Carmarthen shown within Carmarthenshire
|Population||15,854 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Mid and West Wales|
|UK Parliament||Carmarthen East and DinefwrCarmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire|
|Welsh Assembly||Carmarthen East and Dinefwr|
Carmarthen (// kar-MAR-dhən; Welsh: Caerfyrddin pronounced [kɑːɨrˈvərðɪn]) is a community in, and the county town of, Carmarthenshire, Wales. It is sited on the River Towy 8 miles (13 km) north of its mouth at Carmarthen Bay. In 2001, the population was 14,648.
Carmarthen lays claim to being the oldest town in Wales but the two settlements of Old and New Carmarthen were only united into a single borough in 1546. Carmarthen was the most populous borough in Wales between the 16th and 18th centuries and was described by William Camden as "the chief citie of the country". However, population growth stagnated by the mid 19th century as more dynamic economic centres developed in the South Wales coalfield. Currently, Carmarthen is the location of the headquarters of Dyfed-Powys Police, the Carmarthen campus of the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David and the West Wales General Hospital.
- 1 History
- 2 Twin towns
- 3 Landmarks
- 4 Sport
- 5 Transport
- 6 Pont King Morgan
- 7 Town regeneration and redevelopment
- 8 Notable people
- 9 References
- 10 External links
When Britannia was a Roman province, Carmarthen was the civitas capital of the Demetae tribe, known as Moridunum ('Sea Fort'). Carmarthen is possibly the oldest town in Wales and was recorded by Ptolemy and the Antonine Itinerary. The Roman fort is believed to date from AD c. 75. A Roman coin hoard was found nearby in 2006. Near the fort is one of seven surviving Roman amphitheatres in the United Kingdom and one of only two in Roman Wales (the other being at Isca Augusta, Roman Caerleon). It was excavated in 1968. The arena itself is 46 by 27 meters; the circumference of the cavea seating area is 92 by 67 meters.
In medieval Wales, the settlement was known as Llanteulyddog ('St Teulyddogs') and accounted one of the seven principal sees in Dyfed. The strategic importance of Carmarthen was such that the Norman William fitz Baldwin built a castle, probably around 1094. The existing castle site is known to have been used since 1105. The castle was destroyed by Llywelyn the Great in 1215. In 1223, the castle was rebuilt and permission was received to wall the town and crenellate. Carmarthen was among the first medieval walled towns in Wales. In 1405, the town was taken and the castle was sacked by Owain Glyndŵr. The famous Black Book of Carmarthen, written around 1250, is associated with the town's Priory of SS John the Evangelist and Teulyddog.
During the Black Death of 1347-49, the plague was brought to Carmarthen via the thriving river trade. The Black Death "destroy'd and devastated" villages such as Llanllwch. Local historians place the plague pit, the site for mass burial of the dead, in the graveyard that adjoins the 'Maes-yr-Ysgol' and 'Llys Model' housing at the rear of St Catherine Street.
The ancient Clas church of Llandeulyddog was the pre-Norman independent religious community which became, in 1110, the Benedictine priory of St Peter, only to be replaced, fifteen years later with the Augustinian priory of St John the Evangelist and St Teulyddog. This was sited near the river, at what is now called Priory Street ( , SN418204). The site is now a Scheduled Monument.
During the 13th century, Franciscan Friars (also known as Grey Friars, or Friars minor) became established in the town, and by 1284 had their own Friary buildings on Lammas Street ( ), on a site now occupied by the Greyfriars shopping centre. The Franciscan emphasis on poverty and simplicity meant that the Church was smaller (reportedly '70 to 80 feet long and 30 feet broad') and more austere than the older foundations, but this did not prevent the accumulation of treasures, and it became a much sought after location for burial. In 1456 Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond died of plague in Carmarthen, three months before the birth of his son, the future King Henry VII. Edmund was buried in a prominent tomb in the centre of the choir of the Grey Friars Church. Other notable burials were Rhys ap Thomas and Tudur Aled. The Friary was dissolved in 1538, and many unsuccessful plans were made for the building. Even before the friars had left, in 1536, William Barlow campaigned to have the cathedral moved into it, from St David's. After it's deconsecration Edmund Tudor's tomb and remains were moved to St David's Cathedral. There were repeated attempts to turn the buildings into a grammar school, which all came to nought Gradually the buildings became ruins, but the church walls were still recognisable in the mid-eighteenth century. However by 1900 all the stonework had been stripped away, and there were no traces above ground. The site remained un-built on until development works in the 1980s and 1990s. This required extensive archaeological excavations of first the monastic buildings and then the nave and chancel of the church. It confirmed that the original buildings had been a church, chapter-house and a large cloister. A smaller cloister and infirmary had been added subsequently. Over 200 burials were found in the churchyard, and 60 around the friars' choir.
According to some variations of the Arthurian legend, Merlin was born in a cave outside Carmarthen, with some noting that Merlin may be an anglicised form of Myrddin. Historians generally disagree with this interpretation of the name, preferring that Myrddin is a corruption of the Roman name but the story is popular. Many areas surrounding Carmarthen still allude to this, such as the nearby Bryn Myrddin (Merlin's Hill).
Legend also had it that, when a particular tree called 'Merlin's Oak' fell, it would be the downfall of the town as well - Translated from Welsh, it reads: When Merlin's Oak comes tumbling down, down shall fall Carmarthen Town'. In order to stop this, the tree was dug up when it died and pieces are now in the museum.
The Black Book of Carmarthen includes poems with references to Myrddin (Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin) and possibly to Arthur (Pa ŵr yw'r Porthor?). The interpretation of these is difficult because the Arthurian legend was already known by this time and many details of the modern form of the legend had been described by Geoffrey of Monmouth before the book was written.
Following the Acts of Union, Carmarthen became the judicial headquarters of the Court of Great Sessions for south-west Wales. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the dominant business of Carmarthen town was still agriculture and related trades, including woollen manufacture. Carmarthen was made a county corporate by charter of James I in 1604. The charter decreed that Carmarthen should be known as the 'Town of the County of Carmarthen' and should have two sheriffs. This was reduced to one sheriff in 1835 and the (now largely ceremonial) post continues to this day.
Both the Priory and the Friary were abandoned during the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII, the land being returned to the monarchy. Likewise, the chapels of St Catherine and St Barbara were lost, the church of St Peter's being the main religious establishment to survive this era.
During the Marian persecutions of the 1550s, Bishop Ferrar of St David's was burnt at the stake in the market square - now Nott Square. A Protestant martyr, his life and death are recorded in John Foxe's famous book of martyrs.
18th century to present
In the mid 18th century, the iron and coal trades became much more important although Carmarthen town never developed ironworks on the scale of Dowlais or Merthyr Tydfil. Carmarthen town hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1867, 1911 and 1974 although, at least in the case of the 1974 Eisteddfod, the Maes was at Abergwili.
The Boys' Grammar School was founded in 1587 on the site that is now occupied by the old hospital in Priory Street. This school moved in the 1840s to Priory Row before relocating to Richmond Terrace. It was here at the turn of the century that a local travelling circus was given permission to bury one of their elephants after it fell sick and died. The elephant's final resting place is under what was the school rugby pitch.
During World War II, prisoner-of-war camps were situated in Johnstown (where the Davies Estate now stands) and at Glangwilli — the POW huts being utilised as part of the hospital at its inception. To the west of the town was the 'Carmarthen Stop Line', one of a network of defensive lines created in 1940-41 in case of invasion, with a series of ditches and pillboxes running north-south. Most of these structures have since been removed or filled in. The known list within Carmarthen Community Area is:-
- Anti tank ditch
- Located at Brynheulog, Trevaughan, Carmarthen. ( , SN38612177). Materials: earthwork. Condition: infilled.
- Located at Glyn-siw, Llanllwch. ( , SN37761888). Materials: clay brick, reinforced concrete, wood. Condition: fair.
- Pillbox (Type FW3/24)
- Located at Nantyci, Llysonen Road, Llanllwch. ( , SN37561914). Materials: reinforced concrete. Condition: removed.
- Pillbox (Type FW3/24)
- Located at Pentre'r-hydd, Pentremeurig Road ( , SN38102152). Materials: reinforced concrete. Condition: removed.
- Pillbox (Type FW3/24)
- Located at Pentre'r-hydd, Pentremeurig Road. ( , SN37792079). Materials: reinforced concrete. Condition: removed.
- Pillbox (Type FW3/24)
- Located at Tywi Railway Bridge embankment, Pensarn. ( , SN40611914). Materials: reinforced concrete. Condition: removed.
- Pillbox (Type FW3/24)
- Located at Waundolau, Travellers' Rest, Carmarthen. ( , SN37661968). Materials: reinforced concrete. Condition: removed.
- Anti tank vertical rail
- Located at Waundolau, Travellers' Rest, Carmarthen. ( , SN37661945). Materials: concrete, steel. Condition: fair.
In 1828 a monument was erected at the west end of the town to honour Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton, from Haverfordwest, who had died at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The pillar, which was about 75 ft (23 m), was designed to echo Trajan's column in Rome. A statue of Picton, wrapped in a cloak and supported by a baluster above emblems of spears surmounted the column. The entire structure stood on a square pedestal, access was ascended by a flight of steps to a small door on the east side facing the town.
A series of bas-reliefs sculpted by Edward Hodges Baily adorned the structure. Above the entrance door was the name, 'PICTON' and over this a relief showed the Lieutenant General falling mortally wounded from his horse part on the Waterloo battlefield. The name 'WATERLOO' was then written across the top. The west side had a relief beneath the title 'BADAJOS' showing Picton scaling the walls with his men during the Battle of Badajoz in 1812. On the south side of the pedestal was a description of Picton's life in English. A Welsh version of his exploits was inscribed on the North side. Each side of the square pedestal were adorned with trophies. The top of the square column was adorned with imitative cannons on each side.
However within a few years, the monument had fallen into a dilapidated state. The bas-reliefs which had been sculpted were 'unable to withstand Carmarthen's inclement weather' according to local antiquarians. Although Baily made replacements, they were never put up. The entire pillar was taken down in 1846. In the 1970s, the replacement sculptures were rediscovered in Johnstown. They are now on display at Carmarthenshire County Museum.
After the demolition of the first monument, a new structure honouring Picton was commissioned. It was designed by architect Frances Fowler. The foundation stone was laid on Monument Hill in 1847. In 1984, the top section was declared to be unsafe and was taken down. Four years later, the whole monument was rebuilt stone-by-stone on new stronger foundations.
Despite the Victorian desire to honour Picton, modern historical research has shown that there was a dark side to this military hero. Following his tenure as the British Governor of Trinidad, he was tried for cruelty and torture; it was so brutal it was referred to as "Pictoning". Although initially found guilty, he was eventually acquitted and able to resume his military career. Picton was also a slaveowner and a slave merchant in the Atlantic slave trade.
General Nott statue and memorial plaque to Bishop Ferrar
A statue of General Nott was erected in Nott Square in 1851. According to the PMSA, "the bronze statue was cast from cannon captured at the battle of Maharajpur. Queen Victoria gave 200 guineas to the memorial fund. The statue occupies the site of the market cross which was dismantled when the market was resited and Nott Square created in 1846."
The Market Square was the location of the execution of Bishop Robert Ferrar of St Davids in March 1555. A small plaque below the statue of General Nott commemorates the site where the bishop was burned at the stake during the Marian Persecutions.
St. Peter's Church
St Peter’s Parish Church is believed to be the largest Parish Church in Wales and also has the longest nave being 60 metres from west porch to east window and 15 metres wide across nave and south aisle. It consists of a west tower, nave, chancel, south aisle and a Consistory Court. It is built of local red sandstone and grey shale. The tower contains eight bells with the heaviest weighing 15cwt-1qr-18 lbs in E, just under one tonne.
The town has two rugby union teams - Carmarthen Quins and Carmarthen Athletic. The Quins currently play in the Welsh Premier Division league after their promotion to the Premiership in the 2008/2009 season.
CPC Bears are a rugby league club based in Carmarthen and are the regional side for Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. They play in the Welsh Premier Division of the Rugby League Conference.
The town has two golf courses, a leisure centre with 8-lane 25m swimming pool and synthetic athletics track and an outdoor velodrome. Carmarthen has an athletics team, Carmarthen Harriers.
Carmarthen railway station is on the West Wales Line. Carmarthen town is served by rail links through to Cardiff via Swansea to the east and Fishguard Harbour, Milford Haven, Tenby, Pembroke and Pembroke Dock to the west. Carmarthen town is served by direct intercity trains to London during the summer. Like many rural areas, it suffered a number of rail closures in the 1960s under the Beeching Axe. The line to Llandeilo was closed in 1963 and to Lampeter and Aberystwyth in 1965.
There is also a Park and Ride service running daily from Monday to Saturday from 7.00 to 19.00 every 15 minutes between Nantyci, to the west of Carmarthen town, and the town centre.
Pont King Morgan
For over a century, the station at Carmarthen town has been isolated from the town on the other side of the River Towy (Tywi) and pedestrians and cyclists had to brave the main road bridge some 200m to the east. This situation has been rectified by the construction of a cable stay bridge linking the station with the foot of Blue Street.
Town regeneration and redevelopment
The former cattle market in the heart of the town has undergone regeneration. The new shopping centre opened on 30 April 2010. The development now includes a new Apollo Cinemas multi-screen cinema, Debenhams department store, market hall, restaurants and a multi-storey car park. The new market hall opened on 8 April 2009. There is an expanding range of restaurants in the new shopping centre, mainly national chains.
- Nicky Stevens, member of pop group Brotherhood of Man.
- The architect John Nash.
- The screenwriter and director Daniel Mulloy.
- The drummer John Weathers.
- The musician Nik Turner.
- The snooker pro Matthew Stevens.
- The Ospreys full-back Barry Davies
- The Scarlets Full Back Daniel Newton.
- The Scarlets Centre Rhodri Gomer-Davies.
- The Scarlets Centre Scott Williams was in the Wales senior team against the Barbarians on 4 June 2011 as a second half replacement.
- The Scarlets Full-Back Rhys Priestland made his debut for Wales senior team in 2011 Six Nations Championship against Scotland as a second half replacement.
- The Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies.
- The Scarlets hooker Ken Owens.
- The former Wales rugby captain, Stephen Jones.
- The former British and Irish Lions hooker Barry Williams
- The former Wales international rugby union player William Norton
- The former Wales and Aston Villa defender Mark Delaney
- Wales and Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen
- The Perrier Award Best Newcomer-nominated comedian Rhod Gilbert.
- The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge from 1989 to 1996, Professor Sir David Glyndwr Tudor Williams.
- The writer Byron Rogers
- The archaeozoologist Dorothea Bate
- The band Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, formed in Carmarthen
- Fflur Dafydd, writer and musician
- Wynne Evans, opera and concert singer
- Geraint Griffiths, singer, songwriter and actor
- The actor and singer/songwriter Iwan Rheon
- The singer/songwriter Kate McGill
Apollo Cinema - the most modern purpose built cinema in Europe.
County Hall - home of Carmarthenshire County Council
Statue of William Nott
- Paxton, John (1999). The Penguin Encyclopedia of Places. Penguin. p. 174. ISBN 0-14-051275-6.
- "KS01 Usual resident population: Census 2001, Key Statistics for urban areas". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
- "Roman treasure discovered on farm". BBC News. 17 June 2006. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
- The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites.
- James, Heather. "The Geography of the Cult of St David" in St David of Wales: Cult, Church and Nation, p. 68. Boydell Press, 2007. Accessed 26 Mar 2013.
- Wade-Evans, Arthur. Welsh Medieval Law, p. 263.
- Philip Ziegler, The Black Death, Penguin, 1969, p199
- MonasticWales.org Benedictine Priory
- MonasticWales.org Augustinian Priory
- MonasticWales.org Greyfriars Friary
- carmarthenshirehistorian.org Vol III, The Grey Friars Of Carmarthen Major Francis Jones, 1966
- monasticwales.org Edmund Tudor
- monasticwales.org Remnants of Carmarthen Friary
- "9/11 inspires trip to 'Merlin's Oak'". walesonline.co.uk. 1 October 2003. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- Wales and the Law
- Defence of Britain Archive, site S0011497, Council for British Archaeology, 2002 (updated 2006)
- Defence of Britain Archive, site S0011478, Council for British Archaeology, 2002 (updated 2006)
- Defence of Britain Archive, site S0011481, Council for British Archaeology, 2002 (updated 2006)
- Defence of Britain Archive, site S0011484, Council for British Archaeology, 2002 (updated 2006)
- Defence of Britain Archive, site S0011483, Council for British Archaeology, 2002 (updated 2006)
- Defence of Britain Archive, site S0011464, Council for British Archaeology, 2002 (updated 2006)
- Defence of Britain Archive, site S0011482, Council for British Archaeology, 2002 (updated 2006)
- Defence of Britain Archive, site S0011527, Council for British Archaeology, 2002 (updated 2006)
- "Brutality of Picton past examined". BBC NEWS. 20 March 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
- Public Monument and Sculpture Association on General Nott Statue from National Recording Project
- "St Peter's and its History". netministries.org. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- Pont King Morgan
-  BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | South West Wales | Carmarthen's £74m retail centre opens
- BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | South West Wales | Revamp of town cattle mart starts