Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for CARMARTHENSHIRE

CARMARTHENSHIRE, a maritime county of South Wales; bounded, on the W by Pembroke; on the N, by Cardigan; on the E, by Brecon; on the SE, by Glamorgan; on the S, by Carmarthen bay. Its length, northeastward, is 50 miles; its greatest breadth, 35 miles; its circuit, about 165 miles; its area, 606,331 acres. A low tract, reclaimed from the sea, lies round Laugharne: another low tract lies along the Towy; a great congeries of hills and uplands fills most of the interior; a range of mountains, striking away to Plinlimmon in Cardigan, is in the north; and a loftier range, forming the main part of the Black mountains, culminating at an altitude of 2,596 feet, is in the east. The chief rivers are the Towy, with the Gwili, the Tothi, the Bran, the Sawddy, and the Cennen; the Tave, with the Gwynin, the Cowyn, and the Morlais; the Teifi on the boundary with Cardigan; the Lloughor, on the eastern boundary to the sea: the two Gwendraeths; and the Ammon. Several lakes occur; of no great size, yet full of interest either to the angler or to the tourist. Numerous medicinal springs exist; and one, at Middleton-park, is chalybeate of greater strength than the Tunbridge waters. Lower silurian rocks form the northern and the central districts; upper silurian rocks form narrow belts in the SE; old red sandstone rocks form a considerable belt on the coast, from the western boundary to the east of the Towy, and thence east-north-eastward; and rocks of the carboniferous series, rich in the coal measures, constituting part of the great coal field of South Wales, form all the tracts on the SE, both sea-board and inland. Lead ore, copper ore, ironstone, slate, building-stone, fire-stone, and dark blue marble are worked; and there are 87 collieries.

The soils on the higher tracts, over all the different kinds of rocks, are, for the most part, rather poor; while those in the valleys, especially in the lower parts of those of the Towy and the Tave are, in general, very fertile. About one-third of all the land is waste; and a large aggregate of the rest is so miserably cultivated as to yield a niggard produce. Agriculture, generally, is in a primitive or backward condition; yet has begun to be incited, and much improved, by the influence of Agricultural Societies. Lime, not only on the tracts where limestone abounds, but on others to which it has to be brought from a considerable distance, is profusely used; and the system of augmenting farm yard manure by the best appliances of cropping and house-feeding, has been much on the increase. The enclosing and the cultivating of wastes also have been going on. Peat is the only fuel throughout much of the uplands; and crushed coal, mixed with clay, and formed into balls, is the chief fuel in the other tracts. The enclosures are chiefly of stone; the farm buildings, generally, are inferior: and the cottages, for the most part, are of mud and thatched. Oats are the chief grain crop, both for home use and for exportation. Butter and bacon are sent, from dairy tracts, to market. The cattle are chiefly a small or middle sized native breed; but in some of the best parts of the valleys, are large kinds from other counties. The sheep also are small, native, and degenerate; but have begun to be much improved by crosses with the Southdowns. The draught horses are mostly compact, bony, middle sized animals; and saddle-horses, of a fine breed, have begun to be reared. Woods formerly were abundant; but have, of late years, been greatly demolished. A large export trade is carried on in coal, stone, and iron; and some manufactures exist in woollens and leather. Several tram railways, one of them 15 miles long, serve for the mining produce; the South Wales railway goes along the whole seaboard; the Llanelly and the Vale of Towy railways traverse the centre northward; the Carmarthenshire railway, authorised in 1864, comprises three lines in conjunction with the Llanelly; and the Cardigan railway traverses the northwest.

The county contains 72 parishes, parts of four others, and an extra-parochial place; and is divided into the boroughs of Carmarthen and Llandovery, and the hundreds of Carnwallon, Carthinog, Cayo, Derllys, Elvet, Iskennen, Kidwelly, and Perfedd. The registration county gives off 12 parishes to Pembroke and 10 to Cardigan; takes in a parish from Glamorgan and two from Brecon; comprises 497,776 acres; and is divided into the districts of Carmarthen, Llandilofawr, Llandovery, and Llanelly. The market towns are Carmarthen, Llanelly, Llandilofawr, Llandovery, Newcastle-Emlyn, Kidwelly, Laugharne, and Llangadock; and the other chief towns are Llandybie and St. Clears. The chief seats are Golden Grove, Abergwili, Newton, Iscoed, Edwinsford, Dolcolhy, Middleton, Henllys, Llwyn-y-Wermod, Llanstephan, Ystrad, Maesgwynne, Kilgwyn, and Aberglasney. Real property in 1815, £282,030; in 1843, £396,915; in 1851, £385,660; in 1860, £439,056. The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant, a high sheriff, and about thirty-five magistrates; and is in the Home military district, and the South Wales judicial circuit. The assizes are held at Carmarthen; and quarter sessions, at Carmarthen and Llandilo. The police force, in 1864, comprised 62 men, at a cost of £4,426; the crimes committed were 95; the depredators and suspected persons at large, 330; the houses of bad character, 89. Two members are sent to parliament by the county, and one by the boroughs. County electors, in 1868, 4,833. Pop., in 1801, 67,317; in 1821, 90,239; in 1841, 106,326; in 1861, 111,796. Inhabited houses, 23,070; uninhabited, 925; building, 129.

The territory now forming Carmarthenshire belonged to the Deinetæ or Dyfed; was included in the Roman Britannia Secunda; afterwards formed part of Ceredigion or Dynevor; made very stout resistance to the Normans; gave way to the forces of Edward I.; and was not entirely subdued by England till the commencement of the 16th century. Druidical antiquities have been discovered in the parishes of Llanboidy, Conwil-in-Elvet, Eglwys-Newydd, and Penboyr. The maritime Julian way ran through the county nearly in the route of the South Wales railway; the mountain Julian way went up the vale of the Towy from Carmarthen; and the Western way or Sarn Helen, is distinctly traceable in several parts of the parish of Llanfairarybryu. Ruins or remains of castles exist at Dynevor, Dryslwyn, Llandovery, CarrigCinnen, Carmarthen, Llanstephan, Laugharne, Kidwelly, and Newcastle-Emlyn; and remains of monasteries are at Talley, Whitland, Llanllwny, and Carmarthen.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a maritime county of South Wales"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 2nd order divisions")
Administrative units: Carmarthenshire AncC
Place: Carmarthenshire

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