Former port of Laugharne

Former port of Laugharne

This bay, now largely covered in vegetation, was once a busy port. Until the growth of railways in the mid-19th century, most goods (and often people) came and went by sea. Bristol was the main destination, and that opened trade with the rest of the world.

Laugharne never had a proper quay. Some ships moored a little way out and discharged their cargoes into smaller ‘lighters’, which carried the goods upriver to St Clears or Carmarthen.

Others, with keel-less bottoms, would settle onto the mud and the cargo would be unloaded onto wheelbarrows and carts. That was an arduous task, as one resident explained, regarding his grandfather: “He brought coal over from Kidwelly to be sold here. It would take 10 days to unload it by baskets onto the horse drawn carts brought across at low tide. He said the hold was lit by one candle which would often go out because the air was so thick with coal dust. Then the boat would go back to Kidwelly on the rising tide.”

Educational reformer Griffith Jones (1683-1761) obtained thousands of bibles through the port of Laugharne for schools run by the Circulating Charity. A letter of 1749 reveals that he was awaiting arrival of the Racehorse with bibles from London, delayed due to stormy winds.

On the shore were warehouses for storing grain and other goods for export. One stood where the Dylan Thomas garden now is, on the far side of the car park. Alongside it was  the medieval Mariner’s Chapel, built for seafarers to pray for a fair journey or give thanks for safe return from frequently hazardous voyages. In the 18th century the Moravian Calvinist church used the chapel. Methodist leader Peter Williams occasionally preached there.

At the far end of the Strand is a large former warehouse, in front of which a limekiln was built in 1761. The lime trade’s development had probably accelerated Laugharne port’s growth. In the second half of the 16th century, liming of fields began to increase farming yields and also enable more land to be cultivated. The consequent rise in agricultural produce led to exports through the port. Coal and limestone needed for producing lime were heavy, so boats were the cheapest transport – and the boats carried agricultural produce when they returned.

With thanks to Peter Stopp, of Talacharn Community History

Postcode: SA33 4TS    View Location Map

Laugharne Lines website – more local history, with an ‘underground’ map of the town