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FPM Facilities Services Ltd - 35-37 Hastings Street, Luton, LU1 5BE. Tel: 01582 484020

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Consilium Financial Planning - 18-19 Woodside House, Walsworth Rd, Hitchin SG4 9SP. Phone: 01462 421775

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Swinton Insurance - 16 Brand Street, Hitchin. Phone: 01462 436253

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A history of Top Field - Hitchin Town's home

 Look at an old map of Hitchin in the late Victorian age, and you will notice that Fishponds Road does not extend to the site of Hitchin Town's Football Ground. In fact, the road which is now the formal address of the club ended abruptly with a dirt track, some two hundred yards from the Top Field.

 In those days, Hitchin played football on a site in Payne's Park, just south of its existing home.

The origins of football in the area are somewhat ambiguous, but it is known that in the days when Football was almost a tribal war between rival villages and towns, Hitchin and Stevenage started off somewhere between Great and Little Wymondley, and kicked the Pig's bladder from “Dawn 'til Dusk”. Hitchin Football Club, which was formed in 1865 also played at the town’s cricket ground and Dog Kennel Farm in Charlton, as well as Butts Close.

Top Field was separated from Butts Close by a thin path, and was held as part of a trust known as the Cow Trust, which was run by the Cow Commoners. The site was installed as a place of recreation for the people of Hitchin, and as such, that was the prerequisite for any activity which took place there. If you were a Cow Commoner, you were entitled to run your sheep or cattle along Bedford Road (adjacent to Top Field) and across Butts Close once a year. 



The first Hitchin Club played at Top Field not long after its formation in 1865 - the exact date is uncertain, but what is certain is that one of the very first FA Cup ties was was played on that ground. On November 11,1871, Hitchin drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace in torrential rain at Top Field. That, in itself, marks Top Field as a place of sporting heritage.

 In the early days of Top Field, the players would change in the Public House opposite Butts Close, The Cricketers. In those days, The Cricketers was on the site that is now the Firs Hotel (some 200 yards from where it is presently).

The ground soon took shape, and a fine wooden grandstand, one which was higher than the existing structure, was the pride of the club.

 Hitchin FC turned professional in the early years of the 20th Century, but the move was to prove an expensive folly, and they struggled. The grandstand was destroyed by fire one terrible night, and as a result the club lost heart and folded in 1911.



Football in Hitchin continued, however, in the form of Hitchin Blue Cross, a club run by the local temperance movement. They played their games at the Grammar School in Fishponds Road. It was not until 1928 that Hitchin Town was reformed and shortly afterwards, it was agreed the club should move into the ground once more in time for the start of the Spartan League campagn.

At that time, the Imps, an athletic club, was using the ground.

 Top Field again became the home of senior football in the town, and in the early years of the reformed club the ground was built up once more. A grandstand of 450 seats, under cover, was installed in the latter weeks of 1928 and still stands today. In 1931-32, one of the other notable features of the ground - wooden terracing - was introduced for a big FA Amateur Cup tie, installed as a temporary measure. At one time the terracing used to extend around most of the ground, but the years have taken their toll and there has been some culling due to accident and inclement weather.



In 1955, the record crowd was set when 7,878 filled the ground as Wycombe Wanderers came to Hitchin for an FA Amateur Cup tie.

The biggest change to the ground since the original constructions of the laste 1920's was the installation of £5,000 worth of floodlighting. They were switched on by the late Billy Wright in 1962, when Arsenal came to the ground to commemorate the occasion.



In 1963 a new clubhouse was built, at that time it was considered one of the best in Amateur Football and another innovation, a sauna, was installed in the late 1960's. Healthy crowds flocked to Hitchin in the 1970's, witnessing epic cup battles against, most notably, Swindon Town and Cambridge United but few major improvements were made.

 Recent years have seen the construction of concrete terracing at the Ickleford Road end and following a bad storm in late October 2002 replacement covering on the popular side.

In 2012, Top Field, which was registered as common land, was deregistered. In June 2012, the club's landlords announced a ground development proposal in Stevenage Road. Amid fears that the Top Field was to be sold to a major supermarket, a "Save Top Field" campaign was launched by local residents.

The ground, which is still a monument to 1920s football architecture, remains a welcoming if somewhat archaic place to watch the game.

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