Laugharne Lines Redford House 14 Victoria St Cockle Factory Keeper's Cottage Osborne & Minerva Brown's Hotel Green Banks Green Banks Fullerton House Upton House Spar Toilets Grove House Ravenhall Engine House Boathouse Writing Shed Corran Books The Quay Long Lanes The Pelican Island House Castle House Old Ball Court The Grist The Chapel Farmer's Arms Elm House Green Dragon Rosetta Great House Bus Garage Gaisford The Laques Jubilee Square Travellers Rest St Martin's Church Tin Shed Dylan's Birthday Walk Rugby Ground Sports Fields Laugharne VCP School Hill's Farm Riding Stables Orchard Park Cross House New Three Mariners Castle Devonshire House Town Hall Fern Hill Eros Ferry House The Globe Sir John's Hill Ant's Hill Seasons White Spot Cliff Cottage Burnt House Sea View The Cors Boat House B&B

Redford House, King Street

This house was built in 1792 and given a Grade II listing in 1986. When Caitlin McNamara (Dylan's wife) visted Laugharne for the last time in 1989, she rented a room here for a week from the landlady Mrs Pruden. Prior to that the author Mary Curtis lived here. She wrote the highly respected tome, 'The Antiquities of Laugharne, Pendine and their Neighbourhoods' which was published in 1880. The house is also said to be haunted by 'The Dripping Boy', the ghost of a small boy who died by drowning.

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Redford House, King Street

Laugharne Lines refers to Mary Curtis' book for some of the material used here. In a way we are taking on the baton as Ms Curtis refers to Benjamin Heath Malkin's 1803 work, 'Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales'. Ms Curtis wrote that, "...the curious tales and peculiar customs of these parts, now fading from the memory of the oldest inhabitants," was the catalyst for her book. It was her mission to develop, "...a taste for antiquity in those who have no care for the past."

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Redford House, King Street

133 years later we also came to the conclusion that there were many older people who had stories and memories that needed recording. Whilst we live in a time of perpetual stimuli and endless distractions, 24 hour media and breathtaking technological advances, we are inevitably tomorrow's history. As Ms Curtis wrote - "Surely it must be interesting to compare the past condition of Laugharne with its present condition, and to see at some future day how far may, as history sometimes does, repeat itself." And as another celebrated member of the Curtis' clan (Ian) sang on Joy Division's 'Heart & Soul', released exactly 100 years later: -The past is now part of my future; the present is well out of hand.'

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-The past is now part of my future;
the present is well out of hand.'

 

Joy Division - Heart and Soul

 

 

February 29 1980

Soundcheck Live

Lyceum Ballroom, London

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14 Victoria Street

Another famous Thomas, the writer Edward, (1879-1917) lodged here with a Mrs Wilkins from the 1st of November to the 17th Dec 1911. He was prone to depression and wrote, "Sometimes I feel wellish here, sometimes very bad; never well, I can never be well again without a miracle." He kept busy - completing his study of George Borrow and proofs of The Icknield Way, and he began working on a book on Swinburne. The work helped him control his mental health and he wrote some happier letters to his wife.

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14 Victoria Street

Thomas' only published novel, The Happy-Go-Lucky Morgans, compares Abercorran St in London to Abercorran (Laugharne) - "Abercorran itself, with its long grey and white street, with a castle at one end, low down by the river mouth, and an old church high up at the other." In April 1914 he returned to Laugharne with his two children and enjoyed a week-long stay. Three years later Thomas died in the Battle of Arras soon after he arriving in France.

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Cockle Factory

The cockle factory stood on the site of a former windmill and steam-mill. Cockles were separated from the sand by riddling at the water's edge and then tipping into sacks. As the tide came in the cocklers rowed or walked home where the washing process would continue. Laugharne was a famous cockling town for centuries but the cockle factory closed in 1954 when Les Parsons moved his business, Parsons Pickles to Burry Port, three estuaries away and the job became more industrialised. The above photo (as published in The Observer in 1967) shows the building as derelict.

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Cockle Factory

Dylan Thomas famously wrote about Laugharne's -...web-footed cockle-women' in a 1934 letter to his then girlfriend, Pamela Hansford Johnson. He went on to say (rather unkindly!) that '... I can never do justice to the shapes of the fisherwomen's breasts as they drop, big as barrels as they bend over the sand... each muscle on the legs as big as a hill.' In 1963 the building was the subject of a painting by local artist Stanley Cornwall Lewis (1905-2009).

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Cockle Factory

The factory was demolished in the 1970s and the area is now a public garden. Awelrydd Davies in 1904 wrote, '...cockle dealers (about twenty-five in number), reside for the most part, in Frog St and the Grist, whilst a few reside in Gosport St. Cocklers are an honest, upright and industrious class of people.' Today only one cockle-picker still resides in Laugharne. He sets off at all hours to gather up the sea's harvest of cockles and 'weed', or laverbread but don't ask him where as he is very secretive!

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L for Laverbread by undercurrentsvideo

 

 

How to make Laverbread

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeper's Cottage

Keepers Cottage is a B&B and tea-rooms run by Rose Williams and Marj Thomas. The house was originally called West Winds, but renamed in 1998 when a retiring army major decided he was, '...here for keeps'. It was built in 1953 (extended in 2007) on the site of an old potato patch, which is appropriate as Rose and Marj used to run the R&M Fruit & Veg van. The roof is made from cedar wood shingles, a feature on several local propereties. From the front lawn is one of the finest views of Laugharne Castle; it appears to sit surrounded by dense woodland rather than on an estuary. The B&B has three en-suite bedrooms and a car-park, and the tea room is open during the summer months. You can visit the website here.

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Osborne & Minerva

Osborne House was built in the mid-1700s and after being owned by an Irish surgeon, became the schoolhouse for Minerva Grammar School next door. Mr Tyler, the headmaster who retired in the 1930s, owned the first wireless in Laugharne. It was a huge machine which occupied the whole of an alcove in the dining room and was connected to an aerial which ran up a 70ft tree outside. So many turned up to listen to broadcasts that Tyler designed extension speakers for the other downstairs rooms.

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Osborne & Minerva

The house had access via a door in the attic to the school next door, which was named after the Roman goddess of wisdom. Minerva (right, above) was opened in the mid-1800s by a Thomas J. Morgan, formerly of Bristol. The 1871 census shows that Thomas (aged 41), his wife Sarah (42) and a Assistant Master, 19 year old James Parris of Bridport, looked after 11 boarding pupils aged 8-17, one of whom was an 13 year old American called John Thomas. They were assisted by a cook, Ann James (25), and a housemaid, Ann Adams (18), both of the township.

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Osborne & Minerva

An interesting feature of Osborne House is a circular space in the kitchen wall. This once housed a wheel (not unlike a hamster's wheel) which was operated by a Turnspit dog - basically a small terrier-like creature. The wheel was attached to a spit which would roast a good sized piece of beef in 3-4 hours. This bizarre cooking practice had largely died out by the 1850s. Turnspits a.k.a. 'The Vernepator Curs' or 'Underdogs' were also taken into church to serve as foot warmers. This unfortunate breed - now extinct - were described as, '...long-bodied, crooked-legged and ugly dogs with a suspicious, unhappy look about them.' We're not surprised!

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Turnspit Boy

The use of the turnspit hasn't completely died out. In this video a small boy is seen turning a wheel at the @Bristol centre, but the practice is proving unpopular amongst today's workshy scamps as the task is, and we quote, '...too hard.'

 

However, small boys still make excellent footrests...

 

 

 

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The Brown's Hotel

The Brown's Hotel is a modern 'bar with rooms' with 15 luxurious bedrooms set in a Georgian building with a grade 2 listed bar which will be forever associated with Dylan Thomas, the Welsh writer and poet who lived in Laugharne from 1938-1940 and 1949-1953. Dylan would often be seen in The Brown's playing cards, betting on horses, playing darts or sitting quietly absorbing the gossip of the day and scribbling notes on the backs of cigarette packets. He was fascinated by the drama of everyday life - the buzz in the banal - and The Brown's was a haven for story-telling and gossip. Dylan's daughter Aeronwy later wrote in her fine memoir 'My Father's Places', 'News went round so fast in Laugharne I often thought it a danger to think.'

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The Brown's Hotel

Much of the material for Dylan's iconic work Under Milk Wood - which inspired ITV's Coronation St, the first TV soap opera - came from The Brown's and more specifically landlady Ivy Williams who became Dylan's friend and confidante. When the play was completed Dylan's friend, Glyn Jones, said it, '...saw Laugharne lifted above particulars and raised to universals.' It wasn't long after arriving in Laugharne in 1938 that Dylan wrote to his friend, 'You know how to get to Laugharne don't you? A bus from Carmarthen Guildhall Square. Drop in at Brown's Hotel & buy a Felinfoel and ask where we live: they know.' Whilst much has been written of Dylan's drinking, locals remember a man who was a polite sipper rather than a verbose drunk.

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Under Milk Wood

 

by

Dylan Thomas

 

 

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The Brown's Hotel

Laugharne has always had a great pub culture: there were 15 pubs in 1844 in a town with a population of around 2000. Indeed, there were 7 pubs when Dylan lived here and he noted that many locals '...seemed to have retired before they'd reached working age.' Despite his showmanship in the bars of London Dylan kept a low profile in The Brown's, and recited a poem publicly on only one occasion after being badgered by a persistent admirer. Dylan got unsteadily to his feet, set himself to declaim some greatness before beginning - 'There was a bleeding spider went up the bleeding spout, down came a thunderbolt and washed the bugger out...'

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The Brown's Hotel

Whilst the dates on the outside celebrate 1752-1938, The Brown's Hotel hasn't always been called thus, and wasn't always a hotel. In 1841 it was known as the Commercial Inn and 'Browns' first appears in an advert sandwiched between hostelries in Aberdare and Portishead in the Western Mail on June 6th 1874, run by a farmer, a James Brown of Somerset. The ad claims to offer visitors, '...the conveniences of an (sic) hotel, combined with the comfort and privacy of a gentleman's residence.' After a brief period in receivership a 1900 advert posted by landlord W.H. David, (whose family had the butchers at Ashcombe House) said The Brown's was a grand place for, 'Commercials, Cyclists and Visitors at Moderate Charges.'

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The Brown's Hotel

Following the turn of the 20th century, there seem to have been three golden ages. The Dylan years with landlord and landlady Ebi and Ivy Williams, the Tommy Watts years (1971-2003) and more recently the refurbishment and re-opening of The Brown's in July 2012 under the ownership of Nigel Short, whose business interests also include Penderyn Distillery and the Scarlets rugby side in Llanelli. Tommy Watts is a man of legends, not least that he sold dozens of dartboards to US tourists on the understanding that they were the very board Dylan himself had played on. He also had a famed toastie maker and pretended to impressionable teenagers that he'd been a Russian spy, which 'Laugharnie' Richard 'Dougie' Griffiths explains about here.

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Laugharne Tales

Richard 'Dougie' Griffiths

 

 

11th April 2013

The Brown's Hotel bar

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The Brown's Hotel

In the footsteps of Dylan have followed luminaries such as Mick Jagger, President Carter, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Pierce Brosnan, Peter O'Toole and in July 2013, the Duke & Duchess of Cornwall called in. The Brown's is the social hub for performers at the Laugharne Weekend, which was established in 2006. The festival has attracted performers such as Sir Peter Blake, Rhys Ifans, Carol Ann Duffy, Ray Davies, Patti Smith and John Cooper-Clarke, Kevin Rowland, Josie Long, Harry Hill and Will Self.

Catch up with The Brown's news and events here:

Facebook Twitter Pinterest YouTube Trip Advisor

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John Cooper-Clarke

'Blitzkreig Bop'

 

Laugharne Weekend

April 2012

 

at Laugharne Rugby Club

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The Brown's Hotel

Laugharne Lines originated in The Brown's Hotel bar on the 31st August 2012. Two late evening imbibers - writer Jon Tregenna and artist Craig Woods - were sitting to the left of the fireplace enthusiastically discussing the idea of an underground railway system in Laugharne with each stop having escalators, a Costa Coffee, a newsagent, ticketing machines and buskers. It quickly emerged that there were several important locations where a stop would be necessary, not least The Brown's Hotel and The Mariners. Realising that it probably wouldn't be economically viable, especially as some of the key stops were but a few yards apart, it was decided to pursue the idea no further and wander home...

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The Brown's Hotel

Local support would have been an issue too, for another Brown's regular, who shall remain nameless, thought the idea of a Laugharne Underground '...totally ludicrous.'

That's as maybe, but the concept of a Laugharne tube map was born. Tregenna began researching and fashioned a crude sketch before harnessing the map-drawing skills of local architect Carl Thornton, the marketing maestro that is the township's own Roxanne Treacy and the web design of Nigel Thomas. Together they created the wondrous tool you enjoy today. If you are minded to, please go to the Laugharne Lines facebook page and have your say. It'd be good to hear from you.

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Stewy's stencil of Dylan Thomas at the rear of The Brown's

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The Brown's Hotel

In September 2015 Laugharne and Brown's lost one of its most famous characters. Roy Gill, who sat at the Brown's bar seven days a week, died after a short illness. He once said he was 'famous for not being famous' but in 2014 that changed somewhat. The year of Dylan's centenary brought the world to Laugharne and Roy appeared in a National Theatre Wales play, Raw Material: Llareggub Revisited, as Turkish terrorist Ocolan (Roy was once arrested at gunpoint in Turkey after a strange case of mistaken identity); was photographed for the New York Times; had a drink with actors Elijah Wood & Celyn Jones, and had his caricature painted onto the outside of Brown's by celebrated Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson. Roy was a keen gardener and often brought rhubarb and kidney beans into the bar for the staff. For his funeral his wife, Marion, made a wreath out of vegetables from his garden. His death made the front page of the Carmarthen Journal and Wales Online. We all miss him.

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Roy as pictured in the New York Times


Roy Gill as Ocolan

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Green Banks

Geese and cocklers' donkeys used to graze here until the 1960s. In the 19th century there were donkey derbies; the victor saluted with Handel's, 'See The Conquering Hero Comes'. Every June dozens of cars park up as part of the annual Under Milk Wood Run for classic cars which journey to Laugharne from the Gower. Dylan Thomas once said he wanted to be buried on the Green Banks and it's the location of the 'crystal harbour vale' in his poem, Over Sir John's Hill. A 1904 Tourist Guide said, 'There is one important drawback: there are no bathing machines. They would add to the attraction... in addition to their advantage from a moral point of view. However, several caves are used for this purpose.'

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Gazebo

Needing a view of the elements author Richard Hughes (see Castle House) began writing In Hazard - a novel about a ship caught in a hurricane - in this room in the summer of 1936. It was partly inspired by a great storm the previous January when the Ulysses ran aground off the coast of Swansea. Hughes, a proficient sailor, commandeered a crew and went to the aid of the vessel. In difficult seas he unloaded the 3 dead and 4 injured. When published in 1938 In Hazard was hailed as a masterpiece; alas it is largely forgotten today. Hughes kept his boat, The Tern, in Laugharne and enjoyed the company of local fishermen. Under his presidency the Laugharne Regatta was restored to the calendar in 1936 after several years absence. The event is still held every June.

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Gazebo

Dylan Thomas, a house guest of Hughes and fellow sea-lover compiled his adolescent memoirs Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (a title suggested by Hughes) here in 1940. A 1941 letter to Vernon Watkins describes the room a '...romantic dirty summerhouse overlooking the marsh.' He fuelled his writing with wine from Hughes' cellar in the castle and when the loss was discovered Dylan blamed it on some Territorial Army soldiers encamped nearby. Hughes said of Dylan and Laugharne, '...he revelled like an intoxicated whirligig in the profoundly humane eccentricities of that unparalleled little township: they ran in at his five senses and out at his mouth day and night.' In later years Hughes said Dylan, '...may have sponged on us economically, but spiritually it was more the other way round.'

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White Spot

This looks like a utilitarian shed until you notice the two chimneys on the tin roof. It was once a small cottage known as Half Spot which stood above part of the coastline known as Under Spots. Between the great wars Laugharne's last boat-builder, Sam Evans, lived here. His workshop stood at the top of the steps opposite; an area known as First Spot. The last occupants of the cottage were Sam's sisters. One, Elizabeth 'Spot', earned her crust carrying cans of water to Cliff Cottage for the owners, writers Charles Langbridge Morgan and wife Hilda Vaughan. In the 1940s the workshop was demolished and the area landscaped. Half Spot became a garage before its most recent incarnation as the gardener's shed for Cliff Cottage.

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Fullerton House

This house is one of a number on King St that were once lower thatch-roofed dwellings dating back to medieval times - Redford and Abercorran are other examples. Instead of being demolished and replaced with larger town houses the roof and frontage was removed, the height extended, and the roof put back on. This house was once owned by a G. James who in 1752 when they built the larger Browns Hotel next door had a stone plaque added to the front of the Browns to show ownership of the pine end; there are several of these in Laugharne. It was also a pub called The Greyhound until the 1850s which, with the Pelican and Ship & Castle across the road and the two still-functioning pubs to the right, made for a nice easy pub crawl.

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Fullerton House

In the Edwardian era Lieutenant Colonel S H Bolton and his wife Mary, who lived in Elm House next door, owned Fullerton. His two sons lived here - John Ritso Nelson Bolton and Stewart Bladen Nelson Bolton - with their aunt, sister and two servants. They were two of the 66 men with Laugharne connections to perish in WW1. John, a former head boy at Bedford School, died at the Battle of Loos - his fourth battle in a year - in September 1915 aged 22 years old. Less than a year later, at the naval Battle of Jutland, the HMS Indefatigable (above) was attacked with such ferocity that only 2 of the 1019 crew survived. Stewart, a midshipman in the Royal Navy since the age of 12 was one of those killed. He was 18 years old.

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Upton House

Uptown House (as it was formerly known) was a grand 18th century building with a gothic doorway and fine gardens. The building collapsed in the late 1980s when workmen excavated too closely to the shallow footings and a faux-Georgian multi-occupancy dwelling was constructed in its place. For 10 years from the mid-1950s it was the home of Stanley and Min Lewis. Caerleon-born Stanley trained at the Royal Academy, became Principal at the Carmarthen School of Art and illustrated wife Min's celebrated tome, Laugharne & Dylan Thomas. Stanley was finally 'discovered' at the age of 101 when the Bedford Gallery agreed to show an exhibition of his life's work. By the 1970s Uptown had evolved into the Coracle Guest House, known for the rather curious sign that read 'Bed & Licensed Breakfast'.

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Upton House

In the early 50s a Mr and Mrs Jenkins ran a cafe on the ground floor. One day Mrs Jenkins was convinced she'd served Katherine Hepburn and kept the lipstick smeared cup for many years afterwards. Arthur Jenkins was famously the owner of the Rolls Royce fish and chip van as mentioned in a Dylan Thomas broadcast on Laugharne which was transmitted on the 6th November 1953, the night Dylan slipped into a coma in New York. The Roller was formerly a military ambulance used in the First World War. The late 80s drawing of the legendary vehicle parked up outside the Town Hall (by local artist Steve Treacy) was copied from the only known photograph, which is now sadly lost.

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Stanley Lewis on BBC Wales Arts TV Show

This film was recorded by BBC Wales at the Royal College of Art in 2010. Stanley had died on the 9th September 2009 so did not live long enough to see his first public exhibition, 'Stanley Lewis The Unknown Artist' at The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Museum in Bedford. However, he was involved in the planning of the show and asked that champagne be drunk on the opening night.

 

More Stanley Lewis videos can be found on Jennifer Heywood's Vimeo Channel

 

 

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'Laugharne'

 

by Dylan Thomas

 

 

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Marti's

Marti's is a new coffee shop & gallery opening in May 2014 in the old Castle Stores premises. It is the last shop remaining on Castle St which, as its name suggests, was once a busy thoroughfare. To the left is the former Midland Bank; to the right is the 18th century Wayside Cottage, once a bakery and store. A 1904 guide states, '...there are plenty of butchers, bakers, fishmongers, grocers... there is not scarcity of the best provisions at all.' Pre-tourism this was largely for locals suggesting Laugharne was a moneyed place. Today, whilst still blessed with a chemist, gifts shops, Post Office and Spar, most of the retail premises of yore have been converted into private dwellings.

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Then - Market Street c.1960


Now - Market Street today

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Spar

Originally this was a mill, one of four in Laugharne, showing how important the town was as a trading post. It was leased from Island House opposite. Pigot's Directories of 1835 and 1844 show it as another of Laugharne's lost pubs - The Jolly Sportsman - run by landlord, David Hugh. From 1967 to 1984 it was Lewis & Wilson's ironmongery which also supplied petrol from pumps outside. Current portreeve Philip Wilson remembers they kept scrap tractors for parts on the Grist and that donkeys were kept in the field next door. By the late 80s it functioned as the Old Mill restaurant. The Makrelle stream which powered the original mill wheel is now culverted, but you can hear it if you stoop over the manhole towards the right of the building.

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Then - The Grist c.1900

Now - The Grist today

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Toilets

Many chapels have become stores, halls or houses. The Wogan St. Tabernacle was replaced by a toilet block. It was built in 1833 by Calvinist Methodists led by Rees Havard on land previously used by tanners because of its proximity to the river. Ironically, unconventional Laugharne didn't take to Welsh non-conformism and by the 1950s Tabernacle had become the local school's over-spill classroom. Graham Thomas went there. His favourite subject was, 'Trying to get out of school.' The chapel was knocked down in the 60s but part of it remains thanks to enterprising landlord Tommy Watts who appropriated the pulpit from where strict sermons were preached and put it to good purpose. Next time you're in Browns Hotel, take a look at the bar...   (Use of the loo is 20p, by the way.)

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Then - Wogan St and Tabernacle c.1910

Now - Wogan St today

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Engine House

Laugharne had no electricity until 1950 - 70 years after its invention - and the Boathouse was the first home to benefit. Harry Raymond of the Coygan Quarry was the first to try and 'electrify' Laugharne in 1928, but his plans came to nothing. The Williams brothers (Ebie and Billy) set up a 240 volt DC supply in this building driven by a single cylinder horizontal Ruston Hornsby engine. A second engine was added to satisfy demand but within a few years the operation was taken over by the National Grid. That was good news for Laugharne as whenever Billy Williams became frustrated with singing revellers or squabbling neighbours he threw the switch sending the whole town into darkness. The Engine House later became a gallery and was, until very recently the Silversmiths.

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Ravenhall

Built on the site of a Flemish house with large chimneys and fireplaces Ravenhall (formerly Thomas' Hall) had storage on the ground floor and before WW1 a venue upstairs for plays and travelling film shows. It became the warehouse for B.R. Thomas' Emporium where heavier items could be collected. After its partial conversion into dwellings in the 40s Ninny Dark used to cut hair in her front room and use the hair to make shell sculptures. She was Dylan's barber, and whilst trimming his hair before his last American trip noticed boils on his neck - a known sign of diabetes. Maybe there's a shell sculpture out there with the poet's locks attached. In the 80s the ground floor housed a dolls museum and the basement a workshop, but today the whole building is residential.

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Grove House

Elizabeth Woods, the mother of Lydia, 2nd wife of John Wollstonecraft (1736-1803) lived in this 1741 regency house. John was the father of feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) and grandfather to Frankenstein author, Mary Shelley (1797-1851). The Wollstonecrofts lived in Laugharne briefly in 1776 but in 1782 after his wife's death John returned with his new wife, farming outside Laugharne. On his demise Lydia moved here; the lease stating that she would remain in situ should the house be sold. (Incidentally, John's first cousin's wife, Britannia, died in Newgate prison in 1840 awaiting 7 years transportation for stealing silk.) Later it became a pub called the White Hart - the landlord in 1844 was Thomas Evans - and a barber's shop. The passageway on the left, once used to access stables at the rear, is a bat roost.

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Boathouse

This is the '...sea-shaken house on a breakneck of rocks', where Dylan Thomas and his family lived from 1949. It is now a museum and tea room. The lack of moving images and rare colour photos locate Dylan in a bygone era but in 2011 Jean Davidson, aged 92, visited. She lived here from 1938-1942 (her husband worked for the MOD in Pendine), several years before Dylan and there are many alive in Laugharne today who remember him fondly. The wandering bard's return to his beloved Laugharne was facilitated by his benefactor, American actress Margaret Taylor, who arranged for mains water and electric to be installed. He was thrilled, '...this is it: the place, the house, the workroom, the time...' But time ran out in New York in November 1953, when Dylan died aged just 39.

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Boathouse

Apart from a few months in Camden, a trip to Iran and four American tours, Dylan settled into family life in, '...this tumbling house whose every broken pane and wind-whipped-off slate, childscrawled wall, rain-stain, mousehole, knobble and ricket, man booby-and-rat-trap I know in my sleep.' Aeronwy, his daughter, remembered his bed-time stories, and that he used to eat dolly mixtures and pickled onions in the bath. A dancing wife, housekeeper, kids, pets, constant visitors and regular post closing-time parties kept things lively in this colourful bohemian home. However, dogged by poverty, Dylan's practice of sending self-piteous begging letters continued; to one '...the weather gets me like poverty... shrouds me in my wet self, rains away the world,' and to another it was his '...wet idyllic tomb on the coast.'

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Boathouse

First records date the Boathouse to 1838, but it might have had some prior industrial use as late 19th century photos show boats moored up outside and Laugharne port had long since silted up. The harbour with its sea-door - the outline of which can still be seen today - is relatively new; built to import coal into Laugharne in 1913 (Dylan Thomas 'Coalhouse' anyone...?!) From the 1850s to 1889 it was converted to a semi-detached building with shared entrances for fishermen's families; the division in the window on the top floor the only evidence that remains of this. It was often used as a holiday home, albeit a primitive one, and Dr Cowan - the man who commissioned the 'garage' which Dylan later adapted as his work-shed - used it as such from 1906-1918.

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Boathouse

Florrie, Dylan's mother, was the last full-time resident up to her death in 1958. Such was his fame that in 1963 Cliff Walk was renamed Dylan's Walk and a local character, Johnny Oriel, sold strips of 'Dylan's' wallpaper from behind the wardrobes to tourists. Margaret Taylor willed the lease - owned by the Laugharne Corporation - to Caitlin in 1973 who sold it for 22.5k to a Swansea school who duly paved the harbour area. Carmarthenshire County Council paid 27.5k for a new 2000 year lease at 37.5p per annum in 1975. The boundary wall collapsed in 1983 taking the old gate, stepped pathway and bike shed with it. The ruined gate is now in the possession of artist John Uzzell Edwards, who happened to be with the actor Michael Sheen when he found it in a skip.

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Boathouse

Dylan's youngest son's middle name was Garan - Welsh for heron. Dylan was fascinated by herons and after his death it is said they came looking for him. Many iconic figures, eg. President Carter have done the same but Laugharne has always had a certain cachet. In 1880 Mary Curtis wrote, 'So many people know Laugharne or have heard of it. Persons from most distant parts of the world find it out somehow... Go to London... I am sure you will find someone whose home has been here, or has sojourned in it, or heard of it; many come expecting to find a certain refuge from observation, a safe hiding-place; but they soon discover there is no place where things will be more quickly known... no place where kinder people are found.'

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The Boathouse c.1900

Dylan and Caitlin in the Boathouse garden

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Writing Shed

This was the garage for the Boathouse, built by Doctor Cowan c. 1916. It housed Laugharne's first car, a green Wolseley. One woman thought it the devil in mechanical form, and chased after it brandishing a pitchfork. Because it needed stilts it cost £80; average wages were £200 p.a. Dylan Thomas commandeered the shed promising his benefactor, 'All I write in this water and tree room on the cliff... will be thanks to you.' The hut affords spectacular views of Sir John's Hill, the Llansteffan peninsula (his mother's homeland), the sands of Cefn Sidan, Ginst Point and Gower beyond where he urged his childhood comrades to, '...build a bloody house and live like bloody kings!' Dylan wrote several poems including 'Prologue', 'Over Sir John's Hill' and 'Poem In October' in his 'word-splashed' hut.

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Writing Shed

Dylan liked routine: mornings with the family; lunchtimes in Brown's garnering material for Under Milk Wood; afternoons in the shed from 2pm 'til 7pm and if facing imminent deadlines, wife Caitlin would lock the door. Aeronwy, his daughter, remembers her father used to, '...write out loud,' (he's best read out loud too). Caitlin provided inspiring magazine clippings for the walls and pulp fiction lined the bookcase. Too rotten to preserve during the 1996 refurb, the original front panel - which had no window - resides in the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea. After he left for the USA in October 1953 Gwen Jones of Gwalia House remembered finding dozens of tiny scraps of paper outside the shed in Dylan's distinctive hand-writing. Despite her best efforts, the contents could not be recovered.

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The Writing Shed - Then

The Writing Shed - Now

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Under Milk Wood

Dylan told writer Richard Hughes, 'What Laugharne needs is a play about itself, where people act themselves,' and Under Milk Wood fulfilled his lifelong ambition to dramatise a Welsh seaside town. Dylan's map of 'Llareggub' looks like Newquay, 40 miles to the north, where he lived in 1944 and Mr Pritchard of 'Ogmore-Pritchard' was a Newquay bank manager, but Laugharne is 'Llareggub'. He completed the script minutes before curtain-up in May 1953 but cool New Yorkers hung on every word and it was a huge success. The BBC produced a posthumous version in Jan 1954 with Richard Burton momentous as First Voice. It's been a jazz suite, a ballet, a film, and self-styled 'Youtube Phenomenon' David Garland Jones even had a viral hit performing it as a mime - 'They said it was a play for voices...'

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Under Milk Wood

Jon Tregenna, author of Under Milk Wood 'update', Buggerall, was educated during the 1970s at Llanelli Boys Grammar School - 'I remember listening to my father's LPs wondering why John Donne and Chaucer were taught instead of Dylan Thomas.' The play appalled repressed Welsh society (still reeling from Caradoc Evans' scabrous My People of 1915) who were unable to see beyond the bawdiness, drinking and innuendo. After his death, Dylan's manuscripts were snapped up by American universities but devotees started pitching up in Wales, and Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre and Birthplace opened in 1995 and 2008 respectively. We don't have his papers but we have his places and Laugharne was his favourite, '...this black magical bedlam by the sea... there is nowhere like it anywhere at all'.

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LP cover for the 1954 BBC recording

Poster for the 1972 film

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Under Milk Wood

 

What is the origin of the title,
'Under Milk Wood'?

 

Here's our theory.

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'Prologue'

 

by

Dylan Thomas

 

 

video link x

 

 

'Over Sir John's Hill'

 

by

Dylan Thomas

 

 

video link x

 

 

'Poem In October'

 

by

Dylan Thomas

 

 

video link x

 

 

Dylan Thomas

reading from

'Under Milk Wood'

 

14 May 1953

New York City

video link x

 

 

David Garland Jones

performing extracts from

'Under Milk Wood'

in mime

 

Treorchy Rugby Club

video link x

Corran Books

Former NME journalist and biographer George Tremlett opened Laugharne's first bookshop in 1982. The long room behind has seen various uses: meeting room, school canteen, billiard hall (Dylan Thomas played), pottery and now warehouse to 100K+ books. Changes to the book trade mean that 95% of the business is now online, but happily the shop remains open. It was the Ship & Castle pub in 1912 - the shop sign uses the original brackets - then Mr Sylvanus Davies' gent's outfitters. Barclays Bank occupied the left room and Laugharne Pottery the right until 1982. Sea captain Douglas Williams of Victoria House walked around in the 1970s with a monkey on his shoulder. On entering Barclays the monkey would instantly run amok which lead to glass screens being installed.

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Corran Books - the long room


Corran Books in the 1980s

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The Quay

Laugharne was a major port in Tudor times and the 6th largest town in Wales; bigger even than Cardiff. Boats brought grain from Bristol for use in the 4 town mills, tobacco from Virginia, coal from Kidwelly and local linen and limestone from Coygan quarry were shipped out. The area from Cockleshelly (opposite the castle at the foot of Sir John's Hill) to Black Scar (opposite the Boathouse) formed Laugharne Bay. A tsunami devastated the Bristol Channel in 1607 (over 2000 people died) causing substantial silting and by 1880 the sea was noticeably receding. Laugharne was still a working port as late as 1925 when the road to St. Clears and its railway station was rebuilt with Portland Stone. Coal lorries started rumbling into view and the ancient sea-port was doomed.

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The Quay

By the 1960s the fishing beds receded. Brixham boats trawling on an industrial scale off Tenby meant Dylan's 'dab-filled bay' no longer offered employment. People still remember the old salts on the Grist, staring wistfully out to sea. The area has changed dramatically; in the 50s the Mackrelle stream was culverted and the old bridge demolished to create a car-park, but take care, the area still floods during spring tides when Laugharne and the sea reunite. Local boats like The Lively, The Brothers, The Skidaddle, The Towy, The Sarah Ann, The Leena and The Nautilus traded with channel ports but only one sea-faring business survives: Broadsword skippered by Denzil Brown can be hired for 2 hour evening trips and carries up to 12 passengers. To book please call 07815-428-907

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Now - a busy car park

Then - The Leena (on the right), one of the last trading boats

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Then - The Quay c.1920

Today - The ringed building was once the Three Horseshoes pub

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Long Lanes

5 byways meet here: the continuation of Victoria St., with Bay View with its long lost market garden and sea captain ghost on the left; The Furlongs drive; Long Lane, which leads to the graveyard at St. Martin's Church; the entrance to Seasons, and finally Dylan's Walk ('Cliff Walk' as was) which leads to the Boathouse. It was designated a Kings Highway in the High Court in 2003 after a developer argued that soldiers marching from London to Pembroke would have crossed the Taf on ancient stepping stones just beyond the Ferry House; alas the sad saga of Ferry House's ruination continues. A short way down Dylan's Walk is a building with the 'No Turning Point Ahead' sign. This is another of Laugharne's lost pubs - the Traveller's Rest - which closed in the 1850s.

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The start of Dylan's walk


The Traveller's Rest

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Long Lanes

Long Lanes is also the name of a rustic local band described memorably by Gareth Davies, the Tenby photographer and avid 'Dylan' fan (both Thomas and Bob) as, '... like three taf Estuary bullfrogs stompin' in the musical mud around Caitlin's flowery flowin' dress.' You can see the craggy-featured combo in action in this video for the song, 'What Do You Want?'

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'What Do You Want?'

 

by

Long Lanes

 

 

video link x

The Pelican

Another of Laugharne's lost pubs (closed c.1912), the Pelican was named after Francis Drake's flagship, which was later renamed Golden Hind. Dylan's parents rented the ground floor from the Williamses of Browns Hotel in May 1949. Dylan visited his father every morning to do the Times crossword before popping to Browns. The upstairs neighbour, Dai Thomas Small Coal, remembered Dylan's mum disliking the theory that her son's brains came from his father's side. D.J. 'Jack' Thomas' demise in Dec. 1952 prompted the poet's most famous work, 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night'. His death from throat cancer hit Dylan hard. 11 months later Dylan's coffin was maneuvered in through the study window. A friend remarked on seeing the body, 'He'd never have been seen dead in that tie.' Dylan's wake started in the Pelican kitchen.

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The Pelican

Aeronwy, Dylan's daughter, writes (My Father's Places) that her grandfather's study (to the left of the front door) was out of bounds to most people and that D.J. hid there when his wife's 'prattling friends' visited. Aeronwy often stayed with Granny (Florrie) when life in the Boathouse became tense. She remembers large hams 'like off-colour bagpipes' hanging in the cellar. One tea-time her mother, Caitlin, arrived in a yellow blouse with tulip red spots and a red dress - 'I wondered why she was always dressed in party clothes'. D.J.'s desk which had come with the family from Swansea was taken to the Boathouse when Florrie moved there in 1953. It is still there today. Until recently the Pelican was owned by the family of actor Rufus Sewell. It has recently been fully renovated.

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DJ's study


The Pelican kitchen

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The Pelican

During the Laugharne Weekend in April 2014 Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson painted these remarkable images on boards covering the Pelican windows. The images depict David Icke (who rudely failed to turn up at the Laugharne Weekend and didn't tell anyone), a lizard (see David Icke), Evans The Death, Florrie Thomas (Dylan's Mum), a post-coital Caitlin & Dylan and the Grim Reaper.' Stunning.

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'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night'

 

by

Dylan Thomas

 

 

video link x

Island House

The exclamation mark is pertinent as Island House is impossible to date: remains of a Roman baths and round tower were found in the garden; the wall facing the road is partly medieval (and as thick as the castle) and there were Tudor and Edwardian alterations. The house was so-named because the Mackerelle and Corran rivers flowed either side and the sea regularly encircled it. Records state it stood between 'Earth Lake' and 'Mill Orange'. In 1903 Major Congreve (1862-1923) moved in. (He was a friend from Indian Army days of Colonel Bolton of Elm House and had previously lived in Fullerton.) It was an artistic household as the Major played banjo and sang whilst his wife played piano, and both were skilled water-colourists. Regular rehearsals and soirees took place well into the 1930s. Island House now stands silent.

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Island House

Major Congreve's son John, born here in 1912, died in the Battle Of Algeria in 1942 aged 31. According to Steve John's remarkable research, 16 men with a Laugharne connection died in WW2 including Thomas Essery 'Tim' Rose-Richards (third from the left above), born 1902. His father, Major Thomas Picton Rose-Richards, former MP for Mid-Breconshire, retired to Island House. Tim raced at Le Mans five times (coming 3rd in 1931-1933) and entered two Grand Prix, finishing 4th in Dieppe in 1934. When war broke out he joined up for the Navy at the age of 37 and flew the incongruous Supermarine Walrus which operated from HMS Daedalus. During the Battle of Britain on the 7th October 1940 a German bomber was forced into the waves. Tim and his crew went to the rescue but were shot down. The bodies of the crew were never found.

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c.1900 - with the now-demolished Tabernacle visible - see 'Toilets'

c.2010 (pic by Humphrey Bolton)

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c.2006 - This remarkable house hasn't been occupied for a number of years and is in a sad state of disrepair. (pic by Stuart Logan)

Island House - the hall

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Supermarine Walrus

 

 

 

 

 

video link x

Castle House

Had novelist Richard Hughes not lived here Dylan may have bypassed Laugharne. He had sought Hughes out in 1934, describing him as a novelist who wrote, 'cosmopolitan stories.' After a summer on damp Carmarthenshire farms, Hughes and Laugharne must have seemed positively exotic. Hughes (1900-1976) wrote High Wind To Jamaica aged 29. His fame and wealth enabled him to hire Clough Williams-Ellis of Portmeirion fame to alter the 1730-built house, which had previously been remodeled in Regency times and contains a chimney dating back to the civil war. Hughes lived here from 1934-1946 and immersed himself in Laugharne life despite his wife's ambivalence towards the locals. Hughes was an honorary petty constable of Laugharne – one of the ancient posts of the corporation. The symbol of office was an old chair leg with a piece of string tied to it.

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Castle House

Apart from In Hazard (see 'Gazebo') Hughes wrote the children's stories, Don't Blame Me! here. In July 1936 painter Augustus John visited with his mistress Caitlin Macnamara who Dylan had begun an affair with earlier that year. On the 15th Fred Janes drove Dylan here. Drinks flowed and John and Dylan ended up brawling outside a Carmarthen pub. In 1949 Dylan begged his benefactor Margaret Taylor to lease the, '...best house in the best place,' but legal issues, and a reluctance from the owner Miss Starke (whose family had lived at Castle House for centuries) to rent to another literary type meant Dylan took the Boathouse instead. In 1949, on reluctantly leaving Laugharne and Castle House, Hughes wrote, 'The mistake was to imagine it was right, or even possible, to live out one's life in a fairy-tale, which is what Laugharne is.'

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Castle House rear


Chinese Chippendale staircase c. 1750 - unique in Carmarthenshire

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Old Ball Court & Boatshed

This was the last building Dylan Thomas passed as he set off on his birthday walk on the 27th October 1944. The origin of the name is a mystery but one theory is that it was built on the former tennis court of Gosport House (visible above left). Old Ball Court, a Grade-11 listed building, was one of four grain warehouses in Laugharne (the Spar building is the only other that remains) and was semi-derelict by the 1980s when it was converted into a private house. To the right is the 'Dutch barn' shaped Boatshed, built by author Richard Hughes (see Castle House) in the 1930s; he was a keen sailor and there are artefacts in the shed dating back to his time. It now belongs to Denzil Brown and houses his boat, Broadsword, in the winter months.

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Broadsword and the Boathouse


Boatshed interior

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Poem in October

from Gritty Realism Productions on Vimeo.

 

Dylan's Birthday Walk

 

 

 

 

 

video link x

The Grist

A monastery once stood here, hence 'Grist', or 'Christ', but only the cross remains and to this day coffins are carried three times around it on the way to the 'upstreet' graveyards, following the monks' tradition. John Welsey is said to have preached here and in the 1940s (see pic) the home guard was here. The town weighbridge was situated outside the present ice cream shop; Cafe Culture was once the Rose & Crown pub; the houses next to it were once 4 cocklers cottages; and Castle Gifts was J.E. & M.O. Jones' grocer's shop in the 1960s. The Grist water pump was the nearest to Dylan Thomas' home in Eros, and he would often be seen collecting water wearing a dressing gown and smoking a badly-rolled cigarette. Caitlin, his wife, could roll them single-handed on her thigh.

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The Grist 1920s


The Grist 1940s

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The Chapel

Whilst the sign outside claims it is a church, this place of worship is known locally as, 'the chapel'. Built in the early 1890s after its Congregationalist denomination outgrew Cliff Chapel (see Cliff Cemetery), it was built on a site of ancient dwellings known as The Barracks. The chapel is still in use today and is the home of the Corran Singers who practice there every Thursday. A key venue for the Laugharne Weekend, Patti Smith, Mark Watson and Robin Hitchcock have performed there, as has ex-Pogue James Fearnley who surely holds the record for the most relentless non-Biblical language ever uttered in a church after he read extracts from his colourful memoir, Here Comes Everybody. Incidentally (as if this stuff wasn't incidental enough), only in Laugharne would the keys to a church be kept on a Guinness branded fob.

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Farmer's Arms

The Farmers closed in 1966 when Miss Annie 'Pink' Jeremy retired aged 78. She died in 1971 and, like most Laugharneys, is buried across the road in St Martin's. Annie said of Dylan Thomas, 'He only drank beer. He rarely spoke and was always respectful.'. Whatever their ages, the bachelor farmers who frequented her tiny pub were her 'boys'. She used to write tabs in chalk on beer barrels behind the bar; not the smartest of business moves as regulars sometimes amended the figures in her absence. On other occasions dray men removed the barrels before the debt was paid. One local remembers drinking Green Shield beer whilst underage, '...she had a Tilley lamp heating the bar area and someone turned it off and then on again so everyone would vacate the bar because of the fumes! Those were the days!!'

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July 1955


Annie Pink's gravestone

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Elm House

Elm House (centre) is noted elsewhere as the home of Colonel Bolton. It's also notable for having the first TV set in Laugharne and Dylan Thomas, a keen cricket fan since childhood (and close friend of BBC cricket commentator John Arlott), used to watch test matches here. Next door is The Pines which, until the 1960s, housed the library. Then Exeter House, which used to house the Post Office but has recently re-opened as The Ferryman delicatessen; and then Ashcombe House which was originally two premises: the Nat West Bank operated from the left as you look (until the 1980s), and a tailor operated from the right. The window of Ashcombe House was cracked on carnival night in August 2013 and police carried out house-to-house enquiries. Despite the weekend roistering Laugharne is a relatively crime-free zone.

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c. 1900 Browns, The Pelican (with pub sign) opposite, Elm House and beyond. The cherry trees weren't appreciated as the blossom filled residents' porches.


The same view today. The cherry trees were badly pruned over the years and very few remain.

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There are several cast-iron boot scrapers in Laugharne but Elm House has the finest, showing the prosperity of King St.


This example around the corner in 'working class' Victoria St is not quite so grand.

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John Arlott

 

The voice of cricket

 

 

video link x

Green Dragon

In 1805 Mr E. Donovan wrote that Laugharne is, '...seldom visited by strangers – it lies in no direct road to anywhere of any consequence and is crowded with pretty ale houses.' One of the best loved was the Green Dragon, which closed in the late 1970s; a small friendly pub which served Buckleys Ale. Landlady Glenys Pearce was once challenged by a policeman for serving after hours. She retorted, 'I used to change your nappy when you were young!' The drinks carried on flowing. On hot sunny days the trees outside would be full of garrulous young men quaffing in the branches. Next door is Dragon House, in whose garden the Llareggub Players performed Under Milk Wood in 1958 with T. James Jones as first voice – he later translated the play into Welsh. During the after show party the sad news came through that Dylan's mother, Florrie, had died.

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1960s Sunshine & Beers


T. James (Jim) Jones in Browns Hotel, Dec 2013

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The 1958 programme

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Great House

This impressive Grade 11 listed house was built in the early 18th Century in the reign of Queen Anne (6 February 1665 – 1 August 1714). The house was in a sad state of repair until fairly recently when a major restoration saw it returned to its former glory. Great House now features an indoor swimming pool as well as a host of original features and is available for holiday lets. Idris Elba, star of HBO TV series The Wire directed and starred in a video for Mumford & Son’s Lover Of The Light, the interior shots of which were filmed here.

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Idris Elba


 

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Great House - renewed at the time of Queen Anne


 

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Mumford & Sons

 

Lover Of The Light

 

 

video link x

Bus Garage

Sometime in 2014 this building – the newest on King St (and home to the Laugharne Pottery until 2011) – will be demolished. It was built on land owned by Browns Hotel by returning WW2 war hero, Tom Ebsworth. When competitor, Ebie Williams – who owned Pioneer buses – bought Browns in the 1950s Ebsworth's buses moved to Clifton St. Browns was then decorated inside and out to match Pioneer's livery: blue and cream. Locals recall buses parked on King St pumping out diesel fumes whilst engines warmed up, but more fondly remember the hourly service from 8 until midnight to Carmarthen. In 1977 Bryn Woodworth, a Pioneer bus driver from Laugharne, tragically lost his life in Pendine when his bus lost control on a steep hill and crashed into the sea wall. His heroism meant all but one of the passengers survived.

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A Pioneer bus c. 1973


Bryn Woodworth's Memorial

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Passing Browns Hotel


Inside the bus garage

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The old petrol pump


Laugharne Pottery machinery

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Gaisford

A 1904 advert states Gaisford was a 'Post Office, Dispensing Chemist, Stationer, Bookseller & Tea Dealer,' and an 'Agent for Huntley & Palmers Reading Biscuits.' (Er... that's Reading the place!) 17 year old Kitty John worked here as a telegraph operator in 1953 and remembers Dylan – 'He often came in with outsiders to buy cheese and wine. You can relax in Laugharne. On a lovely day you can see the curlews. It must have helped him write.' In November '53 Kitty attended a BBC radio broadcast from the Memorial Hall where Dylan's 'Laugharne' prose was aired and Wyn Jones interviewed locals, including Caitlin. One of Kitty's colleagues received the telegram stating that Dylan had gone into a coma in New York so ran up to the hall to tell 'Mrs Dylan'. Kitty remembers Caitlin gasping and running out. By the early 60s it was the Milk Wood Cafe. Today it is divided into flats.

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The 1920s


Dylan recites 'Laugharne'

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The Laques

The mother of King Henry II (the 'king' celebrated by King St) was from Flanders and when that land flooded in the 12th century he encouraged Flemish people to come to Laugharne and breed with the Welsh to dilute their antisocial traits. The plan was unsuccessful as those intermarrying carried the risk of being ostracised. However Flemish weavers thrived due to a good supply of spring water, a harbour for exporting and a similar climate. Their presence is partly responsible for the lack of Welsh in the area. Weavers' dwellings followed the Maquerelle (Mackarelle) stream from the west down to the Grist. If you walk up The Laques (pronounced 'lakes'), the last building on the public footpath before Hudgen field – a mediaeval open field (and the only one in Wales) – was once a Flemish cottage which still has its ancient well. Laques is Latin for ‘lace’.

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Jubilee Square

Raven House and the B.R. Thomas' Emporium are buildings that are vaguely remembered only by the oldest Laugharneys. They stood opposite the castle gate at Jubilee Square (named to commemorate George V) but were cleared in the late 1950s to widen the road. Raven House was an imposing Georgian house (and latterly the police station) whilst B.R. Thomas was Laugharne's premier department store: china, ironmongery, clothing etc. was sold over two floors, plus building materials from Raven Hall. Mr Thomas lived at Upton House and was a classic Victorian gentleman with a top hat and cane. We can bemoan the loss of these fine buildings, but to facilitate their 1860s construction a c.1110s hunting lodge – purportedly used by the Black Prince – was demolished. This historic site is now a car park.

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1955


2009

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An Emporium China Swan, early 1920s


An early Drying Machine, with B.R.Thomas branding

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Travellers Rest

Today's large modern house, Craig-y-Don, incorporates what was a small pub, the Travellers Rest: last known landlord was David John in 1844. Before the days of rail and car today's Dylan's Walk was a 'main road' for those travelling from and to south-west Wales. Be they soldiers marching from Pembroke to London, pilgrims travelling from Canterbury to St Davids, or more recently young poets visiting for a few days, they would cross the Taf upriver by ferry, or even by foot at low tide, walk or take a pony and trap across the headland opposite to Llansteffan, then cross the Towy river to Ferryside, saving the long journey via Carmarthen. The building hosts a sign warning drivers to turn back. Many ignore it and face a hazardous reverse as the lane dwindles to a narrow footpath near the Boathouse.

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St Martin's Church

A sculptured Celtic cross located in the South Transept dating from the 9th or 10th centuries indicates a church stood here before the current building, which is dedicated to St Martin of Tours and erected by Knight of the Garter, Sir Gui de Brienne in the 13th century. This explains why the church is outside the medieval town. Amendments continued over the centuries, but 1873 saw the last major restoration when the tower, which houses 6 bells cast in Victoria St Laugharne by an Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1729, was reduced by some 20 feet. There are many interesting features, not least on the painting on the south wall of an unnamed saint by James Thornhill, father-in-law of Hogarth; and a painting of the prophet Jeremiah by American Benjamin West, who later painted George Washington. The earliest memorial wall tablet dates back to 1679.

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St Martin's Church

Coleridge visited on the 17th Nov 1802 and was moved by the ancient tombstones. The earliest dates from 1749 and there are many gravestones commemorating young men lost at sea. The Lychgate was built in 1913 and features in the only known moving images of Dylan Thomas, at his funeral. Locals pondered the large turnout and there is poignant footage of his mother – a proud Welsh farm woman among the mourners. Caitlin was buried with him 41 years later. It was noted in 1723 that there was an old yew tree called Fox Tree after hanging heads of dead animals, including wolves, on it. They remained for three church services, after which a reward was paid. A wolf’s head had the same bounty as that of the worst robber. More recently there was great consternation when badgers caused damage to the graveyard.

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Ancient tombstones


Dylan's (and Caitlin's) grave

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Jeremiah by Benjamin West

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Tin Shed

The Tin Shed was once a mechanic's garage owned by a Mr Isaacs whose son, Andrew, still owns the building today. Together with Seimon Pugh-Jones, a former stills photographer on movies like Saving Private Ryan and a keen collector of militaria, they run the Tin Shed: a thriving military/1940s museum/set which also doubles up as a wonderful music and performance venue. Sir Peter Blake was recently interviewed there for the BBC and props from the 'shed' have been used in the BBC's Dylan In New York and Under Milk Wood. It also played a central role in the National Theatre Wales production Raw Material: Llareggub Revisited in May 2014. Andrew Isaacs is famous for riding his horse around Laugharne whilst dressed as a cowboy. He told us – 'Once I walked Blaze into the Browns Hotel. I was told to get out but the horse stayed.'

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Seimon Pugh Jones


Andrew Isaac & Blaze

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Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk

On the morning of October 27th 1944 Dylan Thomas set out on a walk along a 19th century cocklers' path on what was his 30th birthday. As a result he wrote one of his great works: 'Poem In October' – 'It was my thirtieth/Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon/Tho the town below be leaved with October blood./Oh may my heart's truth/Still be sung/On this high hill in a year's turning.' The walk has since been developed by landowner Bob Stevens of Salt House Farm, and now offers two options heading from the quay in Laugharne up and around Sir John's Hill. Views from the top are spectacular and the website for the walk can be found here. The Birthday Walk, along with others around Laugharne were featured on the BBC Weatherman Walking programme when Derek Brockway visited the township.

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Start of the walk - view c1900


Bob Stevens & BBC's Jamie Owen

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Rugby Ground Sports Fields


For details on Laugharne RFC
please click here.

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Laugharne VCP School


For details on the school
please click here.

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Hill's Farm Riding Stables


For details on the riding stables
please click here.

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Orchard Park

Commanding wonderful views over Laugharne and the estuary, Orchard Park was built in 1950/51. Bones of a Beaker Folk who flourished c.2500 BC were discovered: the shoebox containing the bones is in St Martin's Church. Chips Jenkins, said – 'Orchard Park was commissioned by Carmarthen Rural District Council and the 56 houses are in the 'Cornish' style. The first house completed was No. 7 and my parents lived at No. 27. There are two original tenants left. Dodo Morgan (No. 6) had the first TV and used to let kids watch through the open window. Rents were 19 shillings a week, and if you couldn't pay you were given immediate notice to quit. For most residents this was the first time they'd had electric power, central heating, running water and inside loos. No more burying shit in the garden!'

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View from the estuary


View from Orchard Park

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Cross House

The Cross House is being fully refurbished and will re-open in May 2014. It's was always a busy pub due to its location on The Grist, and was Caitlin Thomas' favourite. She used to call the landlord 'Crossmouse' but her daughter, Aeronwy Thomas in 'My Father's Places' remembered that he was more, '...ferret than mouse.' The Cross House first appeared in the records in 1844 when the landlord was a Mr Robert Powell. It was named after its proximity to an old Celtic cross outside. The Cross House made the BBC News in May 2012 when a car reversed into the beer garden at the front. A local man, Peter Brown, was trapped under the car, but fellow drinkers helped lift the car off him. Thankfully Peter has made a good recovery. The pub is also featured in Jeff Towns' excellent book, 'Dylan Thomas: The Pubs'.

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View from the cross to the cockle factory and beyond

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New Three Mariners

The New Three Mariners is the oldest remaining pub in Laugharne and built on the site of the old Town Gate - the house opposite is Gate House. The landlord in 1835 was Joshua Davies, and the restaurant area was once his stables. Laugharne has known many writers, and Kingsley Amis was a regular during the period he wrote his Booker-winning satire on the Dylan Thomas Estate: 'The Old Devils.' Originally a two room bar, the pub was altered in the 2000s. The pub is a lively local which serves bar meals, pizzas, real ale and Welsh whisky. There is live music every other Saturday, a quiz every Sunday (it's a toughie!) and they have a bar billiards table. It also has 6 rooms available for bed and breakfast. Dylan Thomas wrote about the Mariners in a letter to his girlfriend in 1934, and the quote is painted on a board outside.

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The Bar


Dylan Thomas quote

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Victoria St. c.1900 (courtesy Simon Ratty)


The Old Three Mariners

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The New Three Mariners in 1955

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Cerne Abbas Dylan

Martin Rowson caused some controversy in 2013 for painting a parody of the Cerne Abbas Giant on the smoking area wall during the Laugharne Weekend. This area, opposite the pub, has a sign saying 'Old Three Mariners'. However this is fanciful. This area was once a workshop, and the landlord in 1874, James Richards, was also the town's undertaker. Smoking - coughing - coffin? You can make up your own puns...

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James Richards advert

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Castle

Laugharne Castle ('...brown as owls' - Dylan Thomas) stands on the ruins of a Roman Fort. Built by the Normans c.1116 it was rebuilt by Guy de Brian in 1216. Henry 11 stayed here in 1171-1172 to negotiate truce with Rhys ap Gruffudd, ruler of Deheubarth, and opponent of Norman authority. Peace lasted until the king’s death in 1189. The castle was destroyed in 1256 and transformed into a fortified house by Sir John Perrot (1558-1592) in the 16th century – hence the large sea-facing window. Perrot was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I (and rumoured to be an illegitimate son of Henry VIII), but had enemies both in London and South West Wales. In 1591 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, charged with treason and condemned to death. However, ill health, or possibly poisoning, finished him off before the executioner had a chance..

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Castle

The Castle frequently changed hands following Perrot's demise, until Sir Sackville Crowe conveyed it to Sir William Russell in 1627. Russell, a Royalist, picked the wrong side in the Civil War and Laugharne was captured by Major General Rowland Laugharne's Parliamentarian troops in 1644 following a five day siege. Under Oliver Cromwell's watchful eye, cannon fire from the hills of where Seasons and the Orchard Park stand today did the main damage, but victory was assured by cutting off the water supply. During Tudor times Laugharne was the 7th biggest town in Wales, but the siege ended Laugharne’s importance as a military and trading stronghold. Partially dismantled to prevent it becoming a stronghold for Welsh bandits, the Castle declined into a romantic ruin and became the subject of a dramatic watercolour (see above) by JMW Turner..

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Castle

By the nineteenth century it had effectively become the garden of Castle House and was the property of the Starke family. Author of 'High Wind in Jamaica', Richard Hughes rented it from them and drew inspiration writing in the gazebo overlooking the estuary. In 1973 Miss Anne Starke passed the Castle into the guardianship of the Secretary of State for Wales and restoration work began, which included stripping back the cloak of ivy, which was to continue until 1993. Today the Castle is maintained by CADW and open to the public from April until Autumn each year. Those brave enough to climb to the top of the Tower and look down upon the township will be treated to one of the most spectacular views around. The much-photographed castle now holds the Laugharne Food Fair during the Laugharne Weekend.

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View from the castle tower


Fishermen below castle c. 1920

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Devonshire House

Devonshire House has been in the Roberts family for generations. It is now two houses but was once a stores and chandlery on the right, and a shed for repairing small boats on the left. Its name signifies the trade that Laugharne did with the Devonshire coast, and the shop was the biggest in Laugharne in the 1850s. Kitty John, one of Laugharne's legendary characters (who has lived here for 47 years), said she remembers boats being painted with pitch where her kitchen floor is today. Kitty's family owned two of the last working boats in Laugharne – The Fluke and The Lively. The building just visible to the right of the building was the old grain store. Until recently Kitty ran the Tea Dance at the Laugharne Memorial Hall; this video features artist Marc Rees trying his hand at ballroom dancing.

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Marc at the Laugharne Tea Dance

 

 

 

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Town Hall

Parts of the Town Hall date from the 18th century but we know the clock tower was built in 1746 and renovated in 1908. It served three purposes but only one remains. Upstairs is where the court meet every other Monday to discuss the affairs of the Laugharne Corporation. There is a grand jury of 20 men, and a foreman with a Portreeve in charge. The Portreeve is like a Mayor and wears a chain of golden cockleshells. Laugharne is the only place in the UK that still carries out the old ceremonies, which adds to the township's, 'otherness.' The corporation owns lots of land and property and was established in 1307. Every year on 'Big Court Night' the portreeve is carried thrice around the Town Hall, before setting off to Browns to buy everyone a drink. Here are Phil Wilson, the current portreeve, and Don Avery, the previous incumbent in the chair.

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Town Hall (c. 1920 above)

Whilst the Town Hall is on the corner of Market St. and Market Lane, the market died out in the 1850s. Prior to that the quaint cobbled lane behind was known as Hangman's Lane. There was a grand a mansion owned by Madame Bevan – one of the great education reformists of her day – between Market Lane and Victoria St, which fell into disrepair in the 1850s after a dispute over the will and was demolished. The 3rd purpose of the Town Hall was to house a cell where troublemakers would be locked up. Legend has it that the last person to be locked in the cell overnight was a drunken Chinaman back in the 1970s. The cell contains a fibre-glass figure of Waldo Williams from Under Milk Wood. 2nd Voice talks about a man being, '...as tall as the clock tower,' and that the clock, '...tells the time backwards,' both references to Laugharne Town Hall.

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Clock face and mechanism


Repairs c. 1908

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Phil Wilson

 

 

 

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Don Avery

 

 

 

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Fern Hill

Fern Hill was built in 1835 on Bucking Hill. Laugharne has many ancient place names including The Knuck, Cockshilly, Rebecca's Pond and The Shambles. Every three years on Spring bank holiday (the next is May 26th 2014) Laugharneys 'beat the bounds' during the Common Walk - a distance of nearly 30 miles. At 'hoisting places' people are asked the location's name. If they don't know they are turned upside down and 'beaten' with sticks on their backsides! Deadman's Lane, outside Fern Hill, was named after the bloodshed that occurred during the Civil War. It was once the home of a Mrs Peel, who worked with the sick and the ill; she was a regal figure who became known as 'The Queen Of Laugharne.' Whilst it shares its title with one of Dylan Thomas' most famous poems, his subject was Fern Hill near Llangain, across the estuary.

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Dylan's Fern Hill today


Dylan at Fern Hill

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'Fern Hill'

 

by Dylan Thomas

 

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Eros

Eros was named after the Greek god of love and a curious name for a small Welsh cottage. It was Dylan Thomas' first home with his new wife Caitlin, and they lived here from May to July 1938 when they were happy to escape to the much finer Seaview. Eros wasn't the modern cottage with large conservatory of today but a damp ramshackle fisherman's cottage – 'pokey and ugly with rooms like stained boxes'. There was no inside loo, so they used an 'earth lavatory'. Bathing was irregular as it meant swimming in the estuary or carrying water from a pump on the Grist. They were broke (as ever) and survived on a diet of cockles, rabbits and fish. Laugharne bookseller George Tremlett speaks of them being, '...the first hippies in Wales', and locals got used to 'Dylan in his dressing gown, walking down the hill..'

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Eros

The summer of 1938 was a barren time for Dylan's craft – 'For three lean months now, no work done/In summer Laugharne among the cockle boats/And by the castle with the boatlike birds.' Poet and writer, and lifelong friend of Dylan, Vernon Watkins visited and recounted the tale of when celebrated author Richard Hughes called. One morning they heard two knocks on the door. 'That will be Hughes', said Dylan, giving the surname 'an accent of awe.' Standing in the doorway was, '... a figure tall and solemn, with a high white forehead and black curly beard, his powerful hands resting on a strong cane. I was quickly introduced... and then standing stock still opposite the window, like a sea-captain who has taken up a vantage point in a small boat, focusing, with an invisible telescope, or something none of us could see.' (The picture shows Hughes at the tiller of his boat.)

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Ferry House

Before the days of motoring the ferry was the quickest way for workers to get across to Black Scar, then Llansteffan and on to Ferryside and beyond. It's still great out on the water. Dylan arrived here 1934, and people wanting to cross would ring the bell at Bell Cottage opposite. If the tide was out you were piggy-backed across the muddy slopes. It was once two buildings: the house and the Ferry Inn. The pub was so tucked away it served on a Sunday; illegal as the county was 'dry'. Dylan spoke of, '...the speakeasy across the water.' A man drowned here in the early 1800s in Bunny Saer's pool... or was it Buenos Aries pool?! One theory is that the victim was a Mr Saer; another that it was named after the Argentinian trading ships that moored near here. Ferry House was demolished illegally c.2000, and has remained an eyesore ever since.

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Ferry House

The Roberts family lived here for decades. There were three brothers: Jack the eldest who rowed boat and stayed at home; Nar, a gardener and labourer who tended fishing nets; and Dai, a friendly chap, who went round Laugharne and St. Clears with homemade wicker panniers of fish. There was also a crippled sister Bella, and her 'deaf and dumb' son, Booda. He was a well-known figure around Laugharne and became a friend of the Thomases. In 1953 he was accused of murder. Sadly, after being acquitted there was no-one left to look after him and he died in a home. Kitty John, now 74 and a relative, remembers that her father did the Roberts' books as they couldn't read or write – 'Every Sunday we'd go to Ferry House. I wouldn't let my dad go alone coz of the dark! One lamp; Bella in bed; all the men smoking pipes.'

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Then - Ferry House & Ferry Inn


Now - demolished with Boathouse on left

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Ferry House from the estuary

 

piggy-back ride

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The Globe

The Globe is one of the largest buildings in Laugharne. In 1868 it was listed as a hotel but it was closed by 1912. A psychiatrist, Dr Sennick, then lived here, before it was bought by a local butcher. The rear part beyond the arched entrance was the abattoir which closed c. 1971. The butchers closed in the early 1990s but the marble slab in the shop window is still visible. The building was once two separate dwellings. The most fascinating room is the old ballroom – complete with sprung floor. It runs down the side at first floor level and was last used in 1943 for the wedding of Douglas and Peggy Griffiths. The ballroom was also used to billet soldiers during WW2. In 2013, the Globe featured in the Dylan Thomas BBC biopic, 'Dylan In New York', starring Tom Hollander. After being empty for a number of years the building has recently been sold.

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The Ballroom


The Town Hall from The Globe

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'Dylan in New York' at The Globe


'Dylan in New York' at The Globe

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Sir John's Hill

Named after Sir John Perrot (1528-1592), who built a house here to use as a lookout for pirates. He lived at Laugharne Castle and also re-styled Carew Castle, 22 miles to the west. The land below is a salt marsh which was reclaimed from the sea by the Dutch in the 1400s, and is famous for its lamb. In 1830 Laugharne had three distinct populations: the Welsh occupied the north – Ants Hill to Great House; the English, Great House to The Grist; and the Flemish, The Laques to Sir John's Hill. On top of the hill – known locally as 'Surgeon's Hill' – is a telecoms mast, which serves Orange, EE and T-mobile. Alas people on Vodaphone and O2 are very lucky to get a signal in Laugharne. From the top you can see from Tenby to The Worm's Head on Gower, and it inspired one of Dylan Thomas' great late poems, 'Over Sir John's Hill.'

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'Over Sir John's Hill'

 

by Dylan Thomas

 

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Antshill


For details on Antshill
Caravan Park please click here.

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Seasons


For details on Seasons
Holiday Park please click here.

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Cliff Cottage

This cottage has a fascinating literary history. It has been in the Morgan family since c.1850 and belonged to current resident James Morgan's great-great-grandmother Eva Campbell who married Hugh Vaughan Vaughan of Builth. It was left to her daughter Elisabeth, sister of the writer Hilda Vaughan, the wife of Charles Morgan, writer and theatre critic. Kingsley Amis was a visitor as was the actress Angharad Rees. Both Hilda and Charles would write at Cliff Cottage during their visits. Elisabeth Vaughan occasionally babysat for Dylan's children. Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) wrote the Booker prize winning novel 'The Old Devils' here. He had little time for Dylan, but was friendly with Swansea solicitor Stuart Thomas who led the Dylan Thomas Trust, of which Amis became a trustee. In his book, the town of Birdarthur is clearly Laugharne – it features a poet’s grave, a convivial bar and 'Brydan's Walk'.

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The view from Dylan's Walk


Cliff Cottage, Cliff House & the Boathouse. c. 1930 Cliff House burnt down in the 1980s.

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Sea View

This was Dylan Thomas' 2nd home in Laugharne but in July 1940 debts sent him to London to script war films. He couldn't avoid the war, '...even trembling on the edge of Laugharne.' Dylan was productive here, writing of Laugharne being, '...this cockled city... sweet and quiet... so slow and prettily sad.' Map Of Love and Portrait of The Artist As A Young Dog were published in 1940, but war prevailed and sales were poor. Caitlin wrote that Sea View represented, '...the happiest two years of our lives.' They left everything behind, including, it would seem, the heart of their marriage, borne out by Dylan's poem, 'Into her lying down head', about his wife's infidelity. Constructed in the early 1800s the owner wanted the tallest building in town, taller even than the castle, but a great storm blew off the top storey. Its tall thin exterior lead to painter Augustus John describing it as a, '...doll's house.'

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Sea View in the 1990s


Sea View by Andrew Douglas Forbes

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Dylan in Sea View by Rupert Shepherd

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The Cors

'Hidden from the main street in Laugharne, behind its exotically landscaped grounds, is The Cors, a very special and intimate restaurant with rooms. Converted from an exquisite Victorian house, chef-proprietor Nick Priestland has... created a charming blend of period pieces and modernist artworks... Once simply a bog (Cors in Welsh), the glorious garden now provides a delightful setting of trees, shrubs, ponds, modern sculptures and secluded areas of seating.' Those words are from Nick's website and we can only agree. Built in the early 1800s The Cors is an 'under-the-radar' experience. It is often full at weekends so booking is essential. Opposite is the Cors playing field which is run as a charity. The Laugharne Carnival is held here. The New Bridge the road is named after was built in 1825. Prior to draining, people travelling through Laugharne would have come down Horsepool, along Holloway and then up Stoney Way.

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Laugharne Carnival

 

 

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Boat House B&B

The Corporation was a much-loved Laugharne Buckley's pub that closed in the 1980s. It is now the Boat House B&B, but the pub name is still etched on the glass on the front window. The pub was so- named because Laugharne has a corporation that has been in existence since 1290. 'Court' is held in the Town Hall every Monday and the portreeve and the jury used to congregate here afterwards. When Dylan Thomas lived up the road at Eros he occasionally drank here. There used to be a small cottage next to the pub where William Alma Rowlands lived. He was an old sea-faring man with pointy beard and nautical cap who trawled for bass, mackerel and mullet using lines from his 20ft boat, Gwennie. He famously couldn't swim and had no life-saving equipment on board.

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Burnt House

‘Burnt House’ is a ghostly ruin down below the cliff path a few hundred yards from the Boathouse. The story behind the house was a mystery until Laugharne resident Denize McIntyre found some newspaper articles from the late 1800s. Earliest dates show that Recess Cottage, as it was known, was built in the early 19th century. An auction notice in the Western Mail from 1846 mentions a ‘pretty house’ with an orchard and 3 acres of land. The auction took place at the Globe Hotel in Laugharne. The notice also suggested that the cost of provisions in Laugharne was the cheapest in Wales.

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Burnt House

In December 1881 Burnt House was occupied by a farming couple from Pembroke in their 40s, Samuel & Ellen Evans, along with 16 year old Jane Jenkins, a domestic from St Clears. A spark from the fireplace landed on some dry sticks and a gale blowing up the estuary meant the house was quickly engulfed by flame. Local mariner John Childs of Gosport Street spotted the fire from his fishing boat and raised the alarm, saving the grateful occupants. What was Mr Childs doing out on the river at 2am? Illicitly poaching to feed his family? It’s a good job he was.

The picture above shows a recess for a cart above the house, hence the name - Recess Cottage.

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Rosetta

‘A rose by any other name…’ Rosetta was formerly known as Rosewood Villa & Rose Villa, and a real life Rose also features in its story. One of the largest houses in Laugharne Rosetta dates back to c.1720. It has many original features all lovingly restored by the current owners. In 1788 it was owned by John Bartlett Allen and his wife Elizabeth (nee. Hensleigh), the grand-daughter of a Thomas Phillips, vicar of Laugharne. Two daughters married MPs: Catherine married James Mackintosh whilst Bessie married Josiah Wedgewood, slavery abolitionist and potter. A son, Daniel, became editor of The Morning Post. Like many Laugharne houses beer was brewed here, and prior to the 2nd World War a Mrs Morse sold paraffin and plank bread. Prior to the recent renovation a Laugharne character, John Lloyd, lived here. He kept a gun cupboard in his bedroom and there was evidence that he used a wardrobe for target practice.

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Rosetta

The house was once owned by Lady Catherine Aylmer, a colourful character who married 4 times. She was tried for adultery in 1772, then married the disreputable Baron Henry Aylmer 4th Lord of Balrath with whom she had a daughter Rose, before marrying a Thomas Price of Laugharne. Rose was the subject of the famous love poem, ‘Rose Aylmer’, written by Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864, pictured above) who lived in nearby Tenby in the 1790s. Sadly Rose died of cholera in India in 1800, aged just 21.
‘Ah, what avails the sceptre race/Ah, what the form divine/What every virtue, every grace/Rose Aylmer, all were thine/Rose Aylmer, whom those wakeful eyes/May weep, but never see/A night of memories and sighs/I consecrate to thee.’

You can stay at Rosetta as part of the AirBnB scheme.

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Rosetta before the refurb


Wood panels, deeds & Great House opposite

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