Founded in 1873, Chippenham Town FC had its home on at least four previous sites in the town before moving to Hardenhuish Park (pronouned ‘Harnish’) in 1919, with the first game being played on 24 September of that year. The club had joined Division Two of the Western League as early as 1904 but left after just two seasons and did not return until 1930.
Apart for five seasons in the Hellenic League between 1968-73 and the inevitable interruption of WW2, Chippenham remained a Western League side, alternating between the divisions. The Club won promotion to the Premier Division in 1981.
The arrival of manager Tommy Saunders from Calne Town transformed the Bluebirds’ fortunes, leading them to the Final of the FA Vase in 1999/00, when they lost to Deal Town; and to the Quarter Finals the following season. 2000/01 saw Chippenham win promotion to the Western Division of the Southern League as runners-up to Taunton Town, and within a season a further promotion followed to the Premier Division.
The Club fared well in its first season, finishing fifth, but was unable to sustain the investment and, following the departure of Saunders, finished just one place off the bottom the following season. Restructuring meant there was no relegation however, and the Club has quickly re-established itself as a leading Southern League side.
By far the oldest structure at Hardenhuish Park is the main stand. It’s exact age is unknown but it has undergone numerous revisions and additions over the years, as can be seen from the two photographs (left) taken from a similar angle.
In 1979 a new clubhouse was built to the rear of the stand, with windows looking out across the pitch; and the dressing rooms within were modernised in 1985. Seating replaced the original benches, and more recently additional seats were provided by extending the stand with smaller prefabricated structures on either side. All is now painted in the Club’s royal blue livery.
Floodlights arrived at the ground as recently as 1986.
The pitch has a pronounced slope towards the Bristol Road end of the ground. This has a small covered area, whilst the far end remains exposed. The gradient is highlighted by the stepped roof to the cover that runs along its length. This dates from 1993 and replaced an earlier structure that was replaced on more than one occasion and was eventually destroyed by storms.
Its replacement incorporates new dugouts, which originally stood in front of the stand opposite. A closer examination reveals how it has has been extended, in parallel with the Bluebirds’ rapid rise up the pyramid in successive seasons.
Hardenhuish Park is a pleasant ground to visit with the necessary character desired by many enthusiasts of football grounds.
Exit the M4 at J17 and take A350 to Chippenham. Follow the signs for Trowbridge/Bath until coming to a roundabout, and take the A420 towards the town. Ground is 800 yards on the left.
15 mins walk from railway station on the main A420 Bristol Road.