May: Field Day at Cenarth

The large number of members who attended the first field day of the year were rewarded with a lovely early summer day in the interesting village of Cenarth on the banks of the Teifi.

During the morning session in the vestry of Capel Brynseion the president, the Revd J. Towyn Jones, reviewed the life and times of some notable people from the locality. He was followed by Dr. Geraint Jenkins who gave an illustrated lecture on "Coracles on Welsh rivers". Mr. Mervyn Thomas, a native of the village and the author of a book on its history, outlined the main features of the village walk he would lead in the afternoon.

The walk started under the "new" Cenarth bridge, looking at the course of the old road. The mill on the other side of the river was another feature under consideration. The visit to the church was followed by a walk to the old smithy.

Mervyn Thomas prepares to lead the walk below Cenarth bridge with Alastair Loxdale in the foreground.

Iris Davies and Jean Griffiths enjoy the sunshine on the banks of the Teifi.

Programme secretary Hazel Martell and Antiquary editor Muriel Bowen Evans in Cenarth church.

June: Field Day at Corsham, Wiltshire

For their summer out-of-county field day Antiquarians visited Corsham. The long journey was amply repaid by Hazel Martell's very well organised programme, starting with coffee and scones in the tearoom of the stately home and culminating in an excellent tour of the house led by James Methuen-Campbell.

The court was a royal Manor in the days of the Saxon kings and is now the home of the Methuen family. It is based on an Elizabethan house dating from 1582. The tour started in the picture gallery, designed and built specifically to house two important fine art and furniture collections. The fantastic plasterwork of the ceiling is mirrored in a specially commissioned carpet. One of the joys of the tour was that there are no carpet druggets or velvet ropes; we were visiting a much-loved home. Mr Cambell pointed out the most important of the paintings, notably the exquisite Annunciation by Fra Filippo Lippi, painted in 1463. Among a host of old masters were delightful portraits of children by Reynolds. Many extraordinarily beautiful pieces of furniture were displayed throughout the staterooms. The park and gardens were designed by "Capability" Brown and Humphrey Repton.

The little town of Corsham was described by Pevsner as having "no match in Wiltshire for the wealth of good houses". 17th century weavers' cottages have their first floor doors, used for loading wool, now blocked up. Another long row of artisan's cottages are known as the Flemish Houses. The Hungerford Almshouses, where Antiquarians were treated to a series of leisurely guided tours, were a joy. Founded by Dame Margaret Hungerford, wife of the commander of Cromwell's forces in Wiltshire who owned Corsham Court at that time, they are still occupied. The schoolroom, which doubled as a chapel, still has the original desks; the master's chair is built into the pulpit. St Bartholomew's Church dates from 1132 but is of Saxon origin.

Jill Davies

Members gather in the evening sunshine before starting the journey home.

Wendy Davies and Conrad Davies in the gardens of Corsham Court

Outside the Almshouses

June: Field Evening at Y Wern, Llanelli

For the chairman's field day chairman Arfon Rees developed the theme of the changing landscape of Llanelli. This was the third in the series following visits to the New Dock (2002) and Seaside (2003) areas of Llanelli. Members met in Marsh Street on the edge of the Wern area ( Wern means marsh). Throughout the evening reference to estate maps, OS maps and early aerial photography brought the area vividly to life. An early 19th century traveller had described the Wern as one of the two suburbs of Llanelli, the other being the Seaside or Flats. New Dock had not yet been developed. The ecclesiastic parish in the early 19th century was Llanelli but became St. Paul's on the formation of that parish in 1875. St Paul's church was built in 1850 but demolished in the 1980s. The last service there was in 1980 but the graveyard is still there as a reminder of the church's existence.

Industrial Llanelli

from a 1923 aerial photograph

A Marshfield (Western) Tinworks

B Old Lodge Tinworks

C Wern (Nevill's) Foundry

D Greenfield Forge (shovel works)

E Lanmore (Waddle's) Foundry

G Malt House (Wern Works)

H Site of Bres Colliery

Llanelli Pottery was immediately above "E".

Members moved up Station Road to the site of the Old Lodge Works, built by Richard Nevill and a partner as an iron forge. From 1854 to 1884 the works produced ship plates and ship beams for the Iron Shipbuilding Co. owned by William Henry Nevill, Richard's brother. It then became a tinplate works from 1889 to 1941 when it was requisitioned for war work until 1945. The site was purchased by the Borough Council about 1951. On the opposite side of the road was the site of the Marshfield Works, not in the Wern area but on the edge of Seaside area. This works functioned as an iron forge or works in 1863 to 1890 and also a tinworks from 1868 to 1953 as the Western works but always known as Marshfield (or Mashfield) by Llanelli people. The development of Trostre Works closed this and many of the works in Llanelli. Both works were demolished in the 1950s and the land developed for housing. Maes y Gors built on the Marshfield site still exists but the Old Lodge flats have since been demolished and new low-rise housing built on the site. Members were then referred to the copies of the maps and photograph that had been distributed and asked to imagine the effect that the Old Lodge works had on the area together with the foundries that extended into the Wern.

The next viewpoint, below Bigyn School, allowed a panoramic view of the area. The former Bull Inn in Ann Street was pinpointed as a reference to the maps and photograph. The sites of Bres, Wern and Tregob coal mines were identified. Walter Vaughan, fourth son of Walter Vaughan of Golden Grove and brother of Sir John Vaughan, Golden Grove and Henry Vaughan of Derwydd, was involved in the industrial development of the area. In 1634 he was granted land at Kraig Caswddy (Bigyn Hill) by Edward Lloyd with all rights to coal mines. He died in April 1635and the estate passed to his son, John Vaughan, in 1637. In 1633 Charles Stepney leased coal rights to Vaughan under Bres Vawr and Bres Fach. John Vaughan died in 1669 and the estate passed to his widow and his son Walter. Walter died in 1685 and the estate passed to his mother and four sisters. Through marriage to the sisters the estate passed to the Stepneys and Mansells.

The involvement of Roderick, Bowen and Griffiths in the coal industry of the Wern and Bres collieries was discussed and how Pemberton and Nevill became involved. The diversion of the Box tramroad to join with the Wern tramroad was shown on the maps. This became the Nevill's Dock and Railway Company's railway. Members were reminded of where the Old Lodge works stood and the locations of the various foundries were pinpointed on the map and where they once stood, now modern hosing and green areas. Who would have believed that there had been a shovel works in the area (Greenfield Forge) built in 1873 and closed in 1966. Or that the Welsh Tinplate and Metal Stamping Co. Ltd operated from old malt house in Ann Street in 1892 as the Wern Works before moving to Seaside.

Members then moved to the Asda car park, now covering the site of the Pottery, with the site of the Gasworks and Bres Colliery close by. From here members walked around the Wern and were shown the site of Ebenezer Morris's National school (1837), on the site of what is now Cwrt Elusendy. The 1847 Blue Books report on this school and other Wern schools were read. The school was demolished in the late nineteenth century. The evening was brought to a close with a walk down Als Street, past Capel Als, along the route of the old Box tramway from Glenalla Road. The building that was once the first Park Street English Independent Church (1838) was identified. In 1864 the church moved to a new site and grander building in Murray Street and known as Park Congregational Church, whose elegant spire was visible over the modern commercial buildings.

Molly Rees


July: Field Day at St. Dogmael's and Castell Henllys

For the July field day members travelled to North Pembrokeshire, visiting the church and abbey at Llandudoch (St. Dogmael's) and the Iron Age hill fort at Castell Henllys.

The Revd Dorian Davies welcomed the group to the parish church of St. Thomas, on a site of Christian worship since the sixth century when Tudog, a relative of St. David, founded a hermitage which developed into a monastic settlement, a clas. Celtic monasticism increased in importance until 1110 when the Norman Lord Robert Fitzmartin installed a branch of Benedictines from France. Their priory was given abbey status in 1120, becoming the mother church of Caldey and Pill and owning property in southern Ireland and Devon. Today's extensive ruins cover only a fifth of the original site, having been use as a quarry by villagers over the centuries. The infirmary, the abbot's house and the substantial kitchens which prepared the lavish meals with which guests were entertained are clearly visible. The huge abbey church, with the remains of the massive pillars which supported the 120 foot high tower, still has some richly coloured medieval tiles, once carefully covered over every winter by the villagers, but now deteriorating because guardianship has passed out of their hands. The monks introduced seine fishing and, very probably, the three unique apple varieties which are still found in village gardens. After the Dissolution in 1536 money from the abbey was used to complete the building of Hampton Court.

Castell Henllys is an Iron Age inland promontory fort, the only Iron Age settlement in the UK to be reconstructed on a genuine archaeological site dating from that period. Dr. Harold Mytum, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at York University and Director of the excavation, emphasised the sophistication of the people who lived in the large circular houses with their thatched roofs extending almost to ground level for maximum warmth and protection from the fierce winds which often sweep across this exposed hill top. Theirs was an affluent society - they could afford to dig enormous defensive ditches and throw up high banks. They even 'bought in' expertise to construct an elaborate structure at the main entrance - two pairs of guardrooms. The whole complex was intended to impress neighbouring communities; it could be seen from a great distance standing high above the valley.

The site has been excavated for 24 years and features found here have contributed to knowledge of the Iron Age. The outer walls have been extended at times; the houses have mainly been rebuilt on the same site when they needed renewing. At some stage after the Roman invasion the settlement was abandoned and two farms were developed just outside the main walls. Later the main settlement was brought back into use. Traces of iron working, unusual in a site of this kind, have been found but because of the acid soil very few artefacts have survived. A combination of scholarship, history and two witty speakers made this a day to remember.

The Revd Dorian Davies at the west end of the abbey church

Margaret Holmes in the churchyard at St. Thomas's Church, St. Dogmael's

Castell Henllys showing the excavation site at the far end and the site of the massive gatehouse in the foreground. The later farmsteads were in the patch of shadow to the left of the entrance.

August: Field Day at Llansteffan

On a rare sunny day in August Antiquarians visited Llansteffan for a field day led by Eiluned Rees. Members thoroughly enjoyed the very generous hospitality offered by the Llansteffan Historical Society, who not only organised coffee in the Memorial Hall on their arrival but also hosted a magnificent afternoon tea to end a memorable day.

The morning session took place in the parish church, where Eiluned succinctly traced the development of the area from the pre-historic era through the settlement of St. Steffan in the fifth century to the strategic importance of the castle in relation to the one in Carmarthen. She emphasised the significance of the area at the meeting of sea and river routes. The town developed as a planted settlement under the castle, a port in its own right and a borough entitled to hold fairs. The castle lost its importance after the Wars of the Roses and the Lloyd family built the Plâs nearby. Nonconformity came very early to the area. By the eighteenth century the tourist trade was well established, depending first on the ferries and then increasing greatly when the railway reached Ferryside. The village prospered as it provided for visitors and the big ships as they waited for the tide to go upstream to Carmarthen. Local people who had made money, often in the drapery trade, returned to build large houses. Primarily a farming community, the village was self-sufficient in all trades, including photography, as the many images in the Historical Society's display demonstrated.

Edna Dale-Jones traced the history of the Morris and Timmins families, both drawing their status from commerce in Carmarthen. The Morris family produced bankers and an M.P. and built The Cottage and Grove House and eventually Bryn Myrddin. The Timmins family lived at Lan, which was a fine house with a big farm. Having made their money from an ironmonger's shop in Worcestershire, they developed many interests, including shipbuilding and rebuilding the Ivy Bush Hotel in Carmarthen.

Thomas Lloyd looked at many of the houses in Llansteffan and the families connected with them. Two branches of the Lloyd family lived at Lacques and the Plâs. The Meares family, lawyers in London, inherited the Plâs through marriage, demolishing and rebuilding it in 1788 with a model farm. Interesting houses include the Red Lion, with a date of 1690 on its roof beams, and Bull House, with many inscriptions scratched into the window panes by John Blome after the death of his young wife.

In the afternoon walks were led by Diana Bevan, John Edwards, John Pulley, chairman of the Historical Society, and Eiluned Rees. Houses, chapels, mills, smithies and shops which had been mentioned in the morning session now came to life as they were pointed out by the knowledgeable guides.

Llansteffan in 1832
From a steel engraving by Henry Gastineau

Some of the tourists who were so important to the economy of Llansteffan in the 19th century
From a steel engraving by Rock & Co. 1865