(17) Llandeilo

Distance from Craig-y-Nos Castle 35 Miles

Llandeilo is named after one of the most eminent and celebrated Celtic Saints of the sixth century, Saint Teilo. The Welsh word " Llan " means a religious enclosure usually dedicated to a particular Saint. Saint Teilo, who was a contemporary of Saint David the patron Saint of Wales, established a small monastic settlement or " clas " on the site of the present day Church.

The early history of Llandeilo is therefore closely related to the establishment of Christianity in the area. The early Christian settlement that developed around the Church of Saint Teilo prospered and by the early ninth century it had attained considerable ecclesiastical status as the seat of a Bishop-Abbot. 

The Church of Saint Teilo soon became a " mother church " to the surrounding district, acquiring an extensive estate and possessing one of the principality's most beautiful and finely illustrated manuscripts - the Gospel Book of St. Teilo. The discovery of fragments of two large and rare Celtic crosses from this period provide further testimony to Llandeilo's importance and indeed prestige as an early ecclesiastical centre.

There is reference to Llandeilo being attacked and destroyed by Rhys Grug, a Welsh Lord in 1213, and to a small settlement and bridge at this location in 1289. There are also later stories of a bridge with a part-stone and part- wooden structure standing a short distance from the current bridge and joining the small village of Ffairfach on the southern bank to Llandeilo on the North. It was said to have had four narrow stone arches and to have been swept away by tree trunks brought down river by floods.

In 1301 and again in 1326, evidence of the Town's prosperity is confirmed by the high levels of annual rent paid by the 30 burgesses living in the locality to the Bishop of St. David's. At this time Llandeilo was granted a weekly market and was sanctioned to hold three annual fairs. It was by now the regional centre.

The attack by Owain Glyndwr in 1403, when much of the town was burnt, also perhaps emphasises the importance of Llandeilo during the Medieval period. Llandeilo managed to survive the turbulence of the rest of the Medieval period in a similar fashion to other West Wales market towns, mainly being concerned with the development of trade and establishing feudal rights. 

Visitors to Llandeilo in the 16th Century made little comment about the size and importance of the town except to note that it was still in the diocese of St. David's

In the late 1700s, there was ferry boat crossing the river at a cost of one halfpenny in each direction. This suggests that no bridge was surviving at that time.

The revival of agriculture and the growth of the local cattle trade in the late 18th Century provided the impetus for Llandeilo's development as a modern market and banking centre which was further promoted by the arrival of the railways during the last century.

The present fine one-arched bridge was built in 1848. Planned and constructed by local stone mason and architect Wiilliam Williams it was made of local stone by local craftsmen and with a central span of 145 feet, and a cost 22,000, it was long regarded as one of the wonders of Wales. 

Two miles down river from Llandeilo is Dynefwr Park the seat of the ancient Welsh Kings. A 'castle', a wooden stockade, was first built on the site by the Welsh 'King' Rhodri Mawr,. However, by 960 A.D. the position had been strengthened and Hywel Dda ( ' Hywel the Good ' ) ruled much of Wales from Dinefwr, with the 'castle' becomming his principal court.

When the Normans began their incursions into Wales during the early part of the twelfth century, the powerful Gruffudd brothers held sway over the kingdom of Deheubarth. Because of the demise of his brothers by1163 the castle was in the possession of the youngest brother, Rhys ap Gruffudd the The Lord Rhys.

When the death of Lord Rhys occurred, Dinefwr became the scene of many conflicts between his sons.

During the latter part of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, the castle was again the scene of many conflicts, this time during the wars between the Welsh and the English. Indeed Rhys Gryg, the son of the Lord Rhys who fought for the English cause, was forced to dismantle the Castle by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, who was pre-eminent in the area during the early part of the thirteenth century.

In the later part of the 13th century the English crown had to respond to the threat of the increasing power of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd 'Llywelyn the Last' of Gwynedd. When an English force met a Welsh one on a battlefield at Coed Llanthen near Llandelio, the ensuing battle resulted in a resounding English defeat. The castle at the time was in the hands of another son of Lord Rhys, Rhys Fychan, an alley of Llywelyn the Last.

When the death of Henry III occurred in 1272, Edward I came to the English throne. Within five years he had destroyed the power of the Welsh princes, In 1276 an English army under Pain de Chaworth was assembled at Carmarthen, and as it advanced up the Tywi valley Welsh resistance crumbled. Rhys Wedrod, at the time in control of Dinefwr placed the castle in the king's hands after which the castle remained largely in possession of the English crown.