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A History of a Welsh Baptism Spot
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A History of a Welsh Baptism Spot

In the mid-nineteenth century, baptisms took place under Wiselboom/ Wistleboon Bridge in the river Lliedi, often at night (no doubt so as to avoid hecklers). Although the river is small, there would have been deep pools under the arches of the bridge, which would have made it a suitable place for baptisms.

This 1880 Ordnance Survey map of the Sandy (Sandy is an area to the west of Llanelli, west of the area known as Forge.) Old Castle area of Llanelli shows the approximate position of the Wiselboom Bridge (in red); the position of the present-day Old Castle Pond is coloured in blue. Caemaen colliery, for which the bridge was built, can be seen to the east of the pond. The best means of access to the site currently by car would be to enter the car park of ‘Ramps Skate Park’ at Sandy roundabout and access the site through the side gate. The Wiselboom/Wistleboon bridge is close to the Forge area of Llanelly, and convenient walking distance from Seaside and Llanelli town.

John Innes includes the following information about the Church in his 1902 book Old Llanelly:

“About 1845 Mormonism spread like a wave over South Wales, and Llanelly felt the movement. The colliers of Caemaen and Caebad were converted in large numbers, as were those of the ‘Box’; many coppermen also became nominally ‘Saints.’

“Walter Hodge and one Bassett, were the high priests of the new faith at Llanelly, and it is even alleged that they worked miracles!

“Longhurst of the Furnace was an early convert, and so was David Williams of Sandy Gate. They baptized at night under the Thistleboon or Wistleboon Bridge, near the Old Castle. There was a ‘Latter-day Chapel’ in Island Place—afterwards a woolen factory—the wool gathering having assumed a commercial phase. About the time not a few Llanelly families emigrated to Salt Lake to join Brigham Young. The terrors of several simultaneous mothers-in-law were insufficient to deter these ardent converts.”

The ‘Longhurst of Furnace’ referred to by John Innes above may well be William Longhurst who is listed in the 1851 census living in Furnace, Llanelli, as a lodger, age 20 and single, in the household of David Manuel and family. This same William is listed as a son of David and Elizabeth Longhurst, living in Furnace, on the 1841 census. His christening (age 3 years) is recorded in the Llanelly Anglican parish registers for 20 September 1833. He was baptized into the Church as an adult in 1853.

The David Williams of Sandy Gate referred to by John Innes is undoubtedly this David Williams (1817–1888) whose history was written by his granddaughter, and appears on the familysearch.org website at: https://familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/14730977

In addition to his personal history there are details of the Llanelly branch. His granddaughter says:

“In grandfather’s Welsh record book which I had translated… it stated that he was baptized into the Latter-Day Saint Church 11 February 1848 by Walter Rhoge (also called Roche and Roach) and confirmed the same day by elders William Hughes and David Charles. Sarah his wife was baptized 30 April 1849 by elder John Williams, brother to grandfather. He had been converted by his brother John, who in turn had been a convert of Captain Dan Jones, the famous Welshman who had been with the prophet Joseph Smith the last day he lived. When David and John Williams joined the Church their brother Joseph was greatly disturbed and whenever he found them preaching on the streets of Llanelly he would kick the boxes out from under them. Grandfather was the Presiding Elder of the Llanelly Branch at the time of immigration. He helped build the chapel in Island Place and his name is on the old deed.”

The Walter Hodge referred to by John Innes was then, according to David Williams’ history, Walter Roach/Roche. A Walter Roach appears on the 1841 census records for Llanelly in Forge with his father John and siblings. He also appears on the list of immigrants at: http://welshmormon.byu.edu under the spelling Roach. He emigrated to Utah territory in 1850 and died in Spanish Fork, Utah.

There were a number of branches in the Llanelli conference/district in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1855–1861 Llanelli Branch/ Conference minutes the following branches in or near Llanelli are listed: Ffwrnais Forge Kidwelly Lanymor/Glanymor (most likely the area now known as Seaside) Llanelli Town/Dre, Pembrey Pontyberem Pontyeats Vangalch Wainbaglan/ Gwaunbaglan.

Sources for this historical information:

Old Llanelly by John Innes. Published by the Western Mail in 1902.

Hugh Jones, former member of Llanelli branch/ward (20th century)

Minutes of the Llanelly Conference 1855-1861 – translated from Welsh and available at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah

History of David Williams, Llanelli branch president in the 19th century and available online at: http://welshmormon.byu.edu

Information and Depositions of Jenkin Hugh of Llanelly, Catherine his wife, Edward Chalinder, and William Lewis, as reported by Evan D. Jones in ‘A File of “Rebecca” papers, and published in The Carmarthen Antiquary 1943/4, Vol. 1, 4.

www.ancestry.co.uk www.findmypast.co.uk