'The noble game is not totally unknown here'
: rugby football in nineteenth-century Cardiff

  • Gwyn Prescott

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This thesis is the first detailed historical study of rugby in Wales at a local level. Drawing on previously unused sources, it provides fresh insights into the origins and early years of the game in Wales. It also throws new light on the significance of Cardiff to Welsh rugby in the nineteenth century as well as on the importance of rugby in Cardiff.

    Chapter One explores early football and the eventual emergence of organised rugby in South Wales from its casual and hybrid origins. Chapter Two looks at the expansion of rugby from the mid 1870s, when the distinctive characteristics of Welsh rugby began to appear, up to the formation of the Welsh Rugby Union in 1881.

    Chapter Three focuses on Cardiff during the last three decades of the nineteenth century with an in-depth examination and analysis of the range of clubs in the town and their institutional background. Chapter Four investigates the organisation of the game in Cardiff, the infrastructure used by the clubs and the social background of the players and administrators. Chapter Five considers the impact of the game on the life and popular culture of Cardiff.

    The thesis concludes that rugby very rapidly became the main sporting interest in the town and it experienced little serious competition from other sports until the end of the century. For many newly arrived citizens, therefore, rugby provided an accessible means of quickly entering into the social life of the community. Cardiff's unique economic and social structure determined the particular way in which the game evolved in the town. At the local level, neighbourhood clubs, largely involving working and lower middle-class players and administrators, were generally the norm, rather than institutional teams organised by social improvers. At the highest level of competition, an emphasis on civic pride meant that success on the field was more important than social exclusivity. The game was played, therefore, by representatives of all classes. From the outset, Cardiff was at the centre of rugby in Wales: rugby was also at the heart of the Victorian town's popular culture.
    Date of Award2006
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGareth Williams (Supervisor)

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