History

Coygan Cave was located on Coygan Hill a large limestone outcrop overlooking Carmarthen Bay, near Pendine. The site is now a large quarry and the cave has disappeared through quarrying.  There have been a number of excavations since around 1888 which showed that the cave was a hyaena den in the late glacial period around 35,000 BP. The excavations have produced a large number of fossilised animal bones from this period. In addition the cave has produced Mousterian hand axes and scrapers. These would have been made used by Neanderthals. These date to around 30,000BP, the Upper Palaeolithic at a time when Neanderthals and Modern Human populations overlapped.

The 1913 excavations were undertaken by Herbert Eccles of Broadway Manor who owned the quarry.

There are a number of archaeological sites across the coastal zone from Amroth through Pendine to Laugharne. Perhaps the most spectacular is a group of four Neolithic Chambered Tombs or cromlechs which sit in a line on a limestone ledge that forms part of Ragwen Point. This point and Gilman Point frame the small isolated bay of Morfa Bychan, after which the group of tombs are named. Both the bay and tombs are accessible from Pendine as the All Wales Coastal Path passes close by. The site overlooks Carmarthen Bay and has tremendous views over to the Gower and north Devon. The group are dated to the late Neolithic at around 3500BC

There are a number of Bronze Age ritual and burial monuments in the area, such as ring cairns and barrows. There are also a number of Iron Age fortified sites, several of which are situated in defensive locations along the cliffs. From west to east there is Top Castle, Gilman Camp, Coygan Camp and Glan y Môr near Laugharne.  Gilman or Napp’s Camp sits on Gilman Point opposite the Morfa Bychan tombs. It is a double banked and ditched promontory fort typical of Iron Age defended enclosures along the west Wales coast. It dates to the period 400BC to 100AD, although it may well have earlier Bronze Age origins.

Some of these Iron Age enclosures were occupied during the Roman period. Trelissey near Amroth and Cwmbrwyn near New Mill, Pendine were small defended farmsteads in the Iron Age. Both have been excavated and Roman pottery and other items have been found. Within the Cwmbrwyn enclosure a large rectangular building replaced native round houses. The hill fort on top of the Coygan outcrop was re-occupied in the late Roman period and a hoard of counterfeit coins were found there. Finds of Roman coins are recorded from Laugharne Castle and at other locations around the township of Laugharne, including a large hoard of over 2000 coins found in 2006. The area lies to the south of the Roman road leading from Moridunum, the Roman town of Carmarthen.

From the mid-18th century onwards there was a growing interest in sea bathing as a health cure. Tenby just to the west of Pendine developed quite rapidly from 1780. Pendine’s origins as a resort were much more modest and essentially it was a sea-bathing resort for Laugharne with its “persons of quality” and local gentry. By 1833 traveller was praising it for its sea bathing quality. By the end of the 19th century it was becoming more popular with visitors and a small hotel, The Beach House Hotel, opened to accommodate them. The local pubs and inns also provided accommodation. There was even a bathing machine. Unfortunately the railway never reached Pendine unlike Tenby and while popular locally it never developed into a major resort. With the development of the motor car its popularity grew and then with the development of static caravan sites it grew further. Its physical expansion though was limited by the arrival of the MOD in 1941, who requisitioned the sand dunes and beach.

Carmarthen Bay with its shifting sand bars has proved deadly for shipping over the years and wrecks of all ages can still be found on its beaches.

People have used Pendine Sands for racing for many years. Horse racing, cycle racing and athletics were popular in the Victorian period. Then motor racing came along. At first organisers did not distinguish between cars and motor bikes. They were all motors. They were powered by side-valve engines. Poor quality petrol fuelled them. Some vehicles were steam driven. The first official motor cycle race took place in August 1905. It was won by Mansel Davies of Llanfyrnach. He rode a Humber motor cycle borrowed from his brother. It had a sloping P&M, Panther, 23/4hp engine. His brother worked in the Humber factory in Coventry. The winner’s prize was £3. Mansel established a haulage firm, which still operates today.

The Pembrokeshire Automobile Club organised hill climbs and speed trials at Pendine. It was one of the earliest clubs for motorists and had a mixed membership. Motoring was an expensive pastime. Only landowners and business men could afford a motor. The Motor Union of Great Britain and Ireland held an event in Swansea in 1909. This was the first motor rally held in Britain. The Union then came to Pendine. Reports referred to Pendine as the finest natural race course. On 16th July 1909 speed trials for twelve classes of motor were held. The motor cycle class was won by W Pollard on a Quadrant. The gentry and the wealthy came in their Darracq, Renault, Mercedes, Britannia, Gladiator, Humber and Vulcan cars. Driven by chauffeurs they competed in the trials.  News quickly spread that the sands were excellent for testing your new vehicle and putting it through its paces. Motor clubs were being established right across the country. The Carmarthen Motor Cycle and Light Car Club was formed in1914. Pendine was becoming a key venue.