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Carmarthen (Welsh Caerfyrddin) is a community and the county town of Carmarthenshiremarker, Walesmarker. It is sited on the River Towymarker and lays claim to being the oldest town in Wales. In 2001, the combined population of the town's three wards was 13,760.

Carmarthen has a number of surviving heritage attractions including the Roman amphitheatre and medieval castle. The Gwili Railway, a section of the former railway line to Aberystwythmarker, has been re-opened as a heritage railway for tourists.

Carmarthen has a large proportion of Welsh speakers , with the county of Carmarthenshiremarker as a whole having the largest population of such by number (the largest Welsh-speaking population by proportion is in Gwyneddmarker). Although Carmarthen is on navigable water the harbour no longer sees commercial use, in part due to the treacherous approaches. Carmarthen is location of the headquarters of Dyfed-Powys Police, home to Trinity College Carmarthenmarker - an associate higher education provider of the University of Wales as well as the West Wales General Hospital.

History

Early history

When Britannia was a Roman province, Carmarthen was the civitas capital of the Demetae tribe, known as Moridunum (meaning sea fort). Carmarthen is possibly the oldest town in Wales and was recorded by Ptolemy and in the Antonine Itinerary. The Roman fort is believed to date from AD75-77. A coin hoard of Roman currency was found nearby in 2006 [45214]. Near the fort is one of seven surviving Roman amphitheatres in the United Kingdom and one of only two in Roman Wales (the other being at Isca Augustamarker or Roman Caerleonmarker). It was excavated in 1968. The arena itself is 46 by 27 meters; the circumference of the cavea seating area is 92 by 67 meters.

The strategic importance of Carmarthen was such that the Norman William fitz Baldwin built a castle probably around 1094. The existing castle site is known to have been used since 1105. The castle was destroyed by Llywelyn the Great in 1215. In 1223 the castle was rebuilt and permission was received to wall the town and crenellate (a murage). Carmarthen was among the first medieval walled towns in Wales. In 1405 the town was taken and the castle was sacked by Owain Glyndŵr. The famous Black Book of Carmarthen, written around 1250, is associated with the town's Priory of St John the Evangelist and Teulyddog.

During the Black Death of 1347-49 the plague was brought to Carmarthen via the thriving river trade. The Black death 'destroy'd' and devastated villages such as Llanllwchmarker. Local historians place the plague pit, the site for mass burial of the dead, to be the graveyard that adjoins the 'Maes-yr-Ysgol' and 'Llys Model' housing at the rear of St Catherine Street.

Arthurian legend

According to some variants of the Arthurian legend Merlin was born in a cave outside Carmarthen, with many noting that Merlin may be an anglicised form of Myrddin. Historians generally disagree with this interpretation of the name, preferring that Myrddin is a corruption of the Roman name, but the story is popular. Many areas surrounding Carmarthen still allude to this, such as the nearby Bryn Myrddin (Merlin's Hill).

Legend also had it that when a particular tree called 'Merlin's Oak' fell it would be the downfall of the town as well. In order to stop this the tree was dug up when it died and pieces are now in the museum. The occasional flooding of the appropriately-named Water Street has been attributed to ongoing redevelopment of the area.

The Black Book of Carmarthen includes poems with references to Myrddin (Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin) and possibly to Arthur (Pa ŵr yw'r Porthor?). The interpretation of these is difficult because the Arthur legend was already known by this time, and many details of the modern form of the legend had been described by Geoffrey of Monmouth before the book was written. In addition some of the stories appear to have been moved into Wales at some point before their recording in the book.

Early modern

Following the Acts of Union Carmarthen became the judicial headquarters of the Court of Great Sessions for south-west Wales.In the 16th and 17th centuries the dominant business of Carmarthen town was still agriculture and related trades including woolen manufacture. Carmarthen was made a county corporate by charter of James I in 1604. The charter decreed that Carmarthen should be known as the 'Town of the County of Carmarthen' and should have two sheriffs. This was reduced to one sheriff in 1835, and the (now largely ceremonial) post continues to this day.

Both the Priory and the Friary were abandoned during the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII, the land being return to 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 this era.

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.

18th century to present

In the mid 18th century the iron and coal trades became much more important although Carmarthen town never developed ironworks on the scale of Dowlaismarker or Merthyr Tydfilmarker. Carmarthen town hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1867, 1911 and 1974 although, at least in the case of the 1974 Eisteddfod, the Maes was at Abergwilimarker.

The Boy's Grammar school was founded in 1587 on the site that is now occupied by the old hospital in Priory Street. This school moved in the 1840s to Priory Row before relocatiing to Richmond Terrace. It was here at the turn of the century that a local travelling circus was given permission to bury one of their elephants after it fell sick and died:the elephant's final resting place is under what was the school 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 utilised as part of the hospital at its inception.

Governance

Carmarthen is twinned with:

 Lesneven, Brittany, France
Santa Marinellamarker, Italy

As Pontes, Galiciamarker, Spain


Landmarks

Picton's monument

Picton Monument in Carmarthen
The original monument , erected in 1828 stood at the west end of the town, and was erected in memory of the gallant Sir Thomas Picton, who died in the Battle of Waterloomarker. It was about 75 foot high, and was intended to echo Trajan's columnmarker in Rome. The pillar stands on a square pedestal, with a small door on the east side, which fronts the town, where the monument was ascended by a flight of steps. Over the door, in large characters, was the name, 'PICTON'; and above this is a relief showing part of the field of battle, with the hero falling from his horse, from the mortal wound which he received. Over this, in large letters, is inscribed 'WATERLOO. On the west end is represented the Battle of Badajoz , Picton scaling the walls with a few men, and attacked by the besieged. Above this is the word 'BADAJOS'. On the south side of the pedestal is the following inscription:—

Sir THOMAS PICTON,


Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of the
:Bath,
Of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword,
:and of other foreign Orders;
Lieutenant-General in the British Army, and
:Member of Parliament for the Borough of
:Pembroke,
Born at Poyston, in Pembrokeshire, in August,
:1758;
Died at Waterloo on the 18th of June, 1815,
:Gloriously fighting for his country and the
:liberties of Europe.
Having honourably fulfilled, on behalf of the
:public, various duties in various climates:
And having achieved the highest military renown
:in the Spanish Peninsula,
He thrice received the unanimous thanks of
:Parliament,
And a Monument erected by the British nation
:in St. Paul's Cathedral
:Commemorates his death and services,
His grateful countrymen, to perpetuate past and
:incite to future exertions,
Have raised this column, under the auspices of
:his Majesty, King George the Fourth,
:To the memory of a hero and a Welshman.
The plan and design of this Monument was given
:by our countryman, John Nash, Esq. F.R.S.
:Architect to the King.
:The ornaments were executed by
:E.H. Bailey, Esq. R.A.
And the whole was erected by Mr. Daniel
:Mainwaring, of the town of Carmarthen,
:In the year 1826 and 1827.


On the north side was the translation of the above in Welsh; and on the top of the pedestal, on each side of the square, were trophies. The top of the column was also square, and on each side were imitative cannons. The statue of the hero surmounts the whole, wrapped in a cloak, and supported by a baluster, round which are emblems of spears.

However, within a few years this monument had fallen into a dilapidated state. The bas-reliefs which had been sculpted by Edward Hodges Baily were 'unable to withstand Carmarthen's inclement weather', as Joyce and Victor Lodwick put it (see 'The Story of Carmarthen' p. 391). Although the sculptor made replacements, they were never put up, and the entire monument was taken down in 1846. The replacement sculptures lay neglected and forgotten in Johnstown until the 1970s, when they were rescued and transferred to the Museum.

The monument as it appears today was designed by the architect Frances Fowler and the foundation stone was laid in 1847. This monument, too, has had its troubles. In 1984, the top section was declared to be unsafe and was taken down, and in 1988 the whole monument was rebuilt stone by stone on new stronger foundations.
The monument still stands on its commanding position at the top of Picton. Despite Picton's military prowess there was another side to his character. In his day he was known as a merchant of slaves and slaveowner. He was also known as a cruel torturer and the word 'Pictoning' derives from him.

General Nott Statue in Nott Square

A statue of General Nott was erected in Nott Square in 1851. According to the PMSA "the bronze statue was cast from cannon captured at the battle of Maharajpur. 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."

Sport

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.More notably, the town has its own football team: Carmarthen Town F.C. and two rugby union teams - Carmarthen Quins and Carmarthen Athletic.The town also boasts two golf courses.

Transport

The New Market Hall
Carmarthen railway stationmarker is on the West Wales Line. Carmarthen town is served by rail links through to Cardiffmarker via Swanseamarker to the east and Fishguard Harbour, Milford Havenmarker, Tenbymarker, Pembroke and Pembroke Dockmarker to the west. Carmarthen town is served by direct inter city trains to London during the summer.

There is also a Park and Ride service running daily from Monday to Saturday from 7.00 to 19.00 every 15 minutes from Nantyci to the west of Carmarthen town.

A number of major roads converge on Carmarthen town. These are the A40, A48, A484 and A485 roads

Pont King Morgan

For over a century, the station at Carmarthen town has been isolated from the town on the other side of the River Towy (Tywi) and pedestrians and cyclists had to brave the main road bridge some 200 m to the east. This situation has now been rectified by the construction of a striking new cable stay bridge linking the Station direct with the foot of Blue Street at a cost of £2.8 million.

The bridge is of interesting design being supported by cables hung from two masts. The deck snakes its way across the river in a sinuous curve. Construction started in January 2005 and completion was expected in May 2005, but the theft of panels at a late stage caused a delay until June. The bridge is named after the King Morgan brothers, chemists who did so much for Carmarthen town. One possibly unsuspected problem is caused by the strong westerly winds which blow uninterrupted up the broad plain of the Towy and make it difficult for cyclists to remain upright. Assuming cyclists have managed to ride across, they are still expected to dismount to traverse the ramp at the northern (town) end.

Town Regeneration and Redevelopment

The former cattle mart in the heart of the town is undergoing regeneration. The development will include a new multi-screen cinema, Debenhams department store, market hall, restaurants and a multi-storey car park. The new market hall opened on the 8th of April 2009.

Notable people



More Photos

Image:King Morgan 1.jpg|King Morgan FootbridgeFile:Carm The Mount.JPG|The MountImage:Sgwar_Guildhall.JPG|Guildhall SquareImage:Castell_Caerfyrddin.JPG|Carmarthen CastleImage:Ddraig Goch Roundabout.JPG|The Red DragonImage:Egwlys San Pedr.JPG|St Peter's ChurchFile:Carm Heol Awst.JPG|Lammas St

References

  1. Archaeology in Wales News 2006
  2. Carmarthenshire County Council - 2001 Census
  3. Carmarthenshire County website
  4. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical SitesMachine readable text
  5. Philip Ziegler, The Black Death, Penguin, 1969, p199
  6. Wales and the Law
  7. Public Monument and Sculpture Association on General Nott Statue from National Recording Project
  8. http://www.lunemillenniumbridge.info/Carmarthen.html
  9. BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | South West Wales | Revamp of town cattle mart starts


External links




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