Walking around Carmarthen

Carmarthen has much to commend it to the enquiring visitor and these notes will help in discovering some of its most interesting elements. The economic vibrancy of past eras has meant that its stock of buildings has been constantly rebuilt or modified, leaving just a few medieval buildings such as the castle and St. Peter’s Church. Carmarthen has an unusually large number of War Memorials, and a wonderful array of cast iron railings, many of which were manufactured locally. A visit to the Provisions Market, especially on a Wednesday or Saturday is a must. Here, and in its many small shops, you will find local produce and see Carmarthen at its best. An abiding interest is its street layout: every twist and turn, every narrowing, tells a story or marks the position of a lost gateway.

Good starting points for more information are the County Museum at Abergwili or the Tourist Information Centre in Lammas Street, where a Town Walk leaflet is available. Throughout the town are a number of interpretation panels which explain facets of the town’s development. There are also individual blue plaques on certain buildings commemorating points of interest. Take note of the street names as these all tell a story.

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Town Trail One - Town Trail Two - Town Trail Three - Eisteddfod Journey - Port of Camarthen - The Old Oak

 

 

Nott Square, formerly the Fish Market, was named after General Nott (1782-1845), remembered mainly for his achievements in the Afghan wars between 1839 and 1842. The monument stands on the site of the medieval market cross and the supposed site of Bishop Ferrar’s martyrdom. The narrowing at the King Street end recalls a town gate: the Prisoners’ Gate, once the town’s lockup. From the castle gatehouse look back at the 15th century window at the first floor level of the Angel Vaults pub.

 

Nott Square 

Quay Street. This street of fine early 18th century houses was once the main thoroughfare between the town centre and the Quay. Note the elegantly proportioned facades and many original doors and windows.

Quay Street

 

The Castle gatehouse was rebuilt after the Glyndwr uprisingin the early 15th century. The south-west tower has good angle spur buttresses from the late 13th century. Carmarthenshire County Council is undertaking a major phased programme of restoration, with the assistance of grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Castle

 



The Quay
was once the hub of mercantile activity, where sea-going ships tied up at spring tides. The present walls were built about 1805. Note the listed bollards and chains, rare surviving examples of traditional quayside features. The business premises of Towy Works opened on this site in 1908 and the building is a fine example of early twentieth century commercial architecture. A new foot and cycle suspension bridge, Pont King Morgan, was built by the County Council in 2006 to connect the station with the town. The bridge is named after the King Morgan family, who served Carmarthen as chemists, and supported many good causes, for most of the 20th century.

Passing Bridge Street, the site of another town gate, there is a section of town wall alongside Little Bridge Street. Return via the square tower to County Hall, a chateau style building designed by the Percy Thomas Partnership, which was begun in 1938 but not completed until 1948, after the war. The County Hall is one of Wales’s foremost civic buildings from the inter-war period. Note the civic functions represented in relief around the main entrance. Turn left before leaving the County Hall precinct and climb the steps to the castle ‘Mount’, a large shell tower built on the original motte and recently restored by Carmarthenshire County Council with financial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Bridge Street

Quay

Lammas Street

Guildhall Square and the Market. The Guildhall was built in 1771 on the site of a medieval hall. Formerly on open pillars, the building houses both Crown and Magistrates’ Courts. Inside are fine paintings, notably that of Sir Thomas Picton by Brigstock. In the square outside is the South African War Memorial of 1906. At the lower end, you enter a junction called Dark Gate, recalling another of the town’s many medieval gates.

Turn right through the Red Street shopping precinct and bear left past Marks and Spencers, to the Provisions Market, which is fully open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with some traders open on other week days.

Lammas Street. The place-name ‘Lammas’ was used to name open fields. In particular, it relates to an area thrown open to common pasture after August 1. Heol Awst, literally ‘August Street’, also recalls this and was Carmarthen’s first suburb. Standing outside the town wall, it contained a quarter of New Carmarthen’s burgesses in 1268. Greyfriars Precinct and the Wilkinson's store stand on the site of Greyfriars. The English Baptist Church, set back opposite the Boar’s Head, is a fine classical façade by local architect and builder George Morgan (1868).

Market

The Fusiliers’ Monument was erected in 1858, in memory of the men of the 23rd Welch Fusiliers who gave service during the Crimean War. The widening of the street before this, opposite the Tourist Information Centre, indicates the position of a medieval preaching cross. A short detour up Water Street is Heol Dwr Chapel, linked to the revivalist and Welsh Bible publisher Peter Williams. Back in Lammas Street is Heol Awst Chapel, one of the best examples of non-conformist architecture in Wales. Built in 1726 and rebuilt in 1826, it owes its origin to the ‘Apostle of Carmarthen’ Stephen Hughes. On the footpath from Wilkinsons to the Police Headquarters are the bulwarks of the Civil War of 1644.

Picton Terrace.
The terrace contains fine Regency houses. At the top end, the Picton Monument was designed by Francis Fowler and erected in 1847 to replace an earlier monument by John Nash. Sir Thomas Picton (1758-1815) was second only to Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo, when he was mortally wounded. During a re-erection of the monument in the 1980s, a ‘time-capsule’ from the original monument, containing Picton’s Waterloo medal and other coins was removed to the County Museum, where it remains on display, together with part of the frieze from the original Nash monument.

Park Landscape 

The Park, opened in 1900, contains a fine bandstand, a cycle track, a skateboarding facility, children’s play area and a bardic circle from the 1974 National Eisteddfod. The entrance gates, made by Coalbrookdale, are amongst the best in the county and were restored by Carmarthen Town Council in 2000, with financial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund.


bandstand

King Street takes its name from the prominent medieval family of Kyng who owned several burgages (land-holdings) in the 13th century. The Lyric Theatre stands within a large 1930s period office complex, on the site of the 19th century Assembly Rooms. At the eastern end is the site of a medieval gate where you pass out of the Roman fort into the Roman town as you enter St. Peter Street. St. Peter’s Church, which dates from about 1100, is one of the largest in the diocese. It contains the Consistory Court and the large tomb of Sir Rhys ap Thomas in the south aisle. The fabric is mainly 13th century and has many interesting memorials.

At the Library can be seen the façade and forecourt of Furnace House, the town house of Ironmasters Robert and John Morgan. Note the inscription on the railings with the date of 1761. The Library contains an exhibition of items associated with Carmarthen's history. Oriel Myrddin Art Gallery is opposite the church. Spilman Street is named after a prominent medieval family. It has many fine 18th and 19th century houses with the castle and County Hall at its western end.
King Morgan Chemist
County Library
From the eastern end of Spilman Street, descend Parade Road to The Parade, which contains the Presbyterian College founded c.1704. From The Parade to The Esplanade, fine 19th century houses sit on the ramparts. Note the excellent locally made railings here and in The Avenue. Beyond The Esplanade, past the Old Grammar School, is the site of The Priory (see display panel). From here, walk diagonally across Parc Hinds into Priory Street. Turn right and the Amphitheatre is on the left. Walk back towards the town centre to Old Oak Lane on the right; the site of the Old Oak. The northern line of the Roman defences runs from Old Oak Lane along Richmond Terrace. On the right, the Old Grammar School contains the County Archives and the office of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The circumference is completed by traversing Little Water Street where the rampart line runs along the rear of the houses, to St. Peter’s Church.
Houses