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Waterloo Wonder

1st August 2007

Maureen Lipman (and many others slept) here

Some of them did not get much sleep. Newport's wonderful Waterloo Hotel has metamorphosed. Once the first pub for sailors leaving the Newport docks, it is now a five star marvel.

For a short period at the end of the Nineteenth Century, Alexandra Docks was the largest in the world.  An earlier public house stood on the site of the present hotel which was erected in 1904. The Waterloo Hotel is thought to have been given its name by an adjacent wharf. It once provided all the comforts sailors had missed after months at sea. Alcohol was the first. Shove ha'penny was another delight. But its rambling labyrinth of bedrooms provided more.

The decline of docks saw trade drop and the Waterloo fell into dereliction. It's unique round tower collapsed. With the help of Cadw and the Welsh Assembly, it's been magnificently restored. The Waterloo Hotel is the finest surviving Edwardian public house in Wales.  It's character survives amid modern luxurious hotel accommodation.

It is run by Bob Evans. Apparently, Bob had initially refused to get involved, but was finally persuaded to have a look.  He fell in love with the place and took the job on the spot. The first class restaurant has won an instant reputation and is fully booked weeks in advance.

Rooms are also heavily oversubscribed on most weekends.


Most Newportonians were resigned to witnessing the sad sight of the Waterloo crumbling into dust. Its posh new life lacks the rumbustious character of its seamy past. But it's a great new amenity, standing in the shadow of the city's icon the Transporter Bridge. Already, celebrities are flocking here including Maureen Lipman who slept in the £140 a night Tower room.  Did anyone explain to her that rooms here were once hired by the hour?