Dover is a very ancient town and so has many ancient names. Crabble derives from Crab Hole - a hole in which crabs are found. Old English: crabba hol (Thanks to Martin Shaw for this information). Crabble Athletic Ground itself is set into the side of a hill at River, on the outskirts of Dover itself and in this respect is quite an impressive venue. The presence of the Directors’ lounge on top of the main stand, above the press box below, also lends an additional bit of the character to the ground.
The now defunct Dover FC moved up to the current pitch in 1951, necessitating an uphill walk from spectators from the car park below. The bottom pitch is used solely for rugby and cricket these days, but saw football from 1897, when the first Dover club was playing in the Kent League.
The ‘professional’ Dover FC (semi-pro by todays standards, ie. not amateur) was formed in 1947 and an application was made for a grandstand on the south side of the top pitch. The application was turned down, but in October 1950 the club secured funding to extend the existing stand that already stood on the opposite touchline, having been built by the Army shortly after WW2. In April the following year, Dover moved up to the top pitch for good. It was an expensive move, with the Football Club paying the Town Council £300 per annum; whilst the rugby club on the bottom pitch were charged twenty-five shillings (£1.25) a match!
The new extended grandstand was officially opened on 25 August 1951. The following year the Supporters’ Association announced plans to provide covered terracing at the Town End of the ground (to the left if viewed from the turnstiles), where there was previously just the steep incline of the slope behind. Floodlights were also in place by this time. The 1,000 seat stand offers a decent enough view, but like the covered terraces at either end of the ground (see below), this is impeded by the numerous supporting columns.
In 1983 Dover FC folded with massive debts, and was replaced by the new Dover Athletic FC. The new club took the place of its predecessor in the Southern section of the Southern League, and gained promotion to the Premier Division at the end of the 1987/88 season. After finishing sixth in their first season, the club finished as champions in 1989/90 but were unable to take their place in the Conference due to the required ground improvements not having been completed by the May 1990 deadline.
In 1992/93 the club again won the Premier Division and by this time were in a position to move up the Pyramid. New turnstiles had been built, and two new identical covered terraces had been erected at either end of the ground. In addition the seats in the main stand were all replaced, and a second 250 seat stand - The Family Stand - built at the Town End of the south touchline.
The main clubhouse (Wingers’ Bar) is situated along the south touchline, along with toilets and other facilities. There is also an additional snack bar at the Town End of the ground; whilst the club shop is tucked away in a corner of the River End covered terrace.
Dover finished bottom of the Conference in 2000/01 but after finishing third in the Premier Division of the Southern League the next season, hopes were high that promotion would soon follow. In 2003/04 however, the club suffered a disastrous second half to the season and failed to qualify for the newly constituted Conference South, thereby effectively dropping down another rung of the Pyramid. It is hoped that the ground will one day host a higher standard of football once again ... as it did when Margate (then in the Conference) ground-shared during the 2003/04 season.
From outside of Kent, find your way to the M25, then take the M2/A2 (follow the signs for Canterbury, the signs for Dover will take you down the M20) as far as the Whitfield roundabout (near the Esso petrol station and McDonald's Drive-Thru). Take the fourth exit at this roundabout, down Whitfield Hill. At the bottom of the hill turn left at the roundabout and follow this road until the first set of traffic lights. At the lights turn right (180 degrees down the hill) and follow the road under the railway bridge, the ground is just up the road.
If you have to take the M20/A20 leave the A20 in Folkestone (the exit immediately after the tunnel through the hill) and travel through the Alkham Valley (turn left at the roundabout at the end of the slip-road and then left again, following the signs for Alkham) which will eventually take you near Kearsney train station (turn right into Lower Road just before the railway bridge, before you get to the station).
Kearsney (BR): one and a half miles. Bus service from Dover Priory (BR).