St Peter’s Church, Carmarthen

Link to French translationLink to Welsh translation

St Peter’s Church, Carmarthen

Strange though it may seem, this church once belonged to Battle Abbey, in Sussex! King Henry I conferred the church on the abbey in the early 12th century.

By then, Christians had probably worshipped at this spot for centuries. The churchyard’s original circular shape (before modification for road improvements) suggests it was established by Celtic missionaries, just inside the west gate of the former Roman walls.

The church was transferred from Battle Abbey to Carmarthen Priory in 1125. The building was altered many times. The nave and chancel may date from the 13th or 14th century. The porch was built in the late 15th or early 16th century, when the tower was rebuilt. Inside the porch you can see a Roman altar and a 13th-century coffin lid.

St Peter’s is the only church in Wales to feature a consistory court, where the Diocese of St Davids dealt with disputes relating to marriages and other subjects. It was here in 1555 that Bishop Henry Morgan heard the case of his predecessor Robert Ferrar, who was accused of heresy. Robert Ferrar was a Protestant and refused to become a Catholic, as required by the state. He was burned at the stake in Carmarthen’s market square on 30 March 1555.

Prominent inside the church is the tomb chest of Battle of Bosworth stalwart Sir Rhys ap Thomas, topped by an effigy of himself and his wife. Click here for details.

In the chancel you can find the grave of Walter Devereux. He was Earl of Essex and one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite courtiers. His body was brought here after his death in 1576 in Ireland, where he was her Earl Marshall (officer in charge of state ceremonies).

Another remarkable tomb here is that of Charlotte Dalton, who died in 1832 aged 27. Her grandfather was King George III, through his reputed secret marriage to Hannah Lightfoot in 1759. The couple had three children together including Catherine Augusta, who married Carmarthen doctor James Dalton in 1823. There was no annulment of a previous marriage before the king’s wedding in 1761 to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

The church organ, by George Pike England, dates from 1796 and was reputedly intended for Windsor Castle but gifted by George III to the church instead. Four of the church’s eight bells were cast in Gloucester in 1722.

In the churchyard, you can see the table-shaped tomb of General Sir William Nott (north of the church). He was a popular military leader, commemorated by a statue in Nott Square. The press reported that his funeral procession in 1845 was the biggest ever in Wales.

Postcode: SA31 1GW    View Location Map

Church website