Reenacting the Great Civil War at Carmarthenshire County Museum


Beneath the hill where Merlin sleeps, on the site of a medieval monastic college, the Palace of the Bishops of St Davids stands at Abergwili, a small village just outside the County Town of Carmarthen.

The Monastic College which originally stood on this site was moved to Christ College Brecon on the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the site was appropriated by Bishop Barlow for the use of the Bishops of St Davids.

The Building was improved under William Laud, and later, the Village was used as a Rendezvous for the Carmarthen Trained Bands.

In the present day the Museum is frequently visited by members of Sir Henry Vaughans, bringing the History of the Great Civil War back to life.


The Bishop's Palace

It was in this building that in 1567 the New Testament was first translated into the Welsh Language by Bishop Morgan. In 1624 the Building became the official residence of William Laud, in his capacity as Bishop of the Diocese.

Later, of course, King Charles raised Laud to the rank of Archbishop of Canterbury, and his Religious Policies were felt by many to have made a major contribution to the unrest which led to the Great Civil Wars 1639-1660. Laud was arrested by Parliament, along with the King's other notorious advisor, the Earl of Strafford, and kept in the Tower until he was executed by beheading on 10 January 1644/5

William Laud

Laud's Chapel Windows


William Laud stayed at the house for a short time, but remodelled the Chapel, which was unfortunately destroyed by fire in the 19_0s. However the distinctive Windows remain as testimony of Laud's tenure of the Diocese.                                   


At the Start of the Civil War, Carmarthen lay well inside the area dominated by the Royalists. The dominant landowners in the County were the Vaughan's of Golden Grove, and the head of the Family, Richard Vaughan, Earl of Carbery , became the King's Lieutenant General in South West Wales. His Uncle, Sir Henry Vaughan of Derwydd, held the appointment of Sergeant  Major General under the Earl of Carbery's command.

The men of the County Militia were required to enlist in the Kings Forces, except for those who could raise 15 shillings to provide a bounty for a replacement, and Carmarthen Townsmen prospered as thousands of cattle and sheep passed through the markets on the way to supply the Kings Armies in the midlands and the West Country


Portrait of the Earl of Carbery,now in Abergwili museum

Section of the Earthworks near the Police Headquarters, Carmarthen

Many of the soldiers raised in the area were marched to Oxford to join the King's Army and in particular, Henry Vaughan entered the City at the head of his regiment of Foot in January 1642/3. The king was so pleased with this reinforcement that Henry Vaughan received a Knighthood in recognition of his services

Soon , however Parliament realised that an attack on Pembrokeshire would cut off the King's communications with his forces in Ireland, and troops landed by ship, in conjunction with local Puritan supporters rapidly gained control of the county.

The Vaughan's had brought down from Oxford a professional engineer, Captain Richard Steele, with the intent of fortifying Milford Haven against just such a naval landing, however the Roundheads attacked before the fortifications were complete. The Royalists retreated from Pembrokeshire and built an Earthwork to defend Carmarthen against attack from the West. Several hundred feet of this earthwork remain as one of the most complete Civil War defences remaining in Britain

In 1683, the Duke of Beaufort was appointed President of the Court of Wales and the Marches. In the wake of the Rye House Plot, the Court were rightly concerned for the loyalty of the officers in charge of the County Militias, and one of the Duke's first tasks was to carry out an inspection of each of the County Trained Bands within the Principality. His tour of Wales was recorded by the antiquarian, William Dineley, who has left us many sketches of local antiquities as well as the drawing (opposite)of the Carmarthenshire Militia mustered at Abergwili to greet the Duke. Note the gyronny pattern colour behind the tent in the left foreground and possibly a second in the centre of the picture. These appear to be on a Civil War pattern rather than in the style of the 1680's, and possibly the colours had been in use for some years by the time the picture was drawn.

Many Portraits and other items from Sir Henry Vaughan's mansion at Derwydd House, Near Llandybie, have been acquired by the friends of the Museum , which also has preserved many items from the history of the Carmarthenshire Militia.

The present day representatives of Sir Henry Vaughan's soldiers are proud to be associated with this historic site. We hope to revisit the Museum of a regular basis, and we next intend to Camp in the grounds on ______________. Why not come and meet us? We will be pleased to demonstrate the dress, equipment and drill of Seventeenth Century Soldiers and share any other aspects of the period history in the scope of our individual members.

The museum is open to the public free of charge, but depends on the support of the County Council. There are a host of items reflecting the long history of Carmarthen, not just those associated with the Vaughans, or the Carmarthen militia.If you have not already visited this fascinating historic building why not do so today?

TO FIND OUT MORE:     Contact

  • K Jarvis                                                                                   
  • Bron Haul
  • Penlan Road,                                                                                 
  • Carmarthen,                                                                                   
  • SA31 1DN,                                                                             
  • 07929 870885                

More about Sir Henry Vaughan of Derwydd

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