By / 13th March, 2014 / Carmarthenshire / Off

Richard the Third and his links with Carmarthen

Richard Third Carmarthen

The death and recently excavated remains of Richard the Third  are currently in the news  and visitors to Carmarthen will be interested to know that the Welsh soldier who was said to have been responsible for his death at The Battle of Bosworth in 1485 was Rhys ap Thomas of Dynevor. His remains lie in St Peter’s Church at the top of King Street in the town. Rhys was born in Llandeilo in 1449 and died in 1525 when he was buried at The Friary in Carmarthen. The tomb was moved to St Peter’s 13 years later where it still lies.

Rhys Ap Thomas 1449 – 1525 – what actually happened?

In August 1485 Henry Tudor and Rhys’s forces marched separately through Wales, with Rhys recruiting 500 men as he proceeded. They rejoined at Welshpool before crossing into England. Rhys’s Welsh force was described as being large enough to have “annihilated” the rest of Henry’s army. On 22 August, they met the army of Richard the Third near Market Bosworth. In the resulting Battle of Bosworth, Richard the Third launched an attack led by John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk. According to a contemporary ballad, Rhys’s men halted the assault. “Norfolk’s line began to break under pressure from Rhys ap Thomas’s men” and the Duke was killed by an arrow shot. In desperation to kill Henry, Richard the Third charged directly at him. He was unhorsed and surrounded. The poet Guto’r Glyn implies that Rhys himself was responsible for killing Richard, possibly with a poll axe. It could be that one of Rhys’s Welsh halberdiers killed the king,  Guto’r Glyn himself says that Rhys was “like the stars of a shield with the spear in their midst on a great steed” (“A Syr Rys mal sŷr aesaw, Â’r gwayw’n eu mysg ar gnyw mawr”). He was knighted on the field of battle.

Rhys himself died at Carmarthen Priory in 1525. After Henry VIII suppressed the monasteries, Rhys’s tomb was moved to St. Peter’s Church, also in Carmarthen.Carmarthen-Church-St-Peters-2

Rhys’s estates and offices were meant to pass to his grandson and heir Rhys ap Gruffydd, however they were taken by the Crown and given to Lord Ferrers for life. Rhys ap Gruffydd was later beheaded by Henry VIII in 1531 for treason after fighting Ferrers and provoking civil unrest amongst the citizens of Carmarthen who were still angry about the disinheritance.

St Peter’s Church – Carmarthen

The church is one of the largest in the Diocese of St David’s being 52 metres long from west to east. It is built of local stone and and was renovated quite extensively in 2000 – 01. There is a memorial tablet to Dr Robert Ferrar who was one of 5 bishops burnt at the stake and the only one in Wales during the reign of Queen Mary in 1555.

Some of the visitors who stay at Old Oak Barn love visiting Carmarthen Museum in Abergwilli, The Castle ruins and the churches in the town. Nearly 2000 years of history surround the ancient parish church of St Peter which is by far the oldest in the town and well worth a visit. The organ itself was originally ordered by George Third and built for Windsor Castle but ended up in Carmarthen many years ago! It was rebuilt in 2001.