Cricket, lovely cricket. And a bit of football.....
1901 and some sporting use at last! The cricket-minded men of Folkestone had diligently searched for a suitable ground which would be worthy of their town. Longing glances had been directed at a piece of land a bare mile from the town near the foot of the North Downs, an area believed to be part of the Earl of Radnor's “Broad Mead” farm, and due to a generous gesture by the earl the land was eventually acquired. Under the supervision of the old Kent player Alec Hearne the ground was levelled and wickets prepared in readiness for the inaugural game in June 1905 when a Kent club and ground side visited the local team. In his after-dinner speech at the reception given at the Hotel Metropole after the game, Lord Harris commented that on such a fine ground county cricket should be played. No mention of football then!
Incidentally the cricket club had previously played on Sandgate Plain (1859 to 1901), at the west end of the Leas. Kent cricket club had at Sandgate Plain played twice in 1862 & 1863.
The cricket ground at Cheriton Road at that time can be clearly seen in the 1908 Ordnance Survey map.
Picture credit: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. Use of these digitised maps for non-commercial purposes is permitted under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA) licence.
1910 arrives at it is clear that the Folkestone FC (founded 1894) are interested in playing at Cheriton Road, due to their Gas Works ground at Canterbury Road being unsatisfactory. However this proposal came to nothing, as did an option of playing at Park Farm, & the entire club committee resigned and thus the club was dissolved. An extract form a long article on the matter from Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald - Saturday 16 July 1910:
Picture credit: The British Newspaper Archive
If not clear, it reads: “Being unable to obtain a fit ground therefore, the Committee had no option but to resign en bloc. Mr Collins’ attitude in the matter will strike footballers with dismay, and will certainly arouse an immense storm of indignation in the town, particularly his refusal to allow a tenant to sub-let at such a place as Park Farm. It has been checked the uplifting of football in the town, if it has not killed the movement altogether, but it must be admitted that he has the rent of the Canterbury-road ground to consider, and with the chief local team playing elsewhere, it would be presumably be very difficult for the Football Sports Company to pay this. In this connection, and as a pointer, it is to be borne in mind that it was practically a hint of opposition on the part of Mr Collins that prevented the suggested arrangement whereby the town team should play football in the winter on the Cricket Club ground at Cheriton-road.”.
1913 - the Harvey Grammar School main school building at the school’s current home on Cheriton Road were built. A chance to give the west end of the cricket / football ground the name “Harvey end”?
1914, and there are some records indicating that a re-formed Folkestone FC first used Cheriton Road as a home ground. Without any evidence of a separate football ground, it may be that the cricket and football teams shared the same ground and pavilion. The pavilion is located right on Cheriton Road, in the modern day location of the bowls club car park.
During the War.........
There appears to be no record of any cricket or football activity on the site during the First World War, 1914 to 1918. However, there is definite evidence of baseball! As a contact Christine Warren states on here excellent website Folkestone Then ~ Now :- "They were the 6th Field Co. Div. Engineers and the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion, who were stationed at Shorncliffe Camp at the time. This baseball game took place at the Folkestone Cricket Ground on Cheriton Road during World War 1. Unfortunately, the men from my adopted town of Winnipeg were beaten, but apparently it was a very good game, and well attended. My grateful thanks to Alan Taylor's son, who came across this article in a local Folkestone newspaper he was browsing at the library."
Picture credit: Christine Warren
The batter is standing where the current indoor bowls club is. Compare the location of the cemetery entrance (triangular buildings centre top of picture) and the pavilion on the right, with the 1945 aerial view: the batsman is in front of the pavilion. Then also compare the view out from the indoor bowls club looking out at the pavilion on the "Bowls Club" section of this website. Same position, different age, different ball game.
Folkestone appears to have been quite dominant in the progression of baseball in the United Kingdom at this time. Further information can be obtained via the excellent Folkestone Baseball Chronicle Facebook page.
As it was a cricket ground, then maybe a good playing surface to start the sporting life of the Cheriton Road ground? Possibly, but despite Cheriton growing residentially, the area of the sports fields was still rural, as this view of Braodmead Farm shows in 1918.
Picture credit: Hawksworth Wheeler
Taking a Stand - from the Harbour!
There was a low stand on the north side of the now football pitch. This stand appears to run the full length of the pitch, and is a wooden structure, according to some records, which makes sense as this was the style at the time. It is likely that this coincided with Folkestone FC joining the Southern League in 1923. There are some records that indicate that this wooden stand was obtained (note: ‘obtained’, not ‘built’) for the ground by Sir Philip Sassoon, cousin of war poet Siegfried Sassoon, in 1919. There is a photograph form Boxing Day 1919 that supports this:-
Photo credit: Lynne Ewart / Christine Warren / Hawksworth Wheeler
Groundtastic magazine issue 39 supports this & provides the following information: “The club was fortunate to have as their president Sir Philip Sassoon, cousin of war poet Siegfried Sassoon, and MP for Hythe. Sir Philip used his connections with the War Office to procure the wooden canteen warehouse for the Great War Expeditionary Force, which during the hostilities had stood on the Folkestone quayside, opposite the Royal Pavilion Hotel. At a cost of £857, it was dismantled and transported to Cheriton Road and converted into a 1,200 seater grandstand.”
Further to this, that the older, lighter coloured main stand might have been transported whole from Folkestone inner harbour: in a book on old Kent football grounds by Mike Floate, there is a photograph from this time that shows a structure on Harbour Approach Road that looks remarkably like the Cheriton Road main stand at this time.
Another photograph shows a building as described on the quay side (on the now Harbour Approach Road) that appears to fit this description. This building appeared to only be on the quayside for a very short time, as all other photographs of that area between 1910 and 1935 show no signs of it. Local historian Alan Taylor advises that the building in question in front of the Royal Pavilion hotel was Rest Camp No.1, built for soldiers to recover during WW1. There were others just around the corner on Marine Parade and other streets too. Several of the hotels in town were also used as rest camps.
Picture credit: Folkestone Then And Now
A photograph of the inside of another Rest Camp (Nr 3) at the time indicates a structure that appears to be the a similar size to the stand with pillars & windows at the right spacing to confirm that one of these Rest Camp buildings was used as the main stand at Cheriton Road.
Picture credit: Christine Warren
There are limited photographs of the whole ground at the time. However what is available indicates the likelihood that the light coloured roof old harbour shed was now a grandstand. A photo from 1920 indicates the structure in place.
Picture credit: Britain From Above (Historic England)
Taking a fence - the cricket club leave......
As a stipulation of joining the Southern League the league insisted on several improvements to the ground before the club was admitted, including fencing off the path that led from the playing area to the cricket pavilion, a considerable distance as the football pitch was situated on the northern part of the cricket ground.
In 1924, Folkestone Corporation bought both the cricket ground and 22 acres of land surrounding the ground to the northeast, with the intention of building a new cricket ground of sufficient quality to attract first class cricket to Folkestone. This probably occurred as the football club showed that year a deficit of £704 (about £43000 in today’s money). From this time until the present day it appears that any club at the football ground leases the ground from the local corporation.
A new cricket ground was duly laid out in 1925, with a new pavilion together with two concrete covered stands arriving in 1926. The next year Folkestone Cricket Club packed their bags and travelled the short distance to the new ground, thus leaving their old ground in the sole hands of the football club.
There is some photographic evidence to indicate that by this time there were well established trees to the east end of the now football ground (possibly originally marking the east of the now gone cricket ground), and the tennis courts at the west end of the ground.
Some of the cricket ground facilities were shared by both the cricket ground and football ground, for example the kiosk / turnstile built in 1925 that was only removed relatively recently.
Finally finished in 1926:-
A closer photo of the ground in 1926, when a fair was held on the pitch indicates a white painted front to the main stand. The Cricket Ground end appears to have a perimeter fence - the perimeter fence that survived to 2021 – this is the earliest record I have of the fence.
By 1927 the cricket ground next door is taking shape, even only having moved from the current football ground location 2 years previous:-
Picture credit: Britain From Above (Historic England)
Some information from a contact Paul Crocker states “I also have this photo of my grandad (front row, far left). I believe it is Folkestone Post Office team who used to play their home matches between a pitch where Holland Ave now is and the Cheriton Rd ground. I can't be certain if this was Cheriton Road or not but you may be able to discover more from your further research. This would be 1920's. My grandad was born on 1901.”
Picture credit: Paul Crocker
In the photo at the back of the stand, there are openings. The opening on the right seems to show the dip between Caesars Camp and Round Hill which is the view you get today from the current Cheriton Road ground. Photos of the stand from 1933 seem to show these openings at the back of this main stand, so this also supports this hypothesis. Additionally the pillars appear to be at a similar spacing to other photographs from the late 1920’s. This is the only photo with a close up of the shaped shallow scalloped overhang on the stand which might discount this idea, as the stand had a white facade to the front at this tiem. An interesting photograph nevertheless.
This photograph from 1928 shows the “Harvey end” as open land for spectators, with trees behind. The Directors box is also on view (present day location of the club shop).
As mentioned above, the main stand at the time had a white front to it. It is clear from the 2 photos below (1928 & 1931) that there was text painted on, viz: "FOLKE...... ... GROUND". Fair to assume that this most likely said "FOLKESTONE FOOTBALL GROUND"?
Also from 1928, the Cricket Ground end terrace looks well developed, although not as high as the present day terrace. The trees behind it are relatively young.