Monmouthshire was one of the earliest areas in Wales to have a cricket team representing the county, with a side called the Monmouthshire Cricket Club playing at the market town of Raglan from the 1820s onwards.
The club played their matches on land at the rear of the Beaufort Arms and as the image below shows from the Club’s accounts for 1838, there was an annual subscription fee for the members. As a result, the Monmouthshire Club was mainly composed of well-to-do and prosperous gentlemen who could afford to pay these fees as well as taking time off to play cricket.
In 1858 a Monmouthshire side was assembled to play the All-England side at Newport. Like other matches elsewhere against the wandering side of professionals, the game was accompanied by various social events and as the image of the poster below shows, a number of social activities were arranged to coincide with the visit of the crack players from England.
This game at Newport in 1858 proved to be a seminal moment in the history of Welsh cricket as the English side were defeated by the local side. The victory fuelled the ambitions of the Welsh cricketers, and not long afterwards, the South Wales Cricket Club was created by local ironmaster Samuel Homfray to play annual matches against teams in London and the Home Counties, with many of the victorious Monmouthshire side playing important roles with the gentleman’s club.
By the late 19th century, there were many strong cricket clubs in Monmouthshire, including Newport CC, seen below in 1886, and all with a variety of striped blazers and caps! Through the patronage of Lord Tredegar, the Newport club secured the regular use of the Rodney Parade ground, where a decent wicket was created, together with a pavilion, again funded through the help of his Lordship.
Minor county status
In 1892 Monmouthshire County Cricket Club was formed and from 1901 they participated in the Minor County Championship. The photograph below shows the Monmouthshire side which participated in the Minor County Championship in 1909.
Like other Minor County sides of the period, it contained a mixture of amateurs and professionals, with the latter category including Arthur Silverlock – standing far left – who was one of the top professionals in South Wales and a prolific batsman, as well as Dick Steeples – standing second right – who had played with distinction as a bowler with Derbyshire before moving to South Wales.
Sitting centre in the front row is Edward Phillips, a member of the well-known brewing family from Newport, who played with great distinction for both the Newport and Monmouthshire clubs before being killed in the Great War.
Monmouthshire merge with Glamorgan
By the early 1930s, Monmouthshire CCC were facing major financial problems and they were unable to continue in the Minor County Championship after 1933 with their side from that final season seen in the image opposite.
Through the influence of Johnnie Clay, who himself had played as a young man for the Monmouthshire side, they merged with Glamorgan in 1934 allowing the latter to select players from Monmouthshire and also field a 2nd XI in the Minor County competition. Both meant that Glamorgan CCC had a further opportunity to nurture homegrown talent, as well as further promoting their Welsh identity.
Allan Watkins – a man of Monmouthshire
Allan Watkins of Usk CC was Glamorgan’s first player to appear in an Ashes series, with Allan appearing in the Sixth Test between England and Australia at The Oval in 1948. Allan was also Glamorgan’s first-ever Test Match centurion with the Welshman making a superb 111 against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1948/49.
He was one of many young cricketers from Monmouthshire to benefit from the close association with Glamorgan, with Allan (seen below in 1949 in his MCC sweater), first appearing as a teenager in Glamorgan 2nd XI’s matches in the Minor County Championship during the 1930s.
Glamorgan at Newport
The merger with Monmouthshire allowed Glamorgan to stage annual matches at various Monmouthshire grounds. The photograph below shows Wilf Wooller leading out the Glamorgan side from the pavilion at the Rodney Parade ground in Newport in 1949 for the match against Yorkshire.
Johnnie Clay, the long-serving Glamorgan bowler, who first played for Monmouthshire after the First World War is second from the left. At 51 years of age, this was Johnnie’s final appearance in first-class cricket.