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Laugharne

Laugharne is a small town on the estuary of the River Taf which joins the estuaries of the Towy and Gwendraeth before entering Carmarthen Bay. It is probably best known today as the home of the poet Dylan Thomas who lived in the town from 1949 until his death in New York in 1953. His grave can be seen in the churchyard. The boat house where he wrote much of his later work can be seen and many believe that Llaregub, the town in Under Milk Wood was based on Lauugharne. Brown's Hotel contains one of the bars where Dylan drank on a daily basis.

    

The Boat House where Dylan Thomas Lived

 

The Boathouse and the Shed where Thomas Wrote

Dylan Thomas is not Laugharne's only literary celebrity, Richard Hughes lived at Castle House from 1934 to 1940. He wrote his novel In Hazard in the gazebo built into the castle wall. His best known work is A High Wind In Jamaica was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the best 100 novels of the 20th century. Originally a dramatist he wrote what is thought to be the first ever play written for the radio, Danger, in 1924. It is believed that Hughes introduced Dylan Thomas to the delights of Laugharne as he was a regular house guest, as was the artist Augustus John.

The Gazebo where Richard Hughes Wrote

 

Laugharne Town Hall

Laugharne is one of only two places in Britain to still have an open field system, a system once common in Europe where large fields were farmed in strips by the 76 most senior burgesses. This is governed by Laugharne Corporation, set up by Sir Guy de Brian in 1291and the office of Portreeve is equivalent to a mayor and his chain of office is made up of gold cockleshells reflecting the village's past cockle picking industry. The Portreeve is elected annually and each incumbent adds another solid gold cockleshell to the chain.

 

Laugharne Castle from Black Scar

The present castle dates from the late 13th century but an earthwork castle stood on the site earlier and was the scene of a meeting between the Lord Rhys of Deheubarth and king Henry II in 1172. The castle was subsequently captured by the Lord Rhys in 1189. It was destroyed in 1215 by Llewelyn the Great and again in 1257. The castle came into the hands of Guy de Brian before 1247 and he was captured and ransomed by the Welsh in their taking of the castle in 1257. It was Guy de Brian who carried out major building work at Laugharne Castle and this was carried on by his son, also Guy de Brian. Further work was carried out by Guy de Brian's grandson , yet another Guy de Brian from 1349. By the time of his death the castle had been modernized and strengthened. By the 15th century the castle was only partly occupied and after family squabbles the castle passed to Henry Percy, fourth Earl of Northumberland and in 1531 the sixth Earl passed the Lordship of Laugharne to Thomas Perrot  but before the agreement could be signed Thomas died and Northumberland sold the castle to the King in1535. In 1575 Queen Elizabeth gave the castle to Sir John Perrot, at a rent of 80 per annum payable to the Earl of Northumberland. Perrot converted the castle into a Tudor mansion but it was said that  the work was of poor quality. Sir John upset the monarch and in 1592 was tried for treason but died before sentencing.

 

The Outer Gatehouse and the Castle Across the River Corram 

(Note the Red Sandstone Walls)

Laugharne Castle was sketched by J.W.M. Turner on his tour of1795 but the resulting watercolour was only completed in 1831. The painting is now at the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus Ohio USA.

 

The Inner Gatehouse and the View over the Estuary towards Gower

The Inner Ward

 

   

The Town Hall Market Street and the Castle Inner Gatehouse

     

During the Civil War the castle was taken by the Royalists in 1644 but soon afterwards fell to the Parliamentarians and partially destroyed and then fell into decay.

The Outer Curtain Wall  and the North East Tower and  Tudor Building with the Formal Castle Gardens

The castle was then left as a romantic ruin with formal gardens and a gazebo overlooking the estuary created in the 19th century.

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Site and Photographs Geoffrey Davies 2008-10  Contact info@enchantedtowy.co.uk