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Laugharne /ˈlɑːrn/ (Welsh: Talacharn) is a town located on the south coast of Carmarthenshire, Wales, lying on the estuary of the River Tâf.

Laugharne from the castle (5842).jpg
Laugharne from the castle
Laugharne is located in Carmarthenshire
Location within Carmarthenshire
OS grid referenceSN301109
Principal area
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtSA33
FireMid and West Wales
EU ParliamentWales
List of places
51°46′10″N 4°27′47″W / 51.7694°N 4.4631°W / 51.7694; -4.4631Coordinates: 51°46′10″N 4°27′47″W / 51.7694°N 4.4631°W / 51.7694; -4.4631

Laugharne is within the electoral ward and community of Laugharne Township (Welsh: Treflan Lacharn) The population at the 2011 census was 1,222.[1]

The ward includes Laugharne, the village of Pendine and Pendine Sands. It was the civil parish corresponding to the marcher borough of Laugharne. A predominantly English-speaking area, just south of the Landsker Line, it is bordered by the communities of Llanddowror, St Clears, Llangynog and Llansteffan.

Laugharne was the home of Dylan Thomas from 1949 until his death in 1953, and is thought to have been the inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggub in Under Milk Wood, though topographically it is more similar to New Quay where Thomas mostly lived whilst he wrote the story.[2]


Dylan Thomas's boathouse

Laugharne was originally part of Dyfed, which subsequently became part of Deheubarth. In 1093, Deheubarth was seized by the Normans following Rhys ap Tewdwrs death.[3] In the early 12th century, grants of lands were made to Flemings by King Henry I when their country was flooded.[4]

In 1116, when Gruffydd ap Rhys (the son and heir of Rhys ap Tewdwr) returned from self-imposed exile, the king arranged for the land to be fortified against him; according to the Brut y Tywysogyon, Robert Courtemain constructed a castle at Laugharne in that year[5] (this is the earliest reference to any castle at or near Laugharne[6]). Courtemain may be the Robertus cum tortis manibus (English: Robert with twisted hands)[7] mentioned in the Book of Llandaff, as one of a number of specifically name Norman Magnates[8] within the vicinity of the Llandaff diocese, who received a letter from Pope Callixtus II complaining about deprivations they had inflicted on diocesan church property;[7] in the letter, the Pope warns he would confirm Bishop Urban's proclamations against them, if they do not rectify matters. The Brut states that Courtemain appointed a man named Bleddyn ap Cedifor as castellan;[5] Bleddyn was the son of Cedifor ap Gollwyn, descendant and heir of the earlier kings of Dyfed (as opposed to those of Deheubarth).[5][9] The castle was originally known as the Castle of Abercorran.[citation needed]

When Henry I died, Anarchy occurred, and Gruffydd, and his sons, Lord Rhys in particular, gradually reconquered large parts of the former Deheubarth. In 1154, the Anarchy was resolved when Henry II became king; two years later, Lord Rhys agreed peace terms with Henry II and prudently[10] accepted that he would only rule Cantref Mawr,[10] constructing Dinefwr Castle there. Henry II de-mobilised Flemish soldiers who had aided him during the Anarchy, settling them with the other Flemings.[4]

From time to time, however, King Henry had occasion to go to Ireland, or Normandy, which Lord Rhys took as an opportunity to try and expand his own holdings. Returning from Ireland after one such occasion, in 1172, King Henry made peace with Lord Rhys, making him the justiciar of South Wales (ie. Deheubarth). By 1247, Laugharne was held by Guy de Bryan; this is the earliest reference to his family possessing the castle,[6] and his father (also named Guy de Bryan) had only moved the family to Wales in 1219 (from Devon).[6] Guy de Bryan's descendants continued to hold the castle; his namesake great-grandson was Lord High Admiral of England. The latter's daughter Elizabeth inherited the castle and married an Owen of St Bride's who subsequently took his name – Owen Laugharne – from the castle[11] despite Gerald of Wales calling the castle Talachar, and other variations on Laugharne/Talacharn appearing in ancient charters; one anonymous pre-20th century writer erroneously claimed that the Owen Laugharne gave his name to the castle rather than the other way around.[11]

Possession subsequently defaulted to the Crown, and in 1575, Queen Elizabeth gave it to Sir John Perrot[6] (allegedly her bastard half-brother,[12]) returning to the crown after his death. In 1644 the castle was garrisoned for the king and taken for Parliament by Major-General Rowland Laugharne, who subsequently reverted to the king's side. This led Cromwell to lay siege to the castle, leaving it in ruins.

St Martin's ChurchEdit

Tower of St Martin's church
Dylan Thomas's grave in Laugharne churchyard

The parish church of St Martin dates from the 14th century when it was built by the Lord of the Manor of Laugharne Sir Guido de Brian, who also built the Church of St Margaret Marloes, Eglwyscummin some 5 miles (8.0 km) to the west.[13]

The church is situated within a rectilinear churchyard, bounded by former strip fields, extending some 200 metres (660 ft) to the south and 400 metres (1,300 ft) to the east. It is thought that the church's original dedication was to St Michael, as it was reportedly referred to by this name in 1494 and 1849. Cist burials have reportedly been identified in the churchyard. A small, ornamented wheel-topped stone was reportedly excavated during grave-digging. At the time of the foundation borough of Laugharne, by a charter of 1278, the church belonging to the Rural Deanery of St Clears and a prebend of Winchester Cathedral. Before 1777 the churches of St Lawrence's Church, Marros and St Cyffic's Church, Cyffic were dependencies, but these both then became parish churches in their own right. In 1927 a medieval tile and what is thought to have been part of a canopied tomb, were found in the churchyard. The churchyard's eighteenth and nineteenth century monuments in the churchyard are Grade II listed for their group value.[14]

Inside the church is a shaped cross-slab dating from the Dark Ages, probably the 9th-10th century, built into the east wall of the south transept and has an unusual Celtic design carved onto it. Some historians claim the design is of Viking origin. There is thick ropework, in the form of looped interlacing, running up from the bottom to the cross-head. Close to the edges there is thinner knotwork. The large round-shaped cross-head has a Latin-style cross in the centre with a small boss in the middle of that and oval looped links between the arms.[13]

The church is today part of the United Benefice of Bro Sancler. Welsh poet and playwright Dylan Thomas is buried in the churchyard, his grave marked by a white cross.[13][14][15]

Other landmarksEdit

Attractions in the town include the 12th-century Laugharne Castle,[16] the town hall and the birdlife of the estuary.

Laugharne contains many fine examples of Georgian townhouses, including "Great House" and Castle House, both grade II* listed buildings, with a scattering of earlier vernacular cottages.[17]

There are a number of landmarks in Laugharne connected with the poet and writer Dylan Thomas. These include: The Boathouse, where he lived with his family from 1949 to 1953, and now a museum; his writing shed; and the Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk, which was the setting for the work Poem in October.[18]

Laugharne CorporationEdit

Laugharne Corporation is an almost unique institution and, together with the City of London Corporation, the last surviving mediæval corporation in the United Kingdom. The Corporation was established in 1291 by Sir Guy de Brian (Gui de Brienne), a Marcher Lord.[19] The Corporation is presided over by the Portreeve, wearing his traditional chain of gold cockle shells, (one added by each portreeve, with his name and date of tenure on the reverse), the Aldermen, and the body of Burgesses. The title of portreeve is conferred annually, with the Portreeve being sworn in on the first Monday after Michaelmas at the Big Court. The Corporation holds a court leet half-yearly formerly dealing with criminal cases, and a court baron every fortnight, dealing with civil suits within the lordship, especially in matters related to land, where administration of the common fields was dealt with.[19] The Laugharne open field system is one of only two surviving and still in use today in Britain. The most senior 76 burgesses get a strang of land on Hugden for life, to be used in a form of mediaeval strip farming.

Customs associated with the Corporation include the Common walk (also known as beating the bounds), which occurs on Whit Monday every three years. This event is attended by most of the young and firm local population, their number swelled by many visitors. The local pubs open at approx 5.00 in the morning, and following a liquid breakfast the throng commence a trek of some 25 miles around the boundaries of the Corporation lands. At significant historical landmarks a victim is selected to name the place. If they cannot answer, they are hoisted upside down and ceremonially beaten three times on the rear.

Laugharne Corporation holds extensive historical records.[20]

Charter of LaugharneEdit

The Charter of Laugharne came about during a tempestuous time in local Welsh history.[citation needed]

Notable residentsEdit

Castle House, Laugharne
Wogan Street (1880)
Dylan Thomas's writing shed
  • Bridget Bevan, also known as Madam Bevan. She was the chief supporter of Griffith Jones and his system of circulating schools—the father of the modern schooling system in Wales.[21] She died at Laugharne in 1779.
  • The clergyman and one-time Dean of Gloucester Josiah Tucker was born at Laugharne in December 1713.
  • The author and traveller James Augustus St. John was born at Laugharne on 24 September 1795.
  • The Australian pastoralist and politician Arnold Wienholt, Sr. was born at Laugharne on 22 January 1826.[22] His brother Edward Wienholt, another Australian politician, was also born at Laugharne, on 28 March 1833.[23]
  • The nun, Mother Agnes Mason was born at Laugharne on 10 August 1849.[24]
  • Joseph Arthur Hamilton Beresford, Australian naval commander, and hero of the capture of German New Guinea during the Great War, was born at Laugharne in 1861. His son, Arthur Edward Bathurst Beresford, was killed in France during the Great War.
  • The first Welsh soldier to win the Victoria Cross during the Great War of 1914–1918, Private William Charles Fuller, VC of the 2nd Battalion, Welsh Regiment, was born at Newbridge Road, Laugharne on 13 March 1884.
  • The one-time director of the Johnson Space Centre George Abbey is the son of Bridget Gibby, of Laugharne. Bridget was working in London when she met George's father, Sam Abbey, and the couple married before moving to Seattle, where George was born on 21 August 1932.
  • Poet Dylan Thomas lived in Laugharne – in rented accommodation – from early 1938 to July 1940, then returned in May 1949 to live with his family in the Boat House until his death in 1953. He is buried in Laugharne churchyard.
  • Gary Pearce was one of the outstanding outside halves in Wales during the early 1980s, playing for Laugharne, Bridgend, Llanelli and Wales, before turning professional with Hull KR. He was born at Laugharne on 11 November 1960.

Laugharne weekendEdit

Laugharne hosts a three-day arts festival in the spring, the Laugharne Weekend. The festival's inauguration was in 2007, featuring writers such as Niall Griffiths and Patrick McCabe. Headline performers since then have included Ray Davies, Will Self, Howard Marks and Patti Smith. Although the town's Millennium Hall was used as the main venue, smaller events were hosted by local venues including Dylan Thomas's Boathouse.[25]


  1. ^ "Community population 2011". Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Under Milk Wood – A Chronology". Dylan Thomas The Official Website. The City and County of Swansea. 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  3. ^ Jones, John (1824). The History of Wales, Descriptive of the Government, Wars, Manners, Religion, Laws, Druids, Bards, Pedigrees and Language of the Ancient Britons and Modern Welsh, and of the Remaining Antiquities of the Principality. London: J. Williams. pp. 63–64. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  4. ^ a b Tyler, R. H.; et al. (1925). Laugharne: Local History and Folklore. Llandysul: Gomer Press.
  5. ^ a b c Davies, R. R. (1987). Conquest, Coexistence, and Change: Wales 1063–1415. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 101. ISBN 0198217323.
  6. ^ a b c d Avent, Richard (2006). "Laugharne Castle". In Lloyd, Thomas; Orbach, Julian; Scourfield, Robert (eds.). Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. The Buildings of Wales. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 219–27 (219–220). ISBN 9780300101799.
  7. ^ a b Lloyd, John Edward (1907). "Carmarthen in Early Norman Times". Archaeologia Cambrensis. 6th ser. 7: 290.
  8. ^ The other named magnates are Walter fitz Richard, Brian Fitz Count, William Fitz-Baldwin (son of Baldwin FitzGilbert), Robert de Chandos (who held Caerleon), Geoffrey de Broi, Pain fitzJohn, Bernard de Neufmarche, Gumbald of Ludlow, Roger de Berkeley (Lord of Dursley, and possible son of Roger I of Tosny), William the sheriff of Cardiff, William Fitz-Roger de Remu, and Robert Fitz Roger.
  9. ^ Davies, R. R. (2000). The Age of Conquest: Wales, 1063–1415. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 70. ISBN 0198208782.
  10. ^ a b Venning, Timothy (2017). Kingmakers: How Power in England Was Won and Lost on the Welsh Frontier. Stroud: Amberley. ISBN 9781445659404.
  11. ^ a b "Notices of the castle and ownership of Laugharne, Carmarthenshire". Gentleman's Magazine. 12: 602. 1839.
  12. ^ Owen, Henry (2009) [1902]. Old Pembroke Families in the Ancient County Palatine of Pembroke. BiblioBazaar. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-110-91492-0. Retrieved 10 September 2009.
  13. ^ a b c Burnham, Andy. "St Martin's Church (Laugharne)". Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  14. ^ a b "ST MARTIN'S CHURCH, LAUGHARNE - Coflein". Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  15. ^ Wales, The Church in. "Churches". The Church in Wales. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  16. ^ "Laugharne Castle". Visit Wales. The Welsh Government. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Listed Buildings in Laugharne Township, Carmarthenshire, Wales". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  18. ^ "Dylan Thomas' Laugharne". Visit Wales. The Welsh Government. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  19. ^ a b "Laugharne Corporation Records - Archives Hub". Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  20. ^ [1] Carmarthenshire Archives Service website
  21. ^ "Griffith Jones and the Circulating Schools". Wales. 19 July 2010. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  22. ^ Waterson, D.B. "Wienholt, Arnold (1826–1895)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition. Canberra: Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  23. ^ Waterson, D.B. "Wienholt, Edward (1833–1904)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition. Canberra: Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  24. ^ Julia Bolton Holloway, ‘Mason, (Frances) Agnes (1849–1941)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 12 Nov 2016
  25. ^ Laugharne Weekend website

External linksEdit