Founded as Purfleet FC as recently as 1985 through the merger of junior clubs Rainham WM FC and Fondu FC; Thurrock (renamed in June 2003) have developed a decent modern Non League ground within a goal kick of the busy Dartford Crossing on the M25. Whilst the ground suffers from its immediate surroundings (incessant traffic noise and a myriad of overhead cables) it is a well-appointed venue nevertheless, and credit to the joint leadership of Harry South and Tommy South, owners of the Thurrock Hotel.
The club has always played on the existing site (previously Aveley Technical College), albeit on pitches running at ninety degrees to the current playing area, and backing on to a leisure centre that is now the Thurrock Hotel. In order to create the new ground, huge amounts of earth were removed and replaced to level off a pitch, which by now had been reduced to one pitch running parallel to the hotel complex. Floodlights were erected in January 1988.
A fair sized car parking area fronts onto the turnstiles, with the clubhouse at the far end. This is the latest addition to the ground, and was opened in March 2001, removing the need to use the hotel for the purpose.
The impressive main stand is situated mid-way along the near (eastern) touchline. Confusingly, it was originally called the South stand, after the ground’s creators but thankfully this has now been remedied and the structure re-christened the Lakeside Stand.
The stand, with 300 seats intermittently picked out in the club colours, was opened in August 1988 and is an excellent example of how to build a modern grandstand without resorting to a bland unoriginal design. Having said that, one suspects that the design was in part due to the need to ‘cut’ the structure into the grass bank that runs along the touchline. There are no supporting pillars to obscure the view, whilst the pitched roof gives it a rather ‘retro’ appearance, which is fine by me! The hotel is immediately behind.
The western touchline was covered near the end of the 2004/05 season, with an additional 180 seats added on to the few steps of concrete terracing on the right hand side (looking from the stand), originally laid during the 1997 close season. The dugouts are also on this side of the pitch.
Both ends of the ground also boast covered terracing. Cover at the Ship Lane end went up in 1992 and extends from one corner flag to the other; whilst the stand at the eastern end (the Thurrock & Basildon College Stand) is smaller, and dates from 1994. The new terrace replaced what was described as a ‘dug out’, although as Kerry Miller notes, the structure was in fact eight feet high and twenty five feet long, with a slate roof! To the left of this is a smaller building housing the dressing rooms, and a tea bar.
Thurrock struggle to attract a fan base, and visiting supporters often bemoan the lack of atmosphere at the ground. Ship Lane is befitting of greater patronage.
From the North - M25 to junction 30 (last exit before tolls) second exit, over first roundabout fifth exit at next roundabout (Ship Lane) ground on the right about 200 yards down (Next to the Thurrock Hotel). From the South - M25 to junction 30 (exit after tolls - Left hand lane at tunnel) third exit at next roundabout (Ship Lane) ground on the right about 200 yards down (Next to the Thurrock Hotel)
Purfleet (BR) two miles