Pentre farmhouse, St Clears

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In the early 18th century, Pentre was a tenant farm of c.114 acres. The farmhouse is a private residence – please respect the occupants’ privacy.

The farm then belonged to ‘Good’ Sir John Philipps of Picton Castle, Pembrokeshire, who sponsored good works including the Circulating Charity Schools established in Llanddowror, a parish also owned by Sir John.

Although many parishes had fee-paying schools, St Clears had none until the 1740s. Before then, local children had to go to Meidrim parish for schooling. Most families couldn’t afford school fees. They were extremely poor and often needed even their younger children to work for a few more pennies in the daytime. Most schools taught in English but most families were Welsh-speaking, often with little understanding of English.

Old aerial photo of Pentre farmhouse and co-op buildingRev Griffith Jones started his circulating schools c.1731. He trained teachers in Llanddowror who then travelled to other parishes to run a literacy school, plus evening classes, for several months. The teacher would then move to another parish. The schools were free, paid for by donations Griffith worked hard to obtain. One early school was held here in Pentre Farm in 1743.

The schools were so successful that parishes all over Wales requested them. Over the next 48 years 6,610 schools were held, across every Welsh county. They taught three quarters of the population of Wales to read in Welsh. By 1760 Wales had transformed into one of Europe’s most literate nations, and the Welsh language had become stronger.

Circulating school classes were held in existing buildings, especially on farms. The school held here in 1743 had just 18 pupils. Another held here in 1770 had 42 pupils. Perhaps word of their success had spread, leading to this growth in attendance.

At that time, what is now St Clears was in two parishes: St Clears west of the river and Llanfihangel Abercowyn to the east. While St Clears held three Circulating Charity Schools, Llanfihangel Abercowyn parish held 46, possibly more than any other parish in Wales! Nearly all farms in the parish would have hosted one, many several times over.

Pentre Farm continued to have strong community links for centuries. In the 20th century it had close ties with the farmers' co-op next door, now Y Gât, and with the local agricultural society and its annual shows. The old photo shows the farmhouse to the right of the co-op building.

With thanks to Peter Stopp, of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society

Postcode: SA33 4AA    View Location Map

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