|Ground:||Cowbridge Ground, Broad Shoard, Cowbridge|
Cowbridge, some twelve miles to the west of Cardiff in the Vale of Glamorgan, staged four County Championship matches during the 1930's. Cricket was first played in the quiet market town during the mid 1890's when E.H.Ebsworth of Llandough Castle decided to lay a wicket in one of his fields, called Cae Wyndham, alongside the main road running thorugh Cowbridge. Ebsworth was the architypal Victorian country gentleman, and he led a Cowbridge XI against Bridgend C.C. in the first game at Cae Wyndham in 1895. Ebsworth had many contacts in the cricket world and he secured the help of Kent's Alex Hearne when laying out the wicket. In the early 1900's his groundsman was William Russell, who had experience with Middlesex and Norfolk, and whilst in South Wales, Russell also played as a professional with Glamorgan.
As the nearby ports of Barry and Cardiff saw an increase in trade and population, Cowbridge became a desirable place for the well-to-do, seeking a home away from the smoke, noise and evils of the industrial settlements. By 1906 there were enough gentlemen in Cowbridge for a club called the Cowbridge Wanderers to be formed together with a tennis and squash club. All of these were able to use Cae Wyndham for a modest rent, whilst in the winter Ebsworth land was used for football and rugby.
In 1913 all of these separate teams merged to form the Cowbridge and District Atheltic Club, and they purchased Cae Wyndham from Ebsworth. The cricket club continued to expand after the Greta War, and with Johnnie Clay and Maurice Turnbull living nearby, the club secured the patronage of these two most influential amateurs, as well as the services of their many friends. Further improvements took place to the wicket and facilities, and it wasn't long before many of the wandering clubs in South Wales and the West Country added Cowbridge to their fixture list. With many pleasant public houses and hotels nearby, Cowbridge became a very popular place to play cricket.
During the early 1930's, the officials of Glamorgan C.C.C. started to look at new venues so that they could boost the club's rather shaky finances and increase the membership. Cowbridge came under consideration as many wealthy businessmen, and potential patrons of the county club lived in the Vale. Turnbull and Clay knew that the wicket had been improved, and hoping that it was suitable for county matches, and they persuaded the Glamorgan committee to allocate two county games to Cowbridge in 1931.
The inaugural county fixture took place on July 25, 26 and 27th, 1931, with Northamptonshire being the visitors, but it wasn't until midway through the second afternoon that play finally got underway. As the rain ceased, the two captains, Vallance Jupp and Maurice Turnbull, got together and agreed that they would both decalre their innings at 50. Jupp duly declarec the Northants innings at 51-1, and Turnbull followed suit at 51-2, but the Glamorgan side had only batted for an hour, and the Glamorgan captain had unwittingly broken Law 54 which said that in a two day game the side batting second should bat for at least 100 minutes.
Both of the umpires were also unaware of this and it was only when the teams and officials were having a close of play drink in the Bear Hotel, that a journalist drew their attention to this infringement, and a debate took place over the ethics of the Law. Turnbull believed that he had done nothing wrong, and argued that the public wanted to see a result, and that the only way to achieve this was to have freak declarations. To an extent, his actions were vindicated as on the final morning, Ryan and Clay dismissed Northants for 59, and Glamorgan raced to an 8 wicket win. But the M.C.C. took a dim view of his actions, and both the captains and umpires were reprimanded by the M.C.C. for departing from accepted principles.
Cowbridge was allocated two matches again in 1932, and both ended up in large innings victories for Glamorgan. But Turnbull's joy evaporated again as concern was expressed at the state of the Cowbridge wicket. In both of the games, the wicket had started to crumble on the second day, and in the game with Somerset, the visitors were dismissed for just 88 and 40, with Clay returning match figures of 9-47. With good wickets becoming available at other grounds, the Glamorgan committee decied to take first-class matches away from Cowbridge.
The ground has still staged several benefit and testiomonial matches, whilst it has also hosted exhibition games, including a match in 1953 with the Pakistani Eaglets, and more recently, a game in 1993 with the Courage Old England XI. Several Glamorgan cricketers have also played for the Cowbridge club, including John Davies, Howard Morgan and Hugh Morris.
(Article: Copyright © 2003 Dr.A.K.Hignell)
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