An Eventful July 200 Years Ago

On 17th July 1802 the river Towy experienced an exceptional flood. As a result it left its course close to the Bishop's Palace, Abergwili, and formed a new channel some distance away. Part of the original course formed the present Bishop's Pond. This must have sorely tested Bishop Lord George Murray's faith, as he had recently added the east wing to the palace and placed its main entrance there in order to have a panoramic view over the river.

On 17th July also the "Lecsiwn Fawr" or "Great Election" opened at Llandeilo. The only two candidates, Sir J. Hamlyn Williams of Edwinsford and William Paxton of Middleton Hall, fought a long contest. All public houses were thrown open and there was much violence between the "Blue" Whig supporters of Paxton and the "Reds" (Tory) of Williams. Finally on 1st August after a poll lasting 15 days the election ended with the return of Williams. The enormous cost to Paxton, mostly on meals and drink, was said to have amounted to 15,690 - 4 - 2 but there is no reason to assume that Williams was any less generous in his entertainment.

On 18th July 1802 Lammas Street Chapel was opened for services after rebuilding.

On 30th July Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, together with Sir William Hamilton and Lady Emma, arrived at Carmarthen on their way to Milford Haven. Nelson, being an extremely vain man, was not impressed by the lack of civic pomp and popular acclaim that he had received on his journey between Llandovery and Carmarthen. This was certainly because the Lecsiwn Fawr was reaching its exciting climax and everyone was too preoccupied to pay Nelson what he regarded as his due respect.

Nelson's party stayed at the Ivy Bush, then in King Street, kept by Charles Nott. The Mayor and Corporation arranged a civic reception although the Corporation Order Books do not record a dinner in Nelson's honour. The vicar of St. Peter's refused to attend the reception because "I cannot wait upon Lady Hamilton. To Lord Nelson I would cheerfully pay every respect personally, but I dare not countenance adultery". In the evening Nelson attended the theatre in Little Water Street and continued on his journey towards Milford the next day.

July was certainly a more eventful month in Carmarthen in 1802 than 2002.

Conrad Davies

First published in December 2002 in The Friend