20.07.24  3:00pm - 7:30pm FREE Carmarthen Raft Race, Coracle demonstration and races, Coracle History, Coracle Exhibition, Refreshments, Live Music, Taster Sessions, and much more.

For further information please contact Carmarthen Town Council on 01267 235199 or see our Facebook Page


River Festival

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The Port of Carmarthen

The Mayor also has the title of Admiral of the Port of Carmarthen, granted by a Charter of Henry VIII in 1546. Henry granted a 'Charter of Admiral to the Mayor and Burgesses and Commonalty to the town of Carmarthen and to their successors for ever upon the River Towy from the bridge of Carmarthen to the bar of the said river'.
This Charter recalls the years when the Towy was a thriving artery connecting Carmarthen and its hinterland with the Bristol Channel and beyond. Cargo ships tied up at the Quay which was lined with warehouses. The coming of the railway led to a decline in the river traffic and in the boat-building which was also carried on near the Quay and Island Wharf.

It was customary in the days when Carmarthen was an important port for the Mayor and Corporation to voyage down to the bar of the Towy on 'Admiral's Court Day', when it was the Mayor's duty to hold a Court of Admiralty for the purpose of inquiring into the state of the river and preventing nuisances.
Tudor records show imports of iron, lead, coal, honey, salt, wine, oil and spices, and exports of cloth and wool. The 17th century saw increased imports of luxury goods such as soap, pewter, vinegar, sugar, fruit, ginger, marmalade, bedsteads and brass goods. In the 1720s 57 vessels were registered in Carmarthen, and its tonnage at that time was twice that of Cardiff.

The 1840s were Carmarthen's heyday as a port, for both sail and steam ships. Ships of up to 330 tons were built in Carmarthen, in the vicinity of the present-day Quay Centre.

The tide was only suitable every two weeks for the accommodation of large vessels. At other times ships would anchor down river and off-load to barges and lighters. Silting of the river, and the hazard posed by the Carmarthen Bar – a sand bar in the estuary – were enduring problems across the centuries. With the development of industrial Wales, and the advent of the railway to Carmarthen from 1852, the port’s decline began. The last commercial vessel visited the port of Carmarthen in 1938.

The town bridge was designed in 1933 by Clough Williams-Ellis of Portmeirion fame. It is made of ferro-concrete with cutwaters of grey sandstone. The bridge stands on the site of the medieval bridge (first recorded in 1233), on or near the site of the Roman river crossing.

When Towy Works Builders' Merchants opened new premises on the Quay in 1909, it was described as almost 'an eighth wonder of the world'. Its scale and location testify to the river's importance to Carmarthen trade, even in the early years of the 20th century. The firm was founded in 1795 in Lammas Street.
The Quay wall is listed as a structure of historic interest.

Coracle Way was built in 1963 to ease town centre traffic congestion, and has tended to separate the town from the river.

Pont King Morgan foot and cycle bridge opened in 2008, and has won local and national awards. The suspension design recalls the tall masts of the ships which used to dock at The Quay when Carmarthen was a busy port.