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Brief history of Rodney Parade, Newport
by Dr.A.K.Hignell - Hon Statistician and Historian to Glamorgan CCC


Ground:Rodney Parade, Newport

In 1935 Glamorgan C.C.C. affiliated with Monmouthshire after the latter had encountered financial difficulties and had to drop out of the Minor County Championship. Part of the affiliation involved Glamorgan staging county cricket within the boundaries of Monmouthshire, and this resulted in Rodney Parade, Newport entering the club's fixture calendar. Up until the ground staged ana annual first-class and one day game, but in the early 1990's, the Rodney Parade area was redeveloped, and a new school built on the cricket ground, as Newport C.C. moved to a new ground to the north of the town at Spytty Park.

 

The earliest record of cricket in Newport dates from 1820, and in 1834 a formal club, catering chiefly for gentlemen came into being. As the Monmouthshire town grew, so did the number of cricket teams, and by the 1870's there were around two dozen teams in existence in the town.

 

In 1875 the Newport Athletic Club was created, and two years later they secured the use of land at Rodney Parade from Lord Tredegar for their cricket, tennis, rugby and athletics. In 1881 their ground hosted a game between a Newport and District XXII and W.G.Grace's All England XI, and in 1892, Fred Phillips, a member of the well-known brewing family, created the Monmouthshire County Cricket Association, and it wasn't long before Phillips persuaded several of the Athletic Club's leading players to turn out for the county.

 

In these early days, all of the Club's athletic pursuits took place on one small sports field, but in the mid 1890's Lord Tredegar leased a further five acres of land to the Athletic Club so that a self-contained cricket ground could be laid out. Designs were commissioned for a purpose-built pavilion, terrace seating, and a scoreboard, and work began on preparing a new wicket. On June 1st 1901 Lord Tredegar formally opened the new Rodney Parade ground, and a special game was staged against Cardiff C.C.

 

By this time, Monmouthshire were playing in the Minor County Championship, and the Rodney Parade ground became their home base. Edward Stone Phillips, another member of the Phillips family, together with the Newport professionals Arthur Silverlock and Dick Steeples, formerly of Derbyshire, shone with bat and ball, and their fine performances for the county reinforced Newport Athletic Club's position as the premier club in the county. The Newport Athleic Club were able to hire up to three cricket professionals as a result primarily of the success of the rugby side that played on the adjoining pitch, and in 1893 over 2,000 was taken in gate receipts at the rugby matches. This meant that former county professionals could be hired, as well as eight groundstaff, and the net result was that the Rodney Parade wicket continued to improve.

 

In 1922 the freehold of the entire Rodney Parade complex was purchased by the Athletic Club, and during the inter-war they undertook a number of further improvements to both the cricket ground and the adjoining rugby pitch. Memorial gates were also erected in memory of the Athletic Club's members who had died in the Great War. But just as the Newport ground was becoming one of the best equipped in the area, Monmouthshire C.C.C. started to fall on hard times. They ran up a sizeable debt, and being unable to afford decent professionals, their playing record deteriorated.

 

In the winter of 1934/35 the Monmouthshire committee decided to merge with Glamorgan. Various conditions were built into the agreement, and in return for clearing Monmouthshire'sr debts, it was agreed that Glamorgan could select any of the Monmouthshire players and play at their potentially lucrative venues. In July 1935 Glamorgan played their first game at their new 'home' in Newport as Leicestershire travelled to Rodney Parade, and to celebrate the arrival of county cricket, a civic reception was held at Newport Town Hall. Part of the merger also invloved Glamorgan 2nd XI replacing Monmouthshire in the Minor County competition, and in mid-August the match with Oxfordshire was staged at the Rodney Parade ground.

 

The success of these games both on and off the field led to a sequence of either one or two matches each year at Newport. Perhaps the most famous game ever staged at Rodney Parade was the 1939 match against Gloucestershire. After Glamorgan had been dismissed for 196, Glocestershire rattled up 505-5 declared with Wally Hammond making 302. This stood for over 50 years as the highest ever score against Glamorgan, yet the home batsmen also created a few records themselves, as they replied with 557-4 with Emrys Davies remaining undefeated on 287, which is still the highest individual score for Glamorgan.

 

By the 1960's falling attendances at Newport led to a few questions being asked about the viability of the ground as a county venue. The club experimented by staging the 1964 Gillette Cup match with Worcestershire at the ground, but the following year, the Championship match with Warwickshire was the final first-class game at the ground.

 

Second team games continued to be staged at Rodney Parade, and in the late 1980's, generous sponship from local businesses saw Glamorgan return to play Sunday League games against Derbyshire in 1988, Gloucestershire in 1989, and Yorkshire in 1990. However, the latter game was abandoned without a ball being bowled and with the ground being redeveloped the following year, this was the final visit by Glamorgan to Rodney Parade.

 


(Article: Copyright © 2003 Dr.A.K.Hignell)



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