One of Wales’s oldest cricket clubs is celebrating its 175th anniversary this summer – and an association with a leading law firm which connects it to the legendary Dr W G Grace.
Denbigh Cricket Club can trace its ancestry back to 1844 – two years before Grace was even born and ten years before the company that became Swayne Johnson began in the town though its local connections go back even earlier.
The cricket club will mark the occasion with a Summer Ball in June and research by the club and by former Swayne Johnson Managing Director Edward Lloyd, a former club captain himself, has revealed a connection with the famous doctor.
One of Grace’s Gloucestershire team-mates for five years in the 1880s was a lawyer, Guy Francis, who married a Denbigh girl, moved to the town and became a vice-president of the cricket club.
Edward Lloyd said: “There’s a very strong connection between Swayne Johnson and Denbigh Cricket Club with the two Colonel Swayne’s, E J and his son, Roderic, who were the successive presidents of the cricket club for 50 years from 1922.
“They are commemorated in the Swayne Trophy, a silver tankard, which goes to the clubman of the year and was presented to the club after the death of Colonel Roderic Swayne MC – he won the Military Cross in 1917 in Flanders – in 1972.
“They also played an important part in the club’s finances because as local gentry they would tap up their rich friends to donate as vice-presidents.
“You can see how important this was because in the club account for 1936/37 the president and vice-presidents contributed £15-2s-6d, with Guy Francis giving a guinea, while the members’ subscriptions were only £6-7s-6d.
“Roderic Swayne was also a good player, topping the batting averages in 1928 and captaining the club for three years from 1931 and on Whit Monday 1932 he took six wickets for one run with another notable bowler, D E Williams, nicknamed Dai Pop, from Fron Shop, and known as the W G Grace of North Wales, taking 4 for 4 as St George were all out for just 6.
“Later that summer the same pair of demon bowlers rattled Corwen out for 12, Swayne taking 6 for 6 and Williams 4 for 6.
“They probably recruited Guy Francis as a vice-president as he was a solicitor with Parry Jones, Francis and Davies at 2, Hall Square, Denbigh, which became amalgamated with Swayne Johnson, whose offices were at Chapel Street, in 1939.”
Guy Francis, who died in the home he had built, Wynne’s Parc, on Brookhouse Road, in 1948, played 31 times for Gloucestershire between 1884 and 1888 without great distinction, averaging just over 13 with the bat with a highest score of 89 and taking only one wicket.
Denbigh Cricket Club will be staging their Summer Ball, which is being supported by Swayne Johnson, at their Ystrad Road ground, on Saturday, June 8 – the club celebrated its 150th anniversary at the Bryn Morfydd, Llanrhaeadr.
Gwyn Evans, a stalwart opening batsman for Denbigh for many years and now club chairman, has also been busy researching the club’s history and he said: “Local historian Bobby Owen who was a longstanding member of the cricket club found the reference to 1844 in records of Bangor Cricket Club.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the county archives looking at old copies of the Denbighshire Free Press and the club was certainly very active in the late 19th century and even played against Nottingham Forest Amateurs.
“It was also very interesting that in 1939 Mrs Evans of the Hope and Anchor in Vale Street who owned the Ystrad Road ground instructed the club that their lease would not be renewed and she did so through her solicitor Colonel Roderic Swayne.
“Then the war broke out and it all seems to have blown over by the time cricket resumed again in 1946 so Hitler seems to have saved cricket in Denbigh.”