Swansea - Vetch Fields

Madoc Street : SA1 3RB Swansea - Vetch Fields : Image credit Wiki Commons
The Vetch Field was where a local Swansea farmer used to grow the vegetable vetch as cattle feed. The Vetch Field was used for galas, fetes and circuses. On Whit Monday 1884 Fletcher's Grand Fete and Gala was held at the Vetch Field and included a half mile bicycle race. The gala included a balloon ascent and a fireworks display. Fletcher, or "Cheap Jack" as he was known, provided a great variety of entertainment, as well as sports, at his meetings and at the 1885 August Bank Holiday gala, there were 10,000 spectators. After 1887, Fletcher's meetings stopped and the Vetch Field was not used for bicycle races until 1891.

The Cambrian of April 8th 1891 reported that the Vetch Field, extending to 7 or 8 acres had been sold "The Vetch Field has been lying idle for many years...will be levelled and turfed and the work has begun. Two racing rings will be made, the outer one a turf ring for trotting. ..the inner one a cinder track for bicycle and foot races." There would also be a 1,000 seater grandstand and embankments added for spectators. The new ground would be called the Swansea Central Athletics Ground. The first race meeting was planned on Whit Monday 1891 with a meeting every month on Mabon's Day, the first Monday of each month.

The Cambrian of May 22nd 1891 carried a report of the opening meeting of the new Central Athletic Ground Sports at the Vetch "A fine new cinder track, some four laps to the mile has been completed." There were three bicycle races; a novice's race and one mile and five miles races which were both won by Arthur Linton (Bordeaux-Paris winner in 1896). There were several other bicycle events in 1891, with the Linton brothers Arthur and Tom, from nearby Aberdare, appearing regularly.

Bicycle races continued at the ground but by 1895, the track must have deteriorated and Swansea cyclists were avoiding riding on it. The South Wales Daily Post of 24th June 1895 commented "It seems that the track at the Central Athletic Grounds has been renovated a little lately and that it is now rapidly approaching something like rideable condition."

The track seems to have been re-laid in 1898 and was inspected by the NCU. They reported that "the track was considerably improved since Whitsuntide and in places it is firm and good but high up it is loose ash and needs binding. It requires sifted gravel mixed with it before rolling. He has also recommended a slight alteration at the second corner." Events on the Vetch were held after this, including the Speedwell BC races.

Race meetings at the Vetch were variously described as being at the ‘Jubilee Athletics Ground', ‘Swansea City ground' or ‘the Vetch'. The Easter Monday 1899 meeting at the Swansea City ground included three bicycle races over 1, 2 and 25 miles, there was also a 50 miles race promoted by Swansea Speedwell BC. There was a crash in this event which prompted press comments that the track was not fit for championship races. In spite of this, 1899 was quite a busy year at the Vetch with several bicycle race meetings. This did however prove to be the last year that bicycle races were held on the Vetch.

In 1901 the Vetch track was described as ‘indifferent' and the track was said to be ‘in the hands of the builder'. It was however left fairly derelict for the next decade, only being used for travelling shows and circuses. In 1912 the Swansea Gas Light Co., who owned the Vetch, disposed of the field and it became the home of Swansea City FC.

Swansea City stayed at the Vetch until they moved to the Liberty Stadium in 2005. The Vetch had been used for international football, rugby and music concerts. The ground closed in 2005 and the football ground was demolished. The site was unused for some years before part of the field was developed for social housing.


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