From the Evening Express 116 years ago today…
Many Merthyr people of a ‘certain age’ will remember one of Merthyr’s most striking buildings – The Angel Hotel.
In 1873, a successful local businessman Mr Enoch Williams decided to build a grand hotel in Merthyr to serve rail passengers arriving at the Taff Vale Railway Station. Mr Williams decided to build the hotel at the lower end of the High Street, and he bought the old Angel Inn and adjoining buildings to erect the hotel, retaining the licence of the Angel Inn to enable him to sell alcohol at the new hotel.
Despite having no experience in the building trade, Enoch Williams decided not to use a contractor and he controlled and supervised the project himself, even ordering and checking the supplies. This he continued to do until his death in 1876. Although dying before seeing his hotel finished, Mr Williams made ample provision in his will to complete the building, and the construction was completed under the supervision of a group of trustees. One of the consequences of Williams’ inexperience in architecture, was the fact that there was no provision whatsoever for gas in the building, and this was added before completion at considerable extra expense.
The hotel was finally completed in 1879, and it became an immediate landmark in the town. Described as “a uniquely strange Gothic castellated building”, the Angel Hotel towered above most of the other buildings in the town, and with its castellated roofline (formed by the regular pattern of chimneys around the top of the building), and its enormous glass roof, it was indeed a striking and unique building.
When completed, the hotel had 60 bedrooms, 84 fireplaces, 400 windows, a bar, a billiard room, a meeting room that was 76 foot by 26 foot in size, several sitting rooms and offices, and a promenade on the roof “from which, high above the smoke and amidst the pure air, a most agreeable walk can be enjoyed”. The famous roof was glazed with nine tons of glass. The bar, which ran the whole depth of the building was 100 foot long and 24 foot wide, and was divided in to four compartments. The upper floors of the building and the roof promenade were reached by a huge straight flight staircase at the centre of the building flanked by huge ornamented balustrades. The hotel also had the finest sprung dancefloor in Wales.
Unfortunately, from the outset, the Angel Hotel proved to be a ‘white elephant’. During the time it took to complete the hotel, the Taff Vale Railway Station was superceded by the Central Railway Station as Merthyr’s main station (the Taff Vale Station would eventually become a goods depot), thus the hotel was in the wrong part of town to attract the intended clientele.
Over the coming years, the Angel was used to hold religious meetings and political rallies and other such functions, and during the roller skating craze in 1909, a skating rink was installed at the hotel.
The hotel finally closed in 1933, and the building was put to several uses until it was demolished in 1957. A tragedy occurred during the demolition when a 21 year old worker, Cyril Jones died, and another, Dennis Murphy was seriously injured when they fell from a fourth floor window and covered in debris.