THE CASTLE HOTEL, NEATH
The Birthplace of the Welsh Rugby Union
Originally a coaching inn dating back to 1695 the Castle Hotel is most famously the birthplace of the Welsh Rugby Union. It was on the 12th March 1881 that 11 clubs came together and founded a rugby union for all of Wales. Over the years the Castle Hotel has seen many famous rugby players and personalities cross the threshold to partake in the world famous hospitality offered in this historic establishment............... please read on for more info............
the Castle Hotel circa 1905
The inaugural meeting of the welsh Rugby Union as reported in several newspapers of the period..............
meeting was held at the Castle Hotel, Neath, on Saturday last (12 March,
1881), the following clubs being represented: Swansea, Lampeter,
Llandeilo, Cardiff, Newport, Llanelli, Merthyr, Llandovery, Brecon,
Pontypool and Bangor, to consider the question of establishing a Welsh
Rugby Union, The chair was taken by Mr. Richardson, captain of the Swansea
club, and after considerable discussion it was proposed by the Chairman
and seconded by Mr. F. Meager, Swansea, that a Welsh Rugby Football Union
be formed. This resolution was carried unanimously. It was then proposed
by Mr. Mullock,
THE FOUNDING CLUBS OF THE WELSH RUGBY UNION
Bangor, Brecon, Cardiff, Lampeter, Llandeilo,
Llandovery, Llanelli, Merthyr, Newport, Pontypool, Swansea
WHY MEET AT THE CASTLE HOTEL ?
The Castle was ideally located at a central point in the industrialised belt of south Wales. Situated on the main trunk road between Swansea and Cardiff it was just two hundred meters from the bridge across the River Neath. It was the perfect location for a meeting of the rugby clubs of Wales, a good compromise for those travelling from the four main rugby centres of Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli. It was for this reason that many cup final matches were staged in Neath during the latter part of the 19th century. The final of the South Wales Challenge Cup was held on the 12th March 1881 between Cardiff and Llanelli (Cardiff beat Llanelli by one try to nil after extra time), but it is thought that it was more than the location that prompted Richard Mullock and his men to hold the meeting in Neath. There was one notable exception to the list of clubs attending. Strangely, the Neath club were not present at the meeting and do not appear as founder members of the WRU, Smith and Williams in their Welsh centenary history "Fields of Praise" go on to explain why...........
"There was one club however a leading club in
Welsh rugby, which was quite strikingly conspicuous by its non-attendance at the
Castle Hotel. Distance or communication difficulties can hardly have explained
its absence, for that club was Neath itself. The moves culminating in the
formation of the W.R.U. had not merely taken the wind out of the sails of the
S.W.F.U. (South Wales Football Union) The tacit involvement of the other clubs in these manoeuvres meant that
the crew had deserted it as well. There were just two people left aboard the Marie
Celeste of the old union, secretary Sam Clarke and president John Llewellyn.
Both were from Neath. Smarting from the indignity of other clubs’ collusion
with Mullock, Neath declined to attend the foundation meeting which was taking
place on its own door step. Clarke, in particular, quite understandably had no
intention of lifting a finger to dig a pit into which he was invited to jump.
But the wound soon healed: Neath were mollified by being awarded the final trial
of October 1881; Clarke would be awarded two international caps by the
had deposed him; and Llewellyn would in time become it's President. Neath did
not compete for the cup in the 1881-2 season, but re-entered the lists in
1882-3, and at the end of that season D.J. Price of Neath became a western
district representative on the W.R.U. match committee. From 1883, Neath never
failed to be represented at Union meetings, and in the persons of Walter Rees
and Eric Evans, would make the greatest individual club contribution in the
history of the W.R.U. by monopolizing the secretaryship from 1896 to 1955. "
(text from Smith & Williams - Fields of Praise)
"FIELDS OF PRAISE" AND OTHER BOOKS ABOUT THE HISTORY OF WELSH RUGBY
VISITORS TO THE CASTLE HOTEL
Many rugby functions have taken place at the Castle Hotel over the years. Below are just the few of those we have menu cards for in the museum collection, Please click on the thumbnail pictures to view the larger image.
24th May 1946 - A dinner was held to mark the completion of Walter Rees' 50 years service as Secretary of the Welsh Rugby Union. Speakers included Stanley Simmons (Chairman, Neath RFC), Glyn Stephens (former Welsh International and Mayor of Neath) and Dr David Rocyn Jones (President Welsh Rugby Union) whose menu card this was. Walter Rees' signature can be seen to the reverse of the card. (WRM-0188)
25th October 1947 - The touring Wallabies sat down to a main course of roast chicken and bread sauce after defeating the Neath Aberavon team 19-9 at the Gnoll. (WRM-0736)
23rd January 1954 - Bob Stuart's touring All Blacks were an almost permanent fixture at the Castle Hotel on the 23rd January 1954. Apart from defeating the combined forces of Neath and Aberavon at the Gnoll by 11 points to 5 they were sitting down to a complimentary luncheon given by the Rotary Club, enjoying a post match dinner with their opponents and dancing the night away with Peter Barrington and his band. (WRM-406, 408 & 425)
14th March 1981 - The official Welsh Rugby Union centenary dinner sponsored by Whitbread, Wales Ltd. (WRM-0189)
AN OPENING CENTURY
June 2011 - Alan Hughes who writes for our sister website www.sport-wales.com presents the Managing Director of the Castle Hotel Sally Rowlands with a framed presentation of his story 'An Opening Century' which covers the early days of Neath rugby and the birth of the Welsh Rugby Union at the Castle Hotel. To view this story please visit Alan's page...........
For more information about the Castle Hotel in Neath please visit the Castle Hotel website................
Telephone - 01639 641119 (from overseas +44 1639 641119)
The Castle Hotel, The Parade, Neath, SA11 1RB, U.K.