1. Carmarthenshire County Hall viewed from across...

    Carmarthenshire County Hall viewed from across the River Towy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    County of southern Wales before 1975.

  2. A unitary authority (and county) since 1996.

From about the year 1110, there was a Norman and  royal castle at Carmarthen (Caerfyrddin), which stands on the lower Tywi (Towy).  Although it was sometimes in Welsh hands (for it looked towards the often powerful Welsh Kingdom of Deheubarth), Carmarthen was generally held by the King of England, together with an extensive district to the west and north of it, a district known from the mid-12th century as Carmarthenshire.

In 1284 Carmarthenshire, enlarged by the addition of the Welsh district of Cantref Mawr to the north and northeast, became one of the counties in the (English) Principality of Wales.   Carmarthen was the residence of the Justiciar of South Wales, the representative of the King, who had certain rights in the Marcher lordships that clustered around the county:  Cantref Bychan, Is-Cennen and Kidwelly, east of the Tyfi, and Llansteffan, Talacharn and St Clear’s, west of the river.

In 1536, with the abolition of the Welsh Marches, these lordships were all added to the county, as was Emlyn to the northwest.   Carmarthenshire was the largest of the Welsh counties, but only fifth in population when it was abolished in 1975.   It then became part of the new county of Dyfed, and its territory was divided among three districts.

In 1996 the three Dyfed districts of Carmarthen, Dinefwr, and Llanelli united to form the new unitary authority and county of Carmarthenshire.   It is the most Welsh-speaking region of southern Wales, and in the devolution referendum in September 1997 its votes, announced last, ensured that devolution did not fall over the cliff.

The county belongs to the diocese of St David’s.

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