Carmarthen quay

button-theme-canalbutton_lang_welshCarmarthen quay

The quay beside the river Towy might seem insignificant today but is one of the reasons a town developed here, reputedly the first town in Wales.

The town’s Roman name was written as Moridunum and Maridunum in the second century. It denoted a fort by the sea. Although the sea is quite far away, ships could travel this far upstream to supply the town.

Gerald of Wales and the Archbishop of Canterbury travelled up the river by boat to arrive in Carmarthen on 20 March 1188, during their tour of Wales to recruit for the third crusade. Gerald noted that the old town had been enclosed by brick walls, parts of which still survived. He noted that Carmarthen was surrounded by meadows and woods, including a forest to the east which was so thick it provided a haven for the Welsh.

The port at Carmarthen continued to develop after the Roman occupation. In medieval times it was a Staple Port – authorised for export of wool and other key commodities.

The surviving quay walls were built in the 19th century. Trade through the port increased rapidly in the 1840s (the last decade before Carmarthen joined the railway network). In response, the Bristol Steam Navigation Company decided in 1846 to dedicate another steamer to its service between Carmarthen and Bristol. There were concerns around that time that engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was about to cut off the port by building a railway bridge with a span over the water of only 12 metres (40ft) at the most – no wider than the paddle steamer Phoenix which regularly docked at Carmarthen.

Carmarthen was still regarded as a port town in the 1860s but was being eclipsed by coastal harbours, where larger ships could dock. In July 1872 to June 1873, only £66 was collected in taxes and duties at Carmarthen port – compared with £1,440 at Llanelli. The last ships docked at Carmarthen in the 1930s.

Carmarthen also had a ship-building tradition. One of the last ships launched here – after a gap of about 20 years – was the Lily, in July 1865. It was 23 metres long, with the masts and rigging of a schooner and a steam engine linked to a screw (underwater propeller). The launch took place just two months after the keel was laid down!

Postcode: SA31 3JP    View Location Map


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