Location:  John Street.
Sponsor: Paul Brookfield.


Pen-y-CastellOld maps and plans of the town of Llanelli show an ancient fortification on the site that is now bounded by the buildings that are known today as ‘The Metropolitan’, ‘Castle Field’, ‘Le Caprice’ (Castle Buildings) and Pencastell. Past historians have referred to this site as being Roman or Norman in origin. Early Ordnance Survey maps name the site as ‘Ancient Camp’ or ‘Pen-y-Castell’.

Before the construction of Castle Buildings at the end of nineteenth century the site is outlined as a square or rectangular shaped earthwork with rounded corners. The earth work was approximately fifty metres square, lying today on the mound that is John Street and was approximately sixty metres from the now culverted river Lliedi.   

One early plan of the site clearly shows it as the classic ‘playing card’ shape typical of a small fortlet or ‘practise camp’ constructed by the Roman army when in hostile territory. On arrival at a strategic position such as a spur or platform overlooking a river-plain, the soldiers would dig '' V '' shaped trenches, and with the spoils they would raise earth ramparts topped with a wooden palisade of sharpened stakes, the entire structure forming a rectangle or square.

Given the close proximity of this site to the major Roman fort at Loughor, there is strong evidence that this site was indeed a Roman fort or camp. Comparative Roman fortlets and camps of this type have been identified at Trawsfynydd, Tomen y Mur, Llanfaircaereinion and much closer to Llanelli, at Gorseinon.

The first detailed reference to Llanelli’s Roman site appears in the ‘The history of the Llanelly Parish Church’ by the Victorian historian Arthur Mee (1888), he attributes the site as being Roman, stating...

“Eighteen hundred years ago Llanelly was a Roman out-post. The Legionnaires, penetrating ever westward, arrived at length at Loughor. There they founded a settlement, and spanning the river with a bridge of wood, pushed on to Llanelly. This was their terminus in South Carmarthenshire. Elsewhere in the county they left traces of their presence in the shape of roads and other works, and still more enduring monuments of etymology. But at Llanelly a square green camp alone remained until the present decade to tell of the place as known to the Romans”.

John Innes the author of ‘Old Llanelly’ witnessed the removal of this earthwork and wrote that
‘The Old Castle was the square mound where John Street now stands and nothing else. There were no foundations or buildings of any kind’. Further evidence to support the possibility of the Roman occupation of Llanelli is the cluster of coin finds in and around the town.

A detailed archaeological survey and investigation of the Pen-y-Castell site is required to prove conclusively that the site is of Roman origin. But from existing cartographical evidence, there may well have been a temporary Roman camp on the site that was destroyed or built over in the late 19th century. From this temporary camp the Romans would have guarded a nearby fording at the river Lliedi.
The Blue Plaque on the wall of ‘The Metropolitan’ in John Street marks the NW corner of the earthwork. A scale model of this fortification can be seen at Parc Howard Museum.Pen-Y-Castell Roman Camp by John Hopkins
Notes: 1880 O.S. Plan    First Edition
Penycastell

Safle: Stryd Ioan
Noddwr: Paul Brookfield.


Dengys hen fapiau a chynlluniau tref Llanelli hen gaer ar safle’r adeiladau a adwaenir heddiw fel ‘The Metropolitan’, ‘Castle Field’, ‘Le Caprice’ (Adeiladau’r Castell) a Pencastell. Mae haneswyr y gorffennol wedi cyfeirio at y safle fel un Rhufeinig neu Normanaidd. Enwir y safle ar fapiau ordnans cynnar fel ‘Gwersyll Hynafol’ neu ‘Penycastell’.

Cyn codi Adeiladu’r Castell ar ddiwedd y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg, fe amlinellir y safle fel clawdd sgwâr neu hirsgwar gyda chorneli crwn. Roedd y clawdd tua hanner can metr sgwâr, yn gorwedd heddiw ar y twmpath sydd yn nodweddu Stryd John a tua chwe deg metr o’r afon Lliedi.                                   

Dangosir y safle ar un cynllun cynnar fel siâp hirsgwar clasurol a oedd yn nodweddiadol o gaer fach neu ‘wersyll hyfforddi’ a godid gan Fyddin Rhufain mewn tiriogaeth elyniaethus. Wrth gyrraedd safle strategol fel esgair neu lwyfan yn edrych dros wastatir afon, byddai’r milwyr yn palu ffosydd siâp V, a gyda’r pridd byddent yn codi rhagfuriau ac ar eu pennau balisâd pren o bolion miniog. Byddai’r adeiladwaith cyfan ar siâp sgwâr neu hirsgwar.

O ystyried agosatrwydd y safle hwn i’r gaer Rufeinig yng Nghasllwchwr. Mae tystiolaeth gref mai caer neu wersyll Rhufeinig oedd hwn. Nodwyd Ceiri a gwersylloedd Rhufeinig o’r math hwn yn Nhrawsfynydd, Tomen y Mur, Llanfair Caereinion a llawer yn agosach i dref Llanelli, yng Ngorseinon.

Ymddangosai’r cyfeiriad manwl cyntaf at safle Rhufeinig Llanelli yn Hanes Eglwys y Plwyf Llanelli gan yr hanesydd Fictorianaidd Arthur Mee (1888). Mae e’n priodoli’r safle yn un Rhufeinig gan ddweud...

Deunaw can mlynedd yn ôl, roedd Llanelli yn allbost Rhufeinig. Cyrhaeddai’r Llengoedd Gasllwchwr wrth deithio yn bellach i’r gorllewin. Yn y fan yna, sefydlwyd gwladfa, ac wrth groesi’r afon gyda phompren, gwthio ymlaen i Lanelli. Y fan hon oedd eu terfyn yn Ne Caerfyrddin. Mewn mannau eraill yn y sir, gadawsant olion eu presenoldeb yn ffurf heolydd a gweithfeydd eraill, a henebion geirdarddiad mwy parhaol. Eithr yn Llanelli arhosai gwersyll gwyrdd unig hyd at y ddegawd bresennol i ddweud hanes y lle fel y’i hadnabuwyd gan y Rhufeiniaid.

Yr Hen Gastell oedd y twmpath sgwâr ble saif Heol John yn awr a dim arall. Nid oedd na sylfeini nac adeiladau o unrhyw fath. Bu darganfyddiad darnau arian mewn ac o gwmpas y dref yn dystiolaeth bellach i gefnogi posibilrwydd anheddiad Rhufeinig Llanelli.

Mae angen arolwg ac ymchwiliad manwl o safle Penycastell i brofi’n derfynol bod y safle o darddiad Rhufeinig. Ond o dystiolaeth mapiau cyfoes, mae’n ddigon bosibl bod gwersyll Rhufeinig dros dro ar y safle a ddinistriwyd neu a adeiladwyd arno ar ddiwedd y 19eg ganrif. O’r gwersyll dros dro hwn, byddai’r Rhufeinwyr wedi gwarchod rhyd yr afon Lliedi gerllaw. Nodir man GG y clawdd yn Heol John gan Blac Glas ar y Metropolitan. Gellir gweld model raddedig o’r gaer hon yn Amgueddfa Parc Howard.

Nodiadau:  1880 O.S. Plan Rhifyn Cyntaf

See also Llanelli's Ancient Fort

LCH0077