From Lodmoor to the Bob Lucas Stadium
Statistics are courtesy of Nigel Biddlecombe.
If you can help Nigel in any way filling the gaps, please contact him via e-mail : Biddie@weymuff.com
The opening plays in the club’s history took place on a field at Lodmoor, now a car park, where they stayed for three years before moving to Westham. Whilst playing at Goldcroft Road, Westham, the players would change at the Rock Hotel in Abbotsbury Road (they used what is now the skittle alley!) At this time the club also had a second pitch this being at Bincleaves.
In 1897 a lease was negotiated with the town’s council for the use of the Athletic Ground, this becoming better known as the Recreation Ground. A visit from Upton Park FC, in a friendly, being the club’s first game on the “new” ground. The club had to share usage of the ground with other local sides, mainly the Royal Artillery team based at the Nothe Fort, in order to meet the costs involved. This continuing until the middle of the first decade of the 20th century.
The council assisted the club in putting up a couple of wooden stands, one with dressing rooms underneath. These were added to and improved over the years, extra terracing and a new stand were built, but the original stand – with dressing rooms beneath – was still in place (although substantively rebuilt) when the ground closed in 1986.
The ground was requisitioned for the war effort for eight years and in August 1947 with no assets the club was forced to start again in the Western League Division Two. In December 1948, the record attendance for the Rec’ was set. A total of 12,512 saw an FA Cup 2nd round tie against Yeovil Town.
The Rec’ was one of the earliest grounds to have floodlighting, installed in 1952, with a match against Southampton on 3 November being the first ever floodlight football match played in the county of Dorset. This system was updated – periodically – for instance in 1965 when £11000 was spent to upgrade the lights to four 130-foot pylons.
In 1986 the club left the Recreation Ground after 99 years to move to the Wessex Stadium, a purpose built ground on the outskirts of the town. The final match at the old ground saw around 1700 spectators admitted free to witness a 2-2 Conference draw with Sutton United. This took place on 27 April 1987. The record attendance at the Recreation Ground had been set on 11 December 1948 when 12512 saw Yeovil visit the town in an FA Cup tie.
The Wessex Stadium, built to hold 10000, with 900 seated in the stand, first saw a football kicked in anger with the visit of Taunton Town in the Western Counties Floodlight Cup final on 18 August 1987 in front of 1023 spectators. The league season opened with a visit from Lincoln City – who had just suffered relegation from the Football League – on 26 August and the “official” attendance was 3500.
Ron Greenwood performed the official opening of the ground on 21 October 1987, prior to an exhibition match against Manchester United – which the Terras won by 1-0. The attendance for this fixture was given as 4904, but many of us there that cold October evening felt that this was understated. This is the official highest attendance for the Wessex Stadium.
There are plans, now afoot, to move from this site to another very close by in the near future. Watch this space!