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Identified by The National Library of Wales as an 'Important part of Wales' documentary heritage'
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History (The Kenfig Community - History of Pyle) The Pyle Inn - An 18th Century Coaching Inn


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History - The Kenfig Community

History of Pyle


Pyle, South Wales, UK


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The Pyle Inn

(built c.1786) An 18th Century Coaching Inn


The Beginning

The Pyle Inn
Built as a Coaching Inn, the date the Pyle Inn opened its doors has never been established, however, the man responsible for its possible design and construction was a William Gubbins [1] who possbily lived in the Pyle area as Parish records show that his daughter was christened at the church on 01 January 1787.
Entries on the expenditure of the inn's construction appear in the Margam Estate's annual accounts of 1788 beginning with the cost of digging out the cellars and foundations. The accounts of 1791 show that the works were nearing completion - there is a record of a payment for the laying of a gravel road to connect the inn with the main highway.
It would appear that the inn was completed and was operational by the end of 1791. Correspondence in the form of a letter to Thomas Mansel Talbot of Margam & Penrice by a close friend outlined his planned holiday to Tenby, stopping at Pyle enroute. The letter dated 24 August 1790, advises that 'The inn at Pyle is very small - don't forget to write to Marment the innholder for beds etc. as soon as you can fix on what day you mean to be there'.

Accomodation & Facilities

The inn was built in the simple unadorned Georgian style common to the mansion houses of the day. To the right of the main building (as viewed from the front) was an 'L-shaped' sinlge storey wing containing stables - more stables were located in a detached range alongside the road leading towards y olde wine house known locally as the 'Tap'. These acilities provided up to forty horses and an unknown number of wagons/carriages.
The west wing was balanced by another range on the left or eastern side of the main building, this is clearly shown on an Ordnance Survey map of 1875 - it is believed this section of the inn contained the laundry. Plans were made of the interior of the old inn in 1954 (shortly before its demolition), in its latter days the inn had served as a block of flats for over ½ century. The three floors of the inn were laid out in identical fashion with central corridors running the length of the building and rooms on either side.
On the first and second floors there were 10 rooms in all (five either side) each with a window acing out to front or rear. Those at the front were 16 feet long from corridor to outer wall and 12-15 feet wide. The rooms to the rear were slightly smaller, identical in length but only 9-12 feet wide.
The main staircase rose through the building between the first and second rooms at the eastern end. Another staircase connected the western ends of the corridors for use of servants and staff. There were four rooms at the front of the ground floor, two on either side of the entrance lobby connecting the corridor with the front door. The westernmost of these rooms had a staircase connecting with the room immediately above.
One of the most important rooms lay centrally placed at the back of the house - originally a single room some 20 feet long, a plan of 1954 shows it was was divided up into smaller rooms connected by a passageway. Richard Warner (Second Walk Through Wales, 1798) outlines that there were 40 beds available at the inn. A garden was laid out behind the building - an Ordnance Survey map of 1775 shows this had been laid out in the abandoned quarry where the present Longlands Close now stands.

Additional Usage of the Inn

As well as catering for the travelling public the inn was also used as a convenient place for meetings of various County bodies. At a meeting of Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of the Land Tax at Pyle on 24 January 1782 some people from Llangynwyd attempted to petition the magistrates on behalf of men arrested or looting a wreck at Sker a few weeks earlier - they claimed their protest was intended to be peaceful but the authorities believed otherwise and two ringleaders were arrested and tried at Neath.
The appointment of the First Chief Constable for Glamorgan, Capt. Charles Napier was confirmed at Quarter Sessions at Pyle Inn on 11 August 1841.

Local Folklore

There is a local story assosiated with the inn which falls into the realms of local folklore - there is supposedly an underground passage connecting the Pyle Inn with Margam House some two miles distant. Alongside the lack of motive for such an expensive feat of engineering is the fact that Thomas Mansel Talbot was in the process of demolishing his house at Margam when the Pyle Inn was being built. It is thought that the elusive tunnel was no more than an old sewer built to service the inn towards the nearby river Kenfig.

The Inn Keepers

Pyle Inn residents after its conversion to flats

James Marment c.1790

The 1st keeper of Pyle Inn. He was an enterprising character, in 1794 he obtained a lease from Evan Evans of Tythegston on a barn and 19 acres of land at Pyle known as Tir Catherine Leyson. The minute book of the Burgesses of Kenfig indicate he also had an interest in land adjoining Cornelly Cross. In 1787 he filled in one of the boundary ditches with stones resulting in a complaint from his neighbour to the Court Leet resulting in his being ordered to remove them within a week.
When the 'Caterina' was wrecked at Sker in the latter days of 1781 he apparently formed a consortium to buy and salvage the wreck. The Pyle Inn prospered under the management of Marment and aquired an enviable reputation from travellers amongst whom it is claimed was the naval hero Admiral Lord Nelson.

Morgan Morgan c.1810

Very little is known about Morgan Morgan however the inn was given a facelift during his tenancy where works continued into 1815 with the inn being closed for 7 weeks. In 1818 Lewis Weston Dillwyn of Swansea met the Kenfig burgesses to be elected a Member of Parliament. Morgan Morgan died in October 1828 at the Medic Hall in Swansea aged 54. His wife Margaret had died 5 years earlier - they are both buried in Pyle churchyard.

John Simpson

During his time at Pyle Inn, John Simpson would have met many of the most notable people of his day. In 1825 Thomas Telford presented his proposals for the improvement of the main highway through Glamorgan. In 1841 Frederick Napier was appointed the 1st Chief Constable of the newly formed Glamorgan Constabulary. In 1845 Pyle Inn was the venue or the inaugural meeting of the local Roads Board (appointed to replace the Turnpike Trust) and oversee the dismantling of the hated toll gates. Between 1849-50 the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel stayed at the Pyle Inn to supervise the laying of the main railway line through the district.

Mrs Evans (former housekeeper to John Simpson)

When John Simpson died his former housekeeper took over the running of the business. With the death of John Simpson in 1886 the inn's liquor licence was taken away and the inn closed its doors for the last time. In 1896 the inn was converted into flats with the entire premises being completely demolished in 1959.

End of an Era

Introduction of the Railways

The old coachmen called the railway train 'the whistling steam kettle' - this new mode of transport finally drove the stagecoach companies out of business and trade at the Pyle Inn dwindled. John Simpson refused to let his business die and maintained high standards to the last.

Footnote - Reference:

(1) - William Gubbins was the master mason involved with the building of Thomas Mansel Talbot's tomb and the Orangery at Margam. He died on 01 May 1823 aged 81 and is buried at Margam Abbey - he lived in Cefn Cribbwr at the time of his death. (Mumbles Marble & Margam Neath Port Talbot County Brough Council) - the land on which the Pyle Inn was built was belonging to the Margam Estate and as William Gubbins was the master mason here it would be plausible to say that he might have been involved with the inn's design and construction, Rob Bowen, Kenfig.org LCG.

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1790 - Arrest of Innkeeper

In 1790 the innkeeper was arrested for debt and carted off to prison - as the keeper of a posting inn, the innkeeper was responsible or collecting a certain amount of duty money in respect of every horse he hired out; the money was then paid by him to the agents of a contractor who had an agreement with the Government to collect it. In 1785-6 the amount of duty was increased by Act of Parliament but the innkeeper continued to charge his customers at the former rate.
When the case came to court in 1790 it was heard by The Court of the King's Bench - this was the highest court in the realm other than Parliament itself, the Margam documents specifically state that King George III was present at the hearing even though the innkeeper wasn't. The innkeeper was sent to Marshalsea Prison. The Bench ordered the case be heard by an English jury in the nearest English County to Glamorgan - the contractors then decided against proceeding with the matter further; by July the innkeeper was back in Pyle.

Patrons who stayed at the Inn

Most of those who stayed at the inn were gentry or business people. In 1805 Richard Fenton stopped there for breakfast and afterwards noted in his diary that he had been charged 1s.6d for tea - at this time tea was a luxury item.

Thomas Skell

On 28 December 1806, Thomas Skell arrived at the Pyle Inn; a native of Laugharne he was not from the upper echelons of society and was merely a private in the Somerset Militia. Skell noted that the staff at Pyle 'were very sivel to us' and that 'we was charged very resenably for everything we coald for'.

Rev. John Skinner

The Rev. John Skinner (A Journal of a Tour of Wales, 1800) was loud in his praises for the inn. He declared 'A house of entertainment in respect of situation and the attention of its occupiers, by far superior to any we have met with in the country'. the same writer wrote, 'The house in summertime is continually filled with company staying here for weeks together to enjoy the beauties and conveniences of the situation', 'we ourselves' he added, 'much wished to have prolonged our stay for some days, but having so much on our hands, we were under the necessity of leaving it after breakfast next morning'.


Acknowledgements


Bibliography

  • Bridgend County Borough Council Library & Information Services
  • The Inn at Pyle, Barrie Griffiths.
  • Rob Bowen - Kenfig.org Local Community Group

Webpage Author

  • Rob Bowen - Kenfig.org Local Community Group, 2011



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