Welsh sports history


Wales has a long and proud sporting history, and HistoryPoints QR codes across the country provide on-the-spot insights into interesting sporting people and events. We’ve also featured sports venues, such as Cardiff Arms Park and the Racecourse football ground in Wrexham, and memorials to sporting greats.

In Cardiff you can follow the Glamorgan Cricket Walk using your mobile and HistoryPoints QR codes around the cricket ground in Sophia Gardens. Click here for details.

See below for links to HistoryPoints web pages relating to sports.

These HiPoints also span a long period, from an ancient bowling alley (still known as “Alafowlia”) in Denbigh and the tradition of bull baiting in Carmarthen to the opening in 2015 of the world’s first inland surfing centre in the Conwy Valley.

Feats you can read about include those of Pontypridd’s Jenny James, the first Welsh person to swim across the English Channel, the Manx TT record smashed by Malcolm Uphill of Caerphilly, and John Parry-Thomas’ breaking of the land speed record at Pendine Sands in 1926.

Some of the individuals featured achieved fame overseas, including the “Pitching Professor” from Machynlleth who played for the Boston baseball team which became the Red Sox. Others were from outside Wales, such as boxer Rocky Marciano in Swansea and snooker star Fred Davis in Llandudno.

Animal sports
Wrexham - Horse and Jockey pub named after a brilliant jockey who came to a tragic end
Wrexham - Turf Tavern’s name is a relic of horse-racing nearby until 1913
Flintshire - Piccadilly Inn, Caerwys, named after Lord Mostyn's prize-winning racehorse
Rhyl - fox on hospital roof symbolises racehorse whose win at Sandown Park brought £10,000 of funds
Welshpool - jockeys Harry Rudge and his son Herbert both died in riding accidents
Llandrindod Wells - riverside inn has a long angling tradition. Once hosted otter and fox hunts
Brecon - Radnorshire MP’s son died after falling from a horse at Brecon racecourse in 1885
Tenby - Dick and Lewis Rees, sons of a local vet, won the Grand National in 1921 and 1922
Carmarthen - the tradition of bull baiting was reputedly stopped after a hotel landlord’s death
Cardiff - the racecourse at what’s now Trelai Park, Ely, hosted the Welsh Grand National
Monmouth - a grandstand rose above Vauxhall meadows in the era of horse racing there

Athletics and mountaineering
Conwy - birthplace of Percy Smallwood, who became a middle-distance running pro in New York
Llandudno - grave of one of first Europeans to ascent a Himalayan mountain, in 1822
Capel Curig - grave of mountaineer who surveyed Everest routes but fatally fell at Idwal Slabs
Llanberis - Pen y Gwryd Hotel has signatures of Everest summit pioneers, who trained there
Llanberis - renowned rock climber Joe Brown helped archaeologists and movie makers

Boxing and feats of strength
Llandudno - Great Orme summit complex was once owned by middleweight champ Randolph Turpin
Bangor - where heavyweight world champ Joe Louis camped as a GI
Criccieth - the ‘feat stone’ has tested the strength of young men for many generations
Swansea - where an Australian unwisely insulted Rocky Marciano, in Swansea as a GI
Merthyr Tydfil - Cuthbert Taylor became UK’s first non-white Olympics boxer in 1928

Colwyn Bay - cricket ground opened 1924, has hosted Glamorgan matches since 1966
Colwyn Bay - birthplace of Glamorgan cricketer who played rugby & squash for Wales & football for Cardiff
Capel Curig - hotel once owned by Frank Cobden, famous for bowling out Oxford Uni in 1870
Cardiff - Jack Brain of brewery fame transformed Glamorgan CCC, as captain and secretary

Powys - gravestone of bicycle racer and pioneer designer Maurice Selbach
Tredegar - gold post box for Mark Colbourne’s 2012 Paralympics win, under 4 years after he was paralysed
Cardiff – gold post box celebrates Geraint Thomas’ team pursuit gold medal at the 2012 Olympics

Wrexham - hotel where the Football Association of Wales was formed in 1876
Wrexham - the world’s oldest international soccer stadium
Wrexham - Wrexham FC was founded after a cricket club chairman bought a football in 1864
Rhyl - Belle Vue ground has been the home of Rhyl FC since 1899
Gwynedd - footballer who played for Wales and Bangor before his death in the First World War
Gwynedd - surgeon of Llanberis quarry hospital was an FA Cup-winning goalkeeper
Pembroke - Shrove Tuesday custom of playing football in Main Street landed 22 men in court in 1865
Merthyr Tydfil - an Italian Serie A team was beaten in 1987 at Penydarren Park, home to MTFC since 1908
Caerphilly - founder of Machen Greys FC was killed in France in the First World War

Indoor sports
Flint - gold post box celebrates the taekwondo gold medal won by Jade Jones at the 2012 Olympics
Llandudno - hotel once owned by snooker world champion Fred Davis
Llanrwst - King’s Head Hotel held a ‘billiard licence’ in 1909, and still has an antique snooker table

Llandudno - grave of women’s motoring pioneer, whose racing-driver husband drove first car up Snowdon
Ruthin - memorial to rising F1 star Tom Pryce, killed aged 27 in the 1977 South African Grand Prix
Pendine - Museum of Land Speed showcases people who broke records on Pendine Sands
Caerphilly - Malcolm Uphill was first Manx TT rider to average 100mph on a production bike
Llandow – racing circuit created in 1963, partly on runways of wartime RAF base

Lampeter - memorial to the first recorded rugby match in Wales, instigated by a theology professor
Carmarthen - Carmarthen Athletic RFC formed at end of WW2. Moved to Athletic Park in 2009
Neath - 11 clubs founded the WRU at the Castle Hotel in 1881. Annual sub: one guinea
Cardiff - the Cardiff Arms Park is Cardiff RFC’s home and has hosted many other sports
Cardiff - Gwyn Nicholls gates commemorate captain of Wales side which beat Kiwis in 1905
Cardiff - Les Spence gates commemorate Cardiff RFC captain who survived Japanese war imprisonment
Cardiff - former hotel which provided changing rooms for a women’s rugby match in 1917
Abergavenny – matches were held at Bailey Park to aid Belgian refugees during WW1
Brecon - former Brecon RFC player was in first-ever Wales team, killed in WW1 decades later

Other ball games
Denbigh - Alafowlia House name comes from ninepins (“Ceilys”) played here in 18th century
Llandudno - former office of JC Parke, Olympic tennis medallist and Ireland rugby international
Conwy - golf club may have hosted Wales’ first impromptu game of golf, in 1869
Aberdyfi - golf has been played on the seaside common since a game in 1886 with flowerpots for holes
Machynlleth - childhood home of American baseball star Ted Lewis, the “Pitching Professor”
Machynlleth - in 1904 James Braid improved on the town’s 1892 “golf ground”

Conwy Valley - world’s first inland surfing centre with consistent wave, on aluminium factory site
Llandudno - lifeguard Walter Beaumont held the world record for staying underwater
Caernarfon - Cruising Club of America gave Lionel Rees VC a medal for sailing solo to USA in 1933
Llanberis - permanent home of pontoon from London 2012 Olympic Games medal ceremonies
Aberaeron - disabled yachtsman David Sinnett-Jones made long voyages in boats he had built himself
Solva - water polo was played in the harbour in Edwardian times
Saundersfoot - Val Howells sold his farm to take part in the first Solo Trans-Atlantic Race
Pontypridd - lifeguard Jenny James was the first Welsh person to swim the English Channel
Cardiff - Empire Pool was opened in 1958 for Cardiff’s hosting of Commonwealth Games