• Daniel Herbert

History of Llanelli

Llanelli ("St Elli's Parish"; Welsh pronunciation: [ɬaˈnɛɬi]) is the largest town in the county of Carmarthenshire and the preserved county of Dyfed, Wales. Located on the Loughor estuary, some 10 miles (16 km) north-west of Swansea and 12 miles (19 km) south-east of the county town, Carmarthen, Llanelli is famous for its rugby tradition and as a centre of tinplate production. Several communities nearby the town are often included colloquially in Llanelli

'Llanelli' or 'Llanelly'

The spelling 'Llanelly' is an anglicised form which was used until 1966, after which it was changed following a local public campaign. This is evident in the name of the local historic building, 'Llanelly House'. It can also lead to confusion with the village and parish, Llanelly, which is in south-east Wales near Abergavenny. Llanelly in Victoria, Australia was named after the town of Llanelli (or Llanelly as it was known as in the 19th century).


The town lies on the River Lliedi, on the north coast of the Loughor Estuary inlet, which opens out into Carmarthen Bay, and the Bristol Channel. Llanelli is within the western Welsh county of Carmarthenshire, and is situated to the north-west of the city of Swansea and to the south-east of the county town of Carmarthen.


The first beginnings of Llanelli can be found on the lands of present-day Parc Howard. An Iron Age hill fort once stood which was called Bryn-Caerau (hill of the forts). Evidence suggests that there were many as 5 hill forts from Old Road to the Dimpath. During the dark ages a saint named Elli or Ellyw who in legend is the son or daughter (gender not known) of King Brychan set up a church on the banks of the Afon Lliedi. It was around this time that the people of Bryn-Caerau began to come down the hill either to the Felinfoel area or to near Saint Ellyw's church. This was the start of the building of the town and its church. Originally the church would've been a wooden or partly stone thatched chapel. It wasn't until the 1200s that they built the stone tower and a stone church. However the church (excluding the tower) was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century. The reason the church still looks old is for it was rebuilt with the same stones with the same plan. Historically a mining town, Llanelli grew significantly in the 18th century and 19th century with the mining of coal and later the tinplate industry and steelworks. Many of these industries were served by the Llanelly and Mynydd Mawr Railway which opened in 1803.

Llanelli became such a significant regional producer of tin that it was referred to as "Tinopolis" by the latter half of the 19th century. The closure of coal mines and competition from overseas steel plants meant that Llanelli, like many other towns in southern Wales, saw significant and sustained economic decline from the late 1970s.

People from Llanelli are sometimes nicknamed "Turks". The origin of this name is uncertain. One theory is that many Turkish sailors once called at the port of Llanelli during their voyages.

Culture and language

National Eisteddfod

Llanelli has hosted the National Eisteddfod six times: in 1895, 1903, 1930, 1962, 2000 and 2014.

Welsh language

In the mid-20th century, Llanelli was the largest town in the world where more than half the population spoke a Celtic language.It is ranked the 7th largest urban area in Wales. According to the 2011 UK Census returns, 23.7 per cent of Llanelli town residents habitually spoke Welsh. However, the area around Llanelli is a Welsh stronghold where 56 per cent do so in communities such as Llwynhendy and Burry Port.

During the 1950s, Trefor and Eileen Beasley campaigned to get Llanelli Rural Council to distribute tax papers in Welsh by refusing to pay taxes until their demand was met. The council reacted by sending in the bailiffs and selling their furniture to recover the money owed. The Beasleys' neighbours bought the furniture and returned it to them. The council finally reversed this policy in the 1960s, when it accepted that Welsh should have equal status with English language.


In 1991 Llanelli was a distinct Travel to Work Area, but the 2001-based revision has merged the locality into a wider Swansea Bay Travel to Work Area.


A number of manufacturing companies (including the Tata Steel Europe tinplate works at Trostre, and Dyfed Steels), many of which service the automotive industry, are in the area around Llanelli. The Technium Performance Engineering Centre was developed at Llanelli Gate as a business incubator for businesses in the automotive, motorsport and aerospace sectors.

The traditional industries of Llanelli have been in gradual decline over recent decades and local government has responded by promoting developments such as the Machynys Golf Course, new retail parks at Trostre and Pemberton, and the Millennium Coastal Park, to help attract tourism. The core shopping area has now largely relocated from the town centre to the Trostre/Pemberton area.


Llanelli has a brewing tradition, with the Felinfoel Brewery in Felinfoel, located just outside the town.

The Reverend James Buckley was an ordained Methodist minister, born in Oldham, Lancashire in 1770. After moving to Llanelli towards the end of the 18th century, he became involved in the establishment of a small brewery in the town. After the death of the owner, the Rev. Buckley came into the possession of the brewery and changed its name to Buckley's Brewery. In 1998, the brewery was purchased by Brains Brewery, and production was transferred to their brewery in Cardiff. However, Brains continue to produce The Reverend James, a bitter named in memory of the Reverend. The brewery has now been partly demolished.

Leisure and tourism

Over the past decade, the emphasis on heavy industry that once played an important part in the district has changed to an emphasis on creating tertiary sector employment in leisure and tourism. Llanelli is now being developed as a leisure and tourism destination, with many ongoing developments such as the new Llanelli Scarlets rugby stadium, the Old Castle Works leisure village (see below) and a National Hunt racecourse at Ffos Las near Trimsaran. Machynys Ponds, a Site of Special Scientific Interest notable for its dragon fly population, is 1 mile (1.6 km) to the south of Llanelli.



Dan Herbert

22 Tonna Road

CF34 0SB

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