Visitors to Bodmin Town’s Priory Park ground get their first glimpse of this attractive venue as they enter the town on the A389, over to the left and barely cordoned off from the remainder of the park.
Founded as far back as 1889, the ground has been home to Bodmin since they lost the ground they had shared with St. Lawrence’s Hospital FC and the local cricket club in 1948. Prior to that, the club had played at a number of venues including Cooksland (two spellls); Coldharbour Lane, which was also the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry drill field; and Barn Park.
The official club website relates the story that at the beginning of the century Bodmin joined forces with the "barracks" side, playing in white shirts with the nick-name "Lillywhites". The club adopted its familiar black and amber colours in 1925, starting off in stripes, changing to a quartered shirt and more recently the amber shirt with black trim.
Priory Park is leased from the council, who own the land, and in fact originally played on another pitch close by. The ground sits in a natural bowl and, in common with many Cornish grounds, grass banking lends much its the overall attractiveness.
The focal point of Priory Park is obviously the main stand. aka the Dennison Memorial Stand, which is a classic of the genre, with its pitched roof and wooden benches providing seating for around 400 spectators. The stand replaced an older structure that the club brought with them when they first moved to Priory Park. The new stand, which opened on 10 September 1958, was built at a cost of £2,500 and donated by TH Dennison Esq. of Toronto, and honorary freeman of the Borough.
In recent years some of the benches have been painted in the club colours, and there is also a rather ethnic-looking abstract mural adorning its rear wall. A rather smart club crest is also painted onto the front wall of the stand.
Looking towards the right hand goal from the stand is a rather steep grass bank, with car parking at its summit, and quite a smart clubhouse beyond. Car parking is also available in the Pay & Display car park immediately next door to the ground. The clubhouse was originally opened in 1985 and extended subsequently. Prior to this, floodlights arrived at the ground in 1971.
The remaining two sides of the ground are uncovered, with the park stretching beyond the perimeter fence. Although there is an official entrance hut adjacent to the stand, although one imagines that the club suffers from the ease at which freeloading spectators can gain free entry.
In recent years the club has been fortunate to host some very attractive friendly games against League clubs. Queens Park Rangers brought their full first team to Priory Park to celebrate Bodmin’s Centenary in 1989; whilst Southampton fielded their first team in 1991. Sheffield Wednesday must have brought the most "star studded" team ever to play on the Priory in 1993, with neighbours United also paid a visit in 2000. At the time of writing the Blades were due to visit once more prior to the 2004/05 season.
Writing in 2002 Peter Miles noted that two years earlier the club had announced redevelopment plans that would have seen the stand demolished in favour of a more modern and ‘promotion-friendly’ structure. Thankfully, nothing has come of it but, with Bodmin improving on their dreadful season of 2002/03, to finish as runners-up in 2003/04 those plans may yet be dusted off and resurrected. I certainly hope not!
From the A30 take the A389 into the town centre. On approaching the town the ground is visible on the left. Follow the P signs from the main car park adjacent to the ground,
Bodmin Parkway (BR): taxi ride