Cricket moves to Sophia Gardens

An aerial view of the Sophia Gardens pavilion, taken in the 1960s. Image Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Following their acquisition of Sophia Gardens, Cardiff Corporation oversaw several developments in the area during the 1950s including the conversion of the large hangar which the RAF had erected near the Cardiff Bridge entrance,  into a pavilion capable of staging musical and theatrical events, as well as exhibitions and conferences.

The Sophia Gardens Pavilion was formally opened on 27 April 1951 and over the next few years,  it played host to many well-known celebrities, including Gracie Fields, Danny Kaye and Cliff Richard. When Cardiff staged the 1958 Commonwealth Games, the pavilion was also used for boxing and wrestling. During the winter of 1982, part of the pavilion`s structure collapsed, leading to the demolition of the building, and it is now part of a coach and car park.

During the 1950s plans were also put forward for developing the Gala Field and the adjoining Pontcanna Fields to the north. This included the creation of a racecourse, and a multi-purpose recreation complex, including a skating rink, bowling alley and a ballroom. Glamorgan Cricket also submitted a plan to create a spacious and purpose-built cricket ground which would help solve the problems of overcrowding and out-of-date facilities at Cardiff Arms Park, a mile away to the south.

All of these ideas were initially rejected by Cardiff Corporation, but during the early 1960s plans were put forward for creating a National Rugby Stadium in the heart of the Welsh capital.  In 1963 the green light was given for the redevelopment of the Arms Park and the leasing of Gala Field to Cardiff Athletic Club so that their various sections who were losing land at the Arms Park could find a new home. Glamorgan, and Cardiff CC, duly played for the final time at the Arms Park in 1966 before moving to Sophia Gardens the following year.

Tony Lewis bats whilst Roger Davis bowls as Glamorgan’s players try out the new facilities at Sophia Gardens in 1967. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.