There are records of cricket being played in the Colwyn Bay area since the 1880s, with the current Colwyn Bay Cricket Club (situated in Rhos-on-Sea) coming into existence at a meeting held in the town on 18 January 1923. The fledgling club entered the newly-formed North Wales League, with Wilfred Wooller senior as captain, playing home matches during the 1923 season on a rented pitch at Rhos Preparatory School.
Seeking a permanent home, the club acquired land adjoining Penrhyn Avenue running south from the seafront (as seen below) from local landowners Sir Kenelm Cayley, William Horton and John Newton. In September 1923, at the club’s first annual meeting, plans for the proposed new pavilion and clubhouse were exhibited. During the ensuing months this was constructed by Wilfred senior and his father John, who were local builders.
As early as 1926 the Penrhyn Avenue ground hosted a three-day match (albeit not first-class), when North Wales, including Rhos-on-Sea resident Sydney Barnes (seen below), took on the newly-crowned County Champions Lancashire at the beginning of September.
First-class cricket came in June 1930, when Wales beat the Minor Counties by 177 runs. The Wales team included Glamorgan stalwarts Trevor Arnott, Eddie Bates, John Bell, Dai Davies, Jack Mercer, Norman Riches and Frank Ryan, as well as Sydney Barnes. 1930 was also Denbighshire’s first season in the Minor Counties Championship, and matches were played against Lancashire Second XI and Staffordshire at Penrhyn Avenue in August, with seventeen year-old Wilf Wooller, then a pupil at Rydal School, featuring in the Denbighshire side, alongside his brothers. Denbighshire played a total of 8 Minor Counties Championship matches at Penrhyn Avenue prior to their withdrawal from the competition after the 1935 season, with at least one of the Wooller brothers in the team on each occasion. Click here to find out more about Denbighshire as a Minor County.
A financial crisis during the 1930s almost forced Colwyn Bay Cricket Club out of existence, but by the outbreak of the Second World War it was back on a sound footing. During the War, a series of charity matches put the club firmly on the map. At the time, the sum of £3663 raised for the Red Cross Prisoners of War Fund by the match between North Wales and an Empire XI in 1943 was a record amount for any charity cricket match ever held in Great Britain. However this was eclipsed by the £5459 raised the following year for the same charity by another match between the same two teams.
The success of the wartime matches led to the inception of Colwyn Bay CC’s Annual Cricket Festival, which ran from 1946 to 1962. Generally held towards the end of August, large crowds were enthralled by the likes of Learie Constantine, George Headley, Clyde Walcott, Everton Weekes, Frank Worrall and Vinoo Mankad , all of whom made regular appearances.
During the 1947 Festival, Wilf Wooller, in his first year as captain, brought a Glamorgan team to the Rhos-on-Sea ground for the first time for a two-day match against Learie Constantine’s XI.Regular visits by Glamorgan followed, including a benefit match for Don Shepherd in 1960 against North Wales, in which Harry Secombe appeared for Glamorgan.
It was Wilf’s desire to bring first-class county cricket to the ground situated just a six-hit from the house in which he was born. This came to fruition in August 1966, when Glamorgan played Derbyshire. The trip to Colwyn Bay once a year became a regular feature until 1974, but was discontinued due to escalating costs.
Eventually, a return was made in 1990 with a County Championship match and a Sunday League match, both against Lancashire. The attendance figures, particularly for the Sunday League match, showed the enthusiasm for top class cricket in North Wales. As a result, the annual trip north to Colwyn Bay has continued, as has the support from the cricket lovers of North Wales and beyond.
The ‘King of Colwyn Bay’ (the title of chapter nine of his autobiography Third Man To Fatty’s Leg) is an appropriate epithet for Steve James. In eight first-class appearances at the Penrhyn Avenue ground for Glamorgan between 1992 and 2002, he amassed 1221 runs in twelve innings at an average of 135.66, scoring five centuries (all greater than 150) in the process.
In 1999 he scored 259* against Nottinghamshire, his personal best and a new ground record. Twelve months later his 309* against Sussex was Glamorgan’s first (and to date only) triple century in first-class cricket. Also in this match, Steve and Matthew Elliott shared Glamorgan’s highest first wicket partnership of 374 and Glamorgan posted a record total of 718-3 dec.