St Clears is a popular town set on the banks of the Laugharne estuary with a population of nearly 3000. It is perhaps most famous because in 1842, one of the local toll gates was destroyed in the Rebecca Riots. Old Oak Barn is situated just over a mile north of the village.
History goes back to Norman times when the castle was built in the 12th century. Only the castle mound can still be seen, which rises to approximately 12 metres and was home to first a timber tower and then a stone keep. The town, which was a Marcher Borough, grew around the castle. Below the castle there was a port on the river Tâf, which could take ships of up to 500 tons according to a plaque on the site.
It is interesting to read that the castle held out against Owain Glyndwr or Owain Glyn Dŵr, who was a Welsh ruler and the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales. He instigated a fierce and long-running but ultimately unsuccessful revolt against the English rule of Wales. In 1842, the town became famous for the destruction of one of its toll gates in the Rebecca Riots. The Normans also established a small priory under the supervision of the great abbey of St Martin les Champs in Paris. The priory church which is a Grade II listed building is now the parish church. It is worth a visit: it has a spectacular Romanesque arch inside.
Smaller industrial units provide the main local employment. The town boasts a good variety of local shops including two prize winning butchers, and two craft centres. There are also several pubs some of which are notable for their food. It is within an hour’s drive of two National Parks (Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast), the Gower Peninsula and also the three main Irish ferry ports (Fishguard, Pembroke Dock, and Swansea).
Nearby Trefenty House became the home of a branch of the Perrot family in the 16th century, and it was here that the amateur astronomer Sir William Lower and a neighbour, John Protheroe, set up one of Britain’s first telescopes in 1609, which they used to study the craters of the Moon and Halley’s Comet.
Officially opened in October 2002 by the Minister for Culture, the West Wales Centre for the Crafts at St Clears is a purpose-built working environment for a number of craftspeople and a showcase for quality visual arts.It is well worth a visit and many of our holiday makers enjoy a stroll around the town or a walk on the new St Clears Heritage Trail.
Below we list a few welsh words which you may like to practice! You will hear Welsh spoken in the town in most shops and pubs.
Diolch – Thank you
Helo – Hello
Os gwelwch yn dda – please
Hwyl fawr – good bye
Sut wyt ti? How are you?
Farm – fferm
Tree – coed
Bird – aderyn
Flower – blodyn
River – Afon
St Clears – San Cler!!
What was it like in Carmarthenshire near St Clears 300 years ago?
300 years ago Carmarthenshire towns were small and the majority lived in the countryside and of course most people worked the land and lived by farming.From the information contained in the Hearth Tax returns for Carmarthenshire county in 1670, about 20 per cent of the population were classified as paupers on the grounds that they were regarded as being unable to pay the hearth tax amounting to one shilling payable half-yearly on each hearth in a person’s possession. There was also another category of poor persons, namely, those who were in receipt of ‘constant alms’ and who were on that account not always accounted for in the tax lists. So in other words we may argue that between 25 and 30 per cent of the population were “poor”, and had no legal access to the land except by selling their labour. About 60-70 percent of the population comprised the yeomen, free holders, tenant farmers, craftsmen, tradesmen, etc. At this time very few people would have been able to read or write.
By the seventeenth century more evidence is available to show that Carmarthen and the creeks and landing places at Marros, Laugharne, Llanstephan, Llangain, St. Ishmael and Cydweli, could muster numerous ships, boats and lighters, which were owned and often manned by local mariners. SO while trade was also important it was the little farming communities which would have been the backbone of the economy around St Clears.
Who was Griffith Jones?
Griffith Jones also spelt Gruffydd Jones was born near Carmarthen at Penboyr in 1684 when Charles 2 ruled England and at this time Wales was still very much a rural society but soon to undergo a religious revival in the form of Methodism.
He was educated at Carmarthen Grammer School and then in 1716 Griffith Jones was made the rector of Llanddowror Church where he remained for the rest of his life. He is an important figure in Welsh history and his achievements are always referred to as those of ‘Griffith Jones Llanddowror’. In 1731, he began to organise circulating schools in Carmarthenshire, influenced by his learning and the ideology of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) of which he was a member. Jones was inspired to set up these reading schools so that the common people might read the Bible and, in so doing, learn things necessary for their salvation. SO while he was motivated to teach people to read it was believed that in being able to read the Bible they would be saved! What excitement there must have been when the news spread that the school was coming your way soon!
The little schools held lessons in each location for only around three months mainly on a Sunday before moving on to the next place; it was a project which rapidly extended into the whole of Wales. It was for the whole family not just the children. The main texts for his schools were the Bible and the Catechism of the Church of England. It is estimated that by his death in 1761, over 300,000 people had learned to read, and they were people of all ages.
He was supported in his work by a wealthy philanthropist, Madam Bridget Bevan. She lived for some of her life in Laugharne, of Dylan Thomas fame and she continued to manage and support the schools, after Griffith Jones’s death. His legacy was a nation with a largely literate population, who also had a deep knowledge of Christian scriptures. It is for this reason as much as for his fervent open air preaching, that many have suggested that Griffith Jones was the forerunner of the Methodist movement in Wales. He almost single-handedly prepared the way for the new religious fervor and revivalist ideas which swept the country during the mid and late eighteenth century. Both Griffith Jones and Madam Bevan were buried in Llanddowror Church.
THE WELSH LANGUAGE
The circulating schools taught people to read in their native language, Cymraeg. Being a phonetic language, Welsh was a language that its speakers could learn to read relatively quickly. Bishops in Carmarthen had masterfully translated the New Testament and Book of Common Prayer into Welsh back in 1567 and the work of translating the Bible was completed by Bishop William Morgan in 1588. This meant that Griffith Jones and the peripatetic teachers could deliver the teaching and use the scriptures in the people’s own language, and it is likely that by the end of the eighteenth century, the majority of Welsh adults were literate in Welsh – an amazing feat which was the subject of high praise from Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, no less! In 1764 she commissioned a report on Griffith Jones’s schools. There were few nations at that time who could boast a literate majority!
For those wanting to explore this lovely area of Carmarthenshire why not check out our website at Old Oak Barn near St Clears and come and stay!
There is lots on at the Gardens of Wales this Autumn. We have space at Old Oak Barn for weekend breaks for most of these events and we highly recommend a visit to the Gardens which from October 1st are open from 10.00am to 4.30pm.
|Garden of Wales near Carmarthen|
Below are the main events up to Christmas 2013 planned for The Garden of Wales.
October 19-20: Apple Weekend – a harvest festival of everyone’s favourite fruit with amazing displays, fun and games plus chutney, cider, pork and other tasty titbits.
Sunday October 20: Hertford Voices. 35-strong choir from Hertfordshire with a classical/light mix repertoire. On the stage in the Great Glasshouse, 30-minute spots at 12, 1 and 2pm
Sunday October 27: Towy Valley Vintage Club Annual ‘Crankdown’ in Millennium Square
Wednesday October 30: Wacky Wednesday – lots of family fun
November 8: Swansea Astronomical Society Star Party 6pm-9pm
November 9-10: Gift Fair in the Great Glasshouse
Thursday December 5 – Schools’ Christmas Tree Decorating Competition
Sat-Sun December 7-8: Christmas Craft Fair in the Great Glasshouse PLUS Santa show at 11.30; 12.30; 2pm; 3pm
Sat-Sun December 14-15: Christmas Food Fair in the Great Glasshouse PLUS Santa shows at 11.30; 12.30; 2pm; 3pm
Snow at Old Oak Barn
Heavy snowfall in January 2013 meant a pretty landscape for visitors and plenty of tobogganing possible too. Today January 24th there is beautiful sunshine which is melting some of the 4 inches we had yesterday. For visitors wanting peace and quiet with woodland walks Old Oak Barn has been a good choice this winter despite some heavy rainfall late 2012. Hoping for a dry Spring so the saturated land can dry up a bit ready for the lambs.
Come and stay at Old Oak Barn in Carmarthenshire this winter and enjoy some amazing walks in the woods – we have lots of birds to spot and you are welcome to feed the chickens too!
The beautiful Pendine Sands are near Old Oak Barn
Pendine is only a short distance from Old Oak Barn about 5 miles beyond Laugharne where of course many people take a wander to see the Castle and the home of Dylan Thomas as well as the famous writing shed.
Visitors to Old Oak Barn nearly always pop down to Pendine Sands to enjoy vast stretches of sand. The Pendine Museum of Speed has the famous Babs in situ and is well worth a visit too. Although the museum is shut during the winter.
SO why not stay with us at Old Oak Barn for either a long weekend, a mid week break or a week and take the children to see the popular sandy beach which is going to impress those who like open space and big views!