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Trade of Llanelly

Position of the Port.
Llanelly is situated on the Burry Estuary, a wide open inlet which lies on the eastern side of Carmarthen Bay, bounded on the one side by the Gower peninsula, and on the other by the shores of Carmarthenshire. The river at the Bar is "3½ miles wide at high water, and extends six leagues eastward into the country, separating the counties of Glamorgan and Carmarthen. The port harbour of Llanelly is 6½ miles within the entrance on the north bank of the river, and below it on the same side at a distance of 3½ miles is the harbour of Pembrey, where the river’s breadth is contracted to less than two miles at high-water mark."1 Along the shore of the estuary, extending from the mouth of the Loughor River, as far as Machynis is a flat marsh, a portion of which, stretching towards Machynis is below sea level and has necessitated the construction of an embankment or bulwark to keep back the tidal waters from inundating the district known as the New Dock neighbourhood. Again, from the Lighthouse, skirting the shore and extending as far as Pwll are a series of small, undulating sand mounds interspersed with intermittent tufts of course grass and small indigenous and marine plants, protruding on a golden background of glistening sand. At low water, the tide recedes to a long distance, leaving exposed an expanse of dry sand as a wide border to the mud flats which are an accumulation formed by the action of the rivers of the neighbourhood; these mud flats also appear at the entrances to the Docks, and alongside of Nevill’s Dock stands the Ballast Bank surmounting the broad, muddy stretch with its navigable channel leading to the North Dock and adjacent antiquated wharves and Patent Slip. Within the entrance to the Estuary stands the Burry Holms, an island upon which the Llanelly Harbour Commissioners erected a lighthouse which afforded shipping an easy access to the channel leading to the Port. It is significant that the Town and Port of Llanelly lie on the southern extremity of the South Wales coalfield, while its centralised situation enabled it to become the natural outlet of the neighbourhood.

Mediaeval Trade.
In spite of these physical advantages, there are no documentary data of its active participation in maritime traffic in the Mediaeval period when one of the chief centres was Carmarthen, whose pre-eminent position as a royal administrative seat and a staple town, had contributed to its significance in the national economic life of the period. Its foreign trade with France included salt and wine as imports, with Welsh frise and hides as exports, and although there was no change in the nature of its imports, even in the 16th century, these commodities were essentially for local needs. Kidwelly was also a coasting centre during the Mediaeval period and shared in the foreign trade with France, and in the coastwise traffic with Carmarthen, but its shipping facilities had become totally inadequate in 1566. But these conditions were gradually revolutionised towards the close of the Tudor period, when the national economic policy initiated a demand for those natural resources found in abundance in the neighbourhood. Thus, through its unassailable position, and its abundant resources, Llanelly takes precedence over Carmarthen and Kidwelly as a shipping centre, and emerges from the impenetrable gloom of the Mediaeval period as the Creek of North Burry whose spasmodic and initial exports of coal expanded in volume with the improved conditions of the passing centuries.

The Tudor Period.
While Llanelly’s rise as a coal exporting port was symbolic of the maritime growth of other South Wales ports, it is evident that this development was fostered by the national economic policy of the Tudors, who attached great importance to the mineral wealth of the country, particularly to coal, iron and lead. In consequence, the character and volume of this maritime trade was determined and correlated with the development of the coal-mining industry of South Wales. The repercussions of this maritime activity were manifold, and created regular contact between the South Wales ports and Bristol, together with the establishment of commercial ties with ports in south-western and southern England. Further ramifications of this influence were illustrated in the influx of agencies into South Wales to control this trade, and in the increased interest of London merchants. Other attendant conditions were the measures undertaken for the re-organisation of the system of levying customs duty and the suppression of piracy. These changes in administration which were effected in 1559, implied the adoption of the methods pursued in English ports. In pursuance of this plan of re-organisation, the ports of Wales were divided into three Head ports, one of which was Milford Haven whose jurisdiction extended from Worm’s Head to Barmouth, with customs offices at Pembroke and Carmarthen. Again, piracy had assumed such formidable proportions and had so menaced the steadily growing commercial prosperity of the Bristol Channel ports especially, that national action for its suppression had become imperative.

Piracy was still rampant when, in November, 1565, the Queen and her advisers took a determined step by the appointment of Permanent Piracy Commissioners for each of the maritime counties of the realm. The instructions issued by the Privy Council were that they were “to aid in the apprehension of the offenders, and in the recovery of the goods.”2 The Commissioners chosen for the County of Carmarthen were, the Bishop of St. David’s, Thomas Vaughan and David Morgan, who in the execution of their commission record very interesting and illuminating information on Llanelly. According to their investigations, Llanelly is described as a village of twelve households on the creek of Burrey, whose Governor, John Vaughan was empowered to grant licences for loading and unloading; also it had one ship of eight tons named the “Jesus,” which was owned by Owen ap Jenkyn, and “manned by iii mariners, whereof no fyshers.”3 The Commissioners were assisted in their authorised survey by deputies, who, for the Burrey Creek were Ieuan Morgan John and David Griffith ap David, and they were sworn to “to applye themselves to do theyre utmost endeavour towching the execucion of the sayd comyssion in all pointes so farre forth as theyr chardge belongeth.” Unfortunately, the detailed facts required concerning the owners and masters were not forthcoming because “the said Owners and Masters were absent on merchant viages, some towards Fraunce, and some towards Bristowe.”

It is strikingly suggestive that the emergence of Llanelly (or Burry in Llanelly) as a port coincides in point of time with the issuing of the document relating to the suppression of piracy. This is confirmed in the earliest extant references for the period (1566-1603) when on the 26th March, 1566, a vessel known as “ Le Julian de Ylfercomb” left Llanelly with 100 Measures of Barley for llfracombe for Griffith Harry, a Swansea yeoman. In the following week, on the 2nd April, 1566, 2½ weys of coal were transported to Bideford in the “Le Saviour de Bydyford” for John Lake, who was also master mariner. With regard to the second consignment, it must be acknowledged that the quantity of coal was relatively small, if not negligible, but its significance must be based on the fact that it was the forerunner of the gradually increasing cargoes which were despatched periodically during the following centuries. The first reference to imports appeared on the 1st November, 1566, when “Le Lawrence de Ylfercombe” under Thomas Watson, brought in a varied cargo of 5 tons of iron, 5 doz. wood card, 1 chaldron of pitch, and 20 stone of cheeses for Evan Gwyn, a merchant of Llanelly.

Of equal importance was the year 1567, during which are recorded shipments of coal to France. These foreign exports between North Burry and France established the foundation of commercial ties, which were maintained, except during the periods when England and France were at war, until the beginning of the present century. The first cargo consisting of 8 weys of coal was conveyed in “The Speedwell of Dublin" to Rochelle on the 28th February, 1567, for Richard Myll, who was also master of the ship. Further, a close scrutiny of these shipments reveals some very interesting features, since in every case but one, the master of the ship was also the merchant, the exception being “Le Nitingale de Carmarthen,” which, under the mastership of John Clover, carried 12 chaldrons for merchant Richard Lewis Hopkins. Again, three of these ships undertook two voyages to France in the same year or season, since the trade at this period was seasonal. These recorded entries state that “ Le Marion John de Carmarthen,” under Griffith Pontan, took 9 and 8 chaldrons on the 28th February and 2nd July, respectively, “Le James de London,” under Christopher Hubbard, carried 20 weys and 10 chaldrons on the 25th May and 2nd July respectively, and “Le Marten de Garnsey,” under Nicholas Ashlive, carried 8 weys of coal to Guernsey for Peter Cane of Guernsey on the 25th May, 1567, while on the 5th July, the same vessel under the mastership of Jacobus Allens, conveyed 8 chaldrons to France. Slender as this evidence may appear, it is adequate to bring forth the suggestion that the basis for a regular French trade in coal was established in this year, 1567.

In reviewing the export statistics for the above and subsequent years of the 16th century, it is manifest that the local trade was controlled by small individual traders, composed of merchants and sailors (English and French). Of the merchants, the names of Rees Pritchard of Tenby, John Morys of Carmarthen, Henry Crave of Tenby, Richard Barrett of Tenby and William Ingelbert of London are recorded, and it is noteworthy that included with each cargo dispatched to France by the four native merchants were packets of frise or cotton, while the last named sent 24 weys of coal together with five packets of frise to London in “ Le Anne Bonaventure de London “ under Prosperus Newport on the 1st July, 1585. But the sailors predominated numerically among both classes of participants, whose unorganised activities involved no great outlay of capital. Although these initial exports were necessarily small, they achieved very important results, one of the most significant being the recognition, even in 1585, of North Burry as the main Carmarthenshire Creek for the transport of coal, especially to the West of England and France. The latter country had maintained commercial relations with Wales since the Middle Ages, but the gradual development of coal exports during the second half of the 16th century had effected a complete change in the character of this trade, which formerly comprised salt and wine as imports, and Welsh cloth, cottons, and frise as exports. An examination of the latter exports for this period displays a minor and an intermittent contribution from North Burry towards this trade, but in comparison with the increasing trade in coal, they were almost negligible. Thus, this overseas activity becomes of paramount importance since coal operations in East Carmarthenshire were stimulated and the position of North Burry as a port consolidated.

Beneath the foregoing descriptive analysis of North Burry’s progressive growth rests the established fact that it was essentially a coal-exporting centre and representative of other South Wales ports, whose activity was stimulated by the greater emphasis attached to the commercial use of coal. Again, another important auxiliary factor was the difficulty of transport, which circumscribed the coal bearing districts to those areas contiguous to these exporting ports. Consequently there was within these operational regions the incentive for increased production, and the profits which accrued may be approximately assessed from the selling prices, which in France ranged from £2 per chaldron in 1603 to £4 per chaldron in 1630. The influence of the above causes in the enhanced overseas trade is reflected in the export figures for the local creek for 1618, when individual cargoes ranging from 3 to 30 weys were conveyed in 66 foreign shipments to France, and 105 coastal voyages, particularly to Barnstaple and West of England ports.

The 17th Century.
Of the relatively large number of vessels that frequented the Creek, there is no evidence that any of those in commission were locally owned; in fact it has been suggested that a large proportion of them were Milford boats. Such a condition of affairs within the County of Carmarthen may be verified from the report of the Justices, who “cannot as directed send a barque of 30 tons to Portsmouth, this being an inland County with only a few creeks, in which there are no such ships, nor have we the power of furnishing her with provisions within the time limited."4 On the 13th september, 1626, a further reply was sent that they were unable to find a pinnace of 30 tons at Carmarthen or “any of the ports adjacent.”4 Again, there are further interesting details to this Port during the 17th century, but these have no direct bearing on its development. One of the most interesting occurred when Tenby was besieged in 1644 by the Parliamentarians during the Civil War. After one of many failures to bring relief to the besieged, some ammunition was sent from Bristol by boat which was chased by a frigate “from Swanley (Swansea) and hardly escaped, putting into a Creek at Llanelly and is safe.” Again, in a shipping dispute5 in 1652, at Carmarthen between Thomas Hobson, a merchant and David Hammond, the latter had a barque at Llanstephan which should have sailed to Burry, and taken in the residue of the goods belonging to Thomas Hobson, and afterwards, should with the first convenient wind and weather sail to Plymouth.

Again, in a letter6 written from Swansea on the 26th January, 1676, by John Man to Sir Joseph Williamson, Secretary of State, a reference was made to the Bar of Burry, which was described as being most dangerous in the following terms, “The storms continue here ... Last Sunday morning, a little before day, was a violent storm which forced the “Greyhound” of Bristol with linen cloth from Morlaix homeward bound, over the Bar of North Burry, about 10 miles westward of this; the master and company not knowing where they were, nor the danger they were in, for it had not been just on the height of the flood, they had doubtless all perished, it being a most dangerous bar. So soon as day appeared, a boat met them and brought them into a pool near Llanelly without much damage, and there she rides waiting for a fair wind.”

During the latter half of the 17th century, the port maintained its coastwise trade with the south country ports of Barnstaple, Bideford, Plymouth and Watchet, while the returns indicate an extension of a small but regular trade with London, Yarmouth, Cardiff and Monmouthshire. Again, ports such as Milford and Tenby imported quantities of stone coal, whose specific qualities made it suitable for the drying of malt and for domestic purposes. It is evident that the quantities of this coal must have been small, because horse transport was the only means of communication between the Port and the Anthracite region in the hinterland. Its most prosperous years were between 1685-1689 when an average of 4,500 chaldrons were exported annually, but after this, its coastwise exports dropped in 16917 and 1692 to 2,285 and 1,911 chaldrons respectively.

The Port continued to maintain its trade relations with France until 1689, except during the years of the constitutional struggle (1627-1648), when the returns point to the non existence of its foreign trade. In 1684, South Burry (Burry Port) was merged with North Burry (Llanelly) to form the Port of Llanelly for the purpose of customs collections. While the foreign trade of South Burry had been directed to Ireland, the overseas traffic of North Burry was confined almost entirely to France, and its gradual increase in this direction reached its maximum figures in 1688 when over 2,000 chaldrons were exported, but the outbreak of hostilities between the two countries in 1689 terminated the French trade. But trade relations were established with Ireland, and occasional shipments were made to Lisbon, Oporto and the Channel Islands. Its foreign export figures decreased to the level of about 500 chaldrons, and this amount was further reduced with the opening of the 18th century. These exports include those of South Burry, so that the decline in foreign shipments from North Burry became more accentuated.

The 18th Century.
The coastwise trade continued throughout the 18th century, but exports to France were intermittent only, owing to hostilities between the two countries. It is recorded that 76 vessels were despatched from the port in 1707 and 64 in 1710, but there is no evidence of their destination, nor any details of their cargoes. But, the continuance of its activity is confirmed because in 1724, “Llanelly drove a pretty good trade in coal,”8 and this statement is corroborated by others in similar terms, such as “Llanelly drives a considerable trade in coal,”9 and “it is seated between a creek of the sea, and the Dulais river, which enables it to carry on a considerable trade in coal.” It is not possible to supplement these generalisations with statistics of imports and exports to show the trend and direction of its trade, because there are no Port Books extant for the period, since these were destroyed in a fire.

However, interesting information on the prevailing conditions, together with statistical data of the receipts and charges for the port may be gleaned from other sources covering the major portion of the century. Between 1723-1766, the Chief Collector of Customs at Llanelly was Edward Dalton, who, in receipt of a salary of £25 per annum, and with the co-operation of three assistants, was responsible for the collection of the customs at North and South Burry. In 1737, the Commissioners of Customs10 secured from the Treasury, approval to certain proposals included in the report of Mr. Jans, Inspector, who had been appointed to inspect the ports of Milford, Llanelly and Swansea. In this report, he authorised the removal of a smack stationed at Milford for the protection of the coast from St. David’s Head to Swansea, since “it has been of little service, and therefore have dismissed the Commander, Capt. Phillips, and the mate, Mark Scott.” His recommendations comprised new methods for a closer scrutiny of this coast, but as he found that Milford Haven had sufficient protection, he advised “the want of a further guard at the Ports of Swansea and Llanelly where great numbers of ships annually load coal and culm for France, Ireland, and coastways, and further run great quantities of tea, brandy, wine and other goods. I propose to discontinue the present smack as drawing too much water to be of use, and prevent the practice, and in the place of it to appoint two decked vessels of about 25 tons each with a commander and 7 hands each, one to be stationed at Whitford in Swansea for the guard of Carmarthen Bay to Tenby westward and the Mumbles eastward ...“. The recommendations included also the names of those who were to serve in the ships together with the wages they were to receive.

An interesting feature of the foregoing report was the import of such commodities as tea, brandy, wine and other goods such as soap and candles, and although large quantities were imported to some of the South Wales ports, Llanelly’s share in this traffic was comparatively small, because during the period 1741-1745, 117 gallons of brandy and rum, 63 gallons of wine, together with a quantity of soap and candles valued at £11.1.0. were brought into the port. Again, it is recorded that for the years 1759-1764, there were no imports from foreign trade, while small quantities of coal, oak bark and corn were exported. With regard to the coastwise trade, there were imports from Bristol and other English ports, and only 100 ships with a tonnage capacity of 3,000 tons left the port for the coastwise export traffic; during these years the number of foreign ships trading at the port was almost negligible and only two vessels of 90 tons were locally owned. There can be no question that hostilities between England and France were an important contributory factor to these depressing conditions, and with this diminution in overseas trade, there was apparently no smuggling which had been on the decline for some years. In consequence, a more serious aspect of these inactive conditions was that the receipts were not sufficient to defray the expenses, and this may be verified from the comparative lists of monetary statistics for the years 1742-4611

Receipts of Ports Cardiff Swansea Llanelly
  £ s d £ s d £ s d
Receipts Inwards 2 7 3 724 6 22 1
Subsidiary Outwards       509 17 2 119 7
Coal Exports       89 11 11¾ 24 9
Coal and Culm coastwise 27 6 11¼ 1319 3 5 165 15 1


Receipts of Ports Cardiff Swansea Llanelly
  £ s d £ s d £ s d
Enumerated       17 17 10 45 18 11¼
Moeity       12 10   17

CHARGES OF SEVERAL PORTS. Poundage and Metage on Coal and Culm:

Receipts of Ports Cardiff Swansea Llanelly
  £ s d £ s d £ s d
Salaries 165 0 0 561 1 10½ 95 0 0
Incidents 119 16 759 16 302 0
Debentures and Discounts 288 9 1324 17 397 19
Bounties on all sorts of corn             372 19 2

Again, during the second half of the 18th century, the development of the woollen industry encouraged the traffic in wool between London, Bristol and Dover and the Welsh ports. The industry flourished in the County of Carmarthen, so that it is reported that Llanelly shared in the trade in wood, but from the evidence submitted, this must have been exceedingly small. Again, there was no great improvement in the trade from the port towards the end of the century, according to the number of vessels “cleared” between 1793-1800; in fact, the highest average per week in all these years was ten.

Years12 Vessels Years Vessels
1793 478 1797 411
1794 457 1798 328
1795 509 1799 381
1796 520 1800 331

Another probable cause for this decline may have been the state of the Harbour, which was regarded as being extremely dangerous even during the first two decades of the 19th century. It has been reported that Sir Thomas Stepney after his advent to Llanelly in 1748 improved the harbour, but it is difficult to suggest the nature of these changes, except that he may have provided better berthing facilities which had been extremely primitive, and very dangerous. One of these loading sites was that known as the Flats, which had no shelter from the westerlies and the strong flow of the tide; the coal was brought down in course sacks or baskets, on the backs of horses and mules and carried into the vessel. Again, the import of iron ore was accompanied with great difficulty, since the vessels had to be discharged as quickly as possible, and all that had been left on the flats or sand, was cleared by the vehicles of neighbouring farmers; speed was the keynote of success in the conveyance of this ore, since all that was left on the sand was dispersed very widely by the strong flow of the tidal waters. Again, quantities of coal were brought down from Loughor and Llangennech in barges to the Flats for shipment, although there were sheltered loading facilities at both these places as well as at Sandy, Machynis and Pwll. In 1795, Messrs. Bowen and Roderick endeavoured to remedy these unsatisfactory conditions by building a small wharf on the site of the present Pemberton works, known as “Doc Canol”; it was connected with their Wern colliery by the canal which ran from the bottom of the Wern, through Heol Fawr to Henry Morgan’s smithy, a spot adjacent almost to the open quay. Their example was followed in 1799 by Alexander Raby, who constructed the Carmarthenshire Dock, commonly called “Doc y Squire,” but as the eastern quay only had been built, it was exposed to the severe buffeting storms from the west and south-west. On the transfer of the dock to the Carmarthenshire Railroad Co., who completed the undertaking in 1805, the tolls of the dock were let by auction for £200 in 1807. Again, the settlement of the copper industry in the town was followed by the construction of the Copper Works Dock in 1805, which was at first merely an open quay, but with the setting up of Dock gates in 1825, it was opened up as a wet dock. All these conditions are succinctly summed up by a gentleman who was well acquainted with the port in 1800, in the following graphic description he gave in 1813: “Llanelly was then little better than an estuary with a limited coal trade, and unsafe for loaded vessels exceeding 100 tons to resort to. The Harbour was completely unprotected, there were no buoys for the guidance of its trade, nor in fact any means adopted for its support more than what each individual connected with it might choose to do at his own quay, and at his own expense."13

1. Pwll Quay, Pwll (just outside the Commote).
2. Roderiek and Bowen’s Shipping Place, 1795, afterwards known as Lead Works Dock.
3. Alexander Raby’s Shipping Place, afterwards Carmarthenshire Dock.
4. Copper Co’s Quay, afterwards the Copper Works Dock.
5. Penrhynwen Shipping Place, Machynis.
6. The Coal Bank at Townshends Pill, Bynea.
7. Mr. Bowen’s Shipping Place, Pencoed.
8. Several “Ward’s Shipping Places,” Pencoed and Llangennech.
9. Llangennech Dock and Shipping Place.

But the above quotation needs qualification to be accepted in its entirety, since strenuous efforts were undertaken in 1805 to diminish at least, if not to eliminate, the dangers frequently experienced from the treacherous sandbanks adjacent to the navigable channel. With a rational and realistic conception of these perils, John Rees of Kilymaenllwyd and John Wedge suggested a survey of the harbour and the placing of buoys to facilitate the navigation of the Burry River. On the 19th September, 1805, a meeting was convened at which a plan and estimate were submitted for the construction of a capacious dock or basin on the eastern side of the present pier. The Committee recommended the adoption of this beneficial scheme to the consideration of the Carmarthenshire Railroad Co., who were already in possession of Parliamentary powers under the Act 42 Geo. III. As this recommendation did not find favour with the Company, the plan was dropped, but the scheme for laying down buoys was proceeded with, after £250 had been collected from voluntary subscriptions by the Treasurer, Charles Nevill of the Copperworks Co. But owing to the lack of a permanent source of monetary resources, there was no regular supervision of these buoys and they decayed to such an extent that two only were in position in 1807. Again, there is further evidence of attempts to ameliorate conditions with the provision in 1810 of a small skiff as Pilot boat and manned by four skilled pilots, but it is reported that “such was the antipathy of the natives to these innovations that buoy No. 1 was on the 17th June, 1811, forcibly taken from the men employed in removing the same from Whitford Sker, where it had drifted from its proper position”; it is surmised that “smuggling and wrecking had been a favourite pastime with the old people,” which would probably account for their deep-rooted bitterness against these precautionary measures. Further, very serious complaints were consistently made on the necessity for greater safety at the Dock of the Carmarthenshire Railroad, because the dock entrance faced the direction of the currents during rough weather, and as a result captains of vessels were not always prepared to return after their first experience. This may be verified from the statement that “it is useless getting coals when the ships are driven from the place. I have now near 5,000 tons ready for shipping. My son and brother have also many cargoes of culm, bricks, clay, etc., ready, and bid fare to become great customers to the Road and Dock if the same is properly executed. The persons that last year sent here for coals from Ireland are constantly writing to know if it is safe for their ships to come again.”14

Harbour Act, 1813, and the Expansion of the Port.
Synchronising with, and emanating from the widely scattered diffusion of the above derogatory and adverse reports on the state of the Harbour, was the first local Harbour Act of the 2nd July, 1813, for the improvement of the navigation of the Rivers Burry, Loughor and Lliedi in the Counties of Carmarthen and Glamorgan. A Bill in pursuit of these powers had been contemplated the previous year, but owing to the intense opposition of interested parties, the measure had to be deferred for a year. The Act authorised the appointment of Harbour Commissioners, of whom there were sixty, including amongst others the representatives of Lords of Seigniories and Lordships, the Portreeve of the Borough of Llanelly, R. J. Nevill, F. C. Pemberton, Alexander Raby, Thomas Mansel Talbot, George Bowser, R. A. Daniel, Henry Child, Sir William Dundas, Rhys Jones, Sir William Paxton, John Rees of Kilymaenllwyd, Major-General Warde, John Roberts, Capt. Wedge and Robert Williams. A large number of these were Burgesses of the Borough, who had been given powers under the 1807 Enclosure Act to devote the residue of the moneys from the public estates to the improvement of the Town and Harbour, while some of them were interested in the industrial growth of the town. In consequence of the Act, the ballast bank that now runs to form the pier was built, and this implies that the western side of the Carmarthenshire Dock was constructed as well as the formation of a breakwater by the extension of the above western side, so that with the completion of this work which took from 12 to 15 years, the Port was now in possession of a harbour. This proved to be a most judicious undertaking and, combined with schemes for the deepening of the navigable channel, resulted in a remarkable increase in the trade of the port, which, according to the submitted evidence, had been declining towards the close of the 18th century; in fact, by 1819 Llanelly was described as being one of the most thriving ports in South Wales.

The extensive manufactures of the town had exerted great influence upon the improvement in the facilities of export and in 183015 there “were three excellent docks, now completed, furnished with landing stages. There is also a wet dock attached to the docks of the Copper works, having a depth of 12 feet at the lowest neap tides. The graving dock of the railway company is admirably constructed, and from the end of it a break water extends, enabling vessels to be in smooth water at all times. Each dock has a scouring reservoir attached to it, and there is besides, one reservoir of great capacity for scouring the harbour and the channel. A steam tug is in attendance to tow vessels in and out as occasion demands.” From 1800, when the export trade appeared to be on the wane, there was a gradual increase in the sea traffic, and from 1830 onwards, there were signs of increased prosperity which must be estimated from the number of vessels that paid tolls, together with the tonnage of coal despatched. In 1831, 816 vessels traded at the port, the total imports and exports dealt with being 53,844 tons, while in 1840, the number of vessels had increased to 1592 with a total tonnage of 115,792 tons. Again, in 1846, the number of vessels recorded was 2,170, with a tonnage of 166,890 tons. Sea traffic generally had increased during the century, and this was verified by Thomas Buckland, who was employed by various counties to procure statistical information on sea-borne traffic. At Llanelly,16 the increase between 1810 and 1840 was 5%, and from 1840 to 1846 it was 6¼%. This proportionate increase may be attributed to the additional exports of coal, copper and lead, the imports of raw material such as copper ore, clay, etc., which were essential for the industries which had been established in the town.

Opening of the New Dock, 1834.
Further evidence of its increased prosperity was the construction of the Llangennech or New Dock, which was opened in 1834 and recognised as the first floating or public dock in South Wales. The company procured its first Act of Parliament in 1828, but even at the date of its opening, ancilliary buildings such as warehouses, &c, had not been completed by 1837, since17 “its operations were seriously hampered for want of funds, e.g., coals brought by the railway from inland collieries to the terminus at Llanelly could be shipped only with great difficulty, and for that and other reasons it was absolutely essential to the development of the traffic that warehouses and other terminal works should be constructed at Llanelly on or near to the lands in question. The pecuniary resources of the Company at that time were so limited that it was not possible for the Company to construct such works." The channel from the basin to the Flats was made bigger in 1840, and again in 1850.

The Harbour Act of 1813, which had bestowed upon the Commissioners jurisdiction over the Burry Estuary and the control of the newly-established Llanelly Harbour, was the first of a series of statutory enactments which became operative during the following hundred years. In each of these Private Statutes, the powers of the governing body had been enhanced in some degree to carry out the necessary improvements to the Harbour. Again, according to the financial provisions of the Act, the Commissioners were empowered to levy a rate of 1d per ton or less in quantity on goods transported over the Burry Bar, and to borrow a sum not exceeding £2,000 by mortgage on the security of the above rate. These two features of schemes for harbour improvement and the adaptation of financial arrangements for their execution, stand out as dominant factors in all these Acts. Associated with the characteristics was the far-reaching influence of the industrial changes in the construction of vessels of greater carrying capacity, and these circumstances engendered new conditions and created fresh problems for the governing body in the necessity for the provision and maintenance of a navigable channel, deep enough for this purpose. This apparently insurmountable difficulty, with its financial implications, became accentuated with the passage of time and remained the keynote of harbour policy throughout the period.

1843 Harbour Act.
On the 1st August, 1843, the Royal Assent was given to the second Harbour Act to alter and amend the 1813 Act, and to improve the Harbour of Llanelly. Powers were granted to extend and enlarge the authority vested in the Commissioners, while certain places, formerly within the jurisdiction of the Port of Swansea, were placed under the authority of local Commissioners, who were also empowered to erect embankments, locks, sluices, etc. Other measures specified in the Act included the construction of a Reservoir, which was built on the site of the present North Dock, for the purpose of scouring the harbour, the extension and improvement of the Breakwater, and also the hire and purchase of tugs, crane and weighing machines. Further, the Commissioners obtained powers to purchase, if necessary, the Dock and Reservoir belonging to the Carmarthenshire Tramroad Co., who had been given parliamentary authority over these properties in the Act of 1802. It is also very significant that this Act contained an injunction forbidding the Commissioners, in the execution of any schemes, from rendering the channels leading to the various docks, such as the dock of the Llanelly Railway and Dock Co. (the G.W.R. Dock), Nevill’s Dock, Burry Port Dock and shipping places at Loughor and Penclawdd, less navigable. Again, the Commissioners were given powers to borrow £20,000. The trade of the Port continued to decrease for a few years, because in 1845, the number of vessels that frequented the port was 2,061, with a total export of 149,909 tons, while in 1848, the ships totalled 2,052 with an export tonnage of 145,777 tons.

1858 Habour Act.
The next stage in this legislative series was the Burry Navigation and Llanelly Harbour Act, 1858, which repealed and re-enacted some of the provisions of the 1813 and 1843 Acts. The Commissioners were authorised to divert and lead the River Lliedi and the Cille stream by a cut or embankment from the Old Castle into the Carmarthenshire Dock, where sluice gates were built to retain the diverted waters which were used for the scouring of the harbour channel. They carried out also, an extension to the Breakwater embankment, and the Pier at the western approach to the harbour. There was also provision for the election of two members of the Local Board of Health as Commissioners on this “ad hoc” body. Problems arising from the depth of the channel were apparently becoming serious, because the subsequent Act of 1864 authorised the Commissioners to maintain, and further improve the Harbour of Llanelly, while they were given authority to erect and maintain two Lighthouses, one at the Harbour entrance, and the second at Whitford Point.

This Act of 1858 was a definite landmark in the history of the Port, since representation of the Local Board of Health was promoted by the restrictive financial powers and resources of the Commissioners. The important local Act of 1807 had authorised that the residue of the rents and profits from time to time arising from the Public Estates should be applied to the improvement of the Town and Port or either of them. The failure of the inept and oligarchic Trustee government to implement this section of the Act connoted that the Commissioners were deprived of a reliable and constant source of revenue, and although this allocation of the residue of rents was included in the Provisional Order of 1850, transferring local government from the Trustees to a Local Board of Health, there is no evidence that the Commissioners benefited from this source. But the inclusion of two representatives from the Local Board of Health delineated the trend of events, which foreshadow the financial dependence of the Commissioners upon the Local Board. This significant assertion is corroborated at a meeting of the Commissioners on the 2nd April, 1875, under the chairmanship of J. S. Tregoning, who advocated that "a committee be appointed to wait upon the Local Board of Health for the purpose of ascertaining whether they will be prepared to promote an amalgamation of the Town and Port so as to concentrate the two financially under one management.” At the time of this recommendation, the Commissioners had bridged over temporarily their financial embarrassments, while the income of the bondholders had been guaranteed for the time being, but owing to the periodic recurrence of these frustrating situations of impoverishment, it was felt that as the manufactures of Llanelly would increase, together with faculties for land transport, so would the difficulties of maintaining the harbour be enhanced. These concepts were tantamount to their recognition of the indivisibility of the Town and Port, since the Port was an integral and vital factor in the economic and industrial life of the town.

Llanelly Harbour Act, 1878.
These were the circumstances which culminated in the joint promotion by the Commissioners and the Local Board of Health of a Bill which became law under the title of Llanelly Harbour Act, 1878, in which a change was effected in the constitution of the governing body, whose personnel included (1) All members of the Local Board of Health; (2) The Lord of the Seignories of Gower and Kilvey; (3) The Lord of the Lordship of Kidwelly; (4) The Lord of the Manor of Pembrey; (5) The Lord of the Layer of Gower; (6) The Portreeve or one of the Aldermen of the Borough of Loughor; (7) The Resident Superintendent for the time being of the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway Co., and (8) One person to be appointed by persons in receipt of dues on goods exported from or imported to the Copperworks Dock. This Act is very significant since it marked the transition front partial representation to complete control by the Local Board of Health, thus establishing a unity from which was initiated the financial dependence of Harbour expenses within the statutory limits upon the Local Treasury. This was lucidly defined in the clause in the Act stating “In case the funds in the hands of the Commissioners from Harbour revenue are at any time insufficient for the repayment of any monies borrowed by the Commissioners with the consent of the Local Board under the authority of this Act or for the payment of any interest or any monies so borrowed as aforesaid at such time repayable or payable, then and in every such case, the Local Board shall, after demand in writing pay to the order of the Commissioners any sum or sums so demanded out of the surplus income of the public estates for the time being in the hands of the Local Board and out of the accruing income.” Accordingly, the contributions from the residue of funds from the Public Estates, which had been legally permissible since the 1807 Act but which had not been implemented had become obligatory in this Act. When the original Commissioners relinquished their duties in 1878 they had spent £49,977 14s. 10d., while their outstanding liabilities amounted to £28,260, and under the provisions of lie present Act, they were empowered to borrow a sum not exceeding £50,000, but this amount was to include the sum still owing. The amount paid as precept by the Local Board of Health under the 1878 Act to the Harbour Commissioners was £13,556 33s 11d., which was equivalent approximately to the receipt of a sum between £500 and £600 per annum, probably the residue of the rent from the public estates. The opportune provision of these financial facilities enabled the Commissioners to consider proposals of a far-reaching character to solve the problem of harbour improvement.

The essential need was the maintenance of a deeper and wider channel from the harbour to the sea, adequate for the navigation of the larger-sized vessels frequenting the Port during the period. Towards the fulfillment of this most desired objective, Mr. Kinniple of the firm of Kinniple and Morris Engineers of London, was instructed on the 31st December, 1880, to submit a full and comprehensive report for improving the harbour and securing a fixed channel. Owing to the entrance channel closing up with the easily-shifting silt, he reported on the 4th November, 1887 that, “ as late as the autumn of 1883, it was considered dangerous for a vessel to enter the harbour drawing more than 12 or 13 feet at high water of ordinary spring tides.” Subsequently, the expert advice of other eminent engineers such as Sir Alexander Rendel, Commander Jarrad, and others were sought, and of these, Commander Jarrad submitted plans for alternative schemes, one of which was estimated to cost £5,500, while his second suggestion was simpler, involving the deepening of the channel from the Lighthouse towards the sea for a distance of 600 yards at a cost of £2,000, but the Commissioners proceeded with their own independent scheme.

1896 and 1901 Harbour Acts.
Stimulated by the prospects of improved trade through the great developments in the Anthracite coalfield, and Llanelly as the nearest port not being able to cater for the increasing output owing to inadequate export equipment, the Commissioners were granted powers in 1896 to construct a Dock and other works for the improvement of the Port of Llanelly. The latter included the extension of the Training Walls constructed in the Loughor River under the Act of 1864, and the diversion of the Llanelly and Mynydd Mawr Railway to provide an appropriate entrance to the Dock. Although the project received the support of the townspeople at a well-attended public meeting, intensive opposition was encountered from the Great Western Railway representative who maintained that the project would cause not only irreparable injury to their own Dock, but would also bring heavy financial burdens to the ratepayers. According to the terms of the bill, the Commissioners were granted powers to mortgage the harbour revenue, and as collateral security charge the monies borrowed on the income of public estates and, as a further collateral security any deficiency for the payment of interest and principal was to become a charge on the water and district rates to an extent not exceeding 1/- in the £ authorised under the Llanelly Local Board Act of 1888; this collateral security was to terminate at the end of sixty years from 1st January, 1897. As this rate implied a direct payment annually from the ratepayers in contradistinction to the indirect contribution from the income from Public Estates, it was deemed necessary to solicit their support, and at a public meeting held in September, 1895, the ratepayers favoured the proposal on condition that a further meeting was convened after the deposition of the Bill. In consequence of the rejection of the proposal at the meeting held on the 22nd January, 1896, a referendum was taken, with the result that 2,410 supported the motion and 1,605 voted against. While the indebtedness of the Commissioners amounted to £44,722 6s. 8d. in 1896, the actual amount paid as precept by the Urban Council under the 1896 Act was £10,994 13s. Under this Act, the period of compulsory purchase powers had been strictly limited to three years from the date of the Act, but owing to the long-drawn litigious dispute between the Commissioners and the Mynydd Mawr Railway Company, an extension of this period was necessary to exercise these powers. Renewed authority to borrow further sums of money on the same collateral security specified in the 1896 Act, was also necessary and these powers were granted in the 1901 Act.

The financial indebtedness of the Commissioners under the provisions of the 1878, 1896 and 1901 Harbour Acts involved a total of £225,787 l0s. 7d., of which their liabilities to the Bank of England alone amounted to £220,787 10s. 7d. Although the Commissioner’s Dock, or North Dock, was opened in January, 1904, the financial embarrassments of the Commissioners were such that they were not able to complete all the schemes authorised in the 1896 and 1901 Acts within the specified period ending 7th August, 1903. As their revenue was insufficient to pay interest on outstanding loans and was not adequate security for obtaining further loans, it was deemed expedient that the limit of 1;- in the £ as collateral security on the District Rate of the Urban District Council should be increased, and the period for which it was given extended. For this purpose, it was decided to promote a Bill, which was supported at two public meetings, attended approximately by 2,000 ratepayers, held on the 19th and 26th January, 1904 respectively, when it was decided that 2/- in the £ should be charged on the General District Rate as collateral security for the pursuance of the necessary schemes. But the rate-payers’ approval of this Bill and the increased rate of 2/- in the £ was given on the specific condition that the constitution of the governing Harbour Authority was changed to include fifteen Trustees elected by the ratepayers. In addition, there were included (2) Lord of the Seignories of Gower and Kilvey; (3) Lord of the Lordship of Kidwelly; (4) Lord of the Manor of Pembrey (5) Lord of the Layerage of Loughor; (6) One Trustee appointed by each of the following bodies - Great Western Railway Company, Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway Company, and the Burry Port Urban District Council, and (7) Two Trustees to be appointed by Mortgagees. All the elective Trustees of fifteen were chosen by ballot on the first day of September, 1904 and the first meeting was convened on the 12th September 1904. All the elective Trustees went out of office on the same day at the end of three years, but all were eligible for re-election. It is noteworthy that the fundamental principle of direct representation by the Local Urban Authority on this “ad hoc” body in virtue of the latter’s financial subservience to the District Council, was eliminated in the new arrangement except that the Town Clerk of the Local Authority was also Clerk to the Trust, and thus formed the liaison between the two bodies.

The Early 20th Century.
In retrospect, the Llanelly Harbour and Burry Navigation Commissioners who had contemplated the construction of the Dock and accessory works had applied to the Public Works Charity Commissioners for powers to borrow the necessary amount to launch the project, and as a result, the Bank of England had advanced over £200,000 to the Commissioners. As they were unable to meet arrears of interest owing to the belated opening of the Dock, a writ was issued by the Bank against the Commissioners, but an agreement was reached eventually between the two parties. The outcome was the Act of 1904 in which the rate of security was raised to 2/- in the £, and the responsibilities of harbour administration transferred to the newly-constituted Harbour Trust. This Act consolidated the loans and interest owing to the Bank, amounting in September 1904, to £229,610 4s. 7d., and laid down how the Harbour revenue was to be applied.

Between 1904 and 1910, the Trust was given sanction, after an official inquiry by the Board of Trade, to borrow further sums of money amounting to £12,000 for the purpose of improving the channel and constructing a spur wall, but there is no evidence that this money had been borrowed before 1910. During the latter year, there had been such little improvement in the financial position of the Trust that they applied to the Bank of England for the renewal of the loan at the reduced rate of 3½%, but with its refusal to agree to a decrease of ½%, the Bank submitted a counter proposal of a reduction in the rate of interest to 3%, provided the Urban District Council guaranteed a payment of interest and an instalment of the principal. By the acceptance of these terms, all the conditions agreed upon by both parties were embodied in the Act of 1910, which confirmed also the indenture of agreement made on 30th June, 1900, between the Trust, the Urban District Council and the Bank of England. The liabilities of the Trust were consolidated at £236,946 12s. 2d., an amount which was to be paid in 110 half-yearly payments each of £4,411 19s. 3d. Further, the Bank accepted a new responsibility in advancing another loan of £40,000 at 4% to the Trust, while the Urban District Council pledged the District Rate without any reference to the limit, as collateral security.

The precepts paid to the Llanelly Harbour Authority under their Acts, 1878-1910 were as follows:—

  £ s d
1. Under the 1878 Act £13,566 3 11
2. Under the 1896 Act £10,994 13 0
3. Under the 1901 Act £14,417 17 5
4. Under the 1904 and 1910 Acts:—
1905 31st March, 1905 £5,256 6 3
1906 31st March, 1906 £8,358 3 10
1907 31st March, 1907 £8,556 2 8
1908 31st March, 1908 £8,572 13 7
1909 31st March, 1909 £9,129 14 0
1910 31st March, 1910 £8,977 1 3
1911 31st March, 1911 £7,514 0 8
1912 31st March, 1912 £7,600 0 0
1913 31st March, 1913 £8,000 0 0
1914 31st March, 1914 £8,000 0 0

A survey of the trade returns proves that the Port was essentially a coal exporting centre, but other articles of export were cast iron rolls, enamel ware, patent fuel, tin, terne and black plates, while the principal imports were pig iron, timber, scrap iron, and silica bricks, pitwood, sand, patent manures, etc. The vessels frequenting the port had been small craft but vast improvements were effected in the Harbour during the 19th century to enable vessels of greater carrying capacity to enter the port, while great efforts have been concentrated on improving the depth of the channel leading to the various docks by dredging. In consequence of these experiments, the channel was deepened and a vessel drawing 15 feet of water, with a cargo of 1,500 tons was able to enter or leave the port without danger, except under extraordinary weather conditions. The silting of the channel, combined with the tortuous bend near the Lighthouse has proved a serious handicap to the further development of the Port, which is the natural shipping centre for a district rich in anthracite coal resources and in industrial enterprise.
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