In April 1648 the Civil War had reached South Wales for the second time, at this period the gentry, namely Rice Powell, John Poyer and Rowland Laugharne had sided with the Royalists and were in control of the counties of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.
The main body of Cromwell’s Parliamentarian army of Roundheads were moving west from Hereford and Brecon under the command of Colonel Horton supported by Colonel Okey and his elite Dragoons. The town of Llanelli during this period would have been a small hamlet standing on the banks of the river Lliedi, comprising of small thatched cottages and dwellings encompassing the Parish Church. The town was populated by farm labourers, fishermen, colliers, tradesmen and perhaps a few seafarers. The local squire was the ‘royalist’ John Vaughan, who lived at Y Plas, which probably stood on the site of what we know today as Llanelli House.
The town of Llanelli must have been of some strategic importance! because there was a Royalist military presence here in the form of a camp or ‘quarters’. A flying squadron of Roundhead cavalry and dragoons under the command of Parliamentarian Colonel Fleming were operating in the area. Colonel Fleming had been destined to command the town of Pembroke and its castle, but had been thrown out by Poyer and had been forced to retreat east towards the main body of the Parliamentarian army, Fleming was out for revenge! In effect the Royalists held Carmarthen; the Roundheads were at or near Swansea and Llanelli was no-man’s-land in between.
The royalist garrison in the town must have been unaware of Fleming’s movements as, on or about the 15th of April 1648, Fleming rode into the town of Llanelli and surprised the defenders by routing its garrison, capturing some men and horses, forcing the defending Royalists to retreat west towards the town of Carmarthen.
The event has been documented in contemporary newspapers, letters and broadsheets of the time; one in particular states ‘Letters from Cardiffe (sic) in South Wales, dated Cardiffe 17th of April 1648.... Colonel Fleming last week took 14 horse and 10 troopers of Colonel Powell’s at Lanelthy (sic). The rest of the troop got away’. More details of the event are given by Horton himself, who wrote from Swansea on the 17th of April 1648, ‘Col. Fleming gave them alarm at Llanelli where, with a party of horse and dragoons he beat up their quarters, and after a light skirmish took 12 horse and men prisoners’.
To date the site of this skirmish is unknown, but there have been some local opinions expressed that it may have been at Cwmbach, Talsarnau or Swansea Road. One site not yet considered is the Parish Church; its military tower would have given a commanding view of the various approaches to the town. There are at least two instances in South west Wales where a church has been the site of a military struggle between Cavaliers and Roundheads, indeed it was at a Llandeilo church shortly after the action at Llanelli that Colonel Fleming shot himself after unsuccessfully defending the position.
Military Research by Dr David Davies