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28 October 2014

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Ground of the week

You are in: London > Radio > The Non League Football Show > Ground of the week > Ground of the week: Watling Street

Watling Street

Thanks to Mike Floate

Ground of the week: Watling Street

Not one but two great grounds for Dartford FC, this week Stuart Croll takes a look at the previous home of the Darts, Watling Street

By Stuart Croll (NonLeagueToday)

For all the praise Princes Park ­ Dartford's award-winning green stadium - has rightly received there remains many NonLeague fans who miss the Darts previous ground, Watling Street.

Watling Street was an old-fashioned football venue which generated an excellent atmosphere when busy and was their home from 1921.

Dartford FC bought five acres of land for £1,000 in Watling Street in 1921.
A large grandstand was built at a cost of £3,000 and opened on Saturday November 19th 1921. However the stand didn't last long. In February 1926 it was destroyed along with the dressing rooms, boardroom and offices by a fire. The club had not taken out any insurance so they had to start a fund to replace the destroyed facility.

In March 1927 the new steel constructed stand was officially opened and three years later a covered enclosure was built down the opposite side. There were no further changes during the 1930s and the ground didn¹t suffer at the hands of Luftwaffe during the second world war.

In 1946 the club laid terracing at the  Watling Street end of the ground and over the decades there were general improvements to all sides of the ground.

In October 1963 Dartford installed £6,000 floodlights

During the 1970s the Supporters Association was extremely active and made further improvements to the ground and its surroundings. Sadly the 1970s was Watling Street at its peak.

In the wake of the Hillsborough disaster and the Bradford fire Dartford like so many clubs had to upgrade their facilities. Large sums of money were spent on planning and design fees, which burdened a manageable financial deficit with crippling interest charges.

At the same time Maidstone United, who had sold their own ground, needed a suitable home to launch the ill-fated foray into the Football League and the Dartford board agreed to let Maidstone ground-share.

Watling Street

Thanks to Mike Floate

Within a few years Maidstone had gone into liquidation. Ground improvements, which Maidstone United has paid for, were sold to the Darts for around half a million pounds which pushed Dartford's debts beyond manageable proportions.

There was only one option.

Watling Street was sold to pay off creditors and Dartford withdrew from the Southern League four games into the 1992-93 season. The stadium was razed to the ground and housing was built on the land.

After 14 years in exile, ground sharing at various venues, Dartford moved into Princes Park on November 11th 2006. The new stadium is undoubtedly one of the best in NonLeague football but some older fans are still rueing the loss of Watling Street.

last updated: 03/07/2008 at 17:56
created: 03/07/2008

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