From Sophia to SWALEC - the history of Glamorgan Cricket's headquarters in Cardiff
by Andrew Hignell - Archivist to Glamorgan CCC
Post-war developments in Sophia Gardens
© Glamorgan Cricket Archives
In September 1947 the Fifth Marquis of Bute handed over the whole of the family`s estate including Sophia Gardens to the City Corporation. Under the terms of the acquisition, they could not build any houses or factories on the Gardens, so they decided to develop the area as a centre for entertainment and recreation, and turned the Castle Grounds into a city centre park.
In April 1951 they opened the Sophia Gardens Pavilion in the southern part of the Gardens - the new building staged concerts by Cliff Richard and Danny Kaye, as well as boxing and wrestling events during the 1958 Commonwealth Games. Indeed, soon after the Games took place, the city planners thought about developing the Gala Field and the adjoining Pontcanna Fields to the north.
Various plans were submitted for a racecourse, and for a multi-purpose recreation complex, including a skating rink, bowling alley and a ballroom. Glamorgan C.C.C. also put in a bid to acquire the Gala Field in order to create a new cricket ground, and solve the problems caused by the lack of space at Cardiff Arms Park, a mile away to the south.
© Glamorgan Cricket Archives
All of these ideas were initially thrown out, with a faction on the City Council wanting to keep the Arms Park as the central focus of the city`s sporting infrastructure. But the Arms Park was a crowded base for the various sections of Cardiff Athletic Club, who saw the Sophia Gardens scheme as a means of moving forward, providing room for expansion, and creating a National Rugby Stadium in the heart of the Welsh capital. In 1963 a plan was devised for the redevelopment of the Arms Park and the acquisition of Gala Field so that the various sections of Cardiff Athletic Club, including cricket and tennis, which were losing land at the Arms Park could find a new home.
Initially the plan involved laying out a greyhound track, plus two rugby pitches, tennis courts, and a new cricket pitch, which in the winter could be used for hockey. However, the greyhound track was dropped from the final draft and in 1964 the City Corporation gave their approval, and Cardiff Athletic Club secured a 99 year lease on the Sophia Gardens Recreation Field.
During 1965 work began laying out the new wicket, whilst work also commenced at the Arms Park for the creation of the National Stadium. In August 1966 Cardiff C.C. staged their first ever game on the Sophia Gardens wicket, and on the 13th, 15th and 16th of the month Glamorgan staged their final county match at the Arms Park, against Somerset. Building work also began to the south of the new cricket ground creating a large indoor sports centre - now known as the Welsh Institute of Sport - opened in 1971/72.
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