Ebbw Vale (2)

Another postcard of the Welfare Ground in Ebbw Vale. Image Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Ebbw Vale continued to stage some of Monmouthshire`s Minor County matches in the 1920s and 1930s, and following their merger with Glamorgan in 1934, the Welfare Ground also hosted Glamorgan`s 2nd XI fixture with Dorset in 1935, followed by the matches with Cheshire in 1936 and Middlesex 2nd XI in 1937.

The decision by Richard Thomas and Baldwins to rebuild their furnaces and modernise their steel plant in Ebbw Vale, plus the increase in orders after the Second World War, gave the town a lift after the War,  so when Glamorgan regrouped in 1946, and thought about tapping support at new venues, the county`s officials decided to allocate the match with Worcestershire in June 1946 to Ebbw Vale. A  first  day crowd of 5,000 vindicated the committee`s decision, with  Johnnie Clay, the county`s veteran captain, writing to the Welfare Association and said “the match was a sensational success….It would appear now that Ebbw Vale as a centre of first-class cricket is very much on the map.” No surprise that later in the season when difficulties arose in preparing a pitch at Stradey Park, the Nottinghamshire game was switched from Llanelli to the Welfare Ground. 

Wilf Wooller (right) and Eugene Cross (front centre) at the renaming ceremony for the Ebbw Vale ground. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

In the years up until 1968, the Ebbw Vale ground staged an annual championship fixture, but there were concerns over the state of the pitch, which too often gave considerable assistance to the spin bowlers. After the match with Nottinghamshire in August 1967, the pitch was reported by the umpires as being unfit for first-class cricket, and the ground was subsequently dropped from the county`s Championship calendar.

The introduction of the John Player League from 1969 saw the ground return to the county circuit by staging an annual Sunday game. Its compact size made the Welfare Ground an ideal venue for one day games and from 1969, the crowds, often in excess of 5,000, were treated to some swashbuckling  innings, with balls regularly being deposited high onto the grassed embankment on the eastern side of the ground, or over the trees lining the western boundary alongside the River Ebbw.

In 1981 a new organisation called the Ebbw Vale Recreation Grounds Trust and Institute was created to take over the place of the Welfare Association, and they took over the ownership of the ground. Championship cricket made a brief return to their ground in 1983 after some local sponsorship, but in 1984  there was a switch back to Sunday League games,  with Geoff Holmes taking five wickets for just 2 runs, including a hat-trick, in the match against Nottinghamshire. In 1990 Ebbw Vale hosted the county`s three-day friendly with the Sri Lankans and, until 1996, it staged an annual Sunday League match.

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