Hornchurch rest up as the weather ruins most local football
PUBLISHED: 15:00 11 January 2016
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Hornchurch had no game on Saturday, which was probably just as well as the rain prevented most matches in this area from going ahead, with the exception of Thurrock - which in itself was a big surprise.
The Mardyke river flows just a few yards north of their Ship Lane ground and it had broken its banks and was almost one hundred yards wide at that point.
Our own river Ingrebourne was also very high and the Bridge Avenue pitch was unplayable, so our under-21 game against Harlow Town was subject to an early postponement.
In the Ryman North, the match at Redbridge met the same fate. They do not have a river close by, but the ground used to be on marshland, so it quickly gets flooded. Maldon & Tiptree is virtually alongside the river Blackwater, so their postponement was not unexpected.
When Upminster FC, as they were then known, rejoined the Spartan League after the war, the restrictions placed on enclosing of the Upminster Recreation ground prevented the club from progressing in senior football. In October 1948 the club was actively trying to find a ground that could be permanently enclosed.
Various sites were looked at - land at Sunnings Lane, Corbets Tey, land close to the Mason’s Arms in St Mary’s Lane, on what is now the Coopers and Coborn school playing fields, and land near the miniature golf course in Hall Lane, Upminster.
None of these proved suitable, so it was something of a relief when the local council offered the Bridge House site, situated on land originally known as the Ingrebourne River Land.
In 1951, in order to construct the pitch, the river was diverted from its original course. The diversion took the river approximately 40 yards further west, and it now flows behind the Riverside stand and terracing.
The river marked the boundary between the towns of Hornchurch and Upminster, so the land was originally two thirds in Upminster and one third in Hornchurch.
The stadium at that time bore little resemblance to what it is now. There was no terracing with covered accommodation, no car park, no floodlights and no concrete standing area.
When it rained, supporters had to dodge the puddles and mud to find somewhere to watch the match. The changing rooms were on either side of what is now the officials’ stand on the east side of the ground.
The official opening of the ground was on 22 August 1953, when Hornchurch & Upminster drew 1-1 with Romford in front of a crowd of 2,820.
This was broken a few months later, when a crowd of 4,500 was present at the friendly match against West Ham United ‘A’, which Hornchurch won with three goals from Jackie Lunn and another from Dave Lewis. The attendance is unlikely to be beaten in the near future as current restrictions limit the capacity to 3,500.
Our match at Sudbury on Saturday next should be unaffected by the weather as Sudbury have installed a 3G surface. Two clubs in the Ryman North have artificial surfaces – the other one is Harlow Town.
But it is unlikely that Hornchurch will be able to follow suit in the foreseeable future as the local athletics club also use Bridge Avenue and they use the pitch for javelin practice.
There is no first team match in midweek, but the under-21 team are at Brentwood Town on Wednesday, at 7.45pm, and the Youth Alliance team is at home to West Ham on Wednesday, at 2pm.
They also have another match on the Friday, against Romford, which is scheduled to be played at Barking FC at 2pm, all of which are of course subject to the weather.
Our next first team home match is on Saturday week, when we play Soham Town Rangers, and if you collect programmes of Hornchurch FC, then please come into the newly opened club shop.
Thanks to the Romford Recorder we have several hundred old Hornchurch programmes available. The Recorder has recently moved to a new headquarters and we were given their old programme archive, so if you need any programmes from the last ten years or so just call in at the shop.
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