Over the years, cricketers throughout Wales have received help from wealthy patrons and philanthropists. Initially, it was the ironmasters and the local gentry who were the earliest to lend their support, with the Homfrays of Tredegar and the Levicks of Blaina creating successful cricket teams which represented their works in the mid-19th century.
In subsequent years, leading figures from the world of commerce and other philanthropists have lent a helping hand to clubs in the local town or village as well as to the county clubs such as Glamorgan. Indeed, without the support of these businessmen, Glamorgan might have folded in the 1930s, but a successful fund-raising campaign was staged preventing the club from going out of existence.
The Crawshay’s of Merthyr
Cricket was used as a vehicle for social and moral reform in the Merthyr area – the industrial epicentre of the region during the mid 19th century, and the scene in 1831 of a workers revolt against the ironmasters.
Life was harsh in the town, with squalid living conditions, a lack of sanitary provision, overcrowding and periodic epidemics. With around 200 illegal beerhouses in the Dowlais area alone, drunkenness was just one of many social problems.
Twenty years or so after the Merthyr Rising, some of the owners of the town’s large ironworks started to adopt a more philanthropic attitude towards their employees by encouraging them take part in cricket.
During the 1850s the Crawshay family provided land and money for the creation of cricket clubs in the town, with Robert Crawshay, who owned the Cyfarthfa Works giving land in 1857 and paying for equipment to be bought so that some of his 7,000 employees could take part in what the local paper described as “the manly and noble game.”
Frederick Levick of Blaina
Frederick Levick – the owner of Blaina Ironworks – was an entrepreneur with great energy and vision. Through his efforts, the Blaina works became one of the major industrial centres in northern Monmouthshire, rivalling the already well-established centres at Tredegar, Ebbw Vale and Blaenavon.
Indeed, it was Levick who was responsible for cricket being first played in the town, with a team playing Ebbw Vale in early June 1853. Like many things in mid-Victorian Blaina, the cricket club bore the stamp of the town’s ironmaster as he strove to improve the living conditions of his workers.
Levick had a strong social conscience, and was appalled at the lifestyles of some of his men as shown by his comments in 1854 when called to give evidence to the Westminster government’s Payment of Wages committee – “the extent to which men go to the public houses is one of my greatest troubles in managing the works and I would take any other possible means to prevent them.”
It was no surprise that Levick saw the encouragement of playing cricket from 1853 onwards on his land near his works as another, albeit small, step forward in further improving the lifestyles of his men, as well as helping to forge harmonious relations between his staff and promoting the good name of his Ironworks.
Tredegar Park, five miles to the west of Newport, was the palatial home of the Morgan family, who during the 18th and 19th centuries had been successful industrial philanthropists, leasing land in Monmouthshire and Breconshire for mining activities, as well as overseeing the creation of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, plus many improvements at Newport Docks.
Cricketing activity at Tredegar Park dates from the residency of Godfrey Charles Morgan who in 1875, on the death of his father Sir Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan became the 2nd Baron Tredegar Born at Ruperra Castle (another Morgan family property in April 1831), Godfrey had been educated at Eton before embarking on a military career as a cavalry officer during which – as a captain in the 17th Lancers serving in the Crimean War – he was involved in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava during October 1854.
On returning to South Wales, he served as Conservative MP for Breconshire from 1858 until 1875, and given his high standing in the social and political world, Baron Tredegar was invited to play by George Homfray, another leading figure in the area, to play for Monmouthshire against the All-England Eleven on September 13th, 1858.
Through his education at Eton, Godfrey had developed a love of the game, but he failed to score in either innings. Nevertheless, he retained his enthusiasm and support for the Monmouthshire side who in mid-June 1859 met the All-England side again on the Newport Marshes. He helped to cover the appearance money of the English professionals, and his support was suitably rewarded as the Monmouthshire side won by 60 runs – the first victory by a Welsh side over an English team and a totemic moment in the development of cricket in Wales as the success led to the formation of the South Wales Cricket Club.
He and his family continued to support cricket in the local area, assisting with the creation and financing of the Rodney Parade ground in Newport, with Lord Tredegar providing the land at a peppercorn rent so that the townsfolk could partake in healthy recreation. His younger brother Freddie was also involved in cricketing activities at Tredegar Park. Educated at Winchester, he was a playing member of the South Wales CC, besides appearing for Monmouthshire. Freddie was also instrumental in the creation of a Tredegar Park cricket club during 1870 . The inaugural match was against an eleven raised by Freddie’s uncle Colonel Henry Gore Lindsay.
Various family members and employees of Lord Tredegar took part in these games which by the turn of the century had become highlights in the social calendar of Monmouthshire. During the 1880s a proper wicket and pavilion was created to the south of the House, whilst in 1896 Lord Tredegar appointed Foster Stedman (ssen below), a talented batsman from Suffolk as his Land Agent. Stedman’s duties embraced more than just overseeing the property as from 1896 until 1903 he was both secretary and captain of Monmouthshire County Cricket Club, and eagerly ran his eye over the credentials of the talented amateurs who played at Tredegar House.
J H Vivian of Singleton, Swansea
John Henry Vivian was Swansea’s first ever M.P. with the Cornishman becoming a benevolent landowner in Swansea in the mid 19th century.
During the 1830s and 1840s, he actively encouraged cricket in the grounds of his lavish home in the Singleton area of the Copperopolis. Vivian was also a supporter of the Temperance Movement, and he held strong views on living a good and healthy life, free of the demon drink. In fact, Vivian in his role as a father figure to the townspeople of Swansea never allowed a public house to be built on his land.
Whereas other clubs organised lavish banquets and actively encouraged drinking after matches, Vivian tried to make sure that the young gentlemen who took part in the games on his land at Singleton House did not get sidetracked by these social distractions.
Robert Lindsay of Taibach
During the mid 19th century, many of the industrialists acted as social reformers. An example was Captain Robert Lindsay, the owner of a copperworks and colliery, who created Taibach CC in 1843 so that his staff did not frequent the local taverns and illegal brewhouses in the area.
His generosity soon had the desired effect because the Swansea Journal a few months later commented that “the establishment of the Taibach cricket club has had a most beneficial effect upon the habits and morals of the young men, withdrawing many of them from the neighbouring taprooms and other places of disreputable resort.”
The Earl of Plymouth
The Third Earl of Plymouth was a generous patron to sporting activities in South Wales, providing land and plenty of cash to support the creation of cricket teams, grounds in several locations including Barry and St. Fagans, besides acting as President of Glamorgan County Cricket Club.
The Earl (Robert George Windsor-Clive) lived at St. Fagans Castle to the west of Cardiff and owned land throughout South Wales as well as in Worcestershire at Hewell Grange. Like other members of the gentry, the Earl created a cricket team to play in `country house’ matches at St. Fagans, with the Earl playing in the matches, often alongside his sons Ivor, Archer and Otto.
Through the Earl’s his patronage, the St. Fagans club secured a decent wicket and a permanent base near the village where they could create a pavilion and clubhouse and besides actively supporting the village team by giving them land close to the Castle where they could develop a decent wicket. His third son, Archer (seen in the image below with his father) attended Eton and Cambridge University besides representing Glamorgan in Minor County cricket. Many tipped him to being a future captain of the Welsh county but tragically he was killed in late August 1914 whilst serving with the Coldstream Guards in the Battle of Mons.
The Third Earl was President of Glamorgan CCC from 1901 until 1922, during which time he oversaw a number of fund-raising schemes to raise sufficient funds for Glamorgan to be elevated from the Minor County ranks into first-class cricket. Through his efforts and campaigning, the Welsh county entered the County Championship in 1921.
Sir Sidney Byass of Port Talbot
Educated at Radley and Oxford University, Sidney Byass was a successful businessman and cricketing fanatic who in 1920 gave Glamorgan CCC a £1,000 loan over a ten-year period, which allowed the Club to secure the sufficient number of fixtures to guarantee first-class status for 1921.
Byass had played for Radley College and Oxford University Freshmen, but failed to win a Blue. He subsequently took a keen interest in the affairs of Glamorgan CCC after moving to work in South Wales and becoming a major figure in the steel manufacturing complex at Port Talbot. He subsequently lived at Llandough Castle, whilst his son Geoffrey also played for the MCC as well as for Glamorgan in their Minor County games in 1920.
The Earl of Jersey
The sixth Earl of Jersey was a generous benefactor to cricket in Swansea, Neath and Briton Ferry. The Earl, who was a member of the Villiers family, owned by 1873 an estimated 7,110 acres of land in Glamorgan.
His greatest influence was perhaps in Briton Ferry where a cricket club had been in existence by the 1870’s. They initially played on various grounds before acquiring from the Earl in 1887 a permanent home on Ynysmaerdy Field. His benevolence included providing facilities free of rent to the cricket team, as well as paying for the fencing around the ground, and taking steps to ensure the wicket improved. The Earl’s support also ensured that a number of former county players were hired as professionals or groundsmen.
As a result, Briton Ferry Town CC had a decent wicket, plus some useful players and became one of the leading sides in the South Wales Cricket Association. During the mid-1930’s, when Glamorgan 2nd XI entered the Minor County Championship, they used the Ynysmaerdy ground for two games. The first, in June 1936 against Middlesex 2nd XI, was a dramatic affair with the contest completed in a single day with Glamorgan after making 65 and 73 bowling out Middlesex for 38 and 85 to win by 15 runs.
The Earl, George Augustus Frederick Child-Villiers, lived initially at Baglan House, later Briton Ferry House, but the House subsequently became the home of his youngest daughter Caroline and William Henry Phillips Jenkins following their marriage in April 1872. It was through the actions of his son-in-law that cricket took place in the grounds of the Earl’s lavish house. Educated at Rugby School and Merton College, Oxford, Jenkins was a keen cricketer and in August 1876 was chosen in the Warwickshire side which met Bedfordshire in a two-day friendly.
He subsequently moved to Baglan House to work as a land agent for the sixth Earl and from 1895 he also organized a team known variously as the Earl of Jersey’s XI (or WHP Jenkins’ XI) in matches at Baglan House against some of the leading clubs in South Wales as well as the various gentlemen’s teams such as the Public School Nondescripts of Killay House.