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Thursday, 6 June 2013

Fields of Play: The Sporting Heritage of Wales

Fans saying a final farewell to Cardiff Arms Park prior to demolition in 1997.
(DI2006_1049, NPRN 3064) © Crown copyright: RCAHMW

“Every pavilion or clubhouse has had its own struggle to be built and every club has faced its own fight for survival. It is why we cherish our fields of play and defend them furiously.” Eddie Butler

“Dr Leeworthy’s text could well have survived unadorned but it comes to us in a volume that is... superbly illustrated. We are presented with a classic example of how illustrations can be as important as a text and how both work together to clinch arguments and deepen an understanding of a theme.” (Peter Stead, Morgannwg, volume 56)

In the twenty-first century, many of us take the existence of parks, recreation grounds and leisure centres for granted. But, behind them all, are stories of struggle – often against adversity – and a collective desire for something better for the future. Fields of Play: The Sporting Heritage of Wales traces the history of that struggle and examines the impact of sport on the landscape of modern Wales.

It explores the diversity of sporting facilities from the earliest public park opened in 1858 at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, through the Llwyn Onn swimming baths in Wrexham, opened in 1854, to the numerous welfare grounds that opened across Wales at the turn of the twentieth century. Lesser-known sporting venues are highlighted, such as the American Roller rink in Cardiff from 1908, the Welsh White City greyhound stadium of 1928, and the short-lived Penarth Road Speedway Stadium from the 1950s.

Little-known activities such as the Powderhall races, pushball, baseball, hill-climbing races in cars, are all considered alongside the better-known sports ― rugby, football and cricket―that dominate today, together with the development of adventure playgrounds and leisure centres.

The book also considers the sporting heritage of Wales in wider terms, with a chapter on the role of the countryside as a national playground, looking at the infrastructure generated by the rise in popularity of cycling, hill-walking and youth hostelling in the early twentieth century.

Superbly illustrated with 172 historical and contemporary photographs, including many never-before-seen images from the Aerofilms archive of the National Monuments Record of Wales, Fields of Play provides a history and analysis of this significant aspect of Wales’ built heritage and will encourage a greater appreciation of sporting places in the landscape.

Fields of Play: The Sporting Heritage of Wales
The book is priced at £14.95 and is available from the Royal Commission and all good bookshops.

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