Club is proud to keep its heritage

I write in response to J. Jennings’ letter (Times, August 1).

The Braintree Town FC ground has always been known as Cressing Road, apart from a few recent years where we have been fortunate to have had stadium sponsorship from Avanti, Miles Smith and IronmongeryDirect.

It has never been known as the Clockhouse Way Stadium, although for many years that has been the only way to access it.

The land was bought by Francis Henry Crittall and bestowed to the Crittall Sports Club in 1923, with 6,000 attending the grand opening event - the Fourth Annual Crittall Sports and Show - on August 25.

At the time the only access to the ground was from Cressing Road, where no. 198 stands today.

A tall and distinctive pair of wooden gates had been erected in the Dutch fashion, with ribbons draped across them.

Shortly before the official opening time of 2pm a car pulled up containing Mr & Mrs F H Crittall.

They were welcomed by Mr W C C Bywater, the chairman of the Crittall Sports Club, who announced to the crowd that they had hurried back from China to ensure that they could take part in the historic event.

Mr Bywater handed Mrs. Crittall a pair of scissors in a case, which she used to cut the ribbons.

The gates were parted and the ground declared open. As the first of the 6,000-strong crowd followed the invited guests through the gate, the Cambridge Railway Silver Prize Band played the national anthem.

A thoroughfare led from the road, past the small pay hut, into the arena.

There was a cinder track at the ground but the wooden grandstand was not built until the following year and the pavilion arrived in 1926. After the grand opening, the football pitch was marked out for the first time and the first game took place on September 15, 1923, when Crittall Athletic Reserves beat Great Leighs 4-0.

Within a few years the small Cressing Road entrance was closed and a block of wooden payhuts straddled a new entrance in Clockhouse Way. Despite the change in entrance location over the years the club has allowed tradition to continue and never sought to change its official address.

In recent years we have welcomed clubs from the length and breadth of England, the majority of whom would have appreciated the simplicity of finding Cresing Road at the end of their long journeys. It is, after all, the first left turn at the first roundabout on the A120 after leaving the M11.

We do take our heritage and tradition very seriously at Braintree Town. At the inaugural event a flag was flown in cobalt blue and orange, the Crittall colours, and the football team adopted these in 1925.

In 2010 the football club returned to their historic orange and blue strip. When the Crittall factory closed down we ensured that the main gates were saved and rehoused at the entrance to our stadium.

A short walk from those gates we have an ancient turnstile on display. It has seen active service at our ground but much further back it had a life at Ipswich Town’s Portman Road ground back in the 1930’s. That was an era when Braintree’s footballers went to Ipswich in the FA Cup and won!

We also look after one of the original concrete posts in the director’s car park. It is now 96 years old and in its third location, preventing cars from reversing into a telegraph pole.

If we are successful in relocating to a new home in the coming years we will ensure that much of the current stadium comes with us, including those Crittall main gates, and that our heritage is safeguarded.

Over many years I have collected memorabilia from our past and hope to be able to house this in a club museum in the future.

I have also been working for a number of years on a two-volume history of the football club, possibly stretching to 1,000 pages, and leaving no stone unturned.

I hope that Mr Jennings can find comfort in that, far from ridding ourselves of the past, we embrace it.

Jon Weaver

Braintree Town FC historian