Llangathen (Llan-Gathan) - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
LLANGATHEN (LLAN-GATHAN), a parish, in the poor-law union of Llandilo-Vawr, Lower division of the hundred of Cathinog, county of Carmarthen, South Wales, 4 miles (W. by S.) from Llandilo-Vawr; containing 1108 inhabitants. This parish is delightfully situated in a fertile district, celebrated for the richness and the diversity of its scenery. It is bounded on the north by the parish of Llanvihangel-Kîlvargen, on the east by the parishes of Llandeveyson and Llandilo-Vawr, on the west by that of Llanegwad, and on the south by Llanvihangel-Aberbythic, from which it is separated by the river Towy, winding gracefully along the beautiful vale of the same name. It comprises 5513 acres, of which, by admeasurement, 1873 are arable and 3400 meadow and pasture, and, by computation, 240 woodland and roads; the surface is undulated, the soil in general clayey, and the cultivation of wheat, barley, and oats, with the rearing of cattle, forms the principal employment of the farmers. The parish derives its chief attraction from the enchanting Vale of Towy, which extends for upwards of thirty miles in length, comprehending every variety of scenery, and embracing some of the most magnificent views in the principality. The village, situated on the turnpikeroad from Carmarthen by Aberguilly to LlandiloVawr, has a cheerful appearance, and is much enlivened by the number of travellers passing through it; the environs present some richly wooded eminences, and luxuriant plantations belonging to the several villas and noble mansions. Limestone exists in great abundance, and lead-ore is frequently obtained in small quantities. Fairs are held on April 16th and September 22nd, and at Dryslwyn on July 1st and August 13th.
Near the margin of the Towy, the finest river in South Wales, is Grongar Hill, celebrated by the poet Dyer, and forming one of the most interesting objects in the vale, out of which it rises to a very considerable elevation: under the shelter of a black thorn, still remaining on its summit, Dyer is said to have composed his beautifully descriptive poem. From this spot is obtained a most enchanting prospect over the whole vale, with the river sometimes seen boldly sweeping round the base of some of the abrupt eminences for which the scenery is distinguished, and in other places intercepted from the view by the projection of similar elevations, which rise in various parts of the vale. The hills on both sides are clothed with thriving plantations, chiefly of oak and fir, ornamented with stately mansions, and with scattered villages of rural and picturesque appearance. This beautiful spot comprises two valuable farms, the property of Walter Philipps, Esq., of Aberglâsney, one of the most ancient and spacious seats in this part of the principality, and memorable as the early residence, if not the birthplace, of the poet, who, in his poem of the "Country Walk," alludes to its pleasant situation beneath Grongar Hill. Sir Rice Rudd, Bart., formerly proprietor of this estate, conveyed by deed to the proprietor of Aberglâsney £25 per annum, in trust for a charity founded in the town of Carmarthen by Bishop Rudd and his widow; and in the event of the proprietor of Aberglâsney refusing to act, the owner of the Golden Grove estate, the bishop and chancellor of the diocese of St. David's, and the mayor and recorder of Carmarthen, are appointed trustees. The proprietor of Aberglâsney has erected a neat and comfortable inn, for the accommodation of the visiters who are attracted by the prospects for which the situation is celebrated, or by the other scenes of interest in the vicinity.
In the parish also is Court Henry, the property and residence of the Rev. George Wade Green. This gentleman has enlarged and greatly improved the mansion; and, on the elevated ground immediately behind, commanding one of the most beautiful prospects in the county, has at his own expense erected a church for the accommodation of his family and the neighbourhood, consisting of a nave capable of holding 150 persons, and a gallery, in which is placed an excellent organ. Court Henry is supposed to have derived its name, according to some writers, from its having been the residence of Henry VII., who, while Earl of Richmond, is said to have occasionally held his court here; but with greater probability, from Henry ab Gwilym, whose daughter was married to Sir Rhŷs ab Thomas. It is pleasantly situated, the adjacent grounds partaking of the general character of the scenery. The other seats are, Havodnethyn, Brynhavod, and Bridshill.
The living is a discharged vicarage, rated in the king's books at £6. 13. 4., and endowed with £200 parliamentary grant; patron and impropriator, the Bishop of Chester: the tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £390, of which £260 are payable to the bishop, and £130 to the vicar. The church, dedicated to St. Cathan, and standing on a lofty eminence, will accommodate 400 persons with sittings, and contains a stately monument to the memory of Bishop Rudd and his lady, whose effigies are finely sculptured. There are two places of worship for Calvinistic Methodists, who support two Sunday schools. A small day school for girls, in connexion with the Established Church, is held in the lodge of Court Henry, under the patronage of Miss Key and the Rev. Mr. Green; and two Sunday schools are maintained also in connexion with the Establishment, one of them being held in the parish church, and the other in the church at Court Henry. In 1777, Diones, widow of the Rev. Thomas Lloyd, rector of Hornsea, bequeathed £400, or sufficient to produce £12 per annum, in the 3 per cent. reduced annuities, which she directed to be distributed among ten poor persons; and the vicar accordingly receives and divides the interest in May and November.
On Grongar Hill is a very perfect encampment, comprising about eight acres, within a quadrilateral area, having two entrances in the shorter side of the parallelogram; and not far from it to the west, are the ruins of Dryslwyn Castle, on the summit of an abrupt hill in the vale: the remains of this castle, which was erected by the ancient Princes of South Wales, and derived its name from its difficulty of access, are very inconsiderable, but nevertheless form an interesting and picturesque feature in the landscape. Near the church are some slight vestiges of the ancient Capel Pen Arw; and within a short distance is a spring, the water of which was formerly in high reputation for its efficacy in the cure of rheumatism and diseases of the eye.