Sir John’s Hill, Laugharne

Link to Welsh translationSir John’s Hill, Laugharne

Portrait of Sir John Perrot, Lord of LaugharneThis hill is still called Sir John’s Hill after Sir John Perrot (1528-1592), the colourful Elizabethan Lord of Laugharne Manor.

According to his son, Sir John “could not brooke any crosses” (would not tolerate dissent). Sir John, born in Haroldston, Pembrokeshire, held many prestigious posts. As Vice-Admiral of the Welsh Seas, his tasks included preventing piracy – although he probably often benefited himself from pirated loot! He constructed a dwelling on the hilltop as a lookout post – hence the hill’s name.

Sir John (pictured right) cheated local burgesses in order to expand his sheep farming on the marshes south of the hill. As Lord Deputy of Ireland, he seized land from the Irish on behalf of English settlers but eventually got into trouble for not treating Roman Catholics harshly. After an Anglican bishop made false allegations of treason, Sir John was held in the Tower of London and died there, aged 64.

The headland here is known as Barques Point. Water draining from the marshes through Railsgate Pill scours a channel where sailing ships could moor safely when Laugharne was a busy trading port (16th to mid-19th century). The ships included barques, although people often called any large sailing boat a barque.

During the First and Second World Wars, Sir John’s Hill again housed a lookout post, maintained throughout the Cold War as well.

Near the QR codes by Salthouse Farm gate is a plaque commemorating the footpath’s construction in 1886 by Laugharne Corporation. Six centuries earlier, the Normans had taken over Laugharne and allocated strips of land by the castle to incomers – known as burgesses – who would support them and defend the castle if necessary. The burgesses elected their Corporation leader every six months, a jury to adjudicate disputes and two constables to maintain order.

Laugharne is almost unique in still having an active Corporation from this era. Laugharne Corporation owns much land and property, including the land below the path here where the cliffs were once quarried – providing stone for ships’ ballast (for stability on empty voyages) and for Laugharne’s buildings, including the castle’s lower walls.

About the place-name ‘Laugharne’:

The anglicized form Laugharne derives from Talacharn with tâl- (‘end’) and the obscure Lacharn or Acharn which may be a compound of Welsh llachar (‘bright’) and carn (‘rock’). Talacharn was the name of the commote and lordship but was transferred to denote the town at an early date.

With thanks to Peter Stopp, of Talacharn Community History, and to Prof Dai Thorne, of the Welsh Place-Name Society

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