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HISTORY OF BRECON CASTLE 

Kindly written by Edward Parry, Christ College, Brecon.  1988

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The Brecon Beacons and the Brecon area have a long history of human habitation.  Early settlements were mainly on the hilltops as the valleys would have been regularly flooded and covered in dense forest.

Evidence has been found of the manufacture of flint tools on the castle site, dating back 4000 to 5000 years.  North West of the hotel is the remains of Pen-y-Crug, an Iron Age hill fort.  It may well have been occupied when the Romans arrived - Two miles to the west of Brecon lays Y-Gaer. A roman fort covering nearly 5 acres - The fort was built around 5O AD and may have been occupied as late as 300 AD.  The first regiment in occupation probably came from North West Spain.  Brecon was a Roman crossroads and some roman roads remain visible on the Beacons even today.

 Speed's Map of 1610

In the fifth Century the local ruler is said to have sent his daughter to Ireland in search of a husband.  Many of her retinue of guards died on the journey.  She found her Irish Prince their son, Breeching, was sent to Wales to grow up at the Court of his grandfather.  It is from the name ‘Brychan' that the old country name of Brysheiniog and later 'Brecon' was derived.  Barbarians killed one of his daughters, called Tudful.  The welsh for martyr is Merthyr, hence the settlement of Merthyr Tydfil 20 miles to the south got its name.

Brecon castle and town is Norman in origin.  The castle came first and was the creation of Bernard de Neufmarche, the brother of William the Conqueror.  He took his surname from the village of Neufmarche near Rouen, the capital of Normandy.  He was of the second generation of conquerors who extended Norman influence into the Marches of Wales.  By 1093 de Neufmarche and his knights had defeated the Welsh rulers of South Wales and began to build themselves the castles from which they intended to control their new lands.

What did he build and why did he choose this site?  The second question is easier to answer - The confluence of the Usk and Honddu and the existence of fords across the Usk close by were the chief reasons - Water was useful for defence and for power to drive mills.  There was then no bridge across the Usk so the fords were important points on the east-west route between the Norman bases in the east and their further expansion westwards.  The upstream ford is still known as Rhyd Bernard and marked as such on some older Ordnance Survey maps.

The earliest castle was on the type known as a motte and bailey. The great earth mound, now in the Bishop’s Palace garden, opposite the hotel, was the motte on top of which there was originally a timber keep.  The bailey or courtyard below the motte extended to cover the present garden and, presumably part of the site of the hotel; the embankment on the north side can be clearly seen in the garden.  Even in this early stage the castle must have been a daunting sight.  This is exactly what the Normans intended; a deterrent to subdue the hostile Welsh.

However not all the buildings associated with this early castle were military in appearance or function.  A charter of c.11OO provides information about the growth of the civilian settlement, which soon accompanied the castle.  By this charter Bernard de Neufmarche granted lands and privileges to the monastery, which he established just to the north of the castle.  This Benedictine Priory occupied the site of the present cathedral.  He gave the monks the profits from two corn mills; one on the Usk, which was near the weir at the end of the promenade, the other was at the foot of the hill below the castle.  A vetenary surgeon now occupies this.  The grant also included burgages within the castle.  A burgage was a unit of land in a medieval town.  The significant point here is that this first reference to a civilian settlement in Brecon locates the site inside the castle.0.0

The Normans built hundreds of castles in the two centuries after 1066.  In almost all cases they started as motte and baileys with timber buildings.  But the more important were enlarged and strengthened and this occurred at Brecon.  The castle soon became the administrative and military headquarters of the great Lordship of Brecon which controlled all the land and castles for many miles around.  Its important strategic position also warranted making the castle more powerful.  The most dramatic alteration as the substitution of stone for timber buildings.  The surviving parts of the castle indicate this process.  On top of the motte are the remains of a shell keep, which dates from the middle of the thirteenth century.  The largest surviving structure, next to the hotel, is part of the thirteenth century Hall.  Adjoining the wall on the Honddu side is a semi-octagonal tower of the early fourteenth century

What did Brecon castle look like at the height of its importance in the medieval period?  Unfortunately there is no drawing earlier than Speed's (of 1610) and very little archaeological work has been done on the site.  Consequently what follows is based on documentary references, the surviving fabric and comparisons with other castles, which have survived in more complete form.

There were two entrances as well as the postern gate.  The main gate faced west and overlooked the Usk.  It was approached across a drawbridge and probably guarded by two semi-circular towers and the usual great door and portcullis.  From the town a drawbridge on the site of the present bridge, which crosses the Honddu, also guarded direction the castle?  These gates were joined by the encircling curtain wail. Which enclosed the whole area of the castle?  Within these outer defences the most imposing building was the great Hall; this was the social centre of the castle and the Lordship where the Lords of Brecon held court when in the area. (The surviving medieval halls at Christ College - across the river from the castle - give a good idea of what it must have looked like inside.  The private apartments of the Lord were next to the Hall.  There are references to other rooms and buildings in the medieval documents.  For example the Constable and the Receiver (of taxes and dues) had their own chambers.  There was a chapel, exchequer, kitchen, harness tower, stable and porter’s chamber -The well was described as being 30 feet deep.  These buildings suggest that the castle was more like a bustling town than the romantic, military fortress of imagination.  People from the surrounding Lordship came to the courts held at the castle, they paid their dues to the exchequer, and they pleaded for privileges or came with supplies of food, timber and other necessaries.

Nonetheless there were many occasions when the drawbridges were raised and the castle played its military role as an alien strong point in a hotly disputed part of the country.  It was attacked six times between 1215 and 1273, including three times by Llewellyn the Last King of Wales; none of the assaults were successful although the castle did pass for a time to Llewellyn’s possession as part of the peace treaties.  Much of this warfare was part of the three hundred year struggle between the Normans and the Welsh, which began with the conquest and lasted until the Glyndwr revolt.  There was another cause of war in the Marches -the power struggles involving Kings and their barons.  The military events, which affected the castle and the town in the thirteenth century, must be seen in this wider, national context.

Marcher Lordships differed from the rest of Britain.  Lords were able to set up their own system of law, they were, in effect petty kings.  The King had little right to interfere in internal affairs of the Lordship unless the Lord was guilty of treason or felony.

For the Lords of Brecon were among the most powerful men in the. Kingdom.  Their possessions in this area were only a part of their vast lands.  His daughter Sybil who married the Earl of Hereford succeeded De Neufmarche.  Their Brecon estates passed to William de Braose.  They remained in the de Braose family for about a hundred years then by marriage the Brecon and Hereford lands of the original Lordship were united in the possession of Humphrey de Bohun.  The Lordship was in royal hands from the late fourteenth century to the middle of the fifteenth when it was granted to the Stafford’s who were to be the last Lords of Brecon.  All these families were ambitious politically and this involved them in wars, rebellions and conspiracies.  For this reason Brecon in the middle ages was often caught up in important events and was much closer to great national issues than in later centuries.

The careers of the two last Dukes of Buckingham illustrate this vividly.  Henry Stafford. The second duke had been a supporter of Richard 111 but they had fallen out and Henry retired to his castle seat at Brecon (this possession being the source of the great wealth and power of the Buckinghams).  Here he plotted against the King.  His accomplice was a prisoner at the castle, John Morton, Bishop of Ely.  (After whom the Ely Tower and Ely place are named.)  The duke raised an army to oppose the King but his rebellion failed and he was executed.  The bishop fled abroad and joined the Earl of Richmond who was soon to defeat Richard 111 at Bosworth and to become the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII.  The King employed the bishop as one of his most efficient tax collectors; he was the Morton of Morton's fork:  The new King also rewarded the Stafford family for their loyalty.  Edward, born in Brecon castle in February 1478, was granted all the honours, titles and lands, which had belonged to his father.  However the second Tudor found it necessary to execute this the third and last duke.  In 1521 Buckingham very rashly flaunted his royal connections and claim to the throne.  At the time, when Henry VIII had no legitimate heir.

This was tantamount to treason and was punished accordingly - So perished the last of the Lords of Brecon (part of the fabulous Great Hall of Brecon Castle, the only three storey Great hall in Wales apart from Chepstow Castle, roof was taken by henry VIII to Hamption Court in London).  By now the Tudors were determined to eliminate the quasi-independent powers, which such magnates had enjoyed.  By acts of parliament passed in 1536 and 1543 the Marches were finally brought under royal control.  In place of the Lordship of Brecon there appeared the County of Brecknock

These changes together with a revolution in building styles and standards meant that the age of the castle was also over   The Tudor peace allowed landowners to put a higher premium on comfort than security.  Great houses began to replace draughty castles. It is ironic that when the castle entered this period of decline there is more information about its condition and appearance than when it was a powerful fortress.  A survey of the buildings carried out in 1552 contains many references to the repairs, which were necessary.  The roofs lacked lead and much of the timber needed replacing.  However Speed’s map shows a mighty castle in 1610. But many of the buildings on his map are symbols rather than accurate representations of what was there   In 1645, after abrief stay by Charles I and a protracted siege of the castle by the Parliamentarians, a Royalist referred to the castle and town walls as having been demolished by the inhabitants; presumably to prevent Brecon being strongly fortified and thus suffering another damaging siege.  His remarks are exaggerated because later writers and artists describe the castle as an impressive ruin.  The drawing by Buck, dated 1741, is the best example.

Parts of the castle were put to use.  For example the chapel -dedicated to St. Nicholas - was a goal until 1690 when it was demolished.  Further information is provided by estate maps of the town, which were drawn in the second half of the eighteenth century. A map of 1761 shows the great Hall with its windows and to the west a building with two chimneys.  North of this is a rectangular enclosure.  On a plan drawn twenty years later this is described as a bowling green - The state of the castle ruins continued to deteriorate and was the object of disparaging comments by visitors to Brecon.  For example 'The Cambrian Traveller's Guide & Pocket Companion of 1808' referred to the magnificent Castle. (Which) is now curtailed to a very insignificant ruin; and that little is so choked up and disfigured with miserable habitations, as to exhibit no token of its ancient grandeur.'

However this sad situation was soon to change - The Morgan family of Tredegar Park had extensive Breconshire connections and their attention was now turned to the castle and the house adjoining.  Work on repairing the house began in 1809.  During the next few years considerable sums of money were spent turning house into hotel.  A steel engraving of this date gives a detailed view of the building, which is clearly recognisable as the present hotel -(The engraving was done by Bourdon one of the numerous French prisoners-of-war held in Brecon during the Napoleonic wars.).  The success of the Morgan’s' investment can be gauged by the prominence given to the Castle Hotel in later guides.  By 1835 an impressive list of coaches called at the Castle Hotel; journeys to London on the Royal Mail, to Aberystwyth, Bristol, Carmarthen, Llandrindod.

History of the Hotel

Taken from Brycheiniog Volume XXV 1992 - 1993


One unexpected result of the Napoleonic wars was the production of an accurate, attractive drawing of Brecon castle. (Fig. 1) The engraving made from the drawing is inscribed 'T0 SIR CHARLES MORGAN Baronet, M. P. for the County Of Monmouth & &. this S. w View of the Castle of Brecon & adjacent Scenery, in gratitude for Patronage & repeated favours conferred upon a prisoner of War is inscribed by his obliged & obedient humble Servant-Bourdon.' The Frenchman drew not only the remains of the medieval castle but also the substantial modern building which had been so recently completed by his patron - What we see is Brecon 's first hotel, one of the earliest in Wales. Well-known inns existed in Brecon during the eighteenth century-the Golden Lion for example-but the Castle represented a new style of accommodation for a new type of visitor.

In 1809 Sir Charles Morgan Bart of Tredegar House started building work at the castle in Brecon. The eventual result of his expenditure, which ran into thousands of pounds; was the to be the nucleus of the present Castle of Brecon Hotel. While the Tredegar papers contain a great deal of information about the construction-the materials, costs and names of craftsmen-there are no documents to explain why Sir Charles embarked on the work. However circumstantial evidence suggests his probable motives and these in turn illuminate aspects of social and political life in early nineteenth century Wales.

When Morgan began the work Wales was on the itinerary of many educated gentlemen especially those with literary aspirations. The Romantic Movement fostered an interest in tile 'Sublime and the Picturesque.' which was satisfied by the mountains and crags of Wales and the Lake District. A procession of famous writers and artists came to Wales to be thrilled by Nature and by the ruins of castles and monasteries. In parts of England gentlemen built ruins to adorn their estates; in Wales they found the real thing. These visitors often sketched or painted what they saw; more of them wrote accounts of their travels. The French Revolution, which, at first, was greeted with enthusiasm by such travellers, soon turned sour and wars between Britain and France denied them access too much of Europe. But if the Alps were inaccessible there was Snowdonia, capable of arousing similar excitement. In south Wales the journey from Cardiff to Brecon fulfilled the Romantics' hopes and fears. The Beacons stirred Benjamin Malkin to write of 'The mountains, as you become more closely and intimately acquainted with its precincts; appears in all its majesty: its undulating ridges; stretching in lengthened succession, with varied and fantastic shapes, with clouds, sometimes passing over the tops, arid sometimes hanging halfway down like drapery, excite an awe and attention ‘2. When a traveller reached Brecon he found the works of Man and Nature in splendid combination. ‘Few towns surpass Brecknock in picturesque beauties; the different mills and bridges on the rivers Usk and Honddu, the ivy-mantled walls and towers of the old castle, tile massive embattled turret and gateway of the priory, with its luxuriant groves; added to the magnificent range of mountain scenery on the south side of the town form, in many points of view, the most beautiful, rich and varied outline imaginable' 3. Thomas Roscoe found that 'the neighbourhood of Brecknock possesses that indefinable charm which history and romance throw round the wild scenes of Nature. '4 (The history and romance were sometimes indistinguishable. Stories of Merlin, Arthur and other. Heroes aroused great enthusiasm and travellers loved to identify places connected with them on the most tenuous evidence.) The buildings of Brecon often provoked favourable comments. Manby described Brecon as having three principal streets 'among them several houses more elegant than is usual in such distant towns.’5 Henry Skrine thought the town 'greatly superior to Abergavenny in its buildings and decorations.'6

Few 0f these visitors wrote much about the accommodation provided in the town. Richard Warner stayed at the Lion inn but made no comment on it. The Cambrian Traveller’s Guide of 1813 mentioned two inns, 'The Golden Lion and Swan. Dr Mavor thought the former negligently if not uncivilly conducted'! 7 however other inns in Wales were praised. The Revd Richard Warner, who took two extensive walks through Wales in the late 1790s, wrote of 'An excellent little inn at the village of Aberaeron' [sic] and at Swansea he recommended the 'Mackworth Arms [as] the best inn in the place'; he also extolled the kindness of the landlady of the 'Cors-y-Gidol arms' at Barmouth.8

Perhaps we have few references to inns and hotels because a number of these travellers stayed with friends. Certainly Colt Hoare and Fenton stayed litany times with Henry Thomas Payne, the antiquarian whose researches provided much material for Theophihis Jones's History. Other gentlemen visitors were accommodated in local houses Henry Skrine acknowledges the 'peculiar kindness and hospitality I both then and often since experienced from the amicable families of Penpont, Peterstone arid Clyro'.9 C.W. Manby came to Brecon in 1802 and in his account of his visit he refers to the hospitality extended to him by the Rev. Richard Davies. 10

Brecon - 1832

In some English towns hotels were being built from the late eighteenth century onwards, to supplement the accommodation provided by the older inns. However little has been written about this important development. David Watkin has drawn attention to the mixture of motives, which inspired their builders. Political considerations - which also affected the Castle hotel - influenced, for example, the erection of the Stamford Hotel at Stamford. The Tory Sir Gerald Noel set out to attract support from the Whig Cecils of Burghley, by providing the town with this impressive building. In other towns wider improvement schemes sometimes incorporated hotels. In addition the growth of interest in the seaside; combined with the spread of the railways from the 1840s, greatly increased the number of hotels.

The site Sir Charles Morgan chose to develop in Brecon had a very long history. In the late eleventh century Bernard de Neufmarche began fortifying this area between the Honddu and Usk rivers; it was from here that the later town of Brecon grew. The site's military advantages identified by the Normans made it ideal for a hotel: it overlooked the rivers, the old town bridge and Christ College and in the distance were the summits of the Brecon Beacons. Romantic travellers would relish the proximity of the castle ruins. There was ample space to layout gardens and other facilities. The castle came into the hands of the Morgan’s in the middle of the seventeenth century when William Morgan married his cousin Blanche. Information about the castle between the Civil Wars and the work on the hotel is fragmentary. Prints (notably by Buck) and estate maps illustrate the decline of the great castle into a romantic ruin. A map of 1761 shows the Great Hall of the castle close to a substantial detached house. An anonymous drawing of a similar date provides the best view of the site before Sir Charles began his alterations and additions (Fig 2). Two other buildings on the site overlooked a rectangular area, which is marked ‘Bowling Green' in 178112 . An indenture of 1726 was drawn up between William Morgan of Tredegar and Joseph Gunter of Brecon, innkeeper; the property involved is described as the Castle House 'within the walls of the Castle of Brecon'; 13 the property included the pound which was in Gunter's charge. A court case in 1764 involved an incident, which occurred at the 'ball court.' at the Castle Inn '14 this was where men met to play fives.
Between 1809 and 1814 Sir Charles Morgan spent over seven thousand pounds on the Castle site. What had been the Castle House was transformed into the Castle of Brecon Hotel." There are no surviving documents in which Morgan discusses the project; the earliest reference is a receipt dated the 4th of March 1809, for £150 spent on alterations and repairs at the Castle. The money was to be paid on Morgan's behalf by his agent in Brecon, Thomas Bold. The cost of the first year's work was over two thousand, three hundred pounds. A few of the bills or receipts give details of what was paid for: in May £400 was paid to Fothergill Bloore and Co. of London for their work; later in the year a local mason, John Jones received £30 ‘on account of Mason Work done at the Castle of Brecon'. In December the bill for lime used during the previous five months came to £74. 3s. 4d; the bill was paid to the 'Boat Company’. (The Brecon and Abergavenny canal was built - in stages - between 1793 and 1812).16

Next year the cost of building work and materials came to over £3,700; few details survive but nearly a thousand pounds was paid for 150 tons of timber. In addition it appears that Sir Charles was adding to the Castle site by buying contiguous properties. Two items on a bill of 1810 refer to ‘Thos Prosser & conveyances' and to 'Mill & Conveyance'; the sums involved being £210 and £230 respectively. In another document Prosser is mentioned as the owner of a small field and Cottage and Garden situate near the Castle'. The mill was presumably the Honddu mill situated below the castle. Unfortunately no contemporary plans of the site survive to throw further light on the location of these properties. Also in 1810 Sir Charles Morgan was concerned about the water supply to his new hotel. He made an agreement with the Brecon and Abergavenny Navigation Company 'to set in a pipe at the Head of the Usk Feeder for supplying the Castle Inn with fresh water'. The 'feeder' mentioned is still to be seen at the end of the Promenade: a sluice controls the water taken from the Usk, which is then piped to the start of the canal at the Watton -

Some idea of the work done by early 1811 is given in an account of work to be left undone at the Castle Hotel when Wood quits' - (Thomas Wood was involved in the work - as the builder? - from 1809 and again in 1812 and 1814; it is not clear why he was being paid off in 1811-) the building comprised a ground floor, first floor and 'garret story'. Shelves were needed everywhere; for example ‘The recesses In the small back bed Room may have Shelves to stand on tile Impost'; 4 The Recesses in the small back parlour may also have Shelves in a similar way' In the garret a 'Maids Closet may be formed on the back Stairs landing'.

The service rooms of the ground floor were without their fittings. In the Kitchen ‘Spit Racks, Dresser and Shelves' were needed; in the Brew house 'There are no fittings up except the Grate'; there were ‘No Bins in [the] Wine Cellar, or Stands in [the] beer Cellar'. The Pantry had 110 shelves or 'Meat Nails' - The contemporary means of summoning service was half installed; 'The bells and Pulls are left undone the Cranks only are fitted’.

Wood was back at work on the Castle in 1812. He presented a bill for just over £350 for 'the new Stabling and Barrack Room'; the latter was presumably built to provide accommodation for the hotel staff. Another £400 was spent on ‘an addition to the Castle Hotel’ In total during 1812 Wood's bills amounted to £963 4s. 4d. A final reckoning of all his bills was made between Sir Charles Morgan, Thomas Bold and Wood himself on 7th May 1814.

By then Sir Charles was very concerned about the cost of his hotel. He wrote to Bold late in 1813, 'There appears to be no end to the expense of the Castle……I sincerely hope that no more expense whatever will be incurred'. Confusion about the estimated costs and the actual bills was - as now - a source of concern. The stable and barrack room were expected to cost £270 but Wood's bill was £80 more; Fothergill endorsed the bill with the comment that the work done was so different to the Drawing and Contract'. Another problem was that Mr Edwards, the tenant of the hotel, ordered some work to be done at a higher price than Sir Charles had expected. To prevent this recurring Sir Charles told Edwards that he was to make no more additions or alterations, but to put up with things as they were.

What was the result of this expenditure? There survives an undated inventory of the rooms on the first and second floors plus the stabling. For guests there were five single bedrooms, and four with two beds in; but two of the latter might become single rooms if they were to have private sitting rooms. On the second floor there were six rooms, either for the Inhabitants of the House or Servants. One of these was a large room with space for six beds. The room over the stable could also accommodate six beds for servants. There was stabling for twenty-two horses and also there were 'Two enclosed Coach houses' and 'Three open Coach houses'.

The first tenant and manager of the hotel was Jonathan Edwards. He had written to Sir Charles in June 1811 stating 'I am very anxious of becoming your tenant at the Castle at Brecon'. Mr Edwards who wrote from Llwyn Jack, Carmarthenshire, was concerned that the hotel be provided with a suitable amount of land to supply its needs. Bold had offered some land in Llanfaes but Edwards turned this down as 'altogether unfit to supply an Inn, there being only ten acres of pasture land, and not an Inch or hay Ground'. However the Court farm would serve his needs admirably; 'the Court farm suits in all respects'.

Edwards wished to impress on Sir Charles that taking on the Castle would involve considerable expense; for example 'to furnish & stock it, [and] the window tights alone will be very serious to pay'. However he also had to convince the owner that he would make a good job of running the hotel; Edwards promised that 'with paying every attention to business he cannot fail of doing well '- There would he competition from the Golden Lion 'that a gentleman from London has taken', but Carmarthenshire acumen would match this metropolitan intruder.

In September 1811 a contract for fourteen years was signed between Thomas Bold, on behalf of Sir Charles Morgan, and Jonathan Edwards. The tenancy cost £265 18s. 8d. a year; this covered the hotel, its surroundings and a farm of almost a hundred acres. The facilities which went with the Castle included 'the Pleasure Ground, Fives Court, Bowling Green and Stables now Built and intended to he built adjoining' - Morgan promised to put the whole in complete repair but thereafter Edwards was to bear the maintenance costs. The building work being done was to be ‘completed with all Convenient Speed'. As an inducement to a successful start Sir Charles agreed that if Edwards furnished the hotel well he would remit £105 of the first year's rent 'as an Encouragement to the said Jonathan Edwards Conducting the concern with Spirit'.
Although Mr Edwards was to benefit greatly from the Morgan’s' use of the hotel for political patronage and celebration - some examples of which are described below - he found the Castle less profitable than he had hoped. In February 1818 Thomas Bold reported to Sir Charles Morgan that Edwards was claiming a reduction of over £50 in his rent because of extra 'work necessitated by earlier poor workmanship as well as a general decline in business. Apart from claiming a rent rebate the hotelier proposed 'that an entrance into the town over the small footbridge be procured'.

19th Century Function - Brecon Castle Ballroom

None of the early hotel accounts survive but the Tredegar papers make clear the important role the castle played in local elections17. Just over a year after he signed his contract Jonathan Edwards was busy providing food and drink for the Morgan supporters who had chosen the - unopposed - scion of Tredegar, C.M.R. Morgan, Sir Charles' eldest son. Two standards of celebration fare were provided; 200 dinners at 5s- 0d. each [25p.] with 130 bottles of ‘Port wine and 140 bottles of Sherry wine'; the less bibulous were treated to supper at 4s.Od. [20p.] and three guineas worth of negus and ‘cyder’, which cost three pounds. In addition Edwards charged three guineas for the 'Use of Ballroom & lights' - The final item was for 'Glass Broke' which cost Sir Charles £9. 8s 6d; more likely attributable to the drink consumed than to political passion. The total spent at the Castle on this occasion was £238. 6s. 8d.

Subsequent borough elections in 1818 and 1820 saw similar celebrations. In 1818 beer, porter and punch was available as well as bottles of sherry arid port. Perhaps as a result of this heady mixture the bill for damage rose 'Glass broke, Mending Tahles & £14. 15s. 0d.' the victory dinner in 1820 was less bibulous and the damage correspondingly lower; perhaps Sir Charles Morgan's financial prudence - and concern for his own property - tempered his political generosity.

However all these celebrations were modest by comparison with the flood of hospitality which gushed forth in the great County election of 1818. The clash between Thomas Wood the sitting member and Sir Charles Morgan. This contest was on a par with some of the English county election battles of the eighteenth century. The local publicans submitted a bill to Thomas Bold, the Morgan’s' Brecon agent; of £22,2O8 6s 10d! The Castles share being £2347 I7s 1Od. Bold clearly regarded the sums demanded as extortionate and offered to pay just over £8,500.

Whatever misgivings Sir Charles had about his new hotel may have been allayed three years later when a signal mark of approval was bestowed on Mrs Edwards, the manager's wife. In 1821 George IV stopped at Brecon on his journey from Ireland. He was entertained to dinner at the Priory by Col Thomas Wood who had been a member of the Carlton House 'set' during the Regency. The royal visit was unexpected and Mrs Edwards of the Castle Hotel directed the frantic preparations for the dinner; a carriage was sent to convey her short distance to the Priory, (perhaps this was necessary for transporting her materials and utensils?) - After the dinner Mrs Edwards was presented to the King. There is a nice irony here: Col Wood has to call on the services of the Morgan’s' hotel in this social emergency. No doubt Sir Charles Morgan relished the situation even if he continued to believe that The Castle was becoming an expensive investment.

The present hotel shows many changes to that built by Sir Charles-the ballroom added in the middle of the nineteenth century was the most extensive addition - but the plan and appearance of the building owe more to Tredegar investment than to anything else. In this year when the town celebrates nine hundred years of history the story of the establishment of one of Wales' oldest hotels also deserves to be remembered.

Edward Parry

Notes

1. Toussaint Bourdon was taken prisoner from a Merchant Venturer vessel in the 6th of December 1805. He arrived in Brecon - from Plymouth - in January 1806, one of the first batches of prisoners to arrive in the town. This information was provided by Mrs Mali, Ford whose paper on the French prisoners in Brecon appears in this volume or Brycheiniog.
2. Malkin, B.H. 1807 The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales, Vol.1 2nd edition p334.
3. Hoare, Sir R.C., 1792-1806 A collection of 48 views etc.
4. Roscoe, Thomas Esq., n.d. Wandering in South Wales, pp.263-4.
5. Manby, G.W. 1802 A Historic and Picturesque Guide. P.196.
6. Skrine, H. 1812 Two Successive Tours Throughout The Whole of Wales, 2nd edition, p.41.
7. 1831 The Cambrian Traveller’s Guide. 2nd edition, p.162.
8. Warner Revd Richard 1799 A Second Walk Through Waits, passim.
9. Skrine, op cit p.43.
10. Manby op cit p.201
11. Watkin David l982 The Buildings of Britain: Regency pp. 105-107.
12. National Library of Wales, Print & Map' Morgan 1761 and Tredegar 1781.
13. N.L.W. Tredegar Mss, 124/347.
14. Davies, Dewi, personal communication to the author.
15. What follows is based on the Tredegar papers at N.L.W.; the material is in boxes 43,45, 121, 124 and 154.
16. Rattenbury, G. 1980 Tram roads of the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal, pp. 13-17.
17. For election expenses see Tredegar Mss box 45. The author hopes to publish an article on the County election of I818 in the next volume of this journal.
18. Wood, Elizabeth 1978 Thomas Wood M.P., Brecon Museum publication; Poole, Edwin 1886 The Illustrated History and Biography of Brecknockshire, pp. 71-2

Brycheiniog is published by The Brecknock Society and Museum Friends. Contact Mr E.G. Parry at Christ College, Brecon.

The Castle of Brecon Hotel – ‘In The Brecon Beacons National Park’.

Castle Square, Brecon, LD3 9DB. South Wales, UK.


Telephone. 01874 624611 Fax. 01874 623737