Ebbw Vale (1)

A view of Eugene Cross Park in Ebbw Vale as Glamorgan meet Surrey in a Sunday League match in 1988. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Eugene Cross Park, Ebbw Vale was another of Glamorgan`s venues which doubled up as both a rugby and cricket ground. But unlike the St. Helen`s ground in Swansea, there was no overlap in terms of playing area, with the cricket square in the northern half of the Park, and the rugby pitch occupying the southern section, with both nestling in the hollow-like valley of the Ebbw River between Beaufort Road and New Church Road.

The first record of a cricket match taking place in Ebbw Vale dates from 1852 when a fixture was held with Blaenau. This was some 70 years after Edward Kendall had established a furnace for iron and steel making, using the local raw materials and charcoal by burning felled trees from the densely wooded slopes of the Ebbw Valley.

The further expansion of steel making in the area, plus the influx of migrants from surrounding counties of England and Wales, gave cricket a further boost during the middle of the 19th century. Despite the restrictions imposed by the regular shifts, there were several teams in the town by the 1870`s. One of  these was a team of schoolmasters, and the introduction of organised games into the school curriculum, meant that more of the local youngsters learnt the rudiments of the game.

By the end of the 19th century, there was enough support for cricket within the town for a formal club to be created.   They secured the use of a field alongside the Ebbw River, close to  the Bridgend Hotel, and by the Great War, the “Bridgend Field” had become the town`s major area for recreation, being  used  for  association  football  and  rugby,  in addition to cricket.

The  Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Company realised that it was important for their employees to have the chance to partake  in  healthy  recreation, so in November 1919 they formed the  Ebbw  Vale  Welfare  Association  and  bought  the “Bridgend Field” from Phillips Brewery. The six acres of land became known as the Welfare Association Ground, and in 1973 its name was changed to its present title in honour of Sir Eugene Cross, the influential and longstanding Chairman of the Welfare Trustees.

In 1920 a cricket pavilion was created on the bank to the north of the cricket field,  whilst a rugby grandstand was built in the southern part of the ground, alongside the Bridgend Hotel.  In June of that year Glamorgan visited the Ebbw Vale ground for a two day friendly with Monmouthshire, and in August 1921, Monmouthshire staged their first Minor County Championship match at Ebbw Vale with Dorset providing the opposition.

A postcard of the Ebbw Vale ground during the 1920s. Image Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

To read more about the history of the ground, click here.