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Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. The name comes from that of St Elliw, a disciple of St Cadoc. The two lls in Llanelli are a little hard to pronounce, but practice makes it easier, as long as the abomination of “Lan-elthy” is avoided.

This is the largest town in Carmarthenshire, with a population of just on 30,000. It stands on the estuary of the River Loughor, and grew with industry in the 19th century. As a result, it has few buildings, or even associations, with a more distant past. But its long rows of artisan houses are of interest to specialists in the early history of town-planning. Their arcaded fronts were ahead of their period when first built. Llanelli has taken the imprint of its industries, and at one time it was the heart of the tinplate world. The port, now closed, was concerned with coal. Both coal and tinplate have lost their old glory. The newer methods of producing tinplate in a long strip destroyed the old craft of individual plates on which Llanelli flourished in the past. With the change in industry, LIanelli has turned to other activities. But one thing has not changed. Llanelli is a town of strong local patriotism — a Welsh and heartwarming place, with an inner vitality that survives all industrial vicissitudes.

There was, apparently, a Norman castle here, but all trace of it has been lost. The early township had borough status; the present charter of incorporation was granted in 1913. The real growth of Llanelli began in the early 19th century, when Alexander Raby settled in the district still known as the Furnace, He set up ironworks and later developed interests in copper-smelting and coal-mining. He built the first modern dock. The tinplate industry began with the building of the Dafen works in 1847. The last of the smaller mills closed after the Second World War with the building of Trostre.

The parish church stands in Bridge Street. The body of the church has been practically rebuilt, but the tower is old. There are some interesting mural monuments to old Llanelli families, including the Vaughans and the Stepneys. Two of the Stepneys commemorated won military fame. Sir John Stepney served under Wellington at Salamanca and Quatre-Bras. His son was killed leading the Coldstream Guards in the Battle of Inkerman in 1864. Llanelli has also commemorated the Stepneys with streets named after Vittoria, Salamanca, Inkerman, and Coldstream. The Stepneys first settled in Wales in 1552. Their town house still stands near the church, and has a fine Georgian façade with a row of vases on the balustrade.

The Town Hall, in the centre of the town, is neo-Jacobean, surrounded by gardens and flower-beds. There are several attractive chapel fronts near at hand. Tabernacle, built in 1873, has strong Corinthian columns and a well-designed pediment. The Baptist chapel, also near the Town Hall, is perhaps more modest but still pleasing. In the streets behind stands the bold, red, angular Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady Qucen of Peace, built in 1938, with a statue of the Madonna in painted Carrara marble and tall lancet windows. Opposite this church is the commendably modern police station. Welshmen will be interestcd in Capel Alis, towards the docks, with its complicated front and its memories of David Rees, preacher, editor, and eloquent radical.

Llanelli has been lucky in its parks. Parc Howard was presented to the town by its first Mayor, Sir Stafford Howard. The house in the park is now a reading room, museum, and picture gallery. The museum has exhibits from the history of the tinpiate industry, and the gallery shows examples from the work of the South Wales pottery, which was active in Llanelli from 1840 to 1925. The famous “seaweed” designs are, however, better represented in the collections at Swansea and Cardiff. The pictures include paintings by J. D. Innes and his sister. Innes, a friend of Augustus John, is Llanelli's best-known artist: he died early in 1914. before he could fulfil his promise. He left memorable evocations of the landscape of North Wales, especially of the Arennig mountains.

The literary associations of Llanelli are also interesting. The luckless Richard Savage came here in 1740 and addressed poems to a charming young Llanelli widow, Mrs Bridget Jones. George Meredith often came to stay with his son in New Street. But perhaps the most famous verses ever associated with the town should not be classified as literature at all. Rather are they a rousing battle-cry, sung now by every rugby crowd in Wales and beyond, but originally associated with the Llanelli club. “Sospan Fach” (Little Saucepan) is a piece of nonsense verse about a saucepan that boils over and the mishaps that follow to the family. Exhaustive and learned researches have been undertaken to settle the various claims to authorship. The song may be based on a poem by the Victorian bard Mynyddog, revised and added to by a Swansea Eisteddfodwr, Talog Williams, and sung to a tune invented at Llandnndod Wells in 1895 by a Bangor student. Scholarship cannot convey the spirit in which “Sospan Fach” is sung by a true son of Llanelli. It can best be appreciated on the stands at Stradey Park when Llanclli are playing old rivals like Swansea. Then rugby almost becomes Llanelli's second religion. Stradey Park lies in the western suburbs of the town. Llanelli Castle is 18th century, with a wing added in 1874.

The country to the North rises to over 800 ft at Mynydd Sylen. There are fine views over the wide sands of the Burry inlet to the Gower coast. About 2 miles North East is Llangennech, an industrial village where the River Morlais joins the Loughor.

Nearby cities: Swansea

Nearby towns: Burry Port, Gorseinon, Kidwelly, Pontardawe, The Mumbles

Other nearby attractions: Gower

Nearby villages: Ammanford, Bettws, Bishopston, Bynea, Capel Hendre, Cheriton, Cross Hands, Cwnfelin, Derwydd, Dunvant, Felindre, Ferryside, Fforest, Gowerton, Hendy, Killay, Knelston, Landore, Llandefaelog, Llandybie, Llandyry, Llanedi, Llangain, Llangendeirne, Llangennech, Llangennith, Llanmadoc, Llanmorlais, Llannon, Llanrhidian, Llansteffan, Loughor, Nicholaston, Oxwich, Oystermouth, Pembrey, Penclawdd, Penrice, Pontarddulais, Pontyates, Pontyberem, Port Eynon, Reynoldston, Rhossili, Saint Ishmael, Trostre, Tycroes

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