Clear's, St. (St. Clare's) - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
CLEAR'S, ST. (ST. CLARE'S), a parish, in the Higher division of the hundred of Derllŷs, union and county of Carmarthen, South Wales, on the road from Carmarthen to Haverfordwest, 9 miles (W. by S.) from Carmarthen; containing 1167 inhabitants. This place, which is of considerable antiquity, is supposed to have derived its name from a pious lady, named Clara, who founded a church here in the fifth or sixth century, and, after being canonized, became its tutelar saint. Some, however, are of opinion that it owes its name to the assembly of the Welsh bards, which used to be held here, called in the Welsh language Clair; pointing out, in support of the hypothesis, a lofty tumulus as the place of meeting. Soon after the Norman invasion of this portion of the principality, a castle was erected here by some of the conquerors, the ruins of which are noticed by Leland, who wrote in the time of Henry VIII., but have since entirely disappeared. It is frequently mentioned in the Welsh annals, and was taken and partially demolished by Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, Prince of North Wales, in the year 1215; it afterwards shared the fate of nearly all the Welsh fortresses, until the struggle between the natives and the Norman settlers was decided by the conquest of Wales by Edward I. A small Cluniac priory, for a prior and two monks, was founded here before 1291, as a cell to the monastery of St. Martin de Campis at Paris: it was dissolved with the other alien priories, in the reign of Henry V., and its possessions were given by Henry VI. to the Warden and Fellows of All Souls' College, Oxford, to whom, together with two-thirds of the tithes of the parish, they still belong.
The town is situated at the confluence of the Guinning with the Tâf, which discharge their united waters into the bay of Carmarthen, at the small town of Laugharne, a few miles to the south. It consists of one straggling street, nearly a mile in length, neither lighted nor paved, but well supplied with water, and contains many good dwelling-houses. Several respectable shops have been lately built; the old houses renovated, and other improvements made. The surrounding district is highly productive of corn and butter, which are here shipped for Bristol, Cardiff, Bridgwater, Southampton, and other ports; this trade at present affording constant employment to two vessels of fifty-five tons' burthen each: there are also eight small craft, each of about twenty-five tons' burthen, engaged in the coal, culm, and limestone trades between this place and Milford Haven; and there is a limited export trade in cheese and bark. The port is a creek within the limits of the port of Llanelly, and a new quay, 150 yards in extent, has been constructed, which affords increased facility for loading and unloading. The great South Wales railway will pass a little to the north of the town. St. Clear's is commonly reputed a markettown, but it has no market for the sale of provisions, &c.; Tuesdays and Fridays being here called the market-days, in consequence of the opening of the merchants' stores on those days for the reception of the staple commodities of the vicinity.
The place appears to be a borough by prescription, and is under the control of three portreeves, a recorder, a town-clerk, two common-attorneys, a crier, and an indefinite number of burgesses. Two principal courts leet are held for the borough every year, the one on the first Monday in May, and the other on the first Monday after Michaelmas-day, at the latter of which the portreeves and common-attorneys are appointed, from among the burgesses, by presentment of the jury. The recorder, town-clerk, and crier are chosen in a similar manner, but for life; and the freedom is also conferred solely by the jury, who present candidates to the portreeve to be sworn in. The duties and fees of the officers are slight: the portreeves hold the courts, superintend the property of the burgesses, and act as treasurers; the common-attorneys have the care of a wharf upon the river Tâf, belonging to the corporation; and the crier has merely to act as such at the courts leet. The limits of the borough are not correctly known, though believed to be co-extensive with those of the parish; the perambulations of the authorities are therefore confined to those lands which belong to them, or from which they derive chief-rents, this, indeed, being all that is absolutely necessary. The property of the corporation consists partly of some quit-rents paid to them by certain burgesses, or their successors, who, having been favoured with liberty to occupy some waste lands on payment of a small acknowledgment, have built upon or inclosed them, still paying only the original sum; and partly of land which was assigned to the corporation in lieu of right of common, under an act for inclosing lands passed in the 47th of George III., and of which thirteen acres are let to yearly tenants at a rent of £15. 10., and the remainder upon lease at an annual sum of £11. The total income of the borough is about £45, which, after payment of some fees to the officers, is divided among the principal part of the resident burgesses. The county magistrates hold a court of petty-session once a month; the corporation, which was formerly of some note, once had its courts of session, and its gaol was standing about seventy years ago.
The living is a discharged vicarage, rated in the king's books at £4. 17. 1., and endowed with £200 private benefaction, £200 royal bounty, and £600 parliamentary grant; present net income, £133; patron, J. Lewes Philipps, Esq. The impropriation belongs to the Warden and Fellows of All Souls' College, Oxford, whose tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £185. 11. 4.; the vicar's tithes have been commuted for one of £92. 15. 8., and attached to the vicarage is a glebe of nine acres, valued at £11 a year. The church, which is situated on the bank of the Guinning, is an edifice of considerable antiquity. There are two places of worship for Independents, and one for Wesleyan Methodists, with a Sunday school held in each of them. A donation of £8 per annum to a schoolmaster, for educating a limited number of children, was made by Lady Mary Osburne, of Pencoed, in the parish; who also, by deed in 1719, gave lands now producing £16. 10. per annum, for distribution among the poor, and 10s. to the minister for preaching a sermon, which he delivers on the Sunday previously to the annual distribution on the first Tuesday in March. The tumulus mentioned as being considered the place of meeting of the bards is now called Banc-yBaily, and is stated also to have been the site of the castle; but it appears to be too small to have been occupied by the whole of that edifice, and is probably only the mount on which the keep stood. It was near St. Clear's that the lawless practices of the Rebecca Insurrection were first enacted.