As we have come to expect from Stephen David, his lecture was wide-ranging, erudite and clear. Llanelli is often thought of as a nineteenth century industrial town now fallen on hard times - the hard times bit is true, as it is for so many post-industrial centres in modern Britain, but Llanelli has a history which dates back much further than the reign of Queen Victoria.
Another monarch, James VI of Scotland who became James I of England in succession to Elizabeth I in 1603 as part of his new kingdom took over the rights and privileges of the Duchy of Lancaster. Fortunately for modern historians, a detailed review of the ducal possessions was undertaken and since Llanelli was part of that inheritance, we now have access to accurate information as to the number and size of landholdings, the costs of rent, the regularity of markets – all indicators of the kinds of life the people of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century were able to lead.
Stephen told us that in Llanelli, Welsh men lived and owned property in the town (small though it was) in contrast to many other towns in Wales where town living and property ownership was restricted to English men. And the inhabitants were prosperous enough to support the services of a glover.
The mainstay of the economy, as elsewhere throughout Britain in this period, was agriculture, mostly subsistence with a little left over for the local market. Very small-scale coal mining, of the drift type, mostly supplied a local market, and there was little trade at this period through what was later to become the port of Llanelli from where coal and finished tinplate products were shipped to the world.