The village of Rogerstone is now a suburb on the north-western fringes of Newport, but it was originally a cluster of three hamlets – Tydu (or Tydee), Tregwilym and The Cefn – which were close to the remains of Rogerstone Castle which dated back to the early part of the 12th century.
The earliest references to cricket being played in the area date from the early 1870s, with the ‘Western Mail’ referring to a game on 24 August 1872 between Tydu and Newport. Given that their opponents were the town club (who had been playing since 1820) it’s unlikely that this was Tydu’s first-ever game with decent performances and victories over other local sides – in unreported matches – spurring on the villagers to challenge the talented members of the Newport club.
Cricket, and life in general, in the Rogerstone area was given a massive boost during 1885 when steel-makers Nettlefolds moved their production complex, known as the Castle Works, at Hadley in Shropshire to Tydu. Given that their new site was adjacent to the remains of Rogerstone Castle, the new plant kept it’s name. That summer, cricket matches were played by staff from the Castle Works in a field opposite Rogerstone House which had become the Works Manager’s house. Soon after a football team also played on the field as recreational activity became a highly valued part of the workers’ lives. As the image below shows, fund-raising events also took place in aid of the cricket club, and allowed them to travel to Cardiff to play the side representing the Taff Vale Railway at the Arms Park, as well as staging games against St. Mellon’s, Pontymister and North Risca.
Cricket in the Newport area was boosted during the closing years of the 19th century by further industrial growth, the influx of people and an expanded railway network allowing coal, mineral ores and other products from the Monmouthshire valleys to be taken to the town’s docks and manufacturing plants. With public transport being easier, and cheaper, the team from the Castle Works – now known as Rogerstone – therefore had more teams to play and their fixture list expanded. But money was still an issue with many of the players being unable to afford kit bags and turning up for matches carrying their kit in brown paper bags – hence their early nickname “The Brown Paper Baggers”!
Following the successful introduction of league competitions elsewhere, and in other sports, 1900 saw the creation of the Newport and District Cricket League. Rogerstone took part and played against sides including Baneswell, Maindee, Newport Barbarians, Newport Glassworks, Pill Harriers and Pontnewydd, and as the images below show, Rogerstone were the inaugural winners of the new competition.
The photographs above show the medal presented to Moses Picken, a furnaceman at the Castle Works. Born in Shropshire in June 1871, he also played football for Rogerstone AFC so it is fair to assume that many of the soccer players, seen in the image below, also played cricket during the summer months on what had become known as Castle Field.
Having been on the up, recreational activity in the Rogerstone area was dealt a major blow during the first decade of the 20th century. In 1902 Nettlefolds merged with Guest Keen (later GKN), but the further expansion of the Castle Works saw much of Castle Field being turned into a large marshalling yard for the railway wagons. A car park was later added, but the upshot was that both the football and cricket clubs were disbanded.
Click here to read about more about Rogerstone CC during the inter-war period.
These notes have been compiled with the help of Derek Picken of Rogerstone Welfare CC.