were above ground remains and a recent geophysical survey has identified buried foundations.