The Castle Hotel, Neath
The Castle Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in Neath still occupied for its original purpose. The Welsh Rugby Union was formed here in March 1881 – see below.
Known as the Ship and Castle Inn in 1745, it hosted assemblies or balls patronised by the gentry, a freemasons lodge and administrative and judicial meetings. Looking at the front of the building from The Parade, the remaining part of the 18th century inn is on the right-hand side. The three-story extension to the left is from the 1840s and contains an oak-panelled bar (originally a restaurant). Further left is the former Vale of Neath pub, incorporated into the hotel after coming under the same ownership.
The Ship and Castle was a coaching inn on the “Milford Road”. It also catered for intermittent coach services between Swansea and Merthyr. Post-chaises (four-wheelers designed for speed) could be hired here. The entrance facing New Street frontage still has the guide stones for carriages negotiating the passageway. The inn’s name changed to the Castle Inn in 1830 and later to the Castle Hotel.
In the late 18th century, the sons of two successive innkeepers here achieved fame. Lewis Rotely, named after his father, was a Lieutenant of the Royal Marines on HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. When the more senior officers were wounded, he took command of the surviving Marines at the end of the battle. He set aside some of the Admiral Nelson’s personal items which were later donated to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
William, son of innkeeper Charles Nott, took a cadetship in the Indian army and rose to the rank of Major-General. He came to prominence in the first Afghan War. He is commemorated by a statue in Carmarthen.
Eleven rugby clubs met in the Castle Hotel on 12 March 1881 to consider forming “a Welsh Rugby Union”. They included the clubs from Bangor (in the north), Brecon and Lampeter, where the first documented rugby match in Wales was held (in 1866). There was a unanimous vote in favour, and the WRU annual subscription was fixed at one guinea.
In 1975 Hollywood stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor stayed a night here while visiting his native area. He grew up in Pontrhydyfen.
Today the Castle Hotel is one of the area’s principal venues for guest accommodation and events including weddings and conferences.
With thanks to Neath Antiquarian Society
Postcode: SA11 1RB View Location Map