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Going back to where we belong at Plough Lane

How volunteers helped to build our old ground in Merton

3 August 2020

As the club prepares to return to its spiritual home, Stephen Crabtree, the editor of The Historical Don, begins a series celebrating the original Plough Lane.

In part one he recalls how a group of Wimbledon fans created a stadium from a patch of marshland.

The picture above (taken in August 1931) shows the president of the FA, Sir Fredrick Wall, visiting Plough Lane to open the newly refurbished facilities for the opening match of the 1931-32 season. Club captain Bobby Goodchild is holding the ball as players from Wimbledon and Ilford pose together before kick-off.

It was all about volunteers. In an echo of today, a determined group of Wimbledon people set out to bring high class football to the local area more than a century ago. The earliest team played on the Common in 1889 and for the next two decades a variety of home pitches were used, including briefly the site of the new Plough Lane, until, with local authority backing, the club moved to a piece of reclaimed swampland by the Wandle river, near the junction of Plough Lane and Durnsford Road.

Development of the site only really began in 1919, after the Great War had ended, when a small all-wooden main stand with separate dressing rooms was constructed. In 1923 the committee that ran the club purchased what became the south stand from Clapton Orient and groups of fans built earth banking at the west and east ends of the ground. A corrugated iron fence separated the players from spectators as the Dons moved from the Athenian into the more prestigious Isthmian League.

By the 1930s, the main stand had been rebuilt and the stadium had a look that would have been familiar to those who visited the stadium in later years. The committee had recruited the first great Wimbledon side and throughout the 1930s the Dons were leading lights in the amateur game. Isthmian League champions four times during that decade, the Dons also reached the final of the prestigious Amateur Cup.

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