The Origin of Cardiff Arms Park

Cardiff Arms Park hosted Glamorgan’s inaugural first-class match during 1921 against Sussex, but the venue had been hosting top-class cricket since the 19th century.

The Park’s origins are associated with the diversion of the River Taff during the 1840s in a westerly direction away from the early industrial town, which had developed – quite literally – in the shadow of Cardiff Castle. The map below from the early 1840s shows the large meander which existed to the west of the town.

A map of Cardiff from around 1842 showing the large meander on the River Taff. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

The main reasons for the diversion of the river were twofold – to make the central areas of the town cleaner and healthier rather than being prone of flooding with its associated rick of disease through the inundation of dirty river water, and secondly to create an area of dry land on which a railway station could be created serving the town on the South Wales Railway which ran from Chepstow to the east to Pembrokeshire in the west.

One of the staff employed at the time by the South Wales Railway was Isambard Kingdom Brunel and amongst the many legacies of the great Victorian engineer to future generations was the creation of meadowland at the rear of the Cardiff Arms – a popular and well-appointed coaching inn for the Taff-side town.

Cricket was first played on the Arms Park during the summer of 1848 and the first major cricket match took place on the Arms Park starting on 9 August, 1855 as a Twenty-Two of Cardiff and District met the All-England XI in a three-day contest.