In 1931 probably one of Folkestone football ground's most famous visitors made an appearance - Winston Churchill. During his visit to Folkestone he made a speech regarding the India situation which even to this day subject to much discussion. It is not recorded if he had any words for the football team!

1931-06 Winston Churchill's visit to Fol

Picture credit: Tracy Edwards Willett / The British Newspaper Archive

In that year it seems considerable progress is made on the ground as indicated by Ordnance survey maps

1931 Ordnance Survey.png

The format appears to have remained the same up until present day, although the grass courts have been converted to 5-a-side football pitches in recent times.

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.

The low stand on the north side is now joined by terracing at the “Harvey end”. Although maps at the time do not indicate this as a covered end, there are records that indicate that a cover was added. Even today the pillars for this cover can be seen a wood of a certain vintage, with railway track used as strengthening members at the base of the pillars. Incredible ingenuity, but maybe at a loss of Southern Railways, which was still a relatively young company having been formed in 1923. A more contemporary photograph shows the rail tracks.

Photo credit: Duncan Saunders

Harvey end pillars.jpg

A view of the Harvey end in 1931 appears to indicate a terrace without a roof.

1931 Harvey end.png

Picture credit: Britain From Above (Historic England)

Whereas by 1933 a roof appears to have been added. Some documentation possibly indicates that the roof was put on in 1932, so this ties up.

1933 Harvey end.png

Picture credit: Britain From Above (Historic England)

Note that the main stand may have possibly been re-roofed during this time as the cover appears to have drastically changed between the times of each photo, from a light fronted façade to a more darker affair. From Groundtastic issue 39 (author Dave West): “Later embellishments to this extraordinary structure saw an extension to the front of the roof and the installation of panels along the front of the stand to protect the patrons from the elements.  Incredibly for so eccentric a stand, in the years between the wars smaller copies cropped up elsewhere in east Kent at Deal Town, Betteshanger Colliery Welfare and Margate.  Sadly, all four examples have now disappeared.”

Indeed the likeness to the old Margate main stand is striking:-

Margate 1970 (MFC history).png

Picture credit: Margate FC History

At the other end of the ground the “Cricket ground” end is also terraced, with the trees behind it definitely being recorded in maps of the time. The uncovered terracing behind the new cricket ground goal was raised to its current height in 1933 when Bristol Rovers visited Cheriton Road in the FA Cup.

Match photos form Folkestone 2 Newport County 1, FA Cup 2nd Round at Cheriton Road in 1932/33 show the darker main stand, trees at the Cricket Ground end (with temporary seats!), but no clues regarding the Harvey End.

1932 Groundtastic.jpg

Photo credit: Groundtastic

However some evidence about the Harvey end at last. The pictures below show school sports at the ground, or as the Folkestone Herald, July 1933, puts it "Keen enthusiasm prevailed at the Elementary School Sports held on the Football Ground on Friday last week.". In the right hand side picture the Harvey end can clearly be seen to have a roof. Additionally the Directors stand between the Harvey & Main stands appears to be more of a shed than a stand.

1933 Linda Dennis & British Newspaper Ar

The old cricket pavilion still survived at this time, and was being used as the changing rooms for the football ground. Quite a walk to the pitch! Continuing the multi-use aspects of the ground, below are shown 1933 phots of the Folkestone Athletics Club, and inter-school sport, using the ground- the dark wooden main stand to the left, and the open cricket ground end terrace in the distance.

1933 Main stand (Linda Dennis).jpg

1939 to 1945 and the Second World War sees the ground used for wartime matches. This wasn’t without its dangers, as an explosive bomb (see the picture of bombing: half-filled circle = explosive bomb; filled circle = explosive shell) appears to have hit the “Harvey end” stand. The effects of the shell that hit the Harvey Grammar School is shown in the Harvey Grammar School section of this website.

1945 Harvey bomb.png
 

Picture credit: Janet & Richard Mason

After the war Folkestone FC re-formed in 1945, and were still playing at Cheriton Road. It appears that the second Folkestone F.C. began life as Folkestone Town F.C., and played in the Kent League from 1945 until the league folded in 1959, whereupon the club joined the Southern League.

Very little seems to have changed in the ground during the Second World War years – hardly surprisingly considering other rebuilding priorities. However any damage from the explosive bomb to the Harvey end stand appears to have been repaired by 1945.

1945 NLS.png

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.

Also about this time general access to photography was becoming available. There are multiple aerial views of the town taken, many of which include the Cheriton Road ground which was beginning to resemble what we would recognise today. Note that the original cricket pavilion right on the road, which was still the football changing rooms.

1946 #6 britainfromabove.png

Picture credit: Britain From Above (Historic England)

Compare this 1946 view to the similar aerial view on the home page:

1946 #3 britainfromabove.png

Picture credit: Britain From Above (Historic England)

Tennis courts and bowling greens had filled some of the space left by the departure of cricket, but for many years this side of the ground, where the original cricket pavilion still served as a changing room, was simply roped off.

Post war Britain was booming, and so was the Folkestone club, There are accounts of an FA Cup match in 1949 ending Folkestone 11-2 Tonbridge (Tonbridge's all time record defeat) where lorries were parked along one side of the ground - presumably the open side nearest the pavilion - for the crowd to stand in. A modern day health and safety nightmare!

Into the 1950s and Britain is starting to boom again. It is smart suits at the match. Note the perimeter fence close up – only the 2nd photo I have as evidence of a perimeter fence since a 1928 photo. The club Directors stand from the very early days is still there and it survives until the 1970s.

1950s @simon_sitar.jpg

Photo credit: Simon Sitar

In 1958 the last remaining side of the ground to be developed was along the Cheriton Road side, or south side, of the pitch. This was funded mainly from the receipts from a 7,881 crowd (the current ground record attendance) for a Kent Senior Cup tie against Margate. This new stand was a covered terrace that eventually came to be known as the “Grandad Stand”.

In 1959 floodlights were installed and this was celebrated with a friendly against Burnley, with a suitably grand attendance of 5528 spectators. The game even gets a mention in a Burnley FC history website TheLongSide.

 

The arrangement of the floodlights was interesting:

  • A pylon behind each goal, which, reportedly, led to many a dazzled goalkeeper.

  • A set of 4 pylons down the Grandad stand side, the middle pair of which were behind the Grandad Stand (I believe the switchgear may still be there).

  • A set of 4 pylons down the wooden north stand side, the central pair being built through the roof of the stand!

 

A special match program was created to celebrate the new installation.

1958 Brett Smith.jpg

Picture credit: Brett Harper-Smith

1958 Brett Smith #2.jpg

Picture credit: Brett Harper-Smith

If the text is too small to read, here is what it says:-

“These lights did not just happen. These pylons did not grow out of the ground. This is the result of the work of many people. The great part of the credit, however, must go to Ted Hatcher for turning an idea into a possibility, and to Bill Pemble for making the possibility a reality.

As most of you know, Bill died suddenly a few days ago but, although he never saw the completion of his work and planning. We like to think that the final result will remain as a permanent reminder of all the many years he worked for the Club.

We like to do things well and therefore examined several good schemes before coming to a decision. Most of us had visited other grounds but, after straining to see in the half-light, tripping over unseen objects in dark passages at the back of stands, and nervously creeping down dark stairs, we felt we must give our spectators adequate light to see their way in and out of the Ground, and more than sufficient light to follow the game.

This Ground, with its widely spaced Entrances and set back Stands was not an easy one to cover effectively, but Bill put all his years and experience into the job. Backed by his Staff, he has left us an installation worthy of the Club. It may of course be modest in comparison with some larger League Clubs, but we feel that everyone should be able to watch their after-dark football in comfort.

We extend our thanks to Messrs. Jenner and Son Ltd., for the building and construction work ; Mr. D Marshall and his Parks Staff for their willing assistance ; The South Eastern Electricity Board for their co-operation in making an adequate supply of electricity available, and The Simplex Electric Co. Ltd., who designed and supplied the special switchgear.

Floodlight football will, we feel, serve a double purpose. It will widen the scope for our present supporters and also bring in many people who are unable for various reasons to view the normal afternoon games.

F.B.”

F.B. was Fred Blunt (information from Fred's nephew Alan Littlefield) and Fred is in the picture below of the 1959-60 team far right in the back row.

Most of the companies mentioned in the programme still exist or are part of other present day companies. Unfortunately I can find no further information on Ted Hatcher or Bill Pemble.

This early introduction of floodlights was quite innovative. For example the first international game under floodlights of an England game at Wembley was 1955 against Spain. The first floodlit Football League match took place at Fratton Park, Portsmouth in 1956 between Portsmouth and Newcastle United. The Folkestone club was definitely forward thinking - this was the first non-league ground in Kent to have floodlights

Even with all these advances, the old cricket pavilion was still being used as changing rooms and club offices as the official Folkestone FC team photo of the time shows.

1959 Pavilion (Jacqui Williams).jpg

Picture credit: Jacqui Williams