UK Genealogy Archives logo
DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we may receive a commission.

Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire

Historical Description

Carmarthen, a market-town, a municipal and parliamentary borough, the head of a county court district and poor law union, the capital of the county, a county borough, and a parish in Carmarthenshire. The town stands on the river Towy, 9 miles NNE of its mouth, 32 SE of Cardigan, 38 ENE of Pembroke, 217 from London (by Brecon), and 236 by the G.W.R. It has two stations on the G.W.R., the town station and Carmarthen Junction, and has also a station on the Central Wales section of the L. & N.W.R, The Manchester and Milford and the Pembroke and Teaby railways form a junction with the G.W. system here. The river Towy is navigable to it for sea-borne vessels. It was known to the Romans as Maridunum.and for a long time to the Welsh as Caer-Fyrddyn. It figured as the capital of Wales till the removal of the princes to Dynevor in 877, and it retained the chancery and the exchequer of South Wales from the annexation of the Principality till the abolition of the Welsh jurisdiction. A Roman station is said to have been established here. A castle of the Welsh princes succeeded the Roman station; occupied the brow of a hill rising abruptly from the river; was extended and strengthened into a fortress almost impregnable; included a citadel, interior buildings, exterior towers and bastions, and a strong encompassing rampart on a ground-plan nearly square; was taken in 1113 by Gruffydd ab Rhys, in 1140 by Owen Gwynedd, in 1215 by Llewelyn ap lorwerth, in 1223 by the Normans under the Earl of Pembroke, in 1405 by Owen Glendower, and in the civil wars of the 17th century by the Parliamentarians under Laughame; was dismantled in 1648 and converted into a prison, and continued to be used as a prison till 1787, when a portion of it left standing was incorporated with the county gaol. The famous reputed magician Merlin was a native, and a spot 8 miles distant is alleged to have been the place of his entombment by the Lady of the Lake, and bears the name of Merlin's Cave. Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex; Lewis Bayly, chaplain to James I., afterwards Bishop of Bangor; and Sir William Nott, who captured Ghuznee in the Afghan War, also were natives. Sir Richard Steele spent his later years partly in a house of the town which was converted into the Ivy Bush Hotel, and partly in a house in the vicinity called Ty-Gwyn, and composed here his " Conscious Lovers" and other pieces.

The town occupies irregular ground sloping to the river, and commands extensive and beautiful views. It is about a mile long and half a mile broad, and is well paved and drained. Several of the streets are very narrow, some have been partially widened, and the best contain many good houses. A lovely public walk, called the Parade, is at the upper end, overlooking a fine reach of the river. A grand view of the town itself, the picturesque vale of the Towy, and the ruins of Dynevor Castle, is got from Grongar Hill, celebrated in the descriptive poem of Dyer. The guild-hall, in the middle of the town, is a large building with a spacious court-house, in which the assizes are held, containing portraits of Sir Thomas Picton and Sir William Nott, and rooms for the meetings of the grand jury and petty sessions, and for the transaction of municipal business. The prison for the counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke, and Cardigan occupies the site of the old gaol, and is a handsome stone edifice. The county police station is adjacent. There are commodious general markets and a cattle market. A bridge of six spacious arches, with four auxiliaries, spans the river. A bronze statue of Sir William Nott, on a granite pedestal, is in front of the guild-hall, and an obelisk to the memory of Sir Thomas Picton, in room of a monument by Nash pulled down in 1846, is at the west end of the town. There is a monument in Lammas Street to the memory of the officers and men of the 23rd Foot (Royal Welsh Fusiliers), who fell in the Crimean War. Barracks for about 1500 men are in Picton Terrace at the west entrance of the town, near Pie-ton's monument. The lunatic asylum, for the counties of Carmarthen, Cardigan, and Pembroke, is a handsome building of Welsh sandstone in a commanding situation; the site and grounds cover about 46 acres, and there is accommodation for over 500 patients. The county and borough infirmary was opened in 1858. The parish church of St Peter is a large plain edifice, ancient and originally cruciform, but renovated and altered, has a lofty square tower, and contains a fine altar-tomb, said to be the largest in the kingdom, to Sir Rhys ap Thomas, who died in 1527, a monument to Bishop Farrar, who was burnt in the market-place in the reign of Mary, and another to Sir William Nott, and a brass to Sir Richard Steele. The old colours of the 23rd Foot (Royal Welsh Fusiliers) are in the chancel. St John's Church, a chapel of ease to St Peter's, was built in 1889 for Welsh services. St David's is a separate ecclesiastical parish, constituted in 1843. The church is a large edifice in the Gothic style, built in 1837 and since considerably enlarged. Christ Church, a chapel of ease to this church, was erected in 1869. Llanllwch is an ecclesiastical parish within the borough of Carmarthen. The church was formerly a chapel of ease to St Peter's. There are Roman Catholic, Congregational, Baptist, Unitarian, Wesleyan, and Calvinistic Methodist chapels. There is acemetery of 10 acres, with two mortuary chapels, under the control of a burial board. The grammar-school, founded in the 17th century by Bishop Owen, has £20 from endowment, with three exhibitions. The South Wales and Monmouthshire Training College for Schoolmasters, founded in 1847, stands½ a mile west of the town. and is a very handsome edifice, raised at a cost of £8000. There are also a training college for Presbyterian and Congregational ministers, and a school of art. There are assembly rooms, a literary and scientific institution, with library and reading rooms, a local museum, and a workhouse.

The town has a head post office, a railway station, three banks, publishes three weekly newspapers, and is the capital of the county

The town has a head post office, a railway station, three banks, publishes three weekly newspapers, and is the capital of the county, the seat of assizes, of petty sessions, and of quarter sessions. Markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday, cattle markets on the first Wednesday of the month, and cattle fairs on 15 April, 3 and 4 June, 10 July, 12 Aug., 9 Sept., 9 Oct., and 14 and 15 Nov. Some manufacture is carried on in flannel, malt, ropes, and leather, much business is done is connection with numerous copper and tin works, and coal and lead mines in the neighbourhood, and considerable traffic exists in the export of agricultural produce, and import of miscellaneous goods. Vessels of about 300 tons can come up to the quay. Steam communication is maintained with Bristol and Liverpool. The town was created a borough by Edward I., and a county by James I.; it has a jurisdiction and a sheriff distinct from the shire. It is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors, and unites with Llanelly in sending a member to Parliament. It has a separate commission of the peace and a separate court of quarter sessions. Population of Carmarthen (1841) 9526, (1861) 9993, (1881) 10,514, (1891) 10,300. The town gives the title of Marquis to the Duke of Leeds.

The whole parish comprises 5160acres; population, 10,338; of the ecclesiastical parish of St Peter, 4678. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St David's; gross value, £268 with residence. Patron, the Bishop of St David's. The vicarages of St David's and Llanllwch are separate charges. Population of St David's ecclesiastical parish, 4317. The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Crown and the Bishop alternately; net value, £300 with residence. The living of Llanllwch is a vicarage in the gift of the bishop of the diocese; gross value, £257 with residence. Population, 1460.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Registration districtCarmarthen1837 - 1974

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Carmarthenshire is available to browse.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers online: