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Reflecting on 100 years since Cambridge City moved into Milton Road



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Main picture, Eric Fernandez’s picture of Milton Road during Cambridge City’s 1-1 draw with Weymouth during the 1965/66 season.
Main picture, Eric Fernandez’s picture of Milton Road during Cambridge City’s 1-1 draw with Weymouth during the 1965/66 season.

Historian Neil Harvey looks back on the Lilywhites’ time at their old ground.

Cambridge Town moved into the Town Ground in Milton Road on April 29, 1922, and the opening game was against Merton in the Southern Amateur League on that date.

Prior to playing at Milton Road the club played at a number of venues, starting in 1908 at Purbeck Road before moving to what was known as “The Hills Road Bridge Ground” in 1911. This ground was located on the opposite side of the tracks from Cambridge Railway station more or less where the current Royal Mail building is in Clifton Road.

After the First World War the Hills Road Bridge Ground was not available and a variety of college grounds were used until the club settled at the Trinity New Ground in 1920, which is the current Downing College sports ground opposite Cambridge Rugby Club on Grantchester Road.

Plans were put in place to find a long-term home, and the site chosen was Milton Road.

The programme issued for the opening match shows a total capital expenditure of £2,769 which included the purchase of the ground, stamp duty, the grand stand, preparing banks, rolling the ground and surveying. Fund raising had been in place for some time and at the time of the ground’s opening £1,100 was owed to Lloyds Bank and Loan Holders were due £649.

A copy of the original programme for Cambridge City's first match at Milton Road, 100 years ago. Picture: Neil Harvey (56505490)
A copy of the original programme for Cambridge City's first match at Milton Road, 100 years ago. Picture: Neil Harvey (56505490)
A copy of the original programme for Cambridge City's first match at Milton Road, 100 years ago. Picture: Neil Harvey (56505492)
A copy of the original programme for Cambridge City's first match at Milton Road, 100 years ago. Picture: Neil Harvey (56505492)

And so to that first match. Cambridge Town’s starting line-up was Clem Tyler, Tiny Joyce, Ralph Chalk, Len Wordingham, FJ Mustill, Bert Kirby, Harry Sizer, Snowy Taylor, Bert Allen, Reg Cousins and Guy Rowell. Town won 3-0 with Wordingham scoring the first goal, with two more from Allen. The opening game attracted approximately 2,500 fans to the new Town Ground, above average for the era.

One hundred years ago, Milton Road had one pitch which was surrounded by banking and with one small stand.

The original stand was replaced in 1931 with the large wooden stand that would serve until the ground was redeveloped in 1984. The site was extended around the time the ‘new’ stand was built to include a second pitch at the Chesterton School end of the ground and within its now nine acres was the home of Chesterton Bowls Club.

Cambridge Town became Cambridge City in 1951, and the change of name coincided with development of the ground with a terrace being built at the Milton Road end in 1950.

This was followed by the gradual terracing and covering of the large bank on the Corona Road side, which together with ‘state-of-the- art’ floodlights saw the ground reach the peak of its development by the early 1960s.

A greyhound track was installed in 1968, changing the character of the venue but Milton Road was still one of the largest grounds in non-league football.

By the early 1980s, the ground was in a poor state of repair and in 1983 the club sold a large part of the site, which is where the current Westbrook Centre stands.

Neil Harvey’s picture of the Milton Road ground taken from the corner of the Corona Road/Milton Road terrace, with the old main pitch overgrown and the original venue in a state of demolition, with the 1985 version of the ground in the background.
Neil Harvey’s picture of the Milton Road ground taken from the corner of the Corona Road/Milton Road terrace, with the old main pitch overgrown and the original venue in a state of demolition, with the 1985 version of the ground in the background.

A new smaller ground was built that would serve the club from 1985 to 2013. The curtain finally came down on Milton Road on April 27, 2013, Adie Cambridge scoring the final goal in a 1-0 win against Redditch United.

Since then Cambridge City have been groundsharing at St Ives Town FC and Histon FC, but a new ground is currently being built in Sawston.

The artwork which reminds people of the history of the old Cambridge City ground on Milton Road, which is now housing. Picture: Keith Heppell
The artwork which reminds people of the history of the old Cambridge City ground on Milton Road, which is now housing. Picture: Keith Heppell

For the record, Cambridge Town/City played just over 1,500 league games at Milton Road, starting in the Southern Amateur League before spells in the Spartan League, East Anglian League (wartime) and Athenian League as an amateur club. City became a professional club in 1958 and remained in the Southern League (various divisions) apart from a spell in the Conference South in the mid-2000s.

Gates for these league games have varied between over 11,500 for the derby victory against Cambridge United in April 1963 to just 114 when Alvechurch visited Cambridge in March 1982.



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