The Castle Hotel, built in c 17th century, is one of the earliest licensed houses in the Neath district. But in early records, the houses were generally referred to just by the name of the owner or landlord. Thus, in 1699, when Sir Edward Mansel, after a visit to Melincrythan Works, went to Neath "where he dined with a great company at Proffs" it is probable that he meant the Castle Hotel. As to actual records of the house by name, a receipt has been found dated 1st January 1758, for £2.7s.6d paid by Lewis Davies of the Ship and Castle, for a wine license.
In 1784, the Gnoll Masonic Lodge removed to the Ship and Castle Inn, of which a member, William Meyrick, was landlord or as termed on the lodge register, "Master".
In 1786 the Inn was taken over by Charles Nott, father of Major General Sir William Nott, GCB, who was in charge of the defense of Candahar in 1842.
William Nott left in 1796 for the Ivy Bush, Carmarthen, and was succeeded at the Ship and Castle by Lewis Roterley. Mr Roterley, like his predecessor, had a prominent son. Major Lewis Roterley was Lieutenant of Marines on the "Cleopatra" at Martinique in 1808. In 1800 Mr Roterley left for the Mackworth Arms in Swansea.
The Trustees of the Neath Turnpike Trust held their meetings at the Inn from 1789 on and also the auction sales for letting of the toll gates. In 1831 we have the first mention of the change of name from the Ship and Castle Inn to Castle Inn.
In a letter dated 5th November 1831, the Worshipful Master of the Cambrian Masonic Lodge says that "the Lodge is now removed to the Castle Inn in this town, the house being the principle inn".
By 1840 it was listed as the Castle Hotel. A new lease, granted on 25th March 1846, entailed the building of four rooms, the so-called "new" portion of the New Street side of the frontage. It would appear that the new dining/function rooms were added before the new lease, as on 27th December 1845, the Cambrian lodge celebrated the Festival of St Joyn "in the handsome new rooms at the Castel Hotel".
It was evident that at this period the house was the rendezvous of the "Bloods" of Neath. It was said by an old inhabitant who died some years ago (aged 93) that "about 1845 a wager was made at the Castle Hotel by Captain Frederick Fredericks, of Duffryn, that he would fire a revolver shot through a mirror without breaking it except for the hole". This bet was taken and won by Captain Fredericks. The mirror was originally hung in the "Nelson Bar" but was unfortunately lost during a refurbishment.
That the house was held in high esteem is evident from the fact that the address of the Excise Officer in 1850 is recorded at the Castle Hotel, Castle Parade, Neath.
From 1792 to 1808 the Committee for rebuilding Neath River Bridge also held its meetings at the Ship and Castle Inn. The inn became the chief coaching inn at Neath, and in Pigot's directory of 1830 there is given a list of coaches passing through.
The Royal Mail coach called at the Ship and Castle every morning at five o'clock on its way to London, while the return coach called on its way to Milford at seven o'clock every morning. There were also regular coaches to Merthyr, Brecon, Swansea and Gloucester. It is probable that the stables on The Croft were built to cope with this coaching traffic, as well as the posting business.
The Castle Hotel was the meeting place for the founders of the Welsh Rugby Union. The inaugural meeting of the Welsh Rugby Union took place in the Nelson Room at the Castle Hotel on 12th March 1881
. There is a plaque outside the hotel commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Welsh Rugby Union, and at that time The Nelson Room name was changed to The Centenary Room. Still displayed in the room are the plaques of the original eleven members of the Welsh Rugby Union.
In 1919 the house was bought by the Castle (Neath) Hotel Ltd, who held it until 1924, when it was taken over by Mr John Morris. In 1932 the hotel was acquired by Mr Owen L Harris, of Swansea and managed by his tenant, Mr W. Wilkin Williams. Since 1932 the hotel has been greatly modernised.
Throughout the centuries it has been said that there have been reports of unusual "sightings", particularly in the Union Tap Bar, where it is claimed that a 12 year old boy, dressed in Edwardian costume, has been seen. Just one of many occurrences over the years.
In the 1930's, the hotel was owned by the Evans-Bevans family of Margam Abbey. Evans-Bevans also owned the local well known Evans-Bevans brewery in Cadaxton along with a number of Public Houses in Neath. After which it was taken over by a number of major national companies including Landsbury Hotels, Whitbread Coaching Inns and Greene King. From 1958 to 1965, the Castle Hotel was managed by Mr.Charles Alfred Garrington who was succeeded by Mr.Daryl Jeremiah who had previously been assistant manager to Mr.Garrington.
Since December 1997 it has been privately owned for the first time since the Evans-Bevans family.
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 most recently we have been graced by members of the casts of Eastenders and Coronation Street.
Today the Castle boasts a restaurant with an extensive A La Carte menu plus an everchanging Specials menu. Adjoining the restaurant is a comfortable wood paneled bar featuring a stone fireplace, offering a full range of beers, lagers, wines, spirits and bar snacks. The ideal meeting place for friends or business associates. The hotel has three function rooms for meetings, dinners, dinner dances, weddings and exhibitions. In addition we have 29 en suite bedrooms, including a four poster room, all comfortably furnished and with telephone, hair dryer, tea & coffee making facilities and colour television.