Years 0 to 500 AD
The “Gwlad Nini” area has been strategically important since the beginnings of recorded history.
The River Loughor (in Welsh Afan Llwchwr) is a natural boundary between Glamorganshire and Carmarthenshire. The Romans built a harbour at Loughor and the tidal estuary allowed ships to sail to and from the area.
The “Gwlad Nini” area has been inhabited for thousands of years, back to Prehistoric Times when the river marked the boundary between the 2 Celtic tribes of South Wales. The Silures’ lands were to the east of the river in Gwent and Glamorgan, while the Demetae’s lands were to the west. both before and after the arrival of the Romans.
The Romans must have thought that the area was strategically important as they built a fort at Loughor (Leucarium) at the mouth of the River Loughor (Leuca Fluvius). They also built a road from Neath to Loughor and at least 2 Practice Forts; one on Garn Goch and the other on Stafford Common. Wyn Jones 35 says in his book that there was another practice fort at Llys Nini, but there is no evidence of it.
At low tide it is possible to ford the river at Loughor but it would have been difficult for carts to cross there.
It is thought that the Antonine Iterary ( a register of the stations and distances along the various Roman roads containing directions how to get from one Roman settlement to another) indicates that the river was not to be crossed at Loughor but to proceed North from the fort to the easier crossing near Llandeilo Talybont.
Llandeilo Talybont – “St Teilo’s at the head of the Bridge”, but there is no bridge there nor any remains of a bridge. The nearest bridge is at Pontarddulais, some 3/4 mile away but that was not built until the 1300s. However the name Talybont was in existence around 1119, if it had been a ford rather than a bridge the name would have been unlikely to contain the word “pont” or bridge.
There is a story that Loughor was anciently called Tre Avanc, from the great number of beavers abounding in the neighbouring rivers;Afanc, being the old Welsh, name for beaver. However, the Afanc is also a mythical monster, which takes the form of a giant beaver or crocodile.