The History of Carmarthenshire

History of CarmarthenshireThe history of Wales has a lot to do with the country’s geography; a land of mountains and river valleys lent (and lends) itself to defensive warfare. When the Angles and Saxons invaded the islands that were eventually to take the name “British Isles,” they drove the aboriginal people west but could not dislodge them from the mountain fastnesses of Wales.

The Romans had more success two thousand and some years ago, and a thousand years after that the Norsemen, having conquered Normandy, came to settle a dispute over who was entitled to the English throne after the death of Edward the Confessor.

The council chose Harold Godwinson; both Harald Hardrada of Norway and William of Normandy felt that family genealogy gave them a better claim. Harold defeated Harald but lost to William. So did the Welsh – but they gave William’s nobles a torrid time and were hard to subdue, which is why Wales became a land of castles. The castles were there to keep the locals in order.

The castles of Carmarthenshire will be dealt with in a page on tourism.

Wales was not formally joined with England as one country until 1546 when Henry VIII passed the first Act of Union. That was also the law that defined the geographical limits of the county, which were slightly altered in 1542 but have not changed since. The Welsh names for the region that became Carmarthenshire in 1546 were:

  • Ystrad Tywi, “ystrad” meaning “vale” and the Tywi (now the Towy) being a river;
  • Emlyn Uch Cuch, or the area above the river Cuch; and
  • Y Cantref Gwarthaf.

Note, though, that Ystrad Tywi included the Gower Peninsula, which is not part of Carmarthenshire.

The Romans mined gold in Carmarthenshire and, although deposits are too small for commercial extraction, Welsh gold is still used for special purposes such as the manufacture of wedding rings for the royal family.