Thursday, 10 January 2013

10th January 2013 - Old Castle Llanelli

It is with a certain degree of irony that I note that over the last week, my blogs have been concerned with walks around the Llanelli area. This may not seem strange to many, but those who have known me over the years will be aware that exercise and walking are not favourite pastimes!  I have friends who walk, I have supported friends while they tramped over Hadrian's Wall. I have dogs and acknowledge that they sometimes need more than the large Dog Flap in the back door and access to the paved yard. I do not "do" the gymn, and rarely feel the need to put on waterproofs and boots and head off in to the moist... "I may be gone a while !"

Yes , my walking friends know that I delight in the views from remote points, love the smell of the countryside and the open expanses. Yes I love these things - and normally from behind the wheel of my trusty 4 x 4. I relish in the ability to be able to take a maverick or terrano into locations that no mechanical vehicle has gone before.. in the warmth and comfort of the interior cab, and with the elements properly tamed behind the windshield...

Yet, over the last week or so, I have found myself expounding upon the history and landscape of Llanelli, with camera in hand and dogs at my side. Please accept that this is because we are within close proximity, and reasonable walking distance of the house - and not as a result of some new perambulatory perversion...

But I promised Ceri from Americymru, a fine website for ex-pat and resident Welsh people   that after my walk around the Old Castle exercise track .. I would research more into the Old Castle itself.. And so, with the weather dry, and the temperature dropping - the dogs took me once more onto the Pont Agen Bridge - the best place to overlook the remnants of the Motte and Bailey that was once a mighty castle - possibly even built on Roman settlement ... but I run ahead of myself .....

From previous blogs, I have the pictures and history of Pont Agen, and as I stand upon the start of the bridge, I look behind me over the Old Castle Pond - or Pond Twym - which I learn means "Warm Pond" which I will come back to later .

For the Motte and Bailey, the castle site itself,  is in the middle of the Pond. Even with the winter sun and lack of leaves on the trees it is almost impossible to get a clear view of the island in the middle of the water. But the island is the site of the old castle itself.

The Central Island - site of the Castle

January Morning - Old Castle 
The records of Carmarthenshire state that " an early mound castle unquestionably stood at Llanelly, the name of which has fortunately survived and lead to the identification of the site". The island in Old Castle Pond ( pond Twym) was once the Motte of the castle Carnwyllion. It is believed that the Motte was established by the Normans in the late 11th Century.

The Motte would have originally had a wooden tower known as a keep with a palisade on top of the mound with , below it, a defensive "bailey" containing the main living quarters, stables and administration buildings.

The castle was attacked by Rhys ap Gruffydd in 1190 and burnt in 1215 by Rhy Ieuanc during his onslaught on the Norman strongholds of Kidwellu and Gower. In the Red Book of Hergest, a version of the Brut reads for 1215 " Rhys Ieuanc gathered a host of immense size, and gained possession of Kidwelly and Carnwyllion, and he burned the Castle"

Of course back in those days, the river Lliedi wended its way around in a different direction and the Motte and Bailey was on solid ground.

Here the Lliedi river can be seen to wind around from where Old Castle road will be in the south towards where Raby street will be in the North.  From here - the coast would have been visible - but access inland would also have been easy. A later map shows both streets and the new Tramway ( now the Cycle track ) before the pond was created as a reservoir for the new Tin Plate Works.

Here we can see Old castle Road at the bottom and Parkview Terrace at the North, with the old course of the Lliedi River.

It is then I discover that the Old Castle Pond was created as a quenching reservoir for the tin works, and is not natural. It is called Pond Twym - or the Warm Pond as the water would raise its temperature as a result of the works in the tin plates. Other sources suggest that Goldfish were resident in the pond for many years due to the warmth of the water, and there are youtube links of giant terrapin still in the pond - though  have never seen them as I pass by.

For me, in my early days working in Llanelli, my recollections are travelling up Old Castle Road, up to the level crossing which i now know was over the Tramway - not the railway as I thought in those days.
The Old Castle Pub was the last building in the street - still there now - but a bed and breakfast now - not a pub.

I have had many a pint here and more than one Christmas party. When I first knew the building the rear section was not there. I remember as  they built into the back room, and then further out again. The last extension lasted about 9 years, and now is the tea room in the back..  but it is now a bed and breakfast and tea room ..
as seen in the early morning 
And so - to retrace my steps of years before, I look once more down Old Castle Road from the level crossing that is no longer there ....

Cars on pavements and for sale signs...  but as I turn around - I can still see the Tin works building - now listed and protected - though finance for the development that was expected has drifted away and it now stands as a monument to the past .. stark .. but that can be the subject of another walk...

I mentioned that there were Roman links to the old castle - rather than just repeat, here is the link to another friend Lyn John who knows so much more than me about Llanelli History...  LINK HERE

But the rain is beginning to fall - and so I make my way back home for a fine cup of tea, an opportunity to sit in front of the computer, and reminisce and post a couple of thoughts fro the past .. and look forward to some day in the future when Ceri will pop across the pond ( the big one) and I shall show  him what I have learned today ...

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