Dylan and Caitlin’s first home together, following their marriage in July 1937, was the small former fisherman’s cottage, Eros, at 2 Gosport Street. They moved in in May 1938, staying until July the same year when they moved to the larger, more comfortable house near the castle, Sea View.
..pokey and ugly, four rooms like stained boxes (Dylan describes Eros in a letter to Henry Treece)
The ruined Norman castle dominates the centre of Laugharne and is now looked after by the Welsh heritage body CADW. During the 1930s and 1940s the novelist Richard Hughes leased the adjacent Castle House and the gazebo in the castle grounds. Dylan first visited Richard at Laugharne in 1936 when he was just beginning his relationship with Caitlin who was visiting with the painter Augustus John. Richard became a friend and supporter of Dylan and later allowed him to use the gazebo as a place to write. It was in the gazebo that Dylan worked on stories for his collection Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.
After three months in the cramped and basic conditions of 2 Gosport Street, Dylan and Caitlin moved into the larger and more comfortable three-storied house Sea View. They moved in during July 1938 and lived there off and on until July 1940. When they moved in Caitlin was pregnant with their first child, a son, Llewelyn, although they temporarily moved to Caitlin’s mother’s home Blashford in Hampshire for the final days of the pregnancy in January 1939. The painter Rupert Shephard was a visitor to Sea View and painted Dylan in the sitting room; the portrait is now part of the National Portrait Gallery collection. When Dylan and Caitlin finally left Sea View in July 1940 it was in a hurry, leaving behind their possessions as they sought to escape local creditors.
We’ve moved house & tilted our noses. Our previous house, once a palace, is now that cottage. How we ever existed there is beyond us. Here we could have two bedrooms each, which is quite useless. (Letter to Charles Fisher July 1938)
The iconic Boathouse at Laugharne was Dylan’s home for the last four years of his life. Dylan and his family moved into the Boathouse in 1949 after his patron Margaret Taylor purchased the property for £3000. The house with it’s panoramic views over the Taf Estuary provided the Thomas family with a reasonable level of comfort whilst providing Dylan with access to the inspiring natural beauty of its surroundings.
my seashaken house On a breakneck of rocks (from Prologue)
During his time at the Boathouse Dylan worked in his writing shed, a small wooden converted garage nearby. After Dylan’s death Caitlin stayed for only a short time at the Boathouse before moving to Italy after which Dylan’s mother Florence moved in and spent her last five years there. Carmarthenshire County Council acquired the property in the 1970s and after extensive renovations it was opened as a museum and gallery.
Bench in the Boathouse garden with a quotation from Dylan’s daughter Aeronwy
The funny thing, is I find myself going back again and again (Aeronwy Thomas Ellis)
Plaque to Dylan’s daughter Aeronwy in the garden at the Boathouse
Whilst living at the nearby Boathouse Dylan worked in the small wooden garage that perches precariously on the cliff edge above the Taf Estuary. The building had formerly housed the first motor car in Laugharne, belonging to Doctor Cowan. The shed has fine views across the Taf Estuary and Sir John’s Hill; views that feature in some of Dylan’s later poems such as Over Sir John’s Hill and Poem in October. Today the shed has been restored to how it looked in photographs taken during Dylan’s time there and the interior can be seen through a glass viewing panel. The inside of the shed can be viewed by arrangement with staff at the Boathouse. A replica of Dylan’s writing shed was created during his centenary in 2014 and travelled the country as part of the celebrations.
On King Street, across the road from Brown’s Hotel, is The Pelican, the house Dylan rented for his parents so that they could be close by. They moved in in May 1949. Dylan was a regular visitor to the house, helping his father with crosswords and sometimes taking him to Brown’s for a drink. His father died at the house in December 1952; his last illness inspiring Dylan to write Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. The night before Dylan’s funeral in November 1953 his body lay in the Pelican overnight before the funeral party departed from there to St Martin’s Church at the other end of the town. The casket was too large to be moved down the corridor so was passed through the front window. Today, The Pelican is a private house.
Brown’s Hotel is perhaps the drinking haunt most closely associated with Dylan Thomas. Built as a house in the eighteenth century, the King Street hotel was owned by the Williams’ family in the 1950s and was run by Ebie Williams and his wife Ivy. Dylan probably visited the hotel on his first trip to Laugharne in 1934, and by the time he was living in the Boathouse it had become almost a second home. Dylan’s afternoons working in his writing shed were sandwiched between morning and evening visits to Brown’s, and he made close friends of Ebie Williams and particularly Ivy Williams with whom he loved to share local gossip. Following Dylan’s funeral in November 1953 Brown’s hosted his wake, and in 1994 it was the venue for his wife Caitlin’s wake. A fine portrait by Nora Summers pictures Dylan and Caitlin drinking in the bar. The photograph was put up on the wall in the bar when Dylan was still a regular, and the image still hangs on the wall in the bar today. After changes of ownership the hotel closed in 2006 but has recently been restored and now offers boutique accommodation as well as the chance for drinkers to sit in the same bar frequented by Dylan.
It’s a sociable place too, and I like that, with good pubs and little law and no respect (Dylan describes Laugharne in a letter to his American publisher James Laughlin)
The churchyard at St Martin’s church is the last resting place of both Dylan and his wife Caitlin. Dylan’s funeral was held on November 24th 1953 after his body had been brought home from New York on the SS United States.
Caitlin died in Sicily in 1994 but her wish was that she be buried beside Dylan, and her funeral took place at St Martin’s on August 10th 1994. During the spring of 1939 Dylan and Caitlin’s first child Llewelyn was christened at the church; his godparents were Augustus John, Vernon Watkins and Richard Hughes. On August 12th 1949 their six-year-old daughter Aeronwy and two-month-old son Colm were also christened there. Elisabeth Lutjens, Ivy Williams, Helen and Bill McAlpine were the godparents on that occasion. Inside the church is a replica of the memorial plaque to Dylan that lies in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.
The grave is maintained by The Tin Shed Museum in Laugharne. If you have any enquires about the grave please find their details on the contacts page.
A 2-mile walk from Laugharne that traces the steps Dylan describes in his birthday poem Poem in October. Devised by Laugharne farmer Bob Stevens, the signposted walk takes you to Sir John’s Hill and incorporates stunning views over the surrounding area. If you complete the walk on your own birthday, you can claim rewards from some local businesses.
Another favourite drinking haunt; Dylan was good friends with landlord Phil Richards.
My father and Phil Richards were Laugharne allies in after-hours drinking and pig-sharing, which Phil kept in the yard beside the Cross House…..In addition, Phil would run him round in a natty 1934 10 Standard car in any outings they arranged. In the bar, my father rarely sat down but liked to talk standing up, smoking Jet and Ace cigarettes (from Aeronwy Thomas’s memoir My Father’s Places)
Corran Books is Laugharne’s only secondhand bookshop and specialises in works by and about Dylan Thomas. The shop is run by the author George Tremlett. After a career as a music journalist, George has gone on to write biographies of Dylan Thomas and worked with Caitlin on her memoirs. Caitlin: Life with Dylan Thomas.
The Tin Shed Experience is a 1940s museum housed in a building that served as a garage during Dylan’s time in Laugharne. A small tin cottage at the museum has a recreated 1940s interior providing visitors with the chance to sample the atmosphere of the times, and the museum is a good place to learn more about Dylan’s war years. The museum maintain Dylan’s grave in the nearby St Martin’s Churchyard. It was also the location for some of the filming for the BBC Dylan Thomas drama A Poet in New York starring Tom Hollander.
Laugharne Lines was created in the Brown’s Hotel bar by writer Jon Tregenna and artist Craig Woods. They envisaged an underground railway system which would include different stops around Laugharne including shops, pubs, restaurants, cafés and museums.