Napoleon - The Stepney Hotel and Llanelli
On Sunday 23 July 1865, a 'carriage and pair' pulled up at the Ship & Castle Inn at Water Street. This was a normal event for the old established coaching house that once stood on the main thoroughfare through the town of Llanelli. Carriages and stagecoaches travelling on long distant journeys frequently changed horses there to save time and avoid wearing the horses out. It was also a place of refreshment serving the traveller and providing accommodation. What was unusual about this particular coach was that it was carrying Napoleon. Not the Emperor Napoleon, who was long dead, but his nephew, Prince Napoléon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte and his wife Clotilde *[1]

Along with a gentleman companion, the party were travelling through west Wales en-route to Carmarthen, Aberystwyth and on to Ireland to attend the International Exhibition 'World's Fair' in Dublin where France had a highly prestigious exhibition. They had spent the last day or two visiting Swansea, Caswell Bay and Mumbles after arriving by sea at Cardiff in the corvette 'Le Jerome Napoleon'. They had stayed the night at the Mackworth Arms, Swansea and visited Mumbles before moving on to Llanelli where they had taken a 'comfort break' at the Ship & Castle Inn. The reception in Llanelli for these VIPs was subdued to say the least, but their tour of the country had been intended to be incognito, which would explain the reception the party had received in Llanelli, as reported in the Llanelly & County Guardian of 27 July 1865. [2]

On Sunday last Prince Napoleon, on his way to Milford, reached Llanelly in his carriage, where he stopped, at the 'Ship and Castle' to change horses. Whilst this was taking place, the Prince got out of his carriage, and the Princess stood on the steps chatting in a very lively manner with the Prince. No one knew at the time who the distinguished persons were. We understand that the Prince expressed his pleasure with the scenery in South Wales, remarking also to the driver that Wales was a very fine country. As the carriage passed Market Street, Church Street, Hall Street, and so on by West End to Pembrey Road, it attracted considerable notice, but no one knowing at the time the distinguished inmates, there was not that amount of curiosity and display which might have been shown. The imperial party seem, where ever they go, to carry with them the highest respect of the people. [1]
The Ship & Castle was managed at this time by the innkeeper Edward Llewellyn, and it was described in a contemporary trade directory as being a 'Commercial Hotel, A Posting House and an Inland Revenue Office'. [3]

By 1872 the building had been extended and was renamed the The Stepney Arms Hotel, by which time it was being run by Mary Llewellyn. It became a very prestigious hostelry and meeting place and had served the town of Llanelli for over two hundred years. In the twentieth century it took on the name of The Stepney Hotel as there was a public house in Market Street known as the Stepney Arms.

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the proprietress of the hotel was a Miss J Lloyd. The building met its end and was demolished circa 2008, bearing the totally inappropriate and unconnected name of 'The Sol Bar.' [4] The Stepney was as historically important as similar buildings in the county such as the Ivy Bush Hotel, Carmarthen and the Cawdor Arms, Llandeilo. Both maintain important positions in the towns in which they stand. Sadly with myopic vision, the custodians of our town's future saw fit to demolish this once famous coaching house that stood proudly at the 'Eastern Gate of Llanelli'.

The Staff of the Reference Department of the Llanelli Public Library and Dr J D Davies.

Notes & Citations
*Prince Napoléon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte was a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, and first cousin of Napoleon III, who was the French Emperor at the time [from 1852 to 1870].

[1] Llanelly Guardian 27 July 1865
[2] Welshman 28 July1865, Monmouthshire Merlin 29 July 1865, Times Tuesday, July 25, 1865
[3] Slater's Directory 1868 Ship & Castle, Edward Llewellyn, Park St.
[4] Chalinder's Directory 1872, James Davies & Co. Llanelly Directory 1897 p106 & advert., Kelly's Directory 1907 p 497 .