The most immediate impression one forms of the Vauxhall Ground is that it is very red - no casual visitor attending a match there would be in any doubt which was the home side!
Founded in 1885 as Apsley FC. The club originally played at a ground at Salmon Meadow, Apsley End, before finding a new home at Crabtree Park in the early 1930s. The club changed its name to Hemel Hempstead Town FC on reformation after WW2, but dropped the ‘Town’ suffix when they amalgamated with Hemel Hempstead United (originally Adeyfield FC) in 1972. In 1998, the club reverted back to its original name.
Crabtree Park was an impressive town centre ground with a large grandstand. However, when it was sold for development of the expanding town in 1972, Hemel Hempstead relocated to their current home in Adeyfield Road.
For a ground that is little over thirty years old, the Victoria Ground has not aged particularly well. Writing in 1997, Peter Miles described it as ‘terrible’ and even now, following a fair amount of investment since then, the ground has a decidedly ramshackle look about it - perhaps ‘lived in’ would be a kinder adjective!
A major problem for the club is the perennial vandalism it has suffered. In 1992 the clubhouse was gutted by fire and rebuilt adjacent to what was then, the main stand. The clubhouse was rebuilt once again in 2001 and is now housed in a more substantial building inside the main gate. The small stand, with the bare minimum of seats and a low roof, is still present on the near touchline but now serves for the press and visiting officials only.
The majority of the 250 seats are on opposite side of the pitch, on what was previously a fairly unremarkable terraced area with an uneven metal cantilever-type roof, maintained with concrete supports. Two unusually tall, narrow dugouts stand at either end.
The new millennium saw two large covered terraces erected at either end of the ground. Although erected barely a year apart, the age gap between them appears much greater. When the first of the terraces was erected at the Adeyfield School end of the ground in 2001 the club decided that it would be nice to paint it in the club colours, thereby adding to the overall ‘redness’. Unfortunately, although the finished paint job looked wonderful on completion, the paint subsequently attacked the metal cladding beneath giving the structure a more aged look. So-called ‘distressed’ paint finishes may be all the rage on DIY makeover TV shows ... but not at football grounds!
Given this experience, Hemel adopted a more conservative approach to the second terrace at the Leverstock Green end of the ground and opted against painting it ... presumably unaware that pre-painted metal cladding is available.
From the M1 Leave the motorway at junction 8, at first roundabout straight ahead (2nd exit), at next roundabout straight ahead (2nd exit) keep to right hand lane and turn right at the first available cut through in central reservation into Leverstock Green Road, at double mini roundabouts turn left into Vauxhall Road at roundabout turn right into ground.
Hemel Hempstead (BR).