Early cricket in Denbighshire

Records of representative matches in Denbighshire can be traced back to the 1860s. In May 1864 leading members of the Wrexham club formed Denbighshire County Cricket Club. Three years later, they held a two-day match at Wrexham against Shropshire, and also assembled a side, grandly titled North Wales, to play a South Wales XI in a two-day contest at Denbigh.

The home of Denbighshire CCC in Wrexham was also used for football, with local cricketers in Wrexham starting their own football club, based at The Racecourse, in September 1872.  In 1877 the ground also hosted Wales’ first-ever football international.

The playing of cricket at schools, such as Grove Park School in Wrexham – seen below in 1868 gave the spread of the game a boost, as did the presence of military bases, such as Wrexham Barracks. The development of the railway network in north-east Wales also gave cricket a boost during the late 19th century. The boom in tourism along the North Wales coast during the late Victorian and Edwardian era gave a massive boost to clubs in the area, as a host of English clubs and wandering teams decided to visit Denbighshire and the surrounding areas, often on an annual basis.

Cricket at Grove Park School, Wrexham in 1868
Cricket at Grove Park School in Wrexham circa 1868. Credit – Roger Packham / Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Marchwiel Hall

Cricket in Denbighshire was also given a massive boost by the staging of two-day and other high profile matches in the grounds of Marchwiel Hall which was the home of the McAlpine family. Matches had been staged in the grounds of Marchwiel Hall since the 1860s, with Mr. Townsend Mainwaring, the previous occupant, also acting as a kindly Patron to Wrexham CC.

During the early 20th century, Marchwiel Hall became the base for country house cricket with A.D. McAlpine organizing his own sides for friendly matches against a variety of local sides, including Denbighshire, as well as against visiting elevens from England and touring teams from overseas. During the inter-war period, Lancashire 2nd XI also played an annual game against either Denbighshire or a North Wales XI at the picturesque Marchwiel ground.

A modern image of the pavilion at Marchwiel Hall. Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Denbighshire as a Minor County

By the early 1900s Denbighshire CCC took part in annual matches against other county teams from North Wales as well as the MCCC. The photograph below shows the Denbighshire side which met Flintshire in 1906. Sat in the centre is Charles Mott, the team’s captain and a prominant member of the Vale of Clwyd club based at Ruthin who, in the years leading up until the Great War, acted as the leading promotor of cricket both in Denbighshire and North Wales as a whole.

Denbighshire in 1906. Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

In 1930 they were admitted to the Minor County Championship. Denbighshire staged their Minor County matches and other friendlies at a number of grounds in the county, including Marchwiel Hall, Chirk, Brymbo, Colwyn Bay and Rydal School – the venue for the match in 1931 when Lancashire 2nd XI were the visitors.

Denbighshire enjoyed a torrid time in the Minor County Championship and met with little success and after a couple of seasons of regular defeats, they withdrew in 1932. A return was made in 1933 but after three more years of regular defeats, they withdrew from the Minor County competition for a second and final time.

Wilf Wooller

Wilf Wooller – seen below sat on the extreme right with his father (second left) and brothers Roy, Jack and Gordon – is undoubtedly the most famous cricketer to have played for Denbighshire during their days in the Minor County Championship during the early 1930s. The all-rounder – who subsequently went on to play for, and captain, Glamorgan – made his debut for the Minor County whilst still a pupil at Rydal School. His brothers also played with distinction for the Denbighshire side – in one of their games, fittingly staged at Rydal, all four Wooller boys appeared for Denbighshire .

Wilf Wooller (right) with his brothers and father (second left). Credit – The Wooller Family and Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Rydal School

Wilf Wooller was just one of the pupils at Rydal School to play for Denbighshire during their days as a Minor County. Cricket had been played at the famous North Wales school for many years, and excellent facilities existed at New Field. Indeed, in 1929 the Rydal School ground hosted the match between Wales and the touring South Africans, much to the delight of the school’s staff and the representatives of Denbighshire CCC.