The cockle factory stood on the site of a former windmill and steam-mill. Cockles were separated from the sand by riddling at the water's edge and then tipping into sacks. As the tide came in the cocklers rowed or walked home where the washing process would continue. Laugharne was a famous cockling town for centuries but the cockle factory closed in 1954 when Les Parsons moved his business, Parsons Pickles to Burry Port, three estuaries away and the job became more industrialised. The above photo (as published in The Observer in 1967) shows the building as derelict.
Dylan Thomas famously wrote about Laugharne's -...web-footed cockle-women' in a 1934 letter to his then girlfriend, Pamela Hansford Johnson. He went on to say (rather unkindly!) that '... I can never do justice to the shapes of the fisherwomen's breasts as they drop, big as barrels as they bend over the sand... each muscle on the legs as big as a hill.' In 1963 the building was the subject of a painting by local artist Stanley Cornwall Lewis (1905-2009).
The factory was demolished in the 1970s and the area is now a public garden. Awelrydd Davies in 1904 wrote, '...cockle dealers (about twenty-five in number), reside for the most part, in Frog St and the Grist, whilst a few reside in Gosport St. Cocklers are an honest, upright and industrious class of people.' Today only one cockle-picker still resides in Laugharne. He sets off at all hours to gather up the sea's harvest of cockles and 'weed', or laverbread but don't ask him where as he is very secretive!