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Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 33058

Map Reference SN41NW

Grid Reference SN4126619993

Unitary (Local) Authority Carmarthenshire

Old County Carmarthenshire

Community Carmarthen

Type of Site TOWN


Period General

Site Description Carmarthen is the county town of Carmarthenshire, Wales. It is sited on the River Towy and lays claim to being the oldest town in Wales. Carmarthen has a number of surviving heritage attractions including the Roman amphitheatre and castle. The Gwili Railway, a section of the former railway line to Aberystwyth, has been re-opened as a heritage railway for tourists. Carmarthen has a large proportion of Welsh speakers. Carmarthen is location of the headquarters of Dyfed-Powys Police, home to Trinity College Carmarthen - an associate higher education provider of the University of Wales as well as the West Wales General Hospital.

In the mid 18th century the iron and coal trades became much more important although Carmarthen never developed ironworks on the scale of Dowlais or Merthyr Tydfil. Carmarthen hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1867, 1911 and 1974. 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.

M. Lloyd Davies, RCAHMW, 20 January 2009.

Situated on the river Towy, the town of Carmarthen has its roots in the Roman fort of Moridunum, built in 75CE and excavations have revealed the remains of civic buildings and an amphitheatre.

Welsh tradition refers to an individual named Myrddin, famed for his prophetic poetry, who gave his name to the town, known in Welsh as Caerfyrddin, Myrddin’s Fort. He is probably the inspiration behind the figure of Merlin, famed in Arthurian legend, who Geoffrey of Monmouth writing in his History of the Kings of the Britain in 1138, claimed came from Carmarthen.

The River Towy that flows past the town is famed for its coracle fishermen. The coracle is a small, canvas-covered boat allowing space for one person and must also be light enough to be carried. Descriptions and drawings of these small boats survive as far back as the twelfth century.

In the Romantic period, their continued use by the local fishermen came to be regarded a historical oddity. Tourists such as the German journalist Francis Broemel payed tribute to the great dexterity of the coracle fishers of Carmarthen: steering the small boats, catching fish and returning on land dry looks much easier than it is! There are only a few coracle fishermen still active in Carmarthen today, but after years of hard campaigning, the European Commission officially recognised their craft and coracle-fished sewin (a type of trout) was awarded Protected Food Name status in 2017.

Record updated as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Journey to the Past: Wales in historic travel writing from France and Germany'.
R. Singer (Bangor University) and S. Fielding (RCAHMW), 2017.

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