Whiteheads, Bassaleg

The ground at Bassaleg to the north-west of Newport is named after Lionel Digby Whitehead, an enterprising industrialist who created a thriving iron and steel works in the area shortly after the First World War.

Born in York and educated at Charterhouse, Lionel worked initially at a steel foundry in Chesterfield before becoming the assistant manager of the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company in 1900. Six years later he became the works General Manager and purchased a portion of the plant and created the Whitehead Iron and Steel Company.

He was keen to modernize the plant and introduce new methods, but he was also acutely aware of the extra cost incurred by importing the raw materials to the Tredegar site and then the additional expenditure on taking the finished products to the docks at Newport. A site nearer the coast would save on these costs and also allow the works to expand. Lionel subsequently purchased the site at Bassaleg in 1914 and after the First World War oversaw the transfer of his staff and machinery to the new facility, which also boasted an electro-galvanising plant.

The Whiteheads Ground at Bassaleg, as seen in 1950. Photo Credit – Derek Picken.

In 1921 his workers formed a cricket club and football team and initially played at Maesglas. In 1927 Lionel purchased Overton House on Cardiff Road which duly became the Court-y-Bella Social Club for his staff, besides negotiating an agreement with Newport YMCA to share their grounds at Bassaleg. In 1935 Whiteheads purchased the Bassaleg ground and added a rugby pitch.

Between 1962 and 1978 Glamorgan staged seven Second Eleven matches at the Whiteheads Ground, as well as staging a number of one-day friendlies at the ground, especially against touring teams. In 1967 Whiteheads became part of the British Steel Corporation, whilst in 1982 the Clubhouse and grounds were purchased by a private consortium who continue to run the social club, with the venue still being used for rugby, football and bowls.

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