Dorking FC has a long history dating back to 1880, and the club was a founder member of the Surrey Senior League in 1922.
In 1956 Dorking moved to its current ground at Meadowbank, having previously played at a ground in Pixham Lane. The move coincided with the club joining the Corinthian League, and when that League disbanded in 1963/64 Dorking joined an enlarged Athenian League, competing in Division One for ten seasons before relegation in 1972/73. In 1974 Dorking merged with the homeless Guildford City, as Dorking & Guildford United FC. The new club finished bottom of the Southern League Premier Division in 1974/75 and was relegated to Division One (South), before folding in December 1976.
Dorking Town FC emerged from the ashes in 1977 but was denied senior status, and instead re-joined the Athenian League. The club entered the new Isthmian League Division Two at the beginning of the 1980/81 season, and finally dropped the ‘Town’ suffix in 1983.
In 1987/88 only goal difference denied Dorking promotion. However, they made no mistake the following season, finishing as Champions of Division Two (South). After four seasons in Division One, the Chicks were once again promoted, this time to the Premier Division of the Isthmian League after finishing third behind champions Hitchin Town, and runners-up Molesey. 1992/93 also saw the Club’s best ever run in the FA Cup, when they lost by the odd goal in five to the Peter Shilton-managed Plymouth Argyle in the 1st Round proper at Meadowbank, in front of the BBC Match of the Day cameras.
Unfortunately, Dorking’s spell in the top flight lasted only one year before they were relegated back to Division One at the end of the 1993/94 season. The Club was relegated once again the following season, and then again back to Division Three in 1996/97. Dorking remained in Division Three of the Isthmian League before being ‘restructured’ into the new Division Two upon re-organisation of the League at the end of the 2001/02 season. In 2003/04 the club finished runners-up and were promoted to Division One of the new-look Isthmian League.
Now approaching fifty years old, Meadowbank doesn’t appear to have changed very much in the intervening years and although there have obviously been developments, the ground still gives the impression of being almost a museum piece. Certainly, it has a definite ‘lived-in’ feel to it and it is easy to imagine what it must have been like to watch football there when it was relatively new. Although situated in the town, Meadowbank maintains a rural atmosphere, occasionally punctuated by the bells from the church behind, and certainly enhanced by the liberal use of green paint throughout - the club colours.
Seated accommodation for 200 is provided by the traditional pitched roof stand on the near touchline, with modern saddle-type seats bolted on to the simple wooden benches that would have previously sufficed. Officials get proper seats at one end, although the view of the far goal from these is obscured by the side of the stand. Look out for some enoormous PA speakers.
To one side of the stand, towards the far goal are the changing rooms, housed in a rather ancient building, whilst beyond this is a small area of covered hard standing. To the other side of the stand, is the clubhouse and tea bar, and also a green painted portakabin which serves as an office.
Cover and hard standing is provided at the far end of the ground by a long wooden shelter, set slightly back from the perimeter rail and raised up on a shallow bank, thereby giving a good view. There is further hard standing and a bank at the near end of the ground, but this is not covered.
The dugouts are on the far touchline, opposite the stand. Immediately behind is more covered hard standing. Again this is raised courtesy of banking, and provides a good view of the action. When I visited however, the cover was looking a little the worse for wear with part of the roof missing, and was in need of some attention. Visitors should look out for a rather nice painted chick on the wall behind the dugouts. The club gets its unusual nickname after a five-toed breed of chicken which also bears the town’s name.
Meadowbank makes no pretence at being a modern ground, and is in many ways one for the enthusiast. It may be somewhat rough around the edges and showing its age, but it is a homely venue for all that, and a reflection of what watching football at this level is all about. No doubt it will one day fall prey to the housing developers and Dorking will move to a bland purpose built ground on an industrial estate. Until then however, we should cherish grounds such as this that are, after all, part of our football heritage.
Mill Lane is off Dorking High Street, next to Woolworths and M&S ... and opposite the White Horse PH. As you approach the ground along Mill Lane you are advised to fork left and park in the multi-storey car park; parking in the ground (fork right past the Malthouse PH) is for players and officials only.
Dorking (BR) and Deepdene (BR): half a mile.