A BRIEF HISTORY OF NEWPORT AND MONMOUTHSHIRE CRICKET
As 2019 marks the return of first class cricket to Newport perhaps it is timely to take a look at the history of top class cricket in the City.
The earliest record of cricket in Newport dates from 1820, and in 1834 a formal club, catering chiefly for gentlemen came into being. The Cambrian newspaper of 5 August reports 'a grand match' between 11 from Pontypool and Newport, played in Newport and won by the latter beating their opponents by thirty wickets! The Newport club is said to have very recently formed. A further match is recorded on August 1 1835 between the two towns Newport scoring 92 from two innings and Pontypool 81. Pontypool won the return match on August 22 scoring 110 as against 66. A more detailed report of a game between the two towns in August 1836 provides individual scores and dismissals, with a highest score of 35 not out by Millen of Pontypool. In 1839 the Merlin reports a new opponent for Newport, Kingsdown.
As the Newport grew, so did the number of
cricket teams, and by the 1870's there were around two dozen teams in existence
in the town.
In 1875 the Newport Athletic Club was created, and two years later they secured the use of land at Rodney parade from Lord Tredegar for their cricket, tennis, rugby and athletics. In 1881 their ground hosted a game between a Newport and District XXII and W.G.Grace's All England XI, and in 1892, Fred Phillips, a member of the well-known local brewing family, created the Monmouthshire County Cricket Association, and it wasn't long before Phillips persuaded several of the Athletic Club's leading players to turn out for the county.
In these early days, all of the Club's athletic pursuits took place on one small sports field, but in the mid 1890's Lord Tredegar leased a further five acres of land to the Athletic Club so that a self-contained cricket ground could be laid out. Designs were commissioned for a purpose-built pavilion, terrace seating, and a scoreboard, and work began on preparing a new wicket. On June 1st 1901 Lord Tredegar formally opened the new Rodney Parade ground, and a special game was staged against Cardiff C.C.
By this time, Monmouthshire were playing in the Minor County Championship, and the Rodney Parade ground became their home base. Edward Stone Phillips, another member of the Phillips family, together with the Newport professionals Arthur Silverlock and Dick Steeples, formerly of Derbyshire, shone with bat and ball, and their fine performances for the county reinforced Newport Athletic Club's position as the premier club in the county. The Newport Athletic Club were able to hire up to three cricket professionals as a result primarily of the success of the rugby side that played on the adjoining pitch, and in 1893 over £2,000 was taken in gate receipts at the rugby matches. This meant that former county professionals could be hired, as well as eight ground staff, and the net result was that the Rodney Parade wicket continued to improve.
In 1922 the freehold of the entire Rodney
Parade complex was purchased by the Athletic Club, and during the inter-war they
undertook a number of further improvements to both the cricket ground and the
adjoining rugby pitch. Memorial gates were also erected in memory of the
Athletic Club's members who had died in the Great War. But just as the Newport
ground was becoming one of the best equipped in the area, Monmouthshire CCC
started to fall on hard times. They ran up a sizeable debt, and being unable to
afford decent professionals, their playing record deteriorated.
In the winter of 1934-35 the Monmouthshire committee decided to merge with Glamorgan. Various conditions were built into the agreement, and in return for clearing Monmouthshire's debts, it was agreed that Glamorgan could select any of the Monmouthshire players and play at their potentially lucrative venues. In July 1935 Glamorgan played their first game at their new 'home' in Newport as Leicestershire travelled to Rodney Parade, and to celebrate the arrival of county cricket, a civic reception was held at Newport Town Hall. Part of the merger also invloved Glamorgan 2nd XI replacing Monmouthshire in the Minor County competition, and in mid-August the match with Oxfordshire was staged at the Rodney Parade ground.
The success of these games both on and off the field led to a sequence of either one or two matches each year at Newport. Perhaps the most famous game ever staged at Rodney Parade was the 1939 match against Gloucestershire. After Glamorgan had been dismissed for 196, Glocestershire rattled up 505 for 5 declared with Wally Hammond making 302. This stood for over 50 years as the highest score against Glamorgan, yet the home batsmen also created a few records themselves, as they replied with 557 for 4 with Emrys Davies remaining undefeated on 287.
By the 1960's falling attendances at Newport led to a few questions being asked about the viability of the ground as a county venue. The club experimented by staging the 1964 Gillette Cup match with Worcestershire at the ground, but the following year, the Championship match with Warwickshire was the final first-class game there.
Second team games continued to be staged at Rodney Parade, and in the late 1980's, generous sponsorhip from local businesses saw Glamorgan return to play Sunday League games against Derbyshire in 1988, Gloucestershire in 1989, and Yorkshire in 1990. However, the latter game was abandoned without a ball being bowled and with the ground being redeveloped the following year
The final cricket match played at Rodney Parade ended on Sunday 16 September 1990 and brought to an end over one hundred years of club and county cricket (the ground having been the home of Monmouthshire County Cricket Club until their amalgamation with Glamorgan in 1926). A new purpose built cricket facility was opened at Spytty Park. The cricket ground at Rodney Parade was sold and Maindee Primary School constructed in the 1990s.
Monmouthshire County Cricket Club was a cricket team that represented the county of Monmouthshire in the Minor Counties Championship competition from 1901 to 1934.
The county was usually among the weakest in the Minor Counties competition, and only for a few seasons in the 1900s did it finish in the top half of the final table. In 1905, Monmouthshire's best season, the county came second to Norfolk.
After 1934, neighbouring Glamorgan, which had risen to first-class status in 1921, played fairly regularly at grounds within the Monmouthshire borders, including the county ground at Rodney Parade, Newport.
Most Memorable Match - Glamorgan v Gloucestershire
(May 31st , June 1st, June 2nd, 1939)
The Rodney Parade ground was, at one time, one of the biggest grounds in the country, and was home to many famous matches and performances. Glamorgan CCC previously played First Class cricket at Newport for many years and many famous records and statistics followed, none more so than the 1939 fixture between Glamorgan and Gloucestershire.
Wally Hammond scored a remarkable 302 for Gloucestershire out of a first innings score of 505-5 dec, which remains as the highest score ever made on the ground and at that time a record score against Glamorgan. His innings included 3 sixes and 35 fours, in his mammoth stay, and was his fourth triple century of his career, equalling the number of runs he scored against Glamorgan five years earlier at Bristol.
One of his sixes was claimed to have smashed one of the windows at the top of the huge power station which overlooked the ground. Groundsman at the time Fred Cox, claiming to have kept the smashed window as a souvenir.
Incredibly, in the same match Emrys Davies for Glamorgan, scored 287 not out, a score which remained a record score for a Glamorgan batsman for many years. Glamorgan having been bowled all out for 196 in their first innings, replied to the massive Gloucestershire score with a remarkable 557-4dec.
Glamorgan 1st Inns : 196 (A.H Dyson 99n.o T.Goddard 4-45)
Gloucestershire 1st Inns : 505- 5 dec (W.Hammond 302)
Glamorgan 2nd Inns : 577- 4 (E. Davies 287n.o, A.H Dyson 120)