Barriers to the Spead of Cricket

Like other parts of the UK, there were barriers to the spread of the game in Wales during the 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the most obvious was the absence of land on which to play cricket. Many of the areas on the flood plains and river meadows were devoted to industry and housing and, as the image below shows from Ystrad Mynach, more marginal areas of land had to be used for recreation with slope of the pitch in this image no doubt causing problems for the enthusiastic cricketers.

Playing cricket in Ystrad Mynach in 1923. Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Another barrier was time, with men and boys largely employed on shifts or “piecework” contracts, so if they did not work in the collieries or steel mills, there was no income for them or their families. In some areas, cricket was played early in the morning or after work, with games often staged over several days.

Money was also an issue. Few workingmen could afford the subscription fees of some of the premier clubs, whilst the clothing and equipment, as displayed by William Bancroft below – the Swansea professional during the 1870s and 1880s – also cost money. The solution was for cricket club’s to share equipment and to play in your working clothes.

William Bancroft, the Swansea professional with some of the kit needed to play, including a stout pair of boots, whites a buckle belt plus a decent bat. Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

In some parts of South Wales where either Nonconformitism and Temperance was prevalent,  there was also religious disapproval. Whilst some priests such as Father Kelly, seen below back left at Maesteg with the Swansea team in 1905, actively encouraged the playing of cricket, others were more sceptical.

An example of the opposition towards playing cricket came in August 1874 when the vicar of Maes-y-cymmer preached a sermon entitled `The Deadly Sin of Cricket in which he said “  workingmen ought not to join themselves with gentlemen, who had more money to spend than is healthy…..it was a positive sin to go onto a cricket field, by doing so, young men had no time to read their Bibles, all their time being taken up in cricketing…….”