Castle House

Tourist Information

 

Also housed in Castle House is the Tourist Information Centre, serving Carmarthen and the County. We hold plenty of information about the surrounding countryside and attractions in the County, and offer a free information service, with expert advice on how to make the most of your visit to the area.

Should you require accommodation, we will be happy to assist you in finding something best suited to your needs - not just in Carmarthen, but also nationally.

 

Walking Tours

Castle House is the starting point for free Town Tours which take place during the summer months on most Wednesdays, depending on weather conditions.

For further information or Group Bookings call  01267 231557

 

Opening Times

Monday – Saturday    10:00am- 4.00pm

Castle House, Carmarthen Castle, Castle Hill, Carmarthen SA31 1AD

Parking available at weekends or nearest weekday parking at St Peter’s Car Park, SA31 1LN

For further info, please contact us on

Tel: +44 (0)1267 231557 carmarthentic@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

www.discovercarmarthenshire.com

Castle House

Castle House

Prior to 1860, Carmarthen required a lockup within easy reach of the gaol and the courthouse. An old town infirmary stood between the concentric walls of the castle, which was an ideal location.

The conversion was completed by c1860, and this then served as a sub-station for the Borough Constabulary (est’1843) and the County Constabulary (est’1836).

The reasoning for this was to avoid taking prisoners through the busy town

to and from the goal and courthouse - as previously, the lockup had been in the Roundhouse in John Street, (where M&S now stands) several hundred yards from the courthouse.

The lockup diaries of the period show that the lockup was also used for holding prisoners in transit. Following amalgamation of the two forces in 1947, and the closing of the gaol, the lockup was then vacated.

Now known as Castle House, the old County Lockup is perhaps the only one of its kind in Wales to have survived.

 

The Old Gaol

The history of a Gaol at Carmarthen can be traced back to mid 1532 and became an important aspect of town life in Carmarthen. The Castle was converted in 1789 into the new County Gaol designed by John Nash, was later extended in 1869, and survived until 1936, at which time it was demolished.

The early gaol was Confined to the inner Bailey and consisted of 8 cells, a day room and an exercise yard.

John Nash’s 18th Century version followed due to the intervention of John Howard, to improve the condition in which Carmarthen’s prisoners were kept, by demolishing Carmarthen’s two gaols in favour of a new single gaol to serve the Borough and the County.

 

Crime and Punishment

In the 1700’s, the death penalty could be invoked for over 200 offences. By 1832, this had been reduced to120 offences. After 1861, the death penalty was confined to offences of murder, treason, piracy with violence and arson in the sovereign’s vessels, arsenals and dockyards.

It was normal practice at the time for executions to take place in full public view. The location for County executions was at Babel Hill, Pensarn (where Babel Chapel now stands) a mile south of the town; while Royal Oak Common in Johnstown was the scene for all Town executions.

The last public hanging was in 1817, after which a safer place was sought, and a public gallows was erected inside the front wall of the County Gaol, facing Spilman Street. The last public hanging in Carmarthen Gaol was 1829, with the last closed hanging taking place in 1894.

Punishments for other offences still remained harsh. The treadmill at Carmarthen was located in the Southwest overlooking Coracle Way and Little Bridge Street, and was used to provide power to pump water from the well to the tanks in the roof. Another punishment was The Crank, which was completely demoralising and soul destroying. It was part of the cell and comprised a large box fitted to a wall or the floor, and filled with sand and gravel. A large handle projected from the side, with a paddle inside. This had to be pushed through the sand. The tasks set would be 10,000 to 12,000 per day.

“Old” Carmarthen Town

Carmarthen is recognised as being “the oldest continuously inhabited town in Wales,” predating the arrival of the Romans, who, in the 2nd Century, established Moridunum on the site of an earlier hill fort.

This new walled town became the most westerly bastion of the Roman Empire in the British Isles.

Most of the Roman architecture has long-since gone, but good examples of their street layout and amphitheatre can still be seen in the southeast quarter, along with other interesting buildings located throughout the town.