St Teilo's Church, Llandeilo
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|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
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|Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament|
Llandeilo (Welsh pronunciation: [ɬanˈdeilɔ]) is a town and community in Carmarthenshire, Wales, situated at the crossing of the River Towy by the A483 on a 19th-century stone bridge. Its population was 1,795 at the 2011 Census. It is adjacent to the westernmost point of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The town is served by Llandeilo railway station on the Heart of Wales Line.
In 2021, The Sunday Times called the town one of the top six places to live in Wales. The newspaper praised the town as a ‘sophisticated shopping destination and a great showcase for local arts and crafts’.
Roman soldiers were active in the area around Llandeilo around AD74, as evidenced by the foundations of two castra discovered on the grounds of the Dinefwr estate. The fortifications measured 3.85 hectares and 1.54 hectares, respectively. Roman roads linked Llandeilo with Llandovery and Carmarthen. A small civil settlement developed outside the gates of the fort and may have continued in use as the embryonic town after the Romans left in around AD120.
Llandeilo is named after one of the better-known Celtic saints of the 6th century, Saint Teilo. The Welsh word llan signified a monastery or a church. Saint Teilo, who was a contemporary of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, established a clas (a small monastic settlement) on the site of the present-day parish church. There is reasonable evidence to suggest, however, that Saint Teilo was buried in Llandeilo. The parish church of Llandeilo Fawr ("Great Llandeilo") is dedicated to Saint Teilo, and until 1880 its churchyard encompassed his baptistery.
The early Christian settlement that developed around the Saint Teilo's Church prospered, and by the early 9th century it had attained considerable ecclesiastical status as the seat of a Bishop-Abbot. The Church of St Teilo soon became a 'mother church' to the surrounding district, acquiring an extensive estate, and possessing one of Wales' most beautiful and finely illustrated manuscripts – the Gospel Book of Saint Teilo. The discovery of fragments of two large Celtic crosses from this period provides further testimony to Llandeilo's importance and indeed prestige as an early ecclesiastical centre. Towards the end of the 9th century, the importance of Llandeilo as a spiritual centre had started to decline.
Dinefwr Castle (anglicized as Dynevor) overlooks the River Tywi near the town. It lies on a ridge on the northern bank of the Tywi, with a steep drop of about 250 feet (76 m) to the river. Dinefwr was the chief seat of the kingdom of Deheubarth.
The estate of Golden Grove lies near the town, and further away, the impressive Carreg Cennen Castle, another Welsh stronghold. The remains of Talley Abbey can be seen 6 miles (9.7 km) away to the north of the town. 10 miles (16 km) further north are the remains of the Roman Dolaucothi Gold Mines.
In the centuries that followed the Norman conquest of England, the Bishop of Llandaff and Bishop of St David's both claimed Llandeilo for their respective diocese. By the early 12th century, Llandeilo came under the patronage of the Bishopric of St David's, an ecclesiastic borough that became responsible for the affairs of the town including its development as an important medieval market centre to an extensive agricultural hinterland. Until the middle of the 20th century, a fair called St. Teilo's Fair, which had been authorised initially by Edward I of England in 1291, was held annually in the churchyard. Some of the agricultural produce and other goods offered for sale are recorded to have been displayed on the tombstones.
The town was put to the torch during Owain Glyndwr's march through the Tywi Valley in July 1403. Nearby Carreg Cennen Castle was besieged by Yorkist forces in 1461 during the Wars of the Roses and partially demolished.
At the Reformation, the town was at the centre of the parish known as Llandeilo Fawr. It was in the Diocese of St Davids and part of the archdeaconry of Carmarthen. In 1560, the bishop of St Davids recorded the population of Llandeilo Fawr as 620 households (perhaps amounting to 2,790 people), many of whom would have lived in Llandeilo itself.
In the middle of the seventeenth century, Llandeilo was in the area of influence of the royalist general Sir Henry Vaughan. A royalist skirmish took place in the town in April 1648, defeating elements of the New Model Army.
In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described Llandeilo as having a population of 1,533. He observed that “the principal trade of the town is in corn and flour; the other industries include woollen cloth mills, timber and saw mills, and tanneries”.
The road and railway bridges over the Tywi are of engineering interest. The single-arched Llandeilo Bridge was completed in 1848 and is Grade II* listed. The railway bridge, opened in 1852, is a rare survival of an early lattice truss bridge.
In the Great Storm of 1987, the floods were so severe that the River Tywi (Towy) overwhelmed the railway bridge crossing the river near Llandeilo. Four people, one of them a boy, were drowned when the 05:27 train from Swansea to Shrewsbury plunged off the damaged Glanrhyd Bridge into the river.
An electoral ward in the same name exists. This ward stretches south from the confines of Llandeilo with a total population of 2,971. The community is bordered by the communities of: Manordeilo and Salem; Dyffryn Cennen; Llanfihangel Aberbythych; and Llangathen, all being in Carmarthenshire.
The local rugby union team is Llandeilo RFC, which was one of the founding clubs of the Welsh Rugby Union. The town is also home to Llandeilo Town AFC, an association football club currently playing in the Carmarthenshire League.
In 2008 Llandeilo hosted the World Sheepdog Trials.
The town also hosted a celebrity football event that took place between 2015 and 2017 to help raise funds for Ty Hafan children's hospice. Celebrities who took part in the event included EastEnders actor Matt Lapinskas, Former Blackburn & Scotland defender Colin Hendry, Big Brother runner-up Glyn Wise, former Wales rugby player Mark Taylor, and Everton & Wales legend Neville Southall. The event helped raise over £4,500 for the hospice.
Llandeilo Golf Club (now defunct) was founded in 1908/9. The club and course disappeared in the late 1960s.
Rachel Barrett was born in Llandeilo in 1874. A teacher by profession, she later became a prominent member of the women's suffrage movement and became editor of The Suffragette, the mouthpiece of the Women's Social and Political Union.
The amount of traffic coming into the town has caused considerable debate. In 2020, town mayor, Owen James, said “As it stands it’s simply dangerous for people to come into Llandeilo. I know of people who don’t want to come into Llandeilo for that reason. Stand on the main road – you know exactly why we need a bypass.” Work on a bypass road was scheduled to begin in 2019, directing traffic around the town. Commencement of construction work has been delayed. A freeze on construction of new roads in Wales did not include the bypass, which the Welsh Government has estimated to cost £50m.