Archive for March, 2010

Downham Town

27-03-2010: Downham Town 0 Ipswich Wanderers 3
(Ridgeons League Division One)

Downham TownDownham Town

About five miles shy of today’s destination is Oxbrough Hall. Originally built as a manor house it was converted to a brick quadrangular fortress – complete with moat – in the mid 15th century. Although extensively remodeled during the Victorian era the three storey gatehouse and towers on the north face of the hall were unaffected and, it must be said, are quite magnificent click me. There is pleasant circular walk through the grounds which was taken advantage of by yours truly click me although I didn’t venture inside having done so on a previous visit many moons ago with the ministering angel of domestic bliss and the two extreme groundhopping sproglets.

As one of the more attractive Fen towns Downham Market is worth a quick stroll too. Charles I, and a group of Dutch engineers, were responsible for getting the drainage of the fens underway in the 1600’s and the influence of the later can be seen in the construction of a number of buildings in the town click me. While the less than keen eye may miss the Dutch gables you would have to try really hard to overlook the quite distinctive clock tower that sits in the market square click me, the four faces of which were originally illuminated by gas light.

Downham Town

Half a mile out from the town centre along the old Kings Lynn road are the War Memorial Playing Fields a large green space in the middle of which sits Downham Town FC’s ground. In fitting with the name the area contains a Garden of Remembrance along with a cricket pitch, tennis and squash courts, kids play area and parking. There are plenty of mature trees – several large oak trees sit along one touchline – which, along with the sandstone wall that surrounds the greenery, all makes for a quite pleasant setting. The sunny (though slightly chilly) weather topped this off nicely.

With a wooden fence on just three sides of the ground, and sitting in the middle of a public park as it does, means that the club are unable to charge admission (certainly I wasn’t asked to cough up any cash) so an entire 90 minutes of football was watched for the price of a half-time cup of tea (50p including free scone). This was acquired from the clubhouse that the footballers share with the local cricket and running clubs. The fourth side has just a low retaining rail – which continues along the other three sides – and it was from here, and later from a wooden bench under a large oak tree back towards the road, that I watched the afternoon’s action. On the far side, beneath the aforementioned trees, are the dugouts (nicely painted red – the club colours) and three low stands. The centre one offers seating for around thirty (I would guess) and the two sides ones covered standing. All very civilized.

Downham Town

Founded in 1881, for many years the club competed in junior leagues in the Kings Lynn area before the move into senior league following election to the Peterborough & District League in the late 1940’s. Champions in 1962-63, 1973-74, 1978-79, 1986-87, 1987-88, they joined the Eastern Counties (now Ridgeons) League as founder members of the first division in 1988 and that’s were they’ve remained ever since, with a third place finish in 1999 their best placing so far.

More pictures here.

Well I’m not one for lists but after today’s trip to the Fens I need to visit just five more grounds to complete the set of 39 Ridgeons League venues, details of which can be found in this handy map…


The Manchester City Experience

05-06-2008: The Manchester City Museum

Manchester City Experience

Close to two years ago Mrs ExtremeGroundhopping and I holidayed in the Peak District and made a couple of trips into Manchester during our weeks stay there. I’ve previoulsy covered our visits to Old Trafford and the City of Manchester Stadium here, here and here. Part of our tour of the latter include a visit to Manchester City’s Museum – The Manchester City Experience – and while I make no claim to being a fan of City (or one of United for that matter) I must say I was mightily impressed with both the tour and the museum. Here are some of the highlights (of the museum)…

(1) A hand bell click me that belonged to the late Helen “the bell” Turner who was a regular at Maine Road for over thirty years. A legend among City fans she sat at the front of the North Stand ringing the bell in support of the team. She developed a close friendship with goalkeeper Joe Corrigan and other players to such an extent that she was invited on to the pitch at Wembley to join in the team’s lap of honour after their League Cup victory in 1976.

(2) The old honours board from Maine Road click me records the clubs trophy haul and promotions. It really must rankle with fan’s that Manchester City’s finest hour (League Champions in 1968) was overshadowed by Manchester United’s European Cup Final victory at Wembley just a week later. In a similar way that it wrankles with Norwich City fans that the one and only time they managed a higher league finish than Ipswich during the 1970’s was in 1978 – when Town won the FA Cup!

Manchester City Experience

(3) A bust of Joe Mercer sits close to the entrance click me. Mercer is quite easily the Sky Blue’s most successful manager. Between his appointment in 1965 and ignominious departure in 1971 (following a dispute with deputy Malcolm Allison), the club won the 1966 Second Division title, as mentioned above the First Division championship in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969, and both the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970. A period of success that City have abjectly failed to come anywhere close to replicating since.

(4) The next item I’d briefly considered posting as an entry the ‘Football Statues’ series but then thought better of it … a life size figure of Colin ‘King of the Kippax’ Bell click me. The Kippax was the popular and vociferous terrace at Maine Road while Colin Bell (who has a stand named after him at the City of Manchester Stadium) is considered to be City’s greatest ever player. In 394 league appearances for City between 1966 and 1979 he hit 117 goals with a further 7 for England (in 48 games) during the same period. The midfielders playing days at Maine Road coincided with the clubs most successful era and Bell may well have gone onto collect a century of international caps had it not been for a serious knee injury.

(5) Sticking with injuries perhaps the most famous one of all time was that picked up by goalkeeper Bert Trautmann who also features in the museum as a life size figure click me. Diving to make a save at the feet of Birmingham’s Peter Murphy in the 1956 FA Cup Final, Trautmann injured his neck but continued for the remaining quarter of an hours play making several crucial saves as City recorded a 3-1 victory. Three days later an X-Ray revealed that the former German paratrooper, and prisoner of war, had actually broken his neck! In 2004 Trautmann was awarded an OBE for his work in promoting Anglo-German relationships.

Manchester City Experience

(6) Finally, and OK a bit Anoraky I’ll admit, the brass plate from an Ellison’s Rush Preventive Turnstile rescued from Maine Road before the wrecking crew moved in click me. Two companies in the Manchester area (WT Ellison & Co and WH Bailey) produced the majority of turnstiles installed at British stadia from the mid-1890’s to the 1980’s and in the intervening years the designs produced by both companies changed very little. The Ellison turnstile originally sold for just over £7 and had two features to separate it from its rivals. A foot pedal allowed the operator to lock and unlock the turnstile as each spectator passed through, allowing just one paying customer through at a time. It also had a finely engineered, and tamper-proof, brass mechanism with ceramic counters, to allow officials to tally the gate against monies collected. WT Ellison client’s found that their receipts rose considerably once the devices were in pace!

Well there you have it a very nicely put together collection of exhibits that is worth an hour of any ones time, City fan or not.

More pictures here.