Note Although officially founded in 1919, the origins of Harrogate Town can be traced back as far as 1907/08 when a club was registered as “The Harrogate Town Club” but came to nothing. There was then another false start in 1914 when a new club – Harrogate AFC – was formed, but the Great War intervened. Indeed, as the extensive Club history on the official website states: “Harrogate should have been playing at Bishop Auckland on Saturday 5 September, but sent a telegram two hours before kick off stating they would not be arriving as most of the team had joined the Regiments”.
At the end of hostilities Harrogate AFC was formed for the 1919/20 season and eventually played its first competitive game at the Starbeck Lane Ground on Saturday 30 August 1919 against Horsforth.
That inaugural season was the first and last at the Starbeck ground, which was required for house building (how little has changed!). Fortunately, the Club had been given notice of the plans the previous season and was prepared, with a six acre plot having been found in the then-named Wetherby Lane. The local public were asked to purchase shares in a new company for £1 a share, and after £3,000 was raised the ground was purchased.
The first game at the new ground took place on Saturday 28 August 1920 against York YMCA. In those days the club was known as “The Sulphurites” after their sulphur and black strip – the nickname may have changed but the colours have not.
There was no Town team from 1932 until after the end of WW2 in 1945. However, a successful local side called Harrogate Hotspurs FC was founded in 1935 and to all intents and purposes became the new Town team, eventually taking the name Harrogate Town in 1948.
As you can see from the photographs taken through the gates in Wetherby Road, the ground was closed when I visited in October 2005. The photographs do however include the current main stand which was opened in August 1990. The long area of covered terracing along the Wetherby Road touchline is not visible however, and neither is the far end which also has a small area of seating and hospitality facilities. However, these can be seen in the Snapshots section, taken from the stand by contributor Paul Kirkwood. DB