Peter Williams. Born 1895
February 3, 2017
War, Women & Wool
February 3, 2017

A Snapshot of Llandovery before the War


The population of Llandovery  in 1911, as recorded by the census was 1,993, and still remains about the same in  2014.

Health and Housing

Much of the housing in the borough was classed as “squalid, ill-ventilated, and insanitary” by the Medical Officer.  A few houses had been closed, but difficulty lay in the scarcity of houses where the people in insanitary houses could go to. The water quality in the area was excellent, but there was no sewerage system.

A report from Dr. Morgan the Medical Officer of Health showed that houses in King’s Arms Street, Garden Lane and School Lane were overcrowded.  In one case 5 people occupied 1 bedroom.  In another house, with 1 living room and 1 bedroom there lived 4 males and 5 females.  In another, where 2 males and 4 females resided the accommodation consisted of 1 living room and 1 bedroom.  There were only four conveniences in the street of 34.

In 1913 there were 6 deaths from pulmonary tuberculosis and a further 6 from rheumatic fever, bronchitis and pneumonia accounted for 5 deaths and 2 from measles and whooping cough.  5 infants under 1 year old also died.

Its worth remembering here that in 1911, the National Insurance Scheme was introduced in the UK, providing contributors with access to a doctor and sickness benefits. It owed its origin to the Welshman, David Lloyd George, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer.



The railway had been opened by the independent Vale of Towy Railway Company in 1858 as the terminus of a branch from Llandeilo. By 1914 the railway had enabled Llandovery to be part of a national market and there were about eight passenger trains in each direction daily.

Breweries and Public Houses

There were 2 breweries, (and more public houses per head of population than any other town in Wales.  Deputy Chief Evans, in his annual report in 1913 stated that there was an average of 1 Public House to every 139 of the population.

Business and Trade

There was a chemical works, two watchmakers, a tannery, a wheelwright and several cabinet makers.

The town had many provision stores and   people came from miles around to shop and do their business.

Fairs for horses, cattle and sheep were held  monthly and the basement of the Town Hall was used as a corn market and police cells.


The Black Ox Bank had been taken over by Lloyds Bank in 1909 and  it was one of the largest banks in Carmarthenshire. The ox symbol continued to appear on local Lloyds Bank cheques for another 20 years.

The Llandovery Branch  still has the initials of its founder, David Jones, (he became a famous  Drover)  over the main entrance.  Sadly this bank is now due to close in 2017.

Schooling and Religion

Llandovery had a Public School which had been built in 1848 in Gothic Style and the Llandovery College, as it is known today, still thrives.

There was the Llandovery C.P (British School) and the Llandovery County Secondary School.

There were 5 Chapels and 3 churches

The Workhouse

The Llandovery Union Workhouse had been erected in about 1838 and a total of £3,000 was spent to construct a building to accommodate 120 inmates.

By 1912 the Workhouse was still in use, and many of the inmates interesting exploits were mentioned in the papers.

The Workhouse was eventually closed in 1919 as there were only fourteen inmates.

Social life during 1913

1913 New Years Day : the Harlequins were at home to Llandovery.  The Quins were victorious by 6 tries to nil.

Williams Pantycelyn Memorial Guild met regularly.  On the 18th February 1913 an evening of songs, duets, pianoforte solos and recitations was held.  Mrs Cornock of 15 Orchard Street was awarded the reading prize.

Regular concerts were held at the Drill Hall.

Motor Rallies were held.  This No. 14 Car had its picture taken outside the Castle Hotel c. 1910.

The annual report of the Llandovery Branch of the Queen Victoria’s Jubiliee Institute for nurses was published.  With a reserve account of £339 17s 4d, a General Working account of £62 172 6d the branch was flourishing.

A Boy Scout Group was started in 1913 with the Scoutmaster being Mr Edgar Evans of College Road.

April saw the Annual Entire Horse Show being held on the Castle Fields

Llandovery is situated where the river Gwydderig joins the river Bran which, in turn, flows into the longest river entirely in Wales, the Tywi,  a popular fishing river for salmon and salmon poaching.  If you were found poaching, a fine of £5 plus costs would be charged.  This happened to Morgan Jones who was seen using a spear to catch fish on the 29th May 1913

The Llandovery District Farmer’s Co-Operative Society met regularly at the Town Hall.

The Postmen’s Federation had a local branch in Llandovery.  Meetings were held in the Blue Bell Inn.

The Llandovery Eisteddfod, held just after Whitson, gave its proceeds to the Llandovery Literary Institute, which was being established at the old British School.

Llandovery Agricultural Society held its 25th Annual Show.

The Llandovey Reading Room and Institute was opened and a Mr D. Anouryn Rhydderch of Chicago, who after an absence of 23 years, paid a visit to Llandovery in September and presented the institute with over 160 volumes.

A Llandovery Improvement Committee granted money to deserving institutions.

There was a Young Men’s Guild.

The Llandovery Cricket Club was popular.  In July they played Brecon Sports Club at home on the 19th

In August, the regular Tradesmans Outing, by Messrs Roberts and Sons, Crown Stores was to Aberayron.  40 in number, they made their journey by the firm’s motor-cars and brakes as far as Lampeter and then continued by rail.

In September 1913, Mr and Mrs Lloyd George visited Llandovery.  They inspected the Old Vicar Pritchard buildings and proceeded to Pentreygwyn where they inspected Pantycelyn, the home of the late Williams, the well-known hymnologist.  They also visited Craigywyddon, an historic old cave in the locality.  It was later reported that Mr Lloyd George was astonished that Llandovery did not make more of the memory of old Vicar Pritchard, and that the town did not worthily maintain the old home as a memorial precious to Llandovery and Wales.

Mr. R.J. Evans of  College View was amongst the team representing Wales against England for the Quoit Championship held at the Victoria Docks in London.  It was his first time to play in an international match.

In December 1913, following his usual custom of the season, the Mayor (Mr Pryse-Rice who had been Mayor of the town for 9 years) distributed pheasants to members and officials of the Town Council and a large quantity of prime beef and several tons of coal amongst the deserving poor in the borough.

There was a Town Institute that held bazaars and fancy fayres for deserving causes.

There was a Mothers Union and a Girls Friendly Society which was to become an important part of the Llandovery War Effort.


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