St Clears Port
Track 11 - The Port & Horse
St. Clears has a maritime history since at least the 12th century when the Normans in their longships sailed up the river and consolidated the conquest by establishing a castle.
Ships and merchants of St. Clears were mentioned in medieval documents and from the 16th and 17th centuries, St. Clears was part of the expanding coastal and foreign trade: until the later 19th century the commercial life of St. Clears was heavily dependant on links to the sea.
‘Industrial’ imports included stone, coal and timber (from Baltic ports). Many domestic goods such as cloth and clothes, pots and pans, soap, candles, glassware, knives, ironmongery and haberdashery were brought in by sea, mostly from Bristol. In return, St. Clears exports were mainly agricultural - corn butter and cheese. Eighteenth-century exports included lead ore from the Llanfyrnach mines.
In the 19th century, vessels of up to 250 tons came up river on spring tides, and boats such as the ‘Betsy’, ‘Penelope’ and ‘Lively’ conveyed passengers to Bristol once a fortnight.
Road improvements and the construction of the railway in 1853 led to a gradual decline of the port and a shifting of the commercial focus to ‘upper’ St. Clears, but some seaborne trade continued until the late 1920’s. The ancient practise of coracle fishing is still maintained, whilst there is now extensive use of the rivers by pleasure craft.