One of the key requisites for enjoying a ground is that it must have ‘character’. Culverden Stadium certainly has this, beginning with the commemorative ‘headstone’ that stands propped up just inside the main entrance and noting the official opening of the ground on 18 August 1962. Floodlights were added in 1992.
The original club however, was formed in 1886 and during its many incarnations has played at no less than eight different venues around the town. It existed until the outbreak of WW2 when it closed down, and its ground at Down Farm was requisitioned. On reforming in 1947, the club moved back to Down Farm but not on the original site.
In 1951 they moved again, this time to the Agricultural Show Ground at the other end of town, close to the Nevill Ground. This had a barn-type stand down one side, with rudimentary shelters opposite, and was home until 1962, when The Wells joined the Southern League and moved to Culverden Stadium. In 1967 however, the club folded and was it only through the determination of a hard core of supporters (sound familiar?) that it quickly was resurrected and began all over again in the Kent League the following season.
Culverden Stadium is a well-maintained ground, aided by a supportive local council (if only that were true more often), and tucked away at the end of a long approach road behind the Kent & Sussex Hospital. New concrete terracing has been laid behind the near goal, replacing a more shallow version that originally extended a bit further around behind the corner flags. There is a large car park and a new clubhouse; with the whole ground enclosed by a perimeter rail painted in the club colours of red and white.
Two metal cladded, and rather undistinguished dugouts stand on the west side of the ground. One would have preferred a couple of red and white painted brick versions but you can’t have everything, and at least they blend reasonably well with the trees behind. In any case, the main interest lies on the opposite touchline.
The pitch slopes downwards towards the far end, where it drops away sharply behind the goal. The slope of the pitch is underlined by the staggered roofing of the original committee facilities and original clubhouse/changing rooms that stands on the half-way line, and the two covered stands (added later) on either side, of brick and wooden construction. Combined, these extend virtually the whole length of the eastern touchline and, although they are not especially elevated and therefore don’t provide a particularly good view, they do nevertheless give the stadium its main definition.
Mike Floate writes: ‘A ground to be walked around and enjoyed to the full well before the game’. Take his advice.
Heading through the town in the direction of Southborough, turn left shortly after passing the Kent & Sussex Hospital, into Culverden Down. The entrance to the ground is half a mile further on.
Tonbridge Wells (BR) 1 mile