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Digital Subscriptions >  Latest Articles > Carmarthenshire – Sir Caerfyrddin

Carmarthenshire – Sir Caerfyrddin
Stamp Collector

Carmarthenshire – Sir Caerfyrddin

Posted Friday, December 8, 2017   |   708 views   |   Hobbies & Crafts   |   Comments (0) Postal historian John Scott returns to Wales and to Carmarthen, where postal services began in the late 17th century giving us a wealth of beautiful and intriguing postal history to pursue

Regular readers of these potted county histories will know that I tend to choose images, not of the postmarks, but more of pictures which can be used to illuminate the subject. Whatever your enthusiasm for a particular area, if you want to engage a wider audience then my contention is that the postal history should be set in the context of the time and this is best done with the help of contemporary ephemera.

If you do not have an intimate knowledge of Wales then probably the only town which you will have heard of in this county is Carmarthen itself. The age of the settlement can be deduced from the presence of Merlin’s Cave where, it is rumoured, the water nymph entombed Merlin alive by placing a boulder over the entrance. By the late 17th century there was a post office in the town and, by the early 19th century there were two mail coaches to London, one via Brecon and the other through Cardiff. Much of the prosperity of the town derived from the coasting trade with exports of iron, lead and tin to Bristol and vessels of up to 300 tons could dock at the quay. The ‘Speedwell’ was one such small sailing vessel which sailed regularly between Bristol and Carmarthen, as well as serving many other towns in the county along Carmarthen Bay. As a result, letters from Carmarthen are not uncommon and over thirty different styles of namestamp are recorded between 1730 and 1840.

A collection of such material can be greatly enhanced by demonstrating the trades which gave rise to the correspondence but this requires a degree of curiosity about what is going on inside the letter, a feature which is still ignored by many collectors and dealers alike. The presence both of iron foundries and of a thriving agricultural sector made it almost inevitable that the town would be celebrated for its farming equipment and the business of Thomas Bright at the Old Foundry gave rise to a substantial volume of commercial correspondence.

The smaller the village the more difficult it is to find illustrative documents but, faced with a pile of mundane looking invoices, it is always worth looking out for businesses which also ran the local post office. The invoice (above) from Daniel Evans shows why the postal context is often overlooked as clearly the trade of a wholesale egg merchant was the prime activity, along with that of grocer, seed, corn and flour merchant. Gorsgoch, meaning Red Bog in Welsh, is about as insignificant as they come and, as the address indicates, came under the office at Llanybyther. The post office in Gorsgoch did not make its first appearance in the Post Office Guide until 1 January 1899 and perhaps one of our readers can narrow down the date of opening still further. The ephemera dealer attached no importance whatsoever to the activity of sub-postmaster and it is easy to see why that might be. But we all know better and all that is needed now is a postmark from its early days to complete a page with a story.

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