Carmarthen (/ˌkɑːrˈmɑːrðən/ kar-MAR-dhən; Welsh: Caerfyrddin
pronounced [kɑːɨrˈvərðɪn], "Merlin's fort") is the county
Carmarthenshire in Wales. It lies on the River Towy 8 miles
(13 km) north of its mouth at
Carmarthen has a strong claim to being the oldest town in
the two settlements of Old
Carmarthen and New
Carmarthen were united
as one borough in 1546.
Carmarthen was the most populous borough in
Wales between the 16th and 18th centuries and described by William
Camden as "the chief citie of the country". Population growth
stagnated by the mid-19th century, as more dynamic economic centres
developed in the South
Wales coalfield. The population in 2011 was
14,185, down from 15,854 in 2001.
Carmarthen is the location of
Dyfed-Powys Police headquarters, the
Carmarthen campus of the University of
Wales Trinity Saint David and
Glangwili General Hospital.
1.1 Early history
1.3 Grey Friars
1.4 Arthurian legend
1.5 Early modern
1.6 18th century to present
3 Twin towns
4.2 St Peter's Church
4.4 Pont King Morgan
4.5 Picton's monument
4.6 General Nott statue and plaque to Bishop Ferrar
5 Listed buildings
8 Town regeneration and redevelopment
9 Notable people
11 See also
13 External links
Main article: Moridunum (Carmarthen)
See also: Black Book of Carmarthen
Carmarthen Castle, main gateway
A page from
Carmarthen Borough's Book of Ordinances, 1582
When Britannia was a Roman province,
Carmarthen was the civitas
capital of the
Demetae tribe, known as Moridunum ("Sea Fort"). It
is possibly the oldest town in Wales, recorded by
Ptolemy and in the
Antonine Itinerary. The Roman fort is believed to date from about AD
75. A Roman coin hoard was found nearby in 2006. Near the fort is
one of seven surviving Roman amphitheatres in Britain and only two in
Wales (the other being at Isca Augusta, Roman Caerleon). It was
excavated in 1968. The arena itself is 50 by 30 yards (about 46 by 27
metres); the cavea (seating area) is 100 by 73 yards (92 by 67
metres). Veprauskas has argued for its identification as the Cair
Guorthigirn ("Fort Vortigern") listed by
Nennius among the 28
cities of Britain in his History of the Britains.
During the Middle Ages, the settlement was known as Llanteulyddog ('St
Teulyddog's) 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 there, probably about 1094.
The current castle site is known to have been used since 1105. The
castle itself was destroyed by
Llywelyn the Great
Llywelyn the Great in 1215 but rebuilt
in 1223, when permission was granted to build a town wall and
crenellate the town, making it one of the first medieval walled towns
in Wales. In 1405, the town was captured and the castle was sacked by
Owain Glyndŵr. The Black Book of Carmarthen, written about 1250, is
associated with the town's Priory of SS John the Evangelist and
Black Death of 1347–49 arrived in
Carmarthen through the
thriving river trade. It destroyed and devastated villages such as
Llanllwch. Local historians site the plague pit for the 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 an independent,
pre-Norman religious community which became in 1110 the Benedictine
Priory of St Peter, only to be replaced 15 years later by the
Augustianian Priory of St John the Evangelist and St
Teulyddog. This stood near the river, at what is now Priory
Street (51°51′36″N 4°17′51″W / 51.8601°N 4.2975°W
/ 51.8601; -4.2975 (St John's Priory), SN418204). The site is now a
During the 13th century,
Franciscan Friars (Grey Friars, or Friars
minor) became established in the town, and by 1284 had their own
Friary buildings on Lammas Street (51°51′21″N 4°18′33″W /
51.855794°N 4.309076°W / 51.855794; -4.309076 (Carmarthen
Greyfriars)), on a site now occupied by a shopping centre. The
Franciscan emphasis on poverty and simplicity meant the Church was
smaller (reportedly "70 to 80 feet long and 30 feet broad" – 21/24
by 9 m) 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 of
Rhys ap Thomas
Rhys ap Thomas and Tudur
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, where the tomb and remains of Edmund Tudor were moved
Carmarthen buildings were deconsecrated. There were repeated
abortive attempts to turn the buildings into a grammar school.
Gradually they became ruined, although the church walls were still
recognisable in the mid-18th century. By 1900 all the stonework
had been stripped away and there were no traces above ground. The site
remained undeveloped until the 1980s and 1990s, after extensive
archaeological excavations of first the monastic buildings and then
the nave and chancel of the church. These confirmed that the former
presence of a church, a chapter house and a large cloister, with a
smaller cloister and infirmary added subsequently. Over 200 graves
were found in the churchyard and 60 around the friars' choir.
Merlin, from the
Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)
According to some variants of the Arthurian legend,
Merlin was born in a cave outside Carmarthen. Given the town's Welsh
name Caerfyrddin, it has been suggested that
Merlin may be an
anglicised form of Myrddin. (See
Merlin § Name and etymology.)
Historians generally disagree with this, preferring the explanation
thatMyrddin is a corruption of the Roman name. Furthermore, many areas
Carmarthen still allude to this, such as nearby Bryn
Myrddin (Merlin's Hill).
Legend also had it that if a particular tree called
Merlin's Oak fell,
it would be the downfall of the town. Translated from Welsh, it reads:
Merlin's Oak comes tumbling down, down shall fall Carmarthen
Town". To obstruct this, the tree was dug up when it died and
pieces of it remain in the town museum.
Black Book of Carmarthen
Black Book of Carmarthen includes poems with references to Myrddin
(Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin, "Conversation of
Merlin and Taliesin")
and possibly to Arthur (Pa ŵr yw'r Porthor?, "What man is the
porter?"). The interpretation of these is difficult, as the Arthurian
legends were known by this time and detail of the modern form had been
Geoffrey of Monmouth before the book was written.
John Speed's 1610 map of Carmarthen.
Carmarthen, Entrance from the Bridge, 1865
The 'Book of Ordinances', 1569–1606, is one of the earliest
surviving minute books of a town in Wales. It gives a unique picture
of an Elizabethan Welsh town.
Following the Acts of Union,
Carmarthen became judicial headquarters
of the Court of Great Sessions for southwest Wales. In the 16th and
17th centuries, the town's dominant pursuit was still agriculture and
related trades, including woollen manufacture.
Carmarthen was made a
county corporate by a charter of James I in 1604. This decreed that
Carmarthen should be known as the 'Town of the County of Carmarthen'
and have two sheriffs. This was reduced to one sheriff in 1835 and the
ceremonial post continues to this day.
When 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.
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.
In 1689, John Osborne, 1st Earl of Danby, was made 1st Marquess of
Carmarthen by William III. Osborne was later created
Duke of Leeds
Duke of Leeds in
1694, and Marquess of
Carmarthen became the Duke's heir apparent's
courtesy title until the Dukedom became extinct upon the death of the
12th Duke in 1964.
18th century to present
In the mid-18th century, the Morgan family founded a small-scale
ironworks at the east end of the town. In 1786 lead smelting was
established to process the ore carried from Lord Cawdor's mines at
Nantyrmwyn, in the north-east of Carmarthenshire. Neither of these
firms survived for long. The lead smelting moved to
Llanelli in 1811.
The ironworks evolved into tinplate works that had failed by about
In the late eighteenth century John Spurrell, an auctioneer from Bath,
Wales and settled in Carmarthen. He was the grandson of
Robert Spurrell, a Bath schoolmaster who printed the first book, The
Elements of Chronology, in the city in 1730. In 1840, a printing press
was set up in
William Spurrell (1813–1889), who wrote
a history of the town and compiled and published a Welsh-English
dictionary (first published 1848) and an English–Welsh dictionary
(first published 1850). Today's Collins Welsh dictionary is known
as the "Collins Spurrell". A local housing authority in
named Heol Spurrell in honour of the family.
The origins of Chartism in
Wales can be traced to the foundation in
the autumn of 1836 of
Carmarthen Working Men's Association.
Carmarthen gaol, designed by John Nash, was in use from about 1789
until its demolition in 1922. The site is now occupied by County Hall,
designed by Sir Percy Thomas. The gaol's "Felons' Register" of
1843–71 contains some of the earliest photographs of criminals in
Britain. In 1843 the workhouse in
Carmarthen was attacked by the
The revival of the eisteddfod as an institution took place in
Carmarthen in 1819. The town hosted the
National Eisteddfod in 1867,
1911 and 1974, although at least in 1974, the Maes was at Abergwili.
Carmarthen Grammar School was founded in 1587 on a site now occupied
by the old hospital in Priory Street. The school moved in the 1840s to
Priory Row, before relocating to Richmond Terrace. At the turn of the
20th century, a local travelling circus buried one of its elephants
that fell sick and died. The grave is under what was the 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 used as part of the hospital since 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, but there are still
two remains. 
Carmarthen community is bordered by those of Bronwydd, Abergwili,
Llangunnor, Llandyfaelog, Llangain, Llangynog and Newchurch and
Merthyr, all being in Carmarthenshire.
Carmarthen was named one of the best places to live in
Carmarthen Town Council, established in 1974, consists of 18 town
councillors elected from the three wards of the town. The town
council's responsibilities include maintenance of the town's five
parks and of the town cemetery.
The three electoral wards of
Carmarthen Town North,
Carmarthen Town West each elect two county councillors to
Carmarthenshire County Council.
Carmarthen is twinned with:
Lesneven, Brittany, France
Santa Marinella, Italy
As Pontes, Galicia, Spain
Pont King Morgan footbridge with
Carmarthen Bridge in the background
Little remains of the original medieval castle at Carmarthen, but the
old Gatehouse still dominates Nott Square. The motte is also
accessible to the public. Castle House, within the old walls, is a
museum and Tourist Information Centre.
St Peter's Church
Main article: St Peter's Church, Carmarthen
St Peter's is the largest parish church in the Diocese of St David's
and has the longest nave, being 60 metres from west porch to east
window and 15 metres across the 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, tuned to the note E, weighing
15 cwt 1 qr 18 lbs (783 kg).
A484 road bridge across the
River Towy was designed by
the Welsh architect
Clough Williams-Ellis and completed in 1937. The
bridge was Grade II listed in 2003. The loss of the original
medieval bridge that it replaced caused controversy.
Pont King Morgan
To create better pedestrian access across the Towy from the railway
station to the town centre, a cable-stayed bridge was constructed in
2005 linking to the foot of Blue Street. The cost was £2.8
million. The bridge was commended in 2007 by the Structural Steel
Design Awards for its high-quality detailing. Previously, access was
Carmarthen Bridge some 700 feet (210 m) to the east.
Picton's monument, Carmarthen, 1830
The current Picton Monument, Carmarthen
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
Battle of Waterloo
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 structure stood on
a square pedestal. Access was 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
Edward Hodges Baily adorned the structure. Above the entrance door was
the name "PICTON", and over this a relief showing the Lieutenant
General falling mortally wounded from his horse on the Waterloo
battlefield. "WATERLOO" was 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 was adorned with trophies. The top of the square
column was adorned with imitative cannons on each side.
Within a few years, the monument had fallen into a dilapidated state.
The sculpted bas-reliefs proved "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
After 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 stronger
General Nott statue and plaque to Bishop Ferrar
A statue of General Nott was erected in 1851. According to the PMSA,
"The bronze statue was cast from cannon captured at the battle of
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 where Bishop
Robert Ferrar of St Davids was
executed in March 1555. A small plaque below the statue of General
Nott commemorates the place where he was burned at the stake during
the Marian Persecutions.
The many listed buildings in the town include The Guildhall, Capel
Heol Awst, Capel Heol Dŵr, Carmarthen,
Carmarthen Cemetery Chapel,
Elim Independent Chapel, English Baptist Church, English
Congregational Church, Penuel Baptist Chapel, Christ Church, Eglwys
Dewi Sant, Church of St Mary and Eglwys Sant Ioan.
Motorcycle speedway racing was staged in the early 2000s at a track
built on the showgrounds on the western outskirts of the town. The
team raced in the Conference League.
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
CPC Bears is a rugby league club based in
Carmarthen and the regional
side for Carmarthenshire,
Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. They play in
the Welsh Premier Division of the Rugby League Conference.
The town has a football team,
Carmarthen Town F.C.
Carmarthen Town F.C. which plays in the
Welsh Premier League. It was founded in 1948 and has played at
Richmond Park since 1952.
The town also has two golf courses, a leisure centre with an
eight-lane, 25-metre swimming pool that is the home of Carmarthen
district swimming club, a synthetic athletics track, and an outdoor
Carmarthen has an athletics team,
Carmarthen Harriers. A
cycle track was established in the town about 1900 and remains in use.
Carmarthen railway station
Carmarthen railway station is on the West
Wales Line. It opened in
Carmarthen town is served by rail links 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 daily direct
intercity trains to London. It suffered a number of rail closures in
the 1960s under the Beeching Axe. The one to
Llandeilo closed in 1963
and one to
Aberystwyth in 1965.
A number of major roads converge on Carmarthen, including the A40,
A48, A484 and A485. The only motorway route in
Carmarthenshire is the
London and South Wales, as far as junction 49, the Pont
Abraham services, then continuing northwest as the dual carriageway
A48 to Carmarthen.
Carmarthen is a stop on the
Eurolines bus route 890, which links a
number of cities and towns in
Munster and South
London. The service may be used to destinations in Ireland, but may
not be used to other stops in Great Britain.
There is also a
Park and Ride
Park and Ride service running daily from Monday to
Saturday from 7.00 to 19.00 between Nantyci, to the west of Carmarthen
town, and the town centre.
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 includes a new multi-screen cinema, a
store, a market hall, restaurants and a multi-storey car park. The new
market hall opened on 8 April 2009.
See Category:People from Carmarthen
See Category:People from Carmarthenshire
Wales and Stoke City FC midfielder
Dorothea Bate, archaeozoologist
Charles Brigstcke CB, British civil servant
Fflur Dafydd, writer and musician
Barry Davies, Ospreys full-back
Mark Delaney, former
Wales and Aston Villa defender
Wynne Evans, opera singer, broadcaster, presenter and actor
Perrier Award Best Newcomer-nominated comedian
Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, band formed in Carmarthen
Geraint Griffiths, singer, songwriter and actor
Elis James, comedian
Stephen Jones, former
Wales rugby captain
Kate McGill, singer/songwriter
Daniel Mulloy, screenwriter and director
John Nash, architect, living in
Carmarthen from 1784 and working on
several important buildings in the area
William Norton, former
Wales international rugby union player
Scarlets full-back, making his
Wales senior team
debut in 2011 Six Nations Championship against Scotland as a
Iwan Rheon, actor (famous for his role in Game of Thrones) and
Byron Rogers, writer
Matthew Stevens, snooker pro
Nicky Stevens, member of pop group Brotherhood of Man
Terence Thomas, Baron Thomas of Macclesfield, banker and politician
Nik Turner, musician
Tudur Aled, poet, buried in the
Franciscan Friars' graveyard,
Carmarthen, in 1525
Philip Vaughan, ironmaster and inventor of the ball bearing
Mary Wynne Warner, mathematician
John Weathers, drummer
Barry Williams, former British and Irish Lions hooker
Scarlets Centre was in the
Wales senior team against
the Barbarians on 4 June 2011 as a second-half replacement.
David Glyndwr Tudor Williams, first full-time Vice-Chancellor of the
University of Cambridge, 1989–1996.
Guildhall Square, Carmarthen
The new market building opened April 2009.
Apollo Cinema - the most modern purpose built cinema in Europe.
County Hall - home of
Carmarthenshire County Council
The Red Dragon art work on a roundabout
St Peter's Church
Park and Ride
Park and Ride Service
Statue of William Nott
Carmarthen Amateur Operatic Society
Carmarthen North, South and West wards 2011
^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Carmarthen". Encyclopædia
Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
^ Paxton, John (1999). The Penguin Encyclopedia of Places. Penguin.
p. 174. ISBN 0-14-051275-6.
^ a b Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy
Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of
p. 123. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
^ "KS01 Usual resident population: Census 2001, Key Statistics for
urban areas". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 30 August
^ "Roman treasure discovered on farm". BBC News. 17 June 2006.
Retrieved 28 April 2010.
Theodor Mommsen (ed.). Historia Brittonum, VI.
Composed after AD 830. (in Latin) Hosted at Latin Wikisource.
^ Veprauskas, Michael.
[www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/artgue/mikecaer.htm "The Problem of Caer
Vortigern Studies]. 1998.
^ 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 March 2013.
^ Wade-Evans, Arthur. Welsh Medieval Law, p. 263.
^ Philip Ziegler, The Black Death, Penguin, 1969, p. 199.
^ "St John's Priory". Coflein Database Record. Royal Commission on the
Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Retrieved 28 November
^ "Site details:
Carmarthen – Monastic
Wales – A Comprehensive
Database of Sites and Sources". Monastic Wales. Retrieved
^ a b "Site details:
Carmarthen – Monastic
Wales – A Comprehensive
Database of Sites and Sources". Monastic Wales. Retrieved
^ a b c d e "TheGreyFriarsOf
Carmarthen < Historian <
Thayersfarm". Carmarthenshirehistorian.org. Archived from the original
on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
^ "People: Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond – Monastic
Wales – A
Comprehensive Database of Sites and Sources". Monastic Wales.
^ "Remnants of
Carmarthen Friary – article from – Monastic Wales
– A Comprehensive Database of Sites and Sources". Monastic Wales.
^ "9/11 inspires trip to 'Merlin's Oak'". walesonline.co.uk. 1 October
2003. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
Carmarthenshire Archives Service: Mus.156a
^ Article in Welsh Biography Online, SPURRELL family, of Carmarthen,
^ Williams, David (1939). John Frost: A study in Chartism. Cardiff:
Wales Press Board. pp. 100, 104, 107.
^ "myADS". Archaeology Data Service. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
^ "myADS". Archaeology Data Service. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
^ "These towns have been named as the best places to live in Wales".
Carmarthen Town Council".
Carmarthen Town Council. Retrieved
^ "Discover Castle House". Discovering Carmarthenshire.
Carmarthenshire County Council. Archived from the original on 16 April
2016. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
^ "St Peter's and its History". netministries.org. Retrieved 26
^ "Towy Bridge (that part in
Carmarthen Community), Llangunnor".
British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
^ "Pont King Morgan". Lunemillenniumbridge.info. Archived from the
original on 2015-01-03. Retrieved 2015-01-03.
^ "Pont King Morgan, Carmarthen". SteelConstruction.org. Archived from
the original on 2015-01-03. Retrieved 2015-01-03.
^ Public Monument and Sculpture Association on General Nott Statue
from National Recording Project
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-21. Retrieved
^ "Carmarthen's £74m retail centre opens". BBC News. 2010-04-30.
Wales South West
Wales Revamp of the town cattle mart
starts". BBC News. 2008-03-20. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
^  Archived May 3, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Carmarthen.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Carmarthen travel guide from Wikivoyage
Carmarthenshire County Council
Historical information and links on GENUKI
Towns and villages
Llanfihangel ar Arth
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings
Communities of Carmarthenshire
Manordeilo and Salem
Newchurch and Merthyr
Burry Port Town