Ebbw Vale Cricket Club BadgeIntroduction


Cricket has been played in South Wales since the 1830’s (3).

I wonder with improved transport links, was it a coincidence that when the passenger railway service came to Ebbw Vale (Monday 19th April 1852) the Ebbw Vale Club’s first recorded match was at Blaina later that summer. It was the first reported game for both clubs and resulted in a win for the visitors (2).

During the 19th century the influx of people from the surrounding counties, attracted by work in the iron and coal industries, helped develop all aspects of the town with cricket being no exception. Support came from school masters teaching the game as part of the curriculum, from industrial managers and from the clergy, who as disciples of the Victorian concept of Muscular Christianity believed that playing games helped to give order and moral structure to life within the tightly knit and drink ridden industrial communities

At the same time Rugby Union was thought to be the pre-eminent game because it developed the strength of character for military service (8).


What’s in a Name

The grounds had long served the purpose of a recreation ground and from the early 1700’s large fairs were held there and were still common in the 1890’s (8).

Cricket and football matches were played at “DOBBS FIELD”, named after the landlord of the nearby Bridgend Hotel. “The BRIDGEND FIELD” as it became known was owned by Phillips and Sons, Brewers of Station Street, Newport, who by 1903 were charging £3.50 for a seasons rent. This amount was increased in 1904 to £9.00 and the following year to £10.00.

After the First World War, under the enlightened leadership of Sir Frederick Mills, the Ebbw Vale Iron, Steel & Coal Company created a Sports Welfare Scheme buying the Cricket Club’s assets for £100. In the post war depression, this arrangement failed and the organisation ceased to exist on 31st March 1923 (1).

At a meeting held at Christ Church Hall on Thursday 10th May 1923 a Welfare Scheme for the town was created (8) and from this time on, the field began to be known as the “WELFARE GROUND”.

However, on 29th June 1973, the Welfare Association Committee decided to change the name of the ground to “EUGENE CROSS PARK” in honour of the Chairman of the Trustees. The Commemoration Gates and plaque were unveiled by Michael Foot M.P. on 27th September 1974 and MR Cross was knighted in the New Years Honours List of that year. He died on 21st January 1982, aged 85 (4)

With the decline of local industries, a Public Trust was formed in 1981 to succeed the Welfare Association. Further industrial decline and falling income meant that the Association could not continue and in 1987 it transferred the administration of the ground to the local Authority,  “In trust for the people of Ebbw Vale” and “for the playing of sport in due season” (4).


Ground Development

Despite the changes of ownership, improvements continued to be made to the facilities.

In the early years of the last century “rolling” of the cricket field needed a horse and two men: a sharpening stone for the scythe cost tuppence in 1908 while in 1912, a lawnmower was purchased for £10-00.

On the 18th January 1905, the Club Committee could not decide whether to develop the pitch or build a pavilion but eventually they planned a for ground extensions which took place over the next six years. In 1906, the cost was £26-70, while in 1907 £6-50 was paid for an extension of 9 x 27 metres (10 x 30 yards). The digging out of the bankside of the field added 1086 m2 (1300 sq yards) for the 1909 season. Smaller extensions were added for the 1910 and 1911 seasons.

During this period, a decision as made on the 16th May 1907 to build a pavilion. To finance the ground and building developments it was resolved on t30th October 1908 “that the sum of £100 to be loaned from various gentlemen in the sum of £5 or multiple thereof at 5% per annum”. However, by December of that year, the Secretary reported that the appeal for funds “was very poor” and on the 21st January 1909 it was decided that a loan of £50 be obtained from the London& Provincial Bank.

By August 1912 the bank overdraft for the pitch and pavilion extensions exceeded the amount guaranteed and bills amounting to 320 had not been paid. Mr Robert Graham (later General Manager of the Ebbw Vale Company) offered to underwrite the debt and appealed to members to pay their subscriptions. This after presenting the team with his photograph (1).


The Pavilion

Following the decision in May 1907 to build a pavilion, the project was not completed until 1920 (1) when it was sited between the Ebbw Vale Bowls Green and the machinery shed.

In the early 1930’s even though the depression showed no signs of abating, tenders were called for by the Ebbw Vale Welfare Association for the erection of a Cricket and Bowls Pavilion.

It was built with the aid of a £1900 grant from the Miners Welfare Fund. Because of the severe shortage of work, competition for the job was fierce, attracting tenders from 12 contractors in South East Wales. The highest was from J.E Jones of Pontllanfraith at £2150 and the lowest from Frank Hann of Ebbw Vale at £1793. The successful contractor was William Miles and Son of Ebbw Vale who tendered a price of £1832, excluding landscaping with plumbing undertaken by W Jones and electrics by Gibsons of Carphilly.

The building was completed in October 1932 and was officially opened for use in the 1933 season by Sir John Beynon, Chairman of the Ebbw Vale Company (7).

The four faced illuminated Pavilion Tower Clock was officially presented to the Ebbw Vale Welfare Association by Mr O.P.L Edwards (of Edwards Department Store) on Wednesday 8th June 1955.

The Cricket Club opened a licensed bar in the kitchen in 1975. Improvements were made to the facilities with additional dressing rooms and the present bar in the 1980’s.

September 2007 saw construction work begin on a second bowling green for the R.T.B (Ebbw Vale) Bowls Club. They had to move from behind the General Offices to provide facilities for the 2010 National Eisteddfod and for future development of the Works site.

The new green was completed by June 2008 which led to the construction of an extension to the Pavilion between December 2008 and September 2009 in time for the 2010 season.

The magnificent double bowls pavilion and surrounds (£680,000) was built by S.C Moore (Newport) with electrics installed by C&F Electrics of Ebbw Vale. The development was supported by the Welsh Assembly Government and officially opened by Councillor Brian Morgan, Mayor of Blaenau Gwent 28th May 2010.

The Ebbw Vale Cricket Club’s pavilion hospitality has long been held in high regard and 1871 the local paper reported that the cricket club “provided a sumptuous supper” for its opponents after the game (7). This tradition has continued to the present time with written congratulations and gifts being received from the Glamorgan, Northants and Middlesex county clubs among others. Many of these artefacts are on display in the pavilion.


The Cricket School

The indoor school was officially opened by Sir Henry Spencer, Managing Director of Richard, Thomas and Baldwin Ltd on the 21st August 1963.  The ceremony was held before the Glamorgan match against Nottinghamshire.

Built by the Ebbw Vale Welfare Association at a cost of £15,000, it is 43 metres (140 ft) long, 13.53 metres (44ft) wide and 6.1 metres (20 ft) high, with 3 nets each 3.84 metres )12.5 ft) wide. It was built by George Albert Brown Ltd of Ebbw Vale.

The School was extensively refurbished in 1995 and a new floor was laid in July 2006. The building is used by clubs from a wide area and for specialist coaching by the Gwent Coaching Association and Cricket Wales (formally The Cricket Board of Wales).

The club itself continues to invest in the future. New kit and cricket equipment was supplemented by a new container store in 2008 and a mechanised grass cutter was purchased in 2009. New covers and groundsheets were in place for the 2010 season as was a glass washer for the club bar.

Ready for the 2011 season the scorebox has been fitted with a state of the art electronic scoreboard, chairs for the tearoom were acquired from Beaufort R.F.C, while it is planned to improve / repair and provide new bench seating in the pavilion enclosure.


Emergence of the Leagues

From the 1870’s the use of the railway system enabled fixtures to be arranged not only locally but as far away as Cardiff, St Fagans and Barry.

“Sport was flourishing (in the town) from 1901 to 1914 as never before. In 1909 the cricket club engaged the first professional in the towns’ history, one Kavanagh, a good wicket keeper and fast bowler. He was observed to enjoy a glass of stout at intervals during a game; this was possible because the cricket club committee and press sat at a table near the boundary and were (themselves) well supplied with liquid refreshment”. (3)

From 1926 until 1961 the club played in the South Wales and Mon league which was mainly based around Swansea. Ebbw Vale was the last Monmouthshire club to leave that league. It was during this period that a number of famous cricketers played for the club.

Leonard PITCHFORD (Bedfordshire Minor Counties and Glamorgan) opened the batting for the club 1931-35 renting “Pendennis”, Tredegar Road. The club have his original contracts for 1931 & 32 and are on display.

Percy HOLMES (Yorkshire and England) opened the batting in 1938. He with Herbert Sutcliffe held the record opening stand of 555 for Yorkshire against Essex at Leyton in 1932.

George MACAULAY (also Yorkshire and England) opened the bowling for Ebbw Vale in 1939and took 10 wickets in one match. Both men lodged with Mr & Mrs Arthur Jones in Heol-ael-y-bryn.

Harold GIMBLETT (Somerset and England) played for Ebbw Vale in 1955 and rented a house in the town. He scored a six over square leg at Brecon with the first ball he received for the club.

Between 1962-70, “Friendlies” were played as “time cricket” but pressure to return to a league format grew stronger in the late 1960’s.

With the failure of the Monmouthshire Cricket Association to create a county wide league (because some clubs in the east and the south of the county “crossed the border”) the club lost out on the new system

However, the Welsh Club Cricket Conference, founded in 1969, accepted Ebbw Vale’s application to join in 1971. This league was based on the area between Bridgend and Sudbrook and consisted of three divisions.

In 1988 the club joined the newly created Welsh Counties Alliance, a league which saw the club enter a more confined one division based on better playing facilities.

After 10 years the E.C.B asked the clubs playing “over the border” to return to South Wales and the three division South Wales Cricket League was created in 1999 based again from Bridgend to Chepstow.

Following the E.C.B and Glamorgan County Cricket Club’s “promoting” a semi-professional “Premier League” of 10 clubs was created in 2010 to cover an area from Ammanford to Usk.

To retain a three division organisation in South East Wales the Glamorgan and Monmouthshire was formed for the 2010 season.


England and Wales Cricket Board Accreditation

With the decline of cricket in schools during the 1980’s many clubs began to increase their coaching effort and entered the E.C.B Youth Competition. Early success followed with the clubs U 15’s winning the Welsh Area Final at St. Helens, Swansea in 1989 by beating Gorseinon and the following year, were the area’s defeated finalists.

However, by the mid 1990’sthe clubs youth team had been reduced to fielding only one team (1) but great efforts by a dedicated band of volunteers began to create a number of teams at different age groups. In 2003, an application was made to begin the process of E.C.B Accreditation.

It took three years hard work and was attained in the summer of 2006 when the Cricket Board of Wales gave Ebbw Vale “Focus” status, only the third in Gwent and thirteenth in Wales at the time. The presentation of the Certificate was made in the lunch interval of the Glamorgan match against West Indies A match in August of that year

Since then the status has been renewed for a further three year term and the club continues to produce numerous Welsh and County Caps at all age levels, currently fielding a girls team and sides in the Gwent Coaching Organisation competitions at U9’s, U11’s, 13’s, 15’s and 17’s.

This extensive programme extends to coaching in local schools and culminating in the club hosting M.C.C Cricket Coaching Summer Camps. The first 21-23 July 2009 was followed by another 26-27 July 2010 under the national “Chance to Shine Scheme”.

In 2011 a girls only M.C.C Summer Camp is scheduled for 26 -27 July while a mixed group from the local area will follow 28-29 July. To be allocated three such summer camps by the M.C.C is a unique achievement for a welsh club.


Groundsmen

Being one of the highest first class grounds in the country, at 283 metres (920 ft) above sea level and with 2.42 hectares (6 acres) of fields, the grounds have been well maintained by long serving groundsmen over the years:- 

  • Alf Davies of Crickhowell (1919-55)
  • Bill Dodd of Darwen, Lancs (1960-87)
  • Wayne Nash (1987-89)
  • Phil Williams (1989-1997)


Wayne and Phil, both from Ebbw Vale went on to Ninian Park, home of Cardiff city F.C as Stadium Manager and Head Groundsman respectively. They helped in the planning of the Cardiff city Stadium which has been the home of the football club since 2009.

Glyn Dobbs (1989) and Ivor Parry, Local Authority Employees have maintained the ground to the present day.


Glamorgan County Cricket Club

Glamorgan County Cricket Club had used the ground for Minor Counties and representative games since 1920 but it was in 1946 that Worcestershire were the visitors for the first full championship match at Ebbw vale with a second in 1946 and two more in 1947.

Thereafter one first class fixture was played each season until 1968 often producing record receipts for the County. The first Sunday League match was in 1969 and this arrangement continued until 1983 when a three day game was played.

Sunday matches returned between 1984 and 1997 when the decision was made to centralise county fixtures at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff which was developed into the SWALEC Stadium in time to host the 1st Ashes Test Match in 2009.

Sri Lanka played a three day game at Ebbw Vale in 1997 and the American Cricket Academy visited the town in 2005.

The West Indies A team came to the ground for two days in 2006 (I day practice and 1 day match) and finally Middlesex played the last Sunday Match in 2007. They appreciated their reception and presented the club with mementos on permanent display.

In total, the ground and the club hosted more First Class games than all the other Glamorgan County venues combined except for Cardiff and Swansea.

All First class Counties, except Durham, have played at Ebbw Vale and notable Glamorgan performances have included:-

1946

Austin Matthews

27–16. 18-3

V

Nottinghamshire

1949

Phil Croft

101 not out in 79 minutes

V

Essex

1953

Wilf Wooller

8-45

V

Warwickshire

1963

Jim Pressdee 

 15-12. 5.6

V

Northamptonshire 

1963 

Graham Kingston 

 6.36

V

 Derbyshire

1965 

 Don Sheppherd

 10.8-2-5

V

Leicestershire 

1968

 Ossie Wheatly

 9-60

V

Sussex 

1983 

 Charles Rowe

 4.29

V

 Nottinghamshire

1983 

 Winston Davies

 7.70

V

Nottinghamshire 

1984 

 Geoff Holmes

 5.2

V

Derbyshire 

1986 

 Hugh Morris

100 

V

Derbyshire 

1987 

 Geoff Holmes

 3.0

V

Nottinghamshire 

1988

Greg Thomas 

3 wickets in 6 balls 

V

Surrey

It is hoped Ebbw Vale Cub games and representative matches will continue the tradition of cricket at Eugene Cross Park for a long time to come.


Honours Board

 Life Members

       
1948 Edgar Watkins      
1949 Stanley Bull
Trevor Henry
     
1961 Richard Criddle
Silwyn T Davies
Joseph Tranter
     
1974 Wynford A Cox      
1975 Ivor Brain      
1979 William J Howells      
1980 Mervyn Gardner      
1987 William Dodd      
1992 Neville Gwyn
Robert Parsons
     
2010 Michael Cope
Malcolm Keane
     

 Captains

       
1901-14 Robert Graham   1966-69 Les Saunders
1919-20 Tudor Henry   1970 Dennis O’Loughlin
1921-24 A.M Maltby   1971 Michael Cope
1925-26 C.S Williams   1972 John Gaydon
1927-29 J.W Graham   1973-76 Les Saunders
1929-33 Edgar Watkins   1977-79 Keith Nancarrow
1934-36 Trevor Henry   1980-81 Ian Evans
1937-38 D Hughes   1982 Keith Nancarrow
1939 Trevor Henry   1983-84 Terry Thomas
1940-43 Douglas Osbourne   1985 Kim Norbett
1944-46 Ivor Brain   1986-87 Paul Chard
1947 Glyn White   1988-89 Dennis O’Loughlin
1948 Jack Cope   1990 Kevin Crewe
1949-50 Trevor Henry   1991 Jason White
1951 Ernest Worthington   1992-93 Gareth Hughes
1952 J Grealy   1994 Richard Nancarrow
1953-55 Ivor Brain   1995 Robert Szpadt
1956 John Pugh   1996-97 Jason White
1957 Ernest Worthington   1998-2001 Kevin Crewe
1958 Naza Alik Quisilbash   2002 Jason White
1959 Ivor Brain   2003-04 Matthew Telling
1960-62 John Watkins   2005-06 Matthew Beacham
1963 Robert Parsons   2007-08 Gareth Williams
1964 George Bernard Shaw   2009 Jason White
1965 Dennis Evans   2010- Jamie Nancarrow

 Chairmen

   

Secretaries

 
1904-08 J.E Griffiths   1904-05 Tudor Henry
1909-12 J Cameron   1906-11 S.H Irish
1913-14 Thomas J Yendoll   1912 J.G Davies
1919-20 W.H John   1913 W Williams
1921-24 Tudor Henry   1914-24 Edgar Watkins
1929 M Webber   1924 H.V Davies
1930-31 D.A Jones   1929-32 E Gray
1932-37 Tudor Henry   1933-34 Edgar Watkins
1938-67 Edgar Watkins   1935-46 Trevor Henry
1968-79 William J Howells   1947-62 Sylwyn Davies
1980-82 Ron Gregory   1963-81 Wynford A Cox
1983-90 Robert A Parsons   1982-83 Les Saunders
1991 Neville Gwyn   1984-89 Byron T Denning
1992-94 Philip Haines   1990-92 Nicholas I Denning
1994-96 Clive Bowers   1992-94 Glyn Philips
1997-2000 Ian Evans   1995 Philip Haines
2000-02 Robert Tranter   1996- Nicholas Pepper
2003-04 Alan Denning      
2005-06 Mark Slade      
2007- Julian Powell      

 


 References

  1. Ebbw Vale Cricket Club Minutes
  2. “Monmouthshire Merlin”, Newport Library
  3. A History of Ebbw Vale, Arthur Gray Jones
  4. John Gaydon. Former Club Captain and Chairman, Ebbw Vale Welfare Association
  5. Graham Jones. President of W.B.A and Monmouthshire Bowling Association
  6. South Wales Argus
  7. Steel Skill and Survival, Rugby in Ebbw Vale. David Boucher
  8. N.L. Jackson “Professionalism in Sport” vol 67 1900 p.156