Although football was being played in the Basingstoke area in the early 1890s, it wasn't until 1896 that a Basingstoke Town club was formed as a consequence of an amalgation between Aldworth United and Basingstoke Albion. In 1909 there was a further addition when the local Hants Ironworks team merged with the 'Town' club.
The club played at Castlefields until 1945, when they were offered a piece of land on a 99 year lease to develop from Lord Camrose. Before taking the name of its benefactor, the ground was known as the Winchester Road ground and staged its first game on 1st December 1945, with Southampton Borough Police the visitors. At that time facilities were pretty basic and for almost 25 years there was little more than a small wooden stand; and grass banking topped with railway sleeper terracing.
Today the ground has grown, as has the town of Basingstoke itself, although not necessary in parallel with one another. The possibility of promotion to the Southern League in the late 1960s/early 1970s brought about significant improvements to The Camrose at a rate that was in stark contrast to the relative absence of any building works in the previous years.
In 1969 a large clubhouse was built in the substantial car parking area outside the ground which is attractively screened by trees from the outside. The clubhouse was followed by the imposing main stand a year later. This affords an excellent view of the action below and is accessed by two metal stairways in the club colours. The dressing rooms are housed underneath.
At around the same time, terracing was begun opposite; whilst floodlights were erected and inaugurated with a game against Metroploitan Police. The frenetic activity paid off when Basingstoke were elected to the Southern League in 1971.
The mid-seventies saw cover erected over the terracing opposite the stand. Although not immediately apparent on entering the ground, this area is set some way back from the touchline, rendering it far from ideal from a viewing point of view, and fronted by a large paddock area.
Covered terracing is also available behind the far goal, although this is not particularly attractive. The area is backed by a long expanse of blue cladded metal, well-used by home supporters for encouraging their team, as evidenced by the numerous dents along its length.
In more recent years, a further block of terracing adjacent to the stand has also been covered. In between this and the stand is a converted Portakabin that functions as the tea bar, A further Portakabin at the uncovered turnstile end of the ground, houses the club shop in front of which are a few more steps of terracing.
Functional as they are, these ‘temporary’ buildings do little to enhance the overall appearance of the ground. Indeed, when I visited (May 2004) the ground was looking decidedly shabby in places, with the copious weeds growing through the terracing giving The Camrose a rather run-down appearance.
One hopes that this will soon be addressed as sadly it does detract from what is otherwise quite a reasonable Non League venue.
Visitors can exit the M3 at either Junction 6 or Junction 7. However, the route from the latter is less tortuous and involves less roundabouts! From the motorway (A30) follow the dual carriageway to a mini roundabout. Carry on across the roundabout up to a larger roundabout and take the 2nd exit into Western Way. The car park is 50 yards on the right.
Rail and bus
Basingstoke (approx. 30 minute walk)