Don’t be put off by the Industrial Estate line in the address: Halstead Town’s Rosemary Lane ground is not a modern, soul-less out of town development. Indeed, it is a ground that should be visited by anyone with an interest on old grandstands.
Although formed as long ago as 1879, it wasn’t until the post-war years that Halstead Town finally found a permanent home in Rosemary Lane.
The second world war had a significant influence on Halstead finally finding somewhere they could call their own. Immediately prior to WW2, the club was playing at the Three Gates which had very basic facilities and was taken over for agricultural use by the RAF during the war. With their previous ground in no fit state for a resumption of football, the club was left with the task of finding a new home, whilst they used the Courtauld’s Sports Club in the meantime (Mr SA Courtauld was then-President of the club).
Eventually a site, previously used for grazing and as the town sandpit, was found by the Tortoise Bowling Green in 1946, and four months later a Supporters’ Club was formed to assist with the new ground. After a considerable amount of work carried out by volunteers, including the laying of hardcore from demolished air-raid shelters for the entrance and car park; and erection of a perimeter rail from the sea defences at Walton-on-the-Naze, the ground was opened in 1948, with some 1,800 spectators witnessing the opening match against Eton Borough.
Within a year, a clubhouse costing £900 was opened at the ground at the start of the 1949/50 season, with the impressive stand following a further year later. That season the record attendance was set when 4,000 crammed into the ground to watch an Essex Senior Cup tie vs Walthamstow Avenue.
The massive concrete and steel stand on the near touchline, has not changed much during its 50-odd year lifespan, except for the addition of approximately 300 tip-up red seats (a strange choice of colour given the the club colours are white and black), and ‘HTFC’ picked out in large white lettering along the back wall. In common with many other stands of the period, there are obtrusive supporting pillars and glass sides to the structure, but it provides a good view nonetheless.
The remainder of the ground has hard standing but is uncoved. A couple of modern, yet quite unsual dugouts are located on the touchline opposite the stand, whilst the use of existing pylons for the floodlights are also of interest. The clubhouse is well appointed and welcoming.
Take the A131 Chelmsford to Braintree road, and follow signs to Halstead. Soon after entering Halstead, take the 1st right turning after the Police Station, then 1st right again, and left for the ground.