Merthyr Tydfil - Penydarren Park
Park Terrace : CF47 8RF
Merthyr Tydfil - Penydarren Park : Map credit National Library of Scotland Merthyr Tydfil - Penydarren Park : Image credit David Watkins Penydarren Park was part of Penydarren House gardens, which was built in 1786. The park was used by the town for sports and leisure in the 1800s. The Merthyr Recreation Company leased Penydarren Park and built a sports ground suitable for pony, foot and cycle races. The ground had a quarter mile cinder track and a cinder running sprint track, it was enclosed by an eight foot corrugated iron fence. The banked cycle track was twelve feet wide with a stone bed and a cinders and red ash topping, rolling smooth and hard. Annual training track tickets were available for five shillings or one penny per day.

The grounds were opened on Easter Monday, April 7th 1890 with a meeting which included athletics, a bicycle race and pony and trotting races. The bicycle race was a three miles handicap for £5 which was run in several heats and won by Evan Jones of Coedpenmaen. There were 7,000 people at the opening meeting.

There was a further meeting on May 26th, with a similar program of racing and on July 7th there was a fifty miles match race for £50 a side between Edward Weeks of Pontypridd and Thomas Pritchard of Aberaman. The successful opening year of the track ended with an Athletics and Bicycle Festival on August 4th 1890, which included three bicycle races.

The Easter Monday, Whit Monday and August Bank holiday sports became annual events, bicycle races increased in number and attendances were reported as several thousand.

By 1895, the local Merthyr Express reported "The Recreation Company are probably growing tired of holding sports over which they lose money." Later in the year, the Company tried to raise money by local subscription, but the interest was disappointing. Local riders complained about the poor state of the track and race meetings there reduced considerably.

Things improved by 1897, the track was improved and attendance at race meetings was good, but within a couple of years, events at the Park became very intermittent, with only occasional bicycle races. The 1917 Whit Bank Holiday sports, which included half and one mile bicycle races, was probably the last bicycle race to be held at the Park.

Penydarren Park was used by Merthyr Tydfil's rugby union team from 1907 to 1910 and it was then the home of Merthyr Town football club. Greyhound racing was held there from 1930 to 1960. Merthyr Town FC still play at Penydarren Park and housing has been built around the ground.

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Photos : David Watkins
Maps    : National Library of Scotland