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For more online information about the parish of Llanybydder see Genuki, this parish page includes snippets from  ' A History of Carmarthenshire' edited by Sir John Lloyd and published in 1935/9 by the London Carmarthenshire Society.       

Cattle drovers

Herds from south west Wales travelled towards the Hereford and Gloucester routes into England up the Tywi Valley to Llandovery. Herds from South Cardiganshire reached Llandovery through Llanybydder and Llansawel.

[Based on the Story of Carmarthenshire by A.G Pryse Jones 1972. Gareth Hicks ]

Aberduar Baptist Church

The Baptist cause began in the area with  members of Rhydwilym Chapel in Llandyslio parish living in scattered places between Newcastle Emlyn and Capel Iago in Llanybydder parish. In the C17 they met mainly at Glandwr in Llandysul parish, Cardiganshire but also Bwlchog, Felindre and Newcastle Emlyn. They continued meeting in homes well into the C18, membership increased during the ministry of Enoch Francis in the 1730s. The congregation met at Capel Iago until the first chapel was built in Aberduar.

The first chapel building in Glanduar village was built in 1761, the second  was opened in 1835 on the same spot at a cost of 340. This chapel did not have its own graveyard until 1833 when land was leased for 200 years at ten shillings a year rent, and added to in 1839 and 1931.

The number of members for each congregation in this Baptist region in 1751 were;

Below is the list in the old ' Llyfr Cyfnodion' of the names of officials and members of Aberduar Baptist Church in 1751. the actual chapel building was not built in Aberduar until 1760/61.

Ministers [coverering Aberduar] ;



The following were baptised by the Rev Timothy Thomas in 1761/2 at Aberduar Chapel;

The following were baptised in 1775 at Aberduar Chapel;

The following were baptised by the Rev Timothy Thomas in 1761 at Pencoed-gleision Chapel;

The following were baptised by the Rev Timothy Thomas in 1761 at Bethel Chapel;

The following were baptised by the Rev Timothy Thomas in 1762 at Bwlch-y-rhiw Chapel ;

[From Hanes Eglwys Aberduar, W Hugh Davies 1962. There is an index to the book on  Gareth Hicks 27 April 2001 D]







For more online information about Llandovery see the Genuki page for Llandingad parish

Focus on Llandovery
A partial extract from an article in the Dyfed FHS journal Vol 6/1, Aug 1997, by Tom Evans welcoming people to the Open Day of the FHS at Llandovery College.

The three major rivers of the area, the Bran, Gwydderig and Towy run their course through and around the town of Llandovery, in the parish of Llandingad,  with its " Church amidst the waters ". Of historical importance dating back to Roman times, Llandovery has a remarkable history to tell. It is even assumed that the Romans were preceded by ancient Britons who built a castle here in the Deheubarth.

The remains of a later castle, built by the Normans, stand guard over the town today. The warring past is the distant past. More recent times have given the town and its environs even greater fame. This is the town of the Vicar, Ficer Rhys Prichard, author of many works, the most famous of all being "Cannwyll y Cymru [ the Welshman's Candle]. Prichard is buried in Llandingad Church, although folklore claims that his corpse was washed away during a severe flood in times gone by !

In nearby Pentre-ty-gwyn is the old farm house of Pantycelyn, the home of William Williams, one of the three great Revivalists of the C18 who left an indelible mark on the life, language, culture of the whole area. His famous hymn is still sung at rugby internationals being the second national anthem of Wales..." Guide me o Thou great Jehova...". Williams is buried at Llanfair ar y bryn, a church on the outskirts of the town.

This too was the last stamping ground of David Owen [Brutus], who made his mark during the last century when coming to Llandovery to edit a religious journal that was a blatant attack on Nonconformity. He died in poverty and buried  in the churchyard at Llywel.[7.4.2000 D]

Another important aspect of the town's history is printing, although all that remains today is the building known as the Old Printing Office , and an old press in the Heritage Centre.In its prime Llandovery was one of the most important printing centres in Wales, Gwasg y Tonn co-published here with the then major publishing house of Longmans of London.

In 1851 the population of the parishes of Llanfair ar y bryn and Llandingad was 15,055, in 1861 it was 14,755, with houses numbering 2,985. In 1863 there were 101 marriages and 481 births of which 31 were illegitimate. The number of deaths recorded for 1863 was 280 , of which 86 died before they reached their 5th birthday, and 18 were 85 years old.

The Drovers also made Llandovery an important centre, being a resting place on the droves to England. Banc yr Eidon was established here in 1799 [the Bank of the Black Ox] and was later to become Lloyds Bank. The original premises are now part of Kings Head public house.

Llandovery College was founded in 1848 for the promoting of the Welsh language,  as a result of an endowment from  Dr Thomas Phillips to establish a Welsh Collegiate Institution. The late Arber-Cooke in his history of Llandovery suggests that Llandovery was chosen for the College in view of its position at the centre of  the Welsh literary and cultural revival then in progress. The site of the present college was purchased by Lady Llanover [Lady Hall] and funds were raised by the then Town Clerk of Llandovery. Williams Rees of Tonn, also owner of the famous Tonn Press in the town.

Sir O M Edwards in his book "Cartrefi Cymru ac Ysgrifau eraill" 1962, describes Llandovery thus;
" As I walked through the town, I was given the impression that it was a place that was rapidly deteriorating. I did not see any work being carried out here, and I failed to see any industrious people in the place. Every one walked at a relaxed pace, from the errand boy to the doctor, as if the only purpose in life was to spend the day waiting for the evening to fall and to spend the nights waiting for the dawn".

The above is a partial extract from an article in the Dyfed FHS journal Vol 6/1, Aug 1997, by Tom Evans welcoming people to the Open Day of the FHS at Llandovery College

[Gareth Hicks  8.4.2000 D]

A follow on re Vicar Pritchard [1559-1644]-see first item above

He was born in Llandovery, graduated from Jesus College, Oxford in 1602 and ordained priest at Witham in Essex and was appointed Vicar in Llandingad and Llanfair-ar-y-bryn.Became Rector of Llanedi in 1613, and Chancellor of St David's in 1626. There is some conjecture on where he was in fact buried, Dr D. Gwenallt Jones , author of a book on Vicar Pritchard, has it that he was buried at St David's Cathedral churchyard and not in Llandingad churchyard as stated above,.

The book Cannwyll y Cymry was published after his death and is a collection of homely poems by the Vicar.It has been the subject of frequent reprints and is thought to have had a deep and abiding influence on Welsh people.

[ Based on Famous Welshmen Welsh Dept of Board of Education, 1944. Gareth Hicks ]

A follow on re Williams Pantycelyn [1716-1791]

William Williams was born at Cefn-y-coed, near Llandovery and was sent to Llwyn Llwyd Academy. Tradition says that he intended to become a physician but on his way home in 1738, he stayed to listed to Hywel Harris preaching in Talgarth churchyard, was converted and set his heart on becoming a clergyman.

In 1740 he became curate to Theophilus Evans at Llanwrtyd but because he and Evans could not agree on certain aspects of his duties he was not ordained a priest and gave up his curacy in 1743 and joined the travelling preachers. In the meantime his mother had inherited Pantycelyn and he joined her there and became known as Williams Pantycelyn. He married Mary Francis of Penlan, Llansawel and bought a small estate with her dowry.

From here on his story is one of travelling and preaching, he travelled thousands of miles each year and di dthis for 50 years. He became Wales's foremost hymn-writer, and it was he more than anyone who, through his poetry and prose, gave expression to the emotions and aspirations of the Methodist Revival. At his best he wrote some of the finest lyrics in the Welsh language.

Towards the end of the C19 a "Pantycelyn " Memorial Chapel was erected in High St., Llandovery, the oak Communion table and chairs were presented by the natives of the Khasia Hills , Assam, India, the first mission-field of the Welsh Calvinistic methodists.

Partly based on Famous Welshmen Welsh Dept of Board of Education, 1944. Gareth Hicks ]

A follow on re Bank of the Black Ox, Llandovery

Banc yr Eidion Du in Welsh, because the notes issued by it were engraved with the picture of a black ox. This bank was opened in 1799 by David Jones  in rooms at the King's Head, Llandovery. He was a local farmer's son and a former drover whose wife brought with her a fortune of 10,000. The business was very profitable, it was said that its founder "knew of more ways of making money than there are public houses in Llandovery." There were a few ! When he died David Jones left an estate of 140,000 plus landed property. He was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1825, during the financial crisis of 1825/6, when 70 private banks in England and Wales failed, the reputation of the Black Ox was so high that customers had more faith in its stability than  in the Bank of England. He was followed in the businesss by 3 sons who opened branches in Llandeilo and Lampeter. The firm continued under the name of David Jones & Sons until 1909 when it ws taken over by Lloyds Bank.

[Above based on the Story of Carmarthenshire by A.G Pryse Jones 1972. Gareth Hicks ]


Bridge building in the Llandovery area

Before the building of reliable bridges , travellers on foot, horseback or in carriages crossed rivers by using fords and at Llandovery many people had lost their lives whilst trying to ford the Tywi when it was in flood.

Clos Glas bridge over the River Dulas on the road  from Llandeilo to Llandovery was built in 1764.
Two of the older wooden bridges on the London route at Llandovery were swept away by swirling waters in 1772 and 1773 and replaced by that of Dolauhirion over the River Towy to the north of Llandovery , in 1785, designed and built by Thomas Edwards of Pontypridd whose father was William Edwards the bridge builder and Independent minister of Groes-wen, Glamorgan.

 The Pont-rhyd-Owen bridge over the River Bran on the turnpike road from Llandovery to Llanwrtyd was completed by 1826.
Llandovery also had a suspension bridge, built in 1832 it was designed by Philip Thomas of Ynysangharad in Glamorgan, he adopted Telford's Menai  Straits bridge as his model. The private Act which authorised its construction empowered the Justices of the Peace to advance 1000 out of the rates to the trustees of the new bridge , the money being mortgaged on the tolls levied upon the branch road from Llandovery to Llwyn Jack ford. This bridge was replaced by a stone one in 1883, still known locally as the "Chain" or "Spen" bridge. [10.4.2000 D]


It seems there was no specific meeting house for the Society of Friends in Llandovery, though yearly meetings were sometimes held in the town. Such a meeting in 1702 , for instance, was held in a tavern. As early as the C17 there was a burial ground at Cae Newydd , which was in the charge of one Thomas Price in the 1760s, but abandoned by 1808 and subsequently became the scene of railway shunting operations.[25.4.2000 D]

[Above based on The History of Carmarthenshire by Sir John Lloyd 1939.G areth Hicks ]

Other Llandovery men of note

One of the most original characters of his time was the Rev James Rhys [Kilsby] Jones [1813-1932] of Llandovery.He was a well known Congregationalist preacher[at Llandrindod Wells ] , wit and eccentric;  also remembered for producing a book of the complete verse and prose of Williams Pantycelyn.

Sheep in abundance

During the C18 tens of thousands of long tailed sheep grazed on the hills around Llandovery and on the Black Mountain which was then said to be inhabited only by shepherds.

Cattle drovers

Herds from south west Wales travelled towards the Hereford and Gloucester routes into England up the Tywi Valley to Llandovery. Herds from South Cardiganshire reached Llandovery through Llanybydder and Llansawel. Llandovery was also the centre for fitting the animals with shoes to protect their hooves from damage.

On setting off from Llandovery the drovers followed the road to Velindre , then north across the Gwydderig river and over Cefn Arthen near Pantycelyn to Llanddulas in Breconshire.


The Methodist Revivalists , treated very violently in North Wales, do not appear to have been always welcomed with open arms in Carmarthenshire either.  It is recorded that from time to time they were mobbed at Llandeilo, Llangyndeyrn and especially at Kidwelly and Llandovery. As late as 1770 Howel Harris wrote of Llandovery "I still call this the Devil's headquarters, as the Old Vicar did."

In the formation of the first purely Methodist "Association" [Sasiwn] of Welsh Methodist Societies which took place first in Dygoedydd farm in the Tywi valley above Llandovery in 1742, Gruffydd Jones of Llanddowror, who was disturbed by the excessive zeal of the Methodist exhorters,  saw the danger of the ultimate separation from the Church and never acknowledged the status of the Association meetings.

In 1752, the split between Methodist leaders was complete when Harris, under the influence of Madame Griffith, who died that year, declared that he was no longer a Methodist and organised a rival "Association" which met at Llwyn-y-berllan near Llandovery. But many of his converts and exhorters joined the Dissenters , others became followers of Rowland and Williams.

In 1811 ,  the ordination of 21 preachers at Bala and Llandeilo as Calvinistic Methodists lead , in 1823, to a new and vigorous Nonconformist denomination being born in Wales. In the meantime, Welsh Wesleyanism had already found foothold in CMN, notably at Llandeilo, Llandovery, Llangadog, Llandybie,Carmarthen, St Clears and Llansteffan where Wesleyan Methodist societies were formed.


Encroachment on common and waste land had been going on for many years, small upland farms had been enclosed and cultivated and numerous squatters had built their  "tai un-nos "[one night dwellings] on the hillsides and edges of village commons and outskirts of townships. Some such squatters lived in dire poverty in miserable one roomed hovels, at one time parts of the road built by the Llandovery-Lampeter Trust was infested by squatters. Many of these semi destitute people left their bits of land to join the growing number of unemployed in Carmarthen and other towns.

Llandovery Priory

During the great period of monastic flowering in the C12 and c13 , the monks and friars had made significant contributions to Welsh life, in religion, scholarship and learning. But in the C14 and C15 decline set in for various reasons but in particular, after the Black Death of 1348-9, not a single religious house in CMN could muster more than 10 inmates. In fact the Priory at Llandovery had been permanently closed as early as the end of the C12 , probably for unacceptable personal conduct and neglect of the buildings.

Turnpike Trusts

In 1763 parliamentary authorisation was secured to set up the Main Trust in CMN, this took over the section of the London Road which had fallen into a poor state of repair. It ran from the BRE border through Llandovery, Llandeilo, Carmarthen and St Clears towards the PEM border at Tavernspite. The old steep part from Llandovery to Trecastle was almost impassable in winter so a new road was made along the lower slopes of the mountain. It was along this route that Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton travelled in 1802 to Milford, breaking their journey at Carmarthen where they saw a play at the New Theatre in King St.

Other CMN trusts were soon established, among these was the Llandovery-Lampeter trust.

[Above based on the Story of Carmarthenshire by A.G Pryse Jones 1972. Gareth Hicks ]

Unimpressed visitors

Romilly in his diary note when he passed through Llandovery in 1827 said ;

" Llandovery is a beggarly place".

Malkin in his book The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales 1804, following his 1803 visit  said ;         " Its buildings are mean, irregular and unconnected, its streets filthy and disgusting".

[Above based on Romilly's Visits to Wales 1827-1854, M G R Morris 1998. Gareth Hicks, 9.5.2000 D]

Leland described it as " a poore market....[it] hath but one streate and that poorely builded of thatchid houses.."

George Owen said it was falling into " Ruinne and utter decaye ."

A lady tourist in 1791 described it as " the meanest and dirtiest town I have yet seen in Wales" although she afterwards confessed that Llandilo was even worse.

Lloyd sums up " in a word, Llandovery had shared the fate of many of those old Norman boroughs which had originated as the centres of feudal lordships."

[Above based on The History of Carmarthenshire by Sir John Lloyd 1939. Gareth Hicks ]

John Thomas of Llwyncelin, Ystrad, near Llandovery.

Sunlighting; having two day jobs at once[ moonlighting being a night and day job].

John Thomas of Llwyncelin, Ystrad, near Llandovery. CMN, was into sunlighting big time.

On the 1891 census [RG12/4503, f 65] for his "Occupation" was listed ;

Town Clerk; Clerk to the Justices ; Vestry Clerk ; Vaccination Officer; Clerk to the Main Roads Committee; Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths; Tithe and Rent Receiver ; Clerk to the Burial Board; and County Court Clerk.

Submitted by Jim Golland of Pinner, his great grandson, who says this took up 5 lines on the census !

We all wonder whether this is the longest.........

[Family Tree Magazine January 2001. Gareth  22 Dec 2000 G/D]






For more online information about the parish of Pencarreg see Genuki 

Random snippets concerning the Independent cause in Esgairdawe

The Independent cause started in this district in 1690.

The history of the mother church, viz Esgairdawe, and the daughter, viz Ffaldybrenin, is tied together with the history of Blwch-y-rhiw and Crug-y-bar.

From around 1690  [ for about 66 years] licensed prayer meetings were held in the house /barn of Daniel Harry of Esgairowen  farm in Pencarreg parish, he was a deacon in Crug-y-bar. From time to time visiting preachers came there, these included the Revs. James Lewis, Pencader, John Powell, Tredwstan and Lewis Richards, Tre-lech.

In 1754, one John James bought Esgerdawe farm  and leased  a piece of land on it for 999 years for the purpose of building a church, it was opened in 1756 and they called it  'Hen Dy Cwrdd'.

These are the seven ministers who preached at Esgairdawe before 1900;

Ministers in the C20;

The present chapel at Esgairdawe stands by the side of the road from Llansawel to the crossroads at the main road to the north, near Tafarn Jem. It was built around 1844, there is little recorded history as to the circumstances and to why they moved from the site of Hen Dy Cwrdd, although the latter was becoming dilapidated after 88 years use. The land was leased at an annual rent of  2/s 6d to the trustees for 99 years by John Johnes Esq of Dolecothy[and James and Evan Davies of Cwmdawe.]. In 1941 the Johnes family of Dolau Cothi bestowed the land containing the chapel and graveyard on the trustees without payment of further rent.

In 1953 further land was conveyed by Thomas Lewis Jones of Llundain fach  to the trustees for a new burial ground.

The name Esgairdawe comes from Nant Tawe, a stream that flows nearby. [Esgair being a 'ridge' in Welsh.]

[Based on a piece meal translation of   Hanes Eglwys Annibynnol Esgairdawe, Mary E Williams, 1992 Gareth ]


Ministers of the Gospel usually signed/witnessed the wills of the natives of the district. Here are  examples;

" Owen Davies [minr] signs will of Dd Samuel [Gwarcoed], Pencarreg, 1763"

"Owen Davies [minr] signs will of Wm Davies, Pencarreg in 1764"

This is from the will of David Lloyd of Pistyllgwyn, Llansawel , dated 25th Nov 1805

"To David Morgan Minister of the Protestant Dissenters at Eskerdawe Meeting house p. Pencarreg--- 50 upon Trust put in Securities......Interest---to Pay a Teacher or Teachers of a Welsh Charity School + Schools within several parishes...... and for buying Welsh Books for use of such poor children".

[From   Hanes Eglwys Annibynnol Esgairdawe, Mary E Williams, 1992 Gareth ]

Elders and preachers

"4th Nov 1765, John Matthew had a call by ye Brethren to exercise his gifts to preach the Word of God occasionally at Esgair Dawe.

"March ye 13th 1766. Thomas David, David Matthew and John Matthew were chosen at Esgairdawe to be Ruling Elders in the Church."

[From    Hanes Eglwys Annibynnol Esgairdawe, Mary E Williams, 1992 Gareth ]

Llyfrau Cosb [ Punishment/Sanction Books] of the chapel

[From  Hanes Eglwys Annibynnol Esgairdawe, Mary E Williams, 1992 Gareth ]

Some notes from the chapel accounts book

[From   Hanes Eglwys Annibynnol Esgairdawe, Mary E Williams, 1992 Gareth  23 June 2001 D]

Some entries from the chapel's books

The explanation for the second item below [ which appeared 3 times that year] is that the 'elements' are the bread and wine of the communion service.








[From Hanes Eglwys Annibynnol Esgairdawe Mary E Williams, 1992 Gareth  26 June 2001 D]