There can be few grounds in Non League football that have endured as much change and upheaval as Braintree’s welcoming Cressing Road Stadium. Opened in 1923, the current main stand is in fact the fifth variation to have stood at the ground.
The club was accepted into the North Essex League as Manor Works FC (the works team of Crittall Windows) at very short notice in 1898, after the former Braintree FC folded over a debt of £6 10s 5d. Manor Works took over their fixtures and most of their players.
In 1921 the club changed its name to Crittall Athletic to enable it to be more closely identified with the parent company, and in 1923 moved to the new athletics stadium in Clockhouse Way, built by the company and officially opened by Mrs FH Crittall on 25 August for the annual company Sports Day. The club’s new home boasted a large wooden stand on the Cressing Road (near side) of the ground; and a pavilion with changing rooms was opened in 1926.
In the mid-1930s a second stand was erected on the opposite side of the ground, only to be dismantled in 1946, cut in half and added to either end of the original stand.
1967 saw floodlights erected and inaugurated with a visit by West Ham United; and by 1968 the club was known as Braintree & Crittall Athletic.
By January 1974 however, the old stand and its additions had disappeared: the consequence of a combination of demolition and a severe gale. The mid 70s in fact marked a very low ebb for the club, with poor attendances and no funding to rebuild the stands. The ground had also been purchased by the local council from the Crittall family. The club was allowed to remain at the ground as tenants but the facilities were below that required of a senior club. In 1975 the County FA closed the ground and some fixtures were played at alternative 'home' grounds.
Fortunately, enough work was done on the ground to bring it up to the minimum standard and the club survived, although for one game, against Great Yarmouth, only 13 spectators turned up! Slowly, the ground began to develop once more, although there was a false dawn in 1978 when a small stand built on the Cressing Road side was blown down after only a year. This was replaced yet again in 1985, with the present cover at the Clubhouse End erected in 1989, along with a metal perimeter fence. In the meantime, all links with Crittalls ended in 1981 and after only one year as Braintree FC, the title of Braintree Town was adopted. Somewhat nostalgically the nickname of 'The Iron' remained after Crittalls iron window frames.
Developments continued into the 1990s, with a new clubhouse built (and subsequently extended), and the current stand was built on the site of the original ... after 17 years without one. This is a fairly basic brick and metal structure, with four intrusive pillars supporting the roof, and approximately 250 saddle-type seats. A small disabled stand is also present on the Cressing Road side, at the clubhouse end of the pitch.
Similar new grandstands followed at Wisbech Town and Bedworth United, and half of Bedworth’s old stand in fact found its way to Clockhouse Way where it was erected on the opposite side of the pitch (as the Sportsmans’ Stand), over the old cinder running track. The roof was broken up and used as hardcore for the new terrace, with the shell going up in 1993, and the roof added the following season. At around the same time, the far end - known as the Quag End, due to the almost permanently boggy underfoot conditions during winter - was also covered Further terracing was then added during 1994-95, with the club re-purchasing the ground from the council in 1995.
Cressing Road Stadium today is quite an attractive if unpretentious ground, with a good sized carpark outside the main entrance. The well-stocked club shop (with plenty of back issues of ‘Groundtastic’ magazine) to the right of the clubhouse behind the near goal is well worth a visit so come prepared!
From the Braintree bypass turn into Braintree at the McDonalds roundabout and follow signs for the East Braintree Industrial Estate. The floodlights will be visible on the left, just past the Orange Tree PH. The entrance to the ground is the next turning on the left in Clockhouse Way, then left again.
Rail & bus
Braintree & Bocking (BR), 1 mile. Bus 353 from Witham, or a 20 minute walk from the town centre.