07 June 2024
Cricketer & House Painter


Martyn J Griffiths

Cricket was a game which became ever more popular in the nineteenth century and, in South Wales, much of that rise in popularity was due to the enthusiasm and support of SirJohn Dillwyn Llewelyn of Ynysygerwn and Penllergaer. It was he who in 1863 formed the Cadoxton Cricket Club, playing for the club for much of his early life. One sportsman who he gave much favour to was Joseph Lovering, a man of humble origins, who worked as a house painter but who found that he had a special talent for the game of cricket.


Joe Lovering was born in Tynyrheol (at that time regarded as a separate village to Tonna) and was baptised at Cadoxton on 6th August 1837. His father, a native of Devon, was possibly employed at Tynyrheol farm or as a servant at the gentleman’s residence of the same name which stood next door. His mother was aptly named Grace – given the fame that the Grace family gave to the game of cricket. Joe’s father died just a few months after the christening.


By the 1860s, he was playing cricket regularly. Sir John Dillwyn Llewellyn recognised his talent and, putting a sovereign down on the wicket, challenged Lovering to bowl him out. Sending down what was referred to as a ‘demon delivery’; Lovering clean bowled Sir John and pocketed the money.


Lovering’s cricketing career lasted until he was about 40 years of age and during those years, he turned out for many and varied teams – Cadoxton, Neath, Glamorganshire, Swansea, Welsh Wanderers, Monmouth & District, South Wales, Players of South Wales and even for Jesus College Oxford. His link with the last named probably came through his relationship with Sir John and who probably also obtained a coaching position for him at his former school, Eton College, in 1870.


It is worth noting that the Cadoxton and Neath clubs were one and the same.The Neath club was formed in 1848, but by the 1860s had serious money troubles. They were bailed out by JTD Llewelyn who paid off their debts and it was at this time that the re-formed club changed its name to Cadoxton. Later on, the club became known as Gnoll Park Cricket Club and only reverted to being Neath Cricket Club in 1906.


Joe Lovering described himself as a cricket professional with the Cadoxton club and a house painter. His brothers were also painters.


A twentieth century newspaper report stated that he had twice bowled that titan of English cricket, Dr WG Grace, for a duck; but that is probably a story that became more exaggerated as the years went by. He did in fact bowl Fred Grace (brother of WG) for a duck in a match between Clifton and Cadoxton at The Gnoll in 1869.That was no mean feat as all three Grace brothers went on to play in the first ever international match by England against Australia.


Joe did meet WG at Monkswood in Gwent, playing for Monmouth & District against West Gloucestershire in September 1866 and bowled him with his first ball for four runs.


He also played against WG Grace in May 1868 at The Gnoll, when a South of England X1 took on 22 players from Neath & Cadoxton, but although WG fell for ‘a pair of spectacles’ that day, Lovering was not the successful bowler.


The Neath team that day was filled with many well-known Neath personalities. Apart from Sir John Dillwyn Llewelyn and Joe Lovering, the team included Walter Whittington whose brother Dr Tom Whittington would become one of the area’s foremost cricketers; George J May, a chain manufacturer after whom May’s Hill was named; W Bancroft senior and junior – the forefathers of Welsh rugby great WJ Bancroft; Philip W Flower of the firm Leach, Flowers & Co who started a Tinplate Works; RP Morgan of RP Morgan & David, solicitors; and D Godfrey Thomas, civil engineer and father of C Stanley Thomas of the Borough Engineers Department who would be a stalwart of the early Neath Antiquarians.

Illustrated Sporting News 1865

Joe Lovering is seated on the right

Lovering was described as a right-hand batsman and a round-arm fast bowler.At the start of his career, he would bat high up the team order but most of his time was spent as one of the last men to come in.He was more famed for his bowling and his style is no longer seen today.At the start of the nineteenth century under-arm bowling was the norm.This changed to round-arm in the 1830s.The action is described as; 'the bowlers extend their arm about 90 degrees from their body at the point where they release the ball.'Over-arm bowling was legalised in 1864 and became the more popular form of delivery.The renowned Sri Lankan fast bowler, Malinga, who retired in 2021, was nick-named Slinger Malinga because of his (now) unusual style of round-arm bowling.


Lovering’s greatest bowling feat was taking 15 wickets in a match against the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) at the Lord’s cricket ground, whilst playing for a south Wales cricket club in August 1869.This was noted in Frederick Lilywhite’s Cricket Scores and Biographies written in 1878 where he mentioned that Lovering clean-bowled 14 of his 15 wickets.He was noted as ‘a good average bat, a fast round-armed bowler, and fields generally at third man up.’He was a small man and Lilywhite described him as 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 9 stone 10 pounds.He adds that Lovering had been engaged with the Neath club for twelve seasons


Nearly all the cricket that Lovering played in ‘home’ matches was played at The Gnoll, where the Neath Cricket Club still meets today.However, he did play at least one match at a field in Neath Abbey which must have been at or near the site of CEM Day’s garage.It was known as ‘Deer’s Field’ as it was owned by William Deer, the landlord of the Brittania Inn on Bridge Street in Neath.He would provide refreshments for players and spectators.Lovering played one of his earliest recorded matches there against Bridgend in August 1862.  Joseph Lovering was buried in Cadoxton on 6th June 1887.  His grave which was ‘found’ by churchyard clearance volunteer Eleri Phillips, is very simple and the only inscription on the stone reads ‘Joe Lovering’.

Incidentally, William Deer is also buried at Cadoxton, his magnificent steepled monument is situated alongside the footpath between the church and the Murder Stone.

With thanks to Eleri Phillips and Andrew Hignall (archivist, Glamorgan County Cricket Club)

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