Sunday, 24 March 2013

Town Mead - A brief history

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Town Mead, or Town Meadow to give it it's full name, was Crawley Towns home from 1949 until May 1997. For those who are relatively new to the club, Town Mead was where Crawley Leisure park is now, next to the fire station.

I first started watching Crawley, and so by default attending Town Mead, in 1984. At that time the ground was very basic. On the southern side of the ground, backing onto Ifield Avenue, was a small wooden stand with wooden seats for about 250 people along with the management benches.

The old main stand

This stand was knocked down in the summer of 1994 and replaced with a modern version, complete with a portacabin boardroom on the roof. Apologies for the quality of the photo, it is all that is known.

The new main stand

Next to this stand, to the West, was a small covered terrace with 4 or 5 steps of terracing which was known to me as 'The Old Boys Terrace', after it's demographic makeup. Others referred to it as 'The Visionhire stand' by virtue of the main advertisement board on the roof!

A couple of views of the Old Boys Terrace (or Visionhire stand)

To the East of the main stand, and before my time, was another covered and sloped area which I understand was destroyed by the weather.

Old covered area

Behind the goal at the western end of the ground was The Shed End. This was 7 or 8 very large steps of terracing that ran the full width of the pitch. The middle third or so was covered, hence 'The Shed'. 

The Shed holds a very special place in my heart, personally, as I feel I grew up there. Many Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings were spent in the Shed with good friends cheering on the Reds. The atmosphere generated in the shed on a wet Tuesday evening as everyone crammed in to keep dry has never been replicated at the Broadfield Stadium.

The Shed End. The first pic is from Summer 1979 and the 2nd pic from a match against Dartford in early 1988. The roof was damaged during the great storm in October 1987.

Until the Cup run of 1991 there were no barriers in the shed, but during the 4th Qualifying round replay against Horsham (attended by a then record 3,427 fans) the fence at the front of The Shed collapsed when we took an early lead so the club were forced to install 2 rows of crush barriers, plus a proper front barrier) before we got the go ahead to stage the first round match against Northampton.

The shed during and shortly after the crush barriers were installed.

The northern side of the ground was, for many years, just a grass bank with a little hut on the top of it! Not ideal when it was wet.

The grass bank on the Northern side of the ground

The northern side was developed during the 1990/91 season. Initially a couple of steps of concrete and a wooden fence were added, but later the fence became corrugated plastic coated steel and a couple more steps were added. The benches were also moved from the main stand to this side of the ground.

The northern side of the ground after the first development

The Firestation End was also a grass bank, though someone had tried to dig some steps into it behind the goal. They may have been OK when first dug, but they didn't really last. This was later developed, firstly with a couple of rows of terracing and in the final year or two at Town Mead with a small covered terrace.

Like the shed End before it, the wall at the firestation end collapsed when Barnet scored their first goal in the FA Cup 2nd round tie in 1993.

The Firestation end as it was and after the first stage of development in the aftermath of the Barnet FA Cup tie

Crawley eventually left Town Mead for the newly built Broadfield stadium in 1997.