Hoddesdon Town FC was founded in 1879 and is the third oldest club in Hertfordshire, beaten in age only by Bishop's Stortford, founded in 1874; and Royston Town FC, in 1875. The club started life simply as Hoddesdon FC and were co-founders of the County FA in 1885. In those early days played on a pitch on Mancers Field but in 1899 moved to the present ground at Lowfield where they have remained ever since except for two seasons, 1953-55, spent playing on the Essex Road Arena. In 1919, immediately after the First World War, the ‘Town’ suffix was added to the Club's name.
The co-habitation of the land at Lowfield with the local cricket club has provided the club with a number of challenges over the years. In 1924 the deeds of the land, previously owned by the Barclay Family, were transferred to the local council who were empowered to let any part of it to the two clubs, although one stipulation was that it had to be made available to the people of the town for an annual fair. In 1982 both clubs signed a 50 year lease, allowing Hoddesdon Town to sole use of Lowfield for 32 weeks of the year. However, this prevented the club from entering the Isthmian League two years later.
Earlier, in the mid-1950s the pitch, which originally covered a large proportion of the cricket area, was moved 40 yards south. Even this was not really satisfactory, so the pitch was eventually moved for a second time, a further 30 yards, taking advantage of scrubland behind the goal. As a consequence, the floodlights were now out of line, and two pylons had to be moved from end to the other.
A further complication of the pitch movement was that the stand, which had previously stood on the half-way line, was now at one end of the playing area. This was finally remedied, when it was condemned in 1996 due to asbestos and replaced with a newer structure. This is constructed from brick and metal cladding, with quite a large roof under which hangs the name plate salvaged from its predecessor. There are 100 seats, with a section reserved for club officials on the right hand side. Opposite are two matching brick dugouts, the originals having stood at either end of the old stand. To the left of the stand is the clubhouse, roughly where the old stand was previously.
The appointment of Elmer Elliott, as Chairman in 1963, saw him preside over many of Hoddesdon’s successes on the pitch during a thirty year stewardship, including in May 1975 when Epsom & Ewell were beaten 2-1 at Wembley, in front of nearly 10,000 spectators, to make Hoddesdon Town the first ever winners of the FA Challenge Vase. In recognition of his devotion to the Club, the new stand was named in his honour.
After a protracted battle with the council, the Club had installed floodlights two years earlier, and these were officially opened on 7 March 1973 when West Ham United's visit to Lowfield was watched by an all-time record crowd of 3,500. At around the same time, a pay box was erected at the main entrance to the ground and 18 months later, a solid timber rail replaced the rope that until then had served as a barrier around the pitch. Twenty years later a metal perimeter fence was installed.
At the time of my visit work was underway on a £40,000 project to install a drainage system, which is now complete. With a generous grant from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, an equally generous donation, and a dip into its own funds, the Club has been able at last to carry out the much needed improvement work over the whole of the playing area. Previous drainage work carried out was confined only to a 30 yard length at the Southern end following the pitch move in the early 1980s. Because of a lack of maintenance stretching over many years, the over-worked ground had become compacted and needed some serious renovation although remarkably, despite all the pitch moves that have been carried out over the past 50 years, Lowfield had a reputation for being playable when other local pitches were unfit.
Off the pitch, the club has, over the last decade become best known for its matchday programme which runs to over 100 pages, and has picked up several hatfuls of awards over the years, and has dominated the prestigeous Wirral awards along with other equally noteworthy publications produced by Northwood and Langney Sports (now Eastbourne Borough) Football Clubs ... not to mention two equally massive efforts from Newton Abbot Spurs and Redhill - just another of the joys of Non League football.
From the A40 take the A1170 into Hoddesdon. Carry on over the 1st roundabout, and turn right at the next roundabout. Follow signs to Broxbourne, keeping to the left. Turn right at the 1st mini-roundabout into Cock Lane and the next turning on the right is Park View.