Tonbridge FC moved to their current ground at Longmead Stadium in 1980 after protracted negotiations had dragged on for three years after plans were drawn up by the Council to sell off the club’s Angel ground to a supermarket chain.
The Angel had been home to Tonbridge since their formation in 1948, and up until WW2 had been used solely for cricket. It’s former use was apparent by the position of the 400 seat main stand, that sat at an angle to the pitch, almost behind the near-side goal.
When Tonbridge moved, they took the stand with them and reassembled it along the western touchline at Longmead. These days only the middle section is seated, with only limited hard standing on either side. From afar however, it remains an impressive structure. In 1994 the club became Tonbridge Angels FC in memory of their former home.
The first thing to say about Longmead Stadium is that there is plenty of car parking. That said, the lane which circumvents the parking areas en route to the entrance to the ground is guarded by ‘sleeping policemen’. Not all of these are marked, as one soon finds out when driving over them! The entrance is quite smart and the first thing you will notice is the aroma of burgers just to the left as you enter. Programmes are available just inside the gate, and there is a further burger van on the far side. The ground is also noted for a fine atmosphere and the club’s passionate support.
Anyway, back to the ground. The clubhouse can be found to the right of the main entrance, adjacent to the announcers box. It’s comfortable enough, with plenty of seating available but in the past has been known to become rather cramped and smoky. A recent visit for a pre-season friendly revealed something of a revamp, with smart new double-glazing looking out towards the pitch, albeit at ground level and a little way from the action. Being a friendly it was fairly sparsely populated, but the above comments are probably still pertinent.
For the time being there is no cover on the near side of the ground, except for the rather quaint Directors’ Stand which is a real gem. One suspects that one day it will become a casualty of any building that takes place although we can but hope that the club will do what it did with the stand ... and re-erect it elsewhere in the ground. Previously there were some rather precarious railway sleepers on this side, providing a slightly elevated if at times slippery view. They have since been removed.
At either end of the pitch are two identical “Mezzanine” stands, erected during the 2000/01 season and which replaced further sleeper terracing. These provide a good, elevated view of the action. The metal cladding on the steps enable the home fans (and travelling ones for that matter) to make quite a noise when their team is doing well.
All in all, Longmead Stadium is reasonably well-appointed, with plenty of scope for further development.
Entering Tonbridge from the A26, pass the railway station on the left, passing along the High Street. Carry on up Shipbourne Road (A227 Gravesend Road) to second mini-roundabout (The Pinnacles pub) and turn left into Darenth Avenue. The ground is at the bottom of the road.
Tonbridge (BR) one and a quarter miles.