The origins of several cricket clubs in Wales during the 19th century can be traced directly to the creation of industrial establishments and the support of local entrepreneurs.
The financial support of the collieries or ironworks also helped clubs to hire decent professionals, thereby raising the standard of play and leading to the creation of successful teams. This patronage by local business continued in the 20th century, with a diverse range of businesses including breweries, motor vehicle companies, garages, insurance brokers and estate agents all supporting cricket clubs in Wales.
Gowerton CC is a classic example of a cricket team in South Wales with close links with local industry. The club was formed in 1879 and initially known as Gower Road, under the patronage of Colonel Roper Wright, the owner of the Elba Steelworks.
Colonel Wright provided land for the club, funded the creation of a changing room, and organized fund-raising events, besides playing in some of the games with the staff from his factory. But in March 1888, a strike began at the Elba Works, with over ninety employees staying out for the rest of the year. The tension it created meant that few of the workers were willing to play, or support the cricket team, whose patron and leading light was the man with whom they were in dispute, and for several years, few matches took place.
Below is an image of Gowerton CC in 1900. The team have subsequently become one of the most successful clubs in south-west Wales, winning the Haig Village Cup Final at Lord’s in 1975.
Panteg CC was formed in 1876 by Samuel Copestake who owned The Panteg Foundry. Copestake believed that playing cricket would lead to good labour relations as it gave the labourers a chance to play alongside both the works manager and the works director.
Baldwins Ltd took over the steelworks in 1902 and the club crest of a phoenix was taken from the Phoenix Galvanising Company who were a subsidiary of Baldwins. The cricket club play in the grounds of Panteg House, situated in Griffithstown to the south of Pontypool, with the House having previously been the home of the Works Manager. The image below shows the Panteg CC team from 1923 sat in front of the House.
Hill’s Plymouth CC (Merthyr Tydfil)
In 1763 John Guest and Isaac Wilkinson started the Plymouth Works on land leased from the Earl of Plymouth. Two years later, they sold the works to Anthony Bacon who had also built a furnace at Cyfarthfa. Bacon appointed his brother-in-law, Richard Hill, as manager of the Plymouth works, and after Bacon’s death in 1786, Hill inherited the works.
The Hill’s Plymouth club was formed in the 1860s as a means of harmonising good relations, both within the plant and with other industrial complexes both within Merthyr Tydfil and other steel-making centres in the thriving valley communities of South Wales.From 1886 they played at Pentrebach ground, two miles to the south of Merthyr, on land owned by Crawshay Bailey who had purchased the Hill’s Plymouth works a couple of years before. The club also joined the Glamorgan Cricket League in 1894 and won the competition in 1902 and 1903, before becoming founder members of the South Wales and Monmouthshire League in 1926.