The New Drovers Arms

The New Drovers Arms public house is situated in Thomas Street, Llanelli, a thoroughfare which was the centre of the town's commerce during the first half of the 19th century. Within close proximity were the town's earliest hostelries and markets. At the top of the street stood the Thomas Arms which opened about 1829[a], and at the bottom was the much older Falcon Inn.

The Cae Ffair nursing home stands on the site of the early cattle and horse fairs of Llanelli and probably took its name from a field that was used for the purpose. It was said that troops practised their drill and manoeuvres at Cae Ffair during the Rebecca Riots of 1843. Many businessmen and tradesmen lived and carried on their business in this street. The name Drovers probably arose because the inn was a popular meeting place for drovers who would quench their thirst after a long cattle drive and catch up on the news and gossip on market days.

Arms was generally used because pub signs bore the coat of arms of the local landowner or the livery company of the trades that met there, as in Stradey Arms, Joiners Arms, Masons Arms etc. This practice later evolved into the use of symbols illustrating the occupation of the tradesmen who patronised the hostelry, important when a large proportion of the populace were illiterate. The addition of 'New' could be because there was another, older, Drovers Arms in the district or perhaps because the inn had reopened after being closed for a lengthy period.[b]

In the mid-19th century the district was not a pleasant place. During the time when John Evans was the landlord of the Drovers, the Clarke Report of 1850 stated:

The meat market is dark and badly drained. The back of Thomas Street, below Prospect Place, is in a very dirty condition, containing many dung pits and pigsties, and ill-contrived privies, the contents of one of which soaks into the road. The smell in the street is particularly offensive. Above Prospect Place the road is in better order. Thomas Arms Row is composed of cottages in a good position, and each provided with a garden', privy and detached cesspool; the whole is tolerably neat but water is very scarce. Mount Pleasant cottages, though higher up the hill are by no means in such good order. The ground behind is higher than the floors, and renders the houses damp. The windows are small and close; many of them will not open.
This was the condition of much of Llanelli at the time.
A contemporary map of the town shows the location of the Drovers in 1853.


Notes and Citations
We acknowledge the Staff at the Llanelli Reference Library for their assistance and permission to use photographs from the Local Collection.
The local trade directories show the dates and details of the landlords who kept The New Drovers Arms from as early as 1838:

1838 Piggot & Co. Directory. 'Drovers Arms', John Jones, Thomas Street (BR)
1844 Piggot & Co. Directory. 'Drovers Arms', John Jones, Thomas Street
1843 Poor Rate Book Jno Jones, Mary Rigby & Wm Peters owner R G Thomas
1849 Hunt & Co. Directory. 'Drovers Arms', John Evans, Thomas Street
1853 Town Plan - Thomas Street, 'Drovers Arms'
1858 Slater's Directory. 'Drovers Arms', John Evans, Thomas Street
1866 Post Office Directory Drovers Arms Thomas Street D. Harries (BR)
1872 Chalinder's Directory. David Harries 'Drovers Arms', Thomas Street
1891 Return of Public Houses. 'Drovers Arms', Thomas Street. Ground landlord (i.e. landowner) Rees Goring Thomas. Tenant – Benjamin Jones.
1895 Kelly's Directory, Thomas Thomas Drovers' Arms P.H. 30 Thomas Street
1897 James Davies & Co Llanelly Directory & Local Guide List of businesses; Drovers Arms 30 Thomas Street T. Thomas.
Street Directory; Thomas Street. T. Thomas Licensed victualler Drover's Arms
1907 Kelly's Directory, Jones Morgan Marks Drovers' Arms P.H. 30 Thomas Street
1920 Kelly's Directory, Charles, William Drovers' Arms P.H. 30 Thomas Street

[a] Cambrian 3 January 1829 "To be let Inn called The Thomas Arms, Llanelly"
[b] Some twenty years ago, I was informed by the then landlord of The Farriers in Cwm Bach that it was originally named The Drovers which later changed its name to The Farriers. Hence the New Drovers in Thomas Street, but this so far is unproven. (Personal recollection)