Buckingham Town
Ford Meadow

Ground No. 217
Visited - Saturday 11th September 2010
Result - Buckingham Town 0-5 Thrapston Town
Competition - United Counties League, Division One
Attendance - 62

Staffordshire – Stafford, Oxfordshire – Oxford, Bedfordshire – Bedford, Buckinghamshire – Aylesbury. What have they all got in common? The answer… they’re all county towns, so the question is, why Aylesbury for Buckinghamshire?

Along with Wiltshire (Trowbridge instead of Wilton), Hampshire (Winchester instead of Southampton) and Lancashire (Preston instead of Lancaster), Buckinghamshire is one of only four counties to be named after a town within its borders that isn’t the county town. Originally it was, with Buckingham having been granted that status in 888AD by Alfred the Great, however fast forward 700 years and politics were at the fore in 1529. The town had been a favourite of Catherine of Aragon, who supposedly introduced lace making to the area, but when she fell out of favour with Henry VIII, he decreed to make Aylesbury the county town, a move designed to gain favour with its Lord of the Manor: Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne whom he married four years later following Catherine’s execution. It was the start of a rivalry between the two towns, which came to its height in the civil war with each taking opposing sides, Buckingham staying loyal to the crown and tradition, something which had served it well in the support of Catherine’s daughter Mary Tudor, who granted it Borough status in 1554 and again later with Charles II’s restoration to the throne, but the return of its title was never to happen, and both Aylesbury and nearby Wolverton’s expansion during the industrial revolution saw its influence decline with the town resolutely defending its rural status, not helped by the Earl of Buckingham making it all but impossible for the railway companies to run their lines through the town. The industrialist’s loss though has helped the area remain a pleasant, leafy town into the 21st century, popular for commuters to London and Milton Keynes. That though probably hasn’t helped its principal football club, Buckingham Town and with divides of their own and a lack of support on and off the field, their future has in recent years looked increasingly uncertain thanks to a proposed redevelopment and the club not owning the ground. With that, and the suggestion that the end may be nigh, then I decided to add it to the list of must-see grounds for this season, choosing to get it done early on with their fixture against Thrapston Town.

Thanks to the Earl, and in turn Dr Beeching, then the journey southwards meant going via Milton Keynes, with the town’s branch line having been closed down in 1966, however that gave me the opportunity to revisit Wolverton Park and see what it looked like following the controversial flats redevelopment which had taken place not long after my first visit. After that, then once back in Milton Keynes it was on to the bus for the trip down to Buckingham, which turned out to be a complete rip-off at £7 for the short 20 minute ride which doesn’t even take you into the centre of town.

Still, with the mornings downpour having turned into a nice sunny late summers day then my mood was holding, and at least the drop off point was the right side of town for the ground, meaning I could stop off and have a look around before carrying on into the centre.

Tucked away behind a set of garages with little signage to direct you unless you know where you're going, from the car park it doesn't exactly promise much, a wooden clubhouse that looks a little worn from the outside (although nice once in), however after going through the turnstiles then it's one you can't help but fall in love with. Surrounded on all sides by tall trees, with the town's church spire visible the other side of the river on the far side, then it's as picturesque as grounds come.

There are two stands, both centred on either side of the halfway line, and both showing their age a little. The Grandstand on the near side houses the dressing rooms beneath the seats (or benches to be technically correct), and is notable for separate home and away tunnels on either side of it. Opposite, is a more basic structure, dating back to the clubs Southern League successes of the mid-80s and provides further seating. Hard standing and neatly trimmed grass behind finishes off the ground with only a small tea hut adjacent to the Main Stand of further note.

Whilst walking around the ground you could easily be left with the impression of a healthy club, but a chat with the groundsman sadly suggested otherwise. At the time they hadn't won a league game since the previous November when most of the first team walked out, leaving the youth side to carry on instead with no budget to play with (it would show later on).

Having been founded in 1883, the club have always played at Ford Meadow, with the first recorded game on the pitch being against Banbury United. In the first half of the twentieth century, they played in local leagues with a fair amount of success, which led to them becoming founder members of the Hellenic League in 1953, before joining the South Midlands League four years later. A switch to the United Counties League in 1974 was the start of their greatest period, rising through the divisions before winning both the UCL Premier title and the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup in 1984. One season later they reached the first round of the FA Cup, losing 2-0 to Leyton Orient at home in front of a crowd of 2451, but seven years later they would win their greatest honour, the Southern League D1S title along with reaching the quarter finals of the FA Vase. Unbeknownst at the time though, this would be the peak of their achievements to date and since the turn of the millennium their fortunes have wavered, with relegation to the UCL Division One in 2007 leaving the club playing at their lowest level in over 30 years.

Still, despite having heard a gloomy tale of their prospects, I left and carried on into town with a positive impression and spent some time there, finding the gaol museum being worthy of 40 minutes and the £3 entrance fee, with the King's Head next to it serving a decent pint as well.

Back to the ground though and after the game got underway the prophecy from earlier seemed to be coming true. Both sides started well, with the hosts giving Thrapston a good go, but it was obvious they badly lacked experience, leadership, and that little bit of quality, so it was an achievement to last until the half hour mark before the visitors took the lead, Mike Houghton getting goalside of his marker to lash a cross in and score the only goal of the half.

After the restart, the visitors got their second in the 59th minute, Deven Ellwood being played into the box and poking it between the 'keepers legs for 2-0, and with 15 minutes left it was game over, thanks to sub Jamie Russell who crashed the ball in off the underside of the bar. Their heads down, the hosts conceded straight from the kick-off when Ellwood grabbed his second, getting on the end of a deep cross at the far post to poke home, before grabbing his hat-trick with four minutes left when the home 'keeper fumbled the ball and he bundled it home to make it 5-0, which would be the final score, and enough to send Thrapston top of the table.

It was harsh on the home side, and you couldn't help but feel for them, but despite their first half effort, ultimately they were well out of their depth and at the time of the game it wouldn't have been a surprise to see them go a full year without a win, an undesirable feat that thankfully they avoided with a 2-0 win over Wooton Blue Cross one month later.

Afterwards, and having made the bus journey back to MK, getting home was a bit of a pain. Whilst you can't knock London Midland for their prices, 574 stops after leaving Milton Keynes, what would be an hours journey to Wolverhampton on Virgin had taken two and a half including changing at Birmingham. Still, overall it hadn’t spoiled what had been a nice little trip to a beautiful part of the country.

At the time of writing, the club has won three games since I visited, and climbed off the bottom of the table, so perhaps their future isn’t as bleak as it was back then, however if over 125 years of footballing history at Ford Meadow is bought to an end then it will be a loss for all, with it easily being one of my favourite grounds visited, and one I’d recommend to anyone thinking of going.

Welcome to Ford Meadow

The Clubhouse

The Robins

The Near End and Far Side

The Far Side Stand

The Far End

The Far Side and Near End

The Near Side

Seats in the Grandstand

The players emerge from seperate tunnels

Ready for Kick Off

The Near Side and Grandstand

An English Summers Afternoon

Ford Meadow Panoramic 1

Ford Meadow Panoramic 2

Ford Meadow Panoramic 3



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