Castle Hotel - and its past
An extract from the Heritage Scene website
With additional material from Wales-online
The Castle Hotel has a history that goes back to the stage coach days - in fact the 17th century.
According to Neath historian Keith Reed, the Parade (where the hotel is situated) was once called the Promenade and sailing ships used to tie up opposite. In fact the original name for this historical building is: The Ship and Castle Inn
Pictured above is the forge at the back of the Castle hotel, a very rare and privileged photo taken by Mike Davies. Apparently the horses and coach used to drop the passengers off at the front of the hotel and then the coachman would take the horses to the forge for new shoes.
Some famous people have stayed at the Castle Hotel. It is reputed that Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton frequented the hotel on a number of occasions. The steps that Lord Nelson reputedly used to get into the four poster bed are still in the hotel today. In more recent years Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor have also stayed at the hotel and more recently by members of the casts of Eastenders and Coronation Street.
THE hotel in Neath where the Welsh Rugby Union was formed 128 years ago has been revealed as one of the most haunted buildings in Britain.
According to a new book the ancient hostelry, has no less than 12 ghosts, spectres and phantoms, plus a poltergeist.
They include the eerie apparition of a baying wolf in the hotel cellars, the shocking figure of a headless cavalier in the restaurant and the ghost of a young chambermaid who hanged herself leaning out of an upstairs window.
Other visitations within in the Castle Hotel’s walls, which date back to 1695, include the figure of a young girl “floating” along the corridors and the appearance of a little boy dressed in Edwardian clothes in the Castle bar.
A stable hand who died many years ago is said to walk the ballroom (above the building’s old stables) and a mysterious lady in black has regularly been gliding down the staircase and disappearing through a wall into the street outside.
The investigation of the Castle Hotel’s “dark side” was carried out by author Robert King for his book Haunted Neath.
He said: “The current proprietor James Rees, former manager Darryl Jeremiah and restaurant manager Pat Ellis all told me assorted stories of guests and other visitors who are adamant these visions have been seen time after time.
“With so many ghosts packed into one building, it’s got to be one of the most haunted places in the country.”
A group of 11 clubs – Swansea, Lampeter, Llandeilo, Cardiff, Newport, Llanelli, Merthyr, Llandovery, Brecon, Pontypool and Bangor – came together at the Neath hotel on March 12, 1881, to form the Welsh Rugby Football Union.
A number of historians and psychics have tried to unravel the stories behind the ghosts, though some appear to have no explanation.
But the young woman seen leaning out of an upper window is said to be the ghost of a chambermaid who hanged herself at the hotel in 1885.
She was said to have been pregnant by a wealthy huntsman and just before she died tried to talk to her lover through an upper window but he haughtily rode off on his horse.
It was then she took her own life.
The “wolf” heard baying in the cellars could be the ghost of a large European guard dog brought in to guard what was then the servants’ quarters and the place where expensive spirits were stored.
A poltergeist said to inhabit Room 16 is said to be the spirit of a fussy guest who died in the room... in the past staff have claimed furniture has been re-arranged if they try to move it around.
No-one knows the story behind the headless cavalier but he has been seen recently by a diner in the restaurant.
Pat Ellis said: “The gentleman was reading his paper, looked over and saw the figure of a cavalier, but the figure only came up to the neck.”
Other ghostly goings-on contained in the book include the tale of a ghostly funeral cortege witnessed on a common near Crynant, Neath, by William Walters of Ystradgynlais.
And an engineer and his wife of Neath Abbey, claim to have seen the ghosts of dozens of Cistercian monks walking, Indian file, through the walls of their home and out again.
Oddly, the monks are not walking in the direction of the ruins of the nearby Neath Abbey monastery but towards the site of the abbey’s old infirmary at Cwrt-y-Clafdy.
And another couple from nearby Hill Road also say they have seen “strange apparition-type whispery shapes”, also in Indian file, making their way up the hill towards the nearby Drummau Mountain.
Mr King said: “Presumably they too are making their way to Cwrt-y-Clafdy.”
Robert King’s book Haunted Neath is published by the History Press, £9.99
Additional photos and notes from Mike Davies:
In the photograph below note the two half round stones either side of the start of the cobbled stone lane that were laid as guiding stones for the coach driver to guide the coach wheels in correct alignment.
We wonder how many have passed that area and not even noticed the stones?