Chippenham Town FC was established in 1873. The club joined the new Wiltshire League in 1901, and finished joint top of the table with Warminster Town, but lost the championship play-off replay 1–0, following a 1–1 draw in the first match. They joined Division Two of the Western League in 1904, but also continued to play in the Wiltshire League. The 1904–05 season saw them finish bottom of the Western League and second in the Wiltshire League. At the end of the 1905–06 season the club withdrew from the Western League, and went on to win the Wiltshire League in 1907–08 and 1908–09, before finishing as runners-up in 1909–10. They were runners-up again in 1912–13, 1921–22 and 1922–23, before winning the league in 1928–29. The 1951–52 season saw the club win the Western League for the first time, and they also reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time, losing 3–0 at Leyton. In 1968 the club joined the Premier Division of the Hellenic League, where they played until re-joining the Western League in 1973. When the league gained a second division in 1976, the club was relegated to the new Division One. They were Division One champions in 1980–81, earning promotion to the Premier Division. In 1999–2000 the club reached the final of the FA Vase, eventually losing 1–0 to Deal Town at Wembley Stadium. In 2009–10 the club finished third in the Southern League, Premier Division and after beating Hednesford Town 2–0 in the play-off semi-finals, lost the final 2–1 to Nuneaton Town. In 2016–17 they won the Premier Division with a league record 103 points, earning promotion to the National League South.
The journey to Chippenham was made by catching the 11:30 train from London Paddington. On arrival, this Pieman was delighted to find, within a short walk from the station, the Prince of Wales micropub. This small, but very welcoming establishment, had only opened a few weeks earlier. My visit was therefore timed to perfection. There was a good choice from the four hand pumps and my pre-match pint was Elmers (3.8%), an English Ale from the Flying Monk brewery, based nearby at Hullavington near Malmesbury. A lovely ale brewed with Maris Otter malt, hopped with East Kent Goldings and Nelson Sauvignon.
It takes less than ten minutes to walk to Hardenhuish Park from the station. On arrival the first part of the ground I saw was the back of the main stand. Immediately I could see that this structure is steeped in history. The club will soon celebrate 100 years of playing at this venue. Clearly the main stand has been added to over the years with additional seating added to either side. At the rear of the stand is the clubhouse with licensed bar. It is worth popping in here to view the extensive display of memorabilia that details the history of the club.
Both ends of the ground are terraced, with one end being covered. The side of the ground behind the dugouts is also covered and although flat hardstanding, affords a good view of proceedings. This was the area from which I watched the match. On a bitterly cold windy afternoon, this was a strategic decision. Steak & Ale Pie with Chips and a large cup of tea also assisted in thwarting the chill.
This match saw a mid-table home side host struggling East Thurrock United. From the opening exchanges it looked that Chippenham Town would have little difficulty beating their Essex visitors. However, despite plenty of pressure the scores were level at the break. Playing down the slope in the second period, this was to change as two well-taken goals by Nick McCootie enabled Chippenham to establish a lead. A missed penalty for the home side meant they were unable to add to their tally, but the points were already secured in this one-sided match.
With over an hour after the match before the return train to London Paddington, I felt obliged to visit the Prince of Wales micropub again (we should support local businesses). On this occasion my choice was Junctus (4.5%), a pale ale from the Vibrant Forest brewery at Lymington. Again, I was delighted with the quality of my choice – the end to a fine afternoon in Wiltshire.
Tea: £1:00 (small) £1:50 (large)
Steak & Ale Pie and Chips: £3:50
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