Skip to topic | Skip to bottom

The Carmarthenshire Historian


Start of topic | Skip to actions

Before It's Forgotten

John Thomas His Book
In the early part of the nineteenth century, John Thomas occupied the farm of Bryndu Isaf, near Maesybont, which he rented from Lord Cawdor at 17 annually. In addition to farming, he did other kinds of work and noted down in a book the things he thought important. Fortunately, the book has survived and is now in the possession of a descendant, Mr. Torn Bodycombe of Carmel.

From it we learn that what are now two smallholdings in the Maesybont area were formerly public houses. Cwmbach was The Crown and Ffynnon Lwyd was The Blue Bell. There was also a tollhouse and gate nearly opposite The Blue Bell.

Among the entries are :
Mary Walter, our maid, agreed for 6d. a day from June 3rd to Lanhollantine 1825.
Lanhollantine day, agree with Thomas David for year's lime at 1. 15. 1825.
Lanhollantine day 1827, agree with William, son of Rees David to serve me 1 year at 2.
Agree with John, son of Dd. Davies to serve me a year's lime at 3. 10. Hollantine Day 1829.

Most of the contracts referred to were at Hollantine or tide, that is Hallowe'en-tide, which was the time of the November Fair, the traditional occasion for hiring servants, etc.

Another entry refers to a bill for 2. 15. 8. presented to Lord Cawdor for work on the construction of Heol y Lord, Carmel. The entry is dated the 5th May 1820 and refers to ditching and hedging on the Great Mountain 24 perches at 2s. 3d. per perch.

An entry concerning an Assessed Taxes Notice for 1819 says: Taxes on Hair Powder, Mules, Servants, Carriages, Dogs, or Sale of Carriages, horse dealer, etc. or Armorial Bearings Taxes to be left at our dwelling Bryndu or Tyllwyd. The latter were the homes of John Thomas and John Fisher, overseers of the poor.

The book includes records of coal carried by John Thomas in 1832 2s. 6d. for a 1 horse load and 5s for a 2 horse load. There are also records of lime carried from Capel in 1838. The old lime kiln can still be seen behind Capel Mill. An item dated 1819 under the heading 'Laid out to Parish use' shows payments of 1s. 6d. per man for cutting gravel, filling and spreading, and filling ruts on Highgate Road; three carts used in the work were hired at 4s. 6d. each.

Glasbant, Gorslas.

Roadside Chips
Home The photograph shows a motorised chip-cart which appeared in Carmarthen in the middle 'twenties; it was the first in Carmarthenshire, perhaps in Wales. The chassis was purchased from Bradbury Jones, Carmarthen and the body was built by Davies of Merthyr Tydfil. We had long had a horse-drawn version which served Carmarthen town, and the motorised innovation was used to go further afield to fairs, marts, eisteddfods, sporting events and the like. The vehicle came to an unfortunate end in the early 1930s, when it was burnt out on the Newchurch road beyond The Plough and Harrow after an all too successful effort in kindling the coal fire under the chip-pan. In the photograph I am standing in front of the vehicle, while my brothers are inside; besides the vehicle is young customer.

I think it is true to say that the horse-drawn chip-cart was a familiar sight in Carmarthen for many years. The harness was dressed with bells, which announced our approach and summoned customers from their homes with basins and tureens in which to take away their ready-made suppers. This mobile chip shop survived until World War II. There have been many changes since. A press-button operation has eliminated the drudgery of cleaning and chipping the potatoes. The speedy skill with which potatoes were fed into the jaws of the hand-operated chipping machine, which was a familiar device on chip-shop counters, must now be a vanished one.


Potato Clippers
An annual experience that never fails to thrill me is the sight of the potato lorries which speed along the A40 trunk road during the weeks following late May and early June. This commerce has developed very greatly since the last war and has resulted in what must be hundreds of lorries bearing their burden of Pembrokeshire's early potatoes to the markets of the March and the Midlands, Lincolnshire and Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire. As they speed by I try to catch the name of their home-town on the cab door and I am surprised how far afield the destinations often are.

These heavy vehicles, tightly packed with potatoes, remind me of the 19th century Clippers which raced under sail to be first home in the market with their argosies of wool, grain and tea from Australia and the Orient. Similarly, one feels, these potato lorries race along, clipping every minute they can off the journey and, once in the lead, never yielding to following rivals.


Narrowest Lane
Home Early this year, redevelopment in Lammas Street, Carmarthen resulted in the temporary closure of the town's narrowest lane one might say street, for it once possessed a row of tiny cottages, which were demolished many years ago. A more permanent result will be the widening of Shaw's Lane. When rebuilding is completed on the west side, the lane will be about a foot wider. The accompanying photograph was taken from Lammas Street and shows quite clearly that two people could not pass each other along the narrowest length. But even when the lane is re-opened it might well be that it can still claim to be Carmarthen's narrowest highway.

Some may ask how the lane got its name. According to William Spurrell's Carmarthen and its Neighbourhood, Shaw was a cooper who lived there.
to top

Historian.BeforeItsForgottenVol4 moved from Home.BeforeItsForgottenVol4 on 11 Sep 2005 - 15:54 by ChrisJones - put it back
You are here: Historian > HistorianVol4 > BeforeItsForgottenVol4

to top