Over 100 members and friends of the Antiquarian Society met at the Halliwell Centre, Trinity College on Saturday the 18th February for the annual Day School. The theme for this year was “The Cloistered Life; Monasticism in Carmarthenshire and West Wales”. The Day School was chaired by The Right Reverend J .Wyn Evans, The Bishop of St. Davids, who introduced the speakers and the format for the day. The first speaker was the Rev’d. Dr. William Strange who delivered a very learned lecture on St. Teilo’s Monastery at Llandeilo.

An insight into monastic life at Llandeilo was revealed using evidence from The Litchfield Gospels and the Book of Llandaff. Professor Janet Burton, who is a Professor of Medieval History at Lampeter, followed by giving an on-line demonstration of the Monastic Wales web site. This web site was created as the result of grant aid and the site was able to identify all the known monastic settlements within Wales. This new site had caused much interest and the Irish Tourist Board has now funded a similar scheme known as Monastic Ireland with other European Countries expressing a desire to emulate. After a break for lunch, Professor Burton continued with a lecture on “Monasteries in Carmarthenshire 13th-16th centuries”. The question raised by Professor Burton was “Why were monastic houses so important?”

The speaker ably gave logical reasons besides outlining the different Nunneries, Friaries, Priories and Abbeys. Well known archaeologist Heather James then spoke on the subject of “What happened to the Monasteries after the dissolution?”

Excellent local examples were given of the Friary and Priory at Carmarthen. It was interesting to note that the Friary at Carmarthen was plundered and destroyed by creating the Civil War Bulwarks and being used as a works for smelting copper and to finally end up as a site for a supermarket. A similar fate happened to the Priory, plundered after dissolution and the site used by John Campbell as a smelting works for the lead mined in North Carmarthenshire. Art collector Jill Davies gave an enlightening talk on “Bare Ruined Choirs’ Monastic sites and the artists”.

The speaker gave an account of artists who created engravings such as the Buck brothers 1711-1753, topographical artists, Turner and finally to the era of The Great Western Railway who provided early 20th century commercial art, all indicating ruined monasteries.

To end the day Abbess Christine Wood and Sister Jo, both from The Holy Cross Abbey in Whitland gave an input into Monasticism in West Wales. Abbess Wood gave an account of their daily routine and their thriving altar-bread industry which provides a source of income. At the conclusion of the event The Bishop thanked everyone for such a wonderful day.

Jeremy John