Polo Ground, New Inn

New Inn, or Pontypool Road as it was first known, was the thriving settlement adjacent to the major junction on the local railway network – to the north of Cwmbran – between lines running north to the industrial valleys, especially the towns of Panteg, Pontypool and Blaenavon, south to the docks at Newport, west to the Vale of Neath line and east to Hereford and Gloucester.

Close to the Pontypool Road railway station was an area of pasture land on the flood plain of the Afon Llwyd owned by the Hanbury-Williams family. From 1818 it was used for horse and pony racing, with the races in 1861 attracting a crowd of 6,000, with a special grandstand erected three hundred yards to the south of the railway station.

In the early 1870s this area became one of the grounds used by the Monmouthshire Polo Association following the formation by Capt. Herbert of the 9th Lancers of a county polo team. The Pontypool Road ground had an ideal location, close to the station, and allowing the easy transport of polo ponies.

From 1876 cricket was also played on the Polo Ground, following the members of the locomotive, carriage and traffic department at the Pontypool Road station forming their own team. Matches were successfully staged against other workingmen’s sides in the local area, as well as teams from the Newport area, with their major home contests held on the nearby Polo ground. In 1882 the ground also staged an exhibition match between a XXII of Monmouthshire and An England Eleven. The English side however, also included three local players – William Morgan and Edward Davies, who were leading members of the South Wales CC, as well as George Rosser of Newport CC.

William Morgan, who guested for the All England XI at The Polo Grounds in 1882. Image Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Between 1886 and 1894 Pontypool RFC also used the Polo Ground. Although the facilities and public accessibility by rail were excellent, there was a lot of pressure from tradesmen in Pontypool to move the venue of the rugby games nearer to the centre of the town. In 1893/94, they moved to Conway Road before the following year switching to Pontypool Park. The Polo Ground was also used by the Pontypool Hockey Club, as well serving as an athletics ground and a venue for football, tennis, local fetes and horse shows.

The Pontypool Road Cricket Club continued to play there up until the inter-war period, by which time a greyhound track had also been added. During the 1920s and 1930s local school sports days were held at the Polo Ground, together with the home games of Pontypool Road AFC. In the early 1940s a camp was also built there for American servicemen, before reverting to use as a camp for prisoners of war.

Much of The Polo Ground is now used as an industrial estate, although a small recreation field still survives. Its development as an industrial site was given a stimulus by the creation of dual carriageways, with easy access to the A465 (Heads of the Valley Road) and the M50.

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