In July 2004 bulldozers moved in and began demolition and major redevelopment of Bridge Road to meet Conference grading requirements
New photographs (Feb 2005) ...
Note: I have decided to keep this description and pics of Bridge Road pre-redevelopment as a reminder of the ‘old’ ground. Call me nostalgic if you like! DB.
The Recreation Ground has hosted football since 1890, when having been leased by a gentleman named HJ Carter, it became home to Grays Town FC. However, it wasn’t until the demise of Town that Grays Athletic took up residence in 1906. Prior to their relocation, Athletic played at The Hoppit Ground, opposite the The Bull PH in Little Thurrock.
The Rec was in fact considerably larger than it is today, and before the inevitable development of the housing that now surrounds it, hosted athletics and greyhound racing as well as football. Prior to the Great War the pitch ran at ninety degrees to its current orientation. After the end of hostilities in 1918, the pitch was turned around, enclosed and railway sleeper terracing installed behind the goals.
Despite this encroachment and reduction in capacity, the Rec remains quite a large ground, hidden behind a rather nondescript and rather tatty-looking entrance in Bridge Road. There is a small car park, although is is totally inadeguate. There is a further small parking area opposite the ground, although this too fills up very quickly and and it is worth arriving early and/or car sharing when visiting. Early arrivals can take advantage of the capacious clubhouse, which has an unrivalled reputation for its variery of real ales.
Whilst it might be valued by real ale enthusiasts, the exterior of the clubhouse would never win any awards on aesthetic merit; and provides a stark backdrop looming up behind the near goal.
Significant ground developments are evidently planned for the Rec and, it has to be said, these are long overdue and essential if the club wishes to retain its current standing in the Non League pyramid.
The only significant accommodation for spectators is entirely provided along the west side of the pitch. During the 1930s this side was completely fenced off and used for greyhound racing, before ultimately being sold. Today a large covered terrace runs along its length, with numerous pillars supporting the rood that provides the only respite from the elements for over 1,000. In addition there are 300 saddle-type seats, but the view from these is both low level, and hampered by the roof supports. The stand, named in memory of former club stalwart Teddy Smallcombe, dates from 1952, and replaced the earlier ‘Pepper Stand’ which subsequently found a new home at Aveley’s Mill Field ground, after being sold for just £100.
There was once a large grandstand opposite, built in the 1920s at a cost of £1,225 but sadly this was burnt down in 1983. Instead of replacing it, the land was sold for development and as a consequence this touchline is now ruined by flats that tower over the ground, with the dressing rooms and tea bar underneath. Immediately in front stand two blue-painted wooden dugouts.
Of interest to the die-hard grounds afficionado is the concrete perimeter wall which, unusally, curves around behind three corners of the ground. There are a few steps of terracing behind the far goal, and more at the south-eastern corner which provide quite a nice elevated view of the action below and arguably the best vantage point in the ground.
Follow the A13 towards Southend and take the exit for Grays. Follow signs to town centre, keeping left on the one-way system. Continue up the hill for about half a mile, and turn right into Bridge Road. Ground half a mile on the right.
Grays (BR) seven minutes walk.