Walthamstow Avenue FC (the original)

Sandy Lane

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I am trying to find information about the original WA club, and their disappearance as a separate entity in the late 80s, and subsequent role (if they had one) within the club now known as Dagenham & Redbridge FC.

As I understand it, Leytonstone/Ilford FC played at Granleigh Road until 1986 when the local council sold it for redevelopment. Having initially moved in with Walthamstow Avenue at Green Pond Road for a ground sharing arrangement, WA were 'incorporated' into L/I in the summer of '88, with the club remaining at Green Pond Road.

Having won the Isthmian Premier in 1989, L/I were denied elevation to the Conference as Green Pond Road was set to disappear and a new ground wasn't found in time, resulting in Farnborough Town gaining the Conference place as runners-up. Leytonstone/Ilford re-named themselves Redbridge Forest FC and moved in with Dagenham FC at their Victoria Road ground. These clubs then merged in 1992 to form the D&R club as we know it today (if I've understood this rather convoluted story correctly).

My questions are : why did Walthamstow Avenue disappear ('incorporated into' Leytonstone/Ilford rather than merged). Presumably this had something to do with debts incurred by WA, but how did 'incorporation' solve these?

Did L/I know in summer '88 that Green Pond Road had such a limited shelf life, and that they would not be able to go up if they won the Isthmian Premier?

Why were they unable to secure alternative accomodation that would have enabled them to enjoy promotion to the Conference in time? Was this just spectacularly bad planning on their part?

And any further info pertaining to any of the clubs involved in this story around that time (photos/Video footage would be a bonus!)

Many thanks.
 

Manchester Warrior

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Certainly the final days of Walthamstow Avenue FC do seem to be somewhat glossed over in most readily accessible online resources.

Does seem that the old club was in something of a terminal decline having been relegated the season before.

Presumably its main asset would have been the past-its-best Green Pond Lane stadium. (Which was deemed substandard by the Football Conference in 1989 after Leytonstone Ilford (with which Avenue had merged) had won the Isthmian League in 1988/89).

But did the Walthamstow Avenue club actually own the ground in 1988? Presumably yes as there would have been little benefit in Leytonstone Ilford merging with Avenue unless there was some asset worth acquiring, noting that they had been tenants at Green Pond Lane since selling Granleigh Road two years previously, and were looking for a venue).

Might need to refer to contemporary local newspapers / final season home match programmes for added context on what actually happened. Ascertaining who actually owned the Green Pond Lane stadium at the time may help shed some light on the matter and a key question would seem to be who ultimately benefitted from its demolition and conversion into houses fairly soon after Leytonstone Ilford were denied promotion in 1989.
 

Manchester Warrior

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Some vintage Walthamstow Avenue footage from c. 1953 here...


As per my previous post, seems that by 1987/88 Walthamstow Avenue were in terminal decline and had accumulated quite a bit of debt, Leytonstone Ilford had some money following the sale of their previous Granleigh Road ground in 1986 but were in need of a new ground, and so the 1988 "merger" of the two clubs was thus a marriage of convenience.

What I'm not sure about is when Leytonstone Ilford FC were subsequently denied promotion in 1989, is whether Green Pond Road had by then already been pre-sold to developers and if so, who by, and where did the money go?
 

Bigaitch

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I am trying to find information about the original WA club, and their disappearance as a separate entity in the late 80s, and subsequent role (if they had one) within the club now known as Dagenham & Redbridge FC.

As I understand it, Leytonstone/Ilford FC played at Granleigh Road until 1986 when the local council sold it for redevelopment. Having initially moved in with Walthamstow Avenue at Green Pond Road for a ground sharing arrangement, WA were 'incorporated' into L/I in the summer of '88, with the club remaining at Green Pond Road.

Having won the Isthmian Premier in 1989, L/I were denied elevation to the Conference as Green Pond Road was set to disappear and a new ground wasn't found in time, resulting in Farnborough Town gaining the Conference place as runners-up. Leytonstone/Ilford re-named themselves Redbridge Forest FC and moved in with Dagenham FC at their Victoria Road ground. These clubs then merged in 1992 to form the D&R club as we know it today (if I've understood this rather convoluted story correctly).

My questions are : why did Walthamstow Avenue disappear ('incorporated into' Leytonstone/Ilford rather than merged). Presumably this had something to do with debts incurred by WA, but how did 'incorporation' solve these?

Did L/I know in summer '88 that Green Pond Road had such a limited shelf life, and that they would not be able to go up if they won the Isthmian Premier?

Why were they unable to secure alternative accomodation that would have enabled them to enjoy promotion to the Conference in time? Was this just spectacularly bad planning on their part?

And any further info pertaining to any of the clubs involved in this story around that time (photos/Video footage would be a bonus!)

Many thanks.

I think Manchester Warrior has summed things up really well.

I can add a few bits of meat to the bones, however this information has come from various unofficial sources, as well as my memory but they all seem to paint a very similar picture.

Leytonstone / Ilford were in financial trouble and sold the Granleigh Road ground for development having moved in with Avenue, whom, I am advised owned Green Pond Road. However, Avenue were in financial turmoil and L/I then won the Isthmian League having spent a few Bob on the team but the ground failed the Conference Ground grading. L/I then absorbed W/A and continued playing at Green Pond Road. Their programme covers were headed ‘Leytonstone/Ilford FC’ with the words ‘Incorporating Walthamstow Avenue FC‘ underneath in smaller print. There was more or less no other mention of Avenue otherwise in the programme, and were referred to by the league and other clubs as Leytonstone/Ilford. They remained playing in the Red and Blue strip of L/I with their badge too.
It then got to the point where the money from the sale of Granleigh Road was running out / gone and they merged, I think playing one season at GPR as Redbridge Forest before, surprise, surprise selling the site for development (I believe to the same builders) and entering into a ground share with Dagenham FC at Victoria Road, before then merging a few years later after DFC had a few financial issues too.
I am told that some of the money from the sale of the grounds was trousered by committee members which led to a nasty taste in the mouth from a lot of people.
In answer to one of the questions posed re did they know the ground was not up to standard, I cannot answer. However, from a personal point of view, Green Pond Road was an excellent ground, and there are others before and since that have graced the conference which were worse, albeit I have not seen certain areas such as changing rooms or board room, which do form part of the graders visit. The ground was a little tired but it wreaked of character and had decent capacity, seating and cover. I was advised however that RF spent big on players but did not draw the crowds to support them and that income from the excellent clubhouse took a dip when the ‘Avenue’ name was not being used, as many thought the club was really finished. (Which in reality it was).
As stated, my post, which does waffle a bit I know is made up of things told me by many folk who were in the know, and whom are quite bitter still at what happened. I have no reason to disbelieve any of them although my memory could be playing tricks with me. As an aside I am aware of a fair number of Dagenham fans who refused to watch the merged team (D&R) and took to following other local non league sides.
 

Manchester Warrior

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Good sleuthing by @Bigaitch , although as best I can determine, the ground grading problem at Green Pond Road only came to light in 1989, a full year after Avenue had played their last game in 1988.

Certainly, if the old place was demolished in 1989, then someone must have quickly determined that it wasn't economic / cost effective to make any necessary improvements or alternatively, the ground had already been pre-sold to the developers and Leytonstone Ilford weren't able to provide proof of ownership or tenure to satisfy the Football Conference. (A short term lease probably wouldn't cut it).
 

SuperKev!

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Six months ago I could have pointed you in the direction of two gentlemen who could have given you chapter and verse on this subject. Len Llewellyn was on the committee of Leytonstone Ilford FC (not Leytonstone/Ilford or Leytonstone & Ilford as they are often incorrectly called - Len was a stickler for that), as well as the committees of both the original and current Ilford FCs. Dave Simpson was part of the committee / supporters club at Walthamstow Avenue FC and a one time Director of Dagenham & Redbridge FC. Sadly, both have recently passed away.

To touch on one of the points raised in an earlier post, Len once told me that the Club Treasurer did a runner with most (all?) of the money from the sale of Green Pond Road. Not 100% sure if he was the treasurer of Walthamstow Avenue FC or Redbridge Forest FC at the time.
 

Bigaitch

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Six months ago I could have pointed you in the direction of two gentlemen who could have given you chapter and verse on this subject. Len Llewellyn was on the committee of Leytonstone Ilford FC (not Leytonstone/Ilford or Leytonstone & Ilford as they are often incorrectly called - Len was a stickler for that), as well as the committees of both the original and current Ilford FCs. Dave Simpson was part of the committee / supporters club at Walthamstow Avenue FC and a one time Director of Dagenham & Redbridge FC. Sadly, both have recently passed away.

To touch on one of the points raised in an earlier post, Len once told me that the Club Treasurer did a runner with most (all?) of the money from the sale of Green Pond Road. Not 100% sure if he was the treasurer of Walthamstow Avenue FC or Redbridge Forest FC at the time.

That is interesting regarding the correct name of Leytonstone Ilford. The reason I say that is that I am certain their match programme always had them shown as Leytonstone /Ilford, and of course Len Llewellyn was the editor. However, cardinal sin, I no longer have the said programmes. I also bought, and still have an enamel badge which shows them as Leytonstone & Ilford....

UPDATE; Following posting the above, I researched eBay which showed home programmes without any punctuation between Leytonstone and Ilford. I stand corrected.
 

Manchester Warrior

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This programme cover is from season 1988-89 (the last at Green Pond Road)...

leytonstone-ilford-v-slough-town-88-89-programme.jpg
 

Manchester Warrior

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Some more vintage Walthamstow Avenue action, this time from a 1948 cup tie vs Oldham Athletic.

 

Manchester Warrior

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Interesting weblog from a Leytonstone Ilford supporter.


This suggests that Leytonstone Ilford FC's move into Green Pond Road (initially as a ground share but then enabled by the merger with Walthamstow Avenue) was always likely to be temporary as the ground was already ear-marked for redevelopment.
 

paulh66

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Did L/I know in summer '88 that Green Pond Road had such a limited shelf life, and that they would not be able to go up if they won the Isthmian Premier?

Why were they unable to secure alternative accomodation that would have enabled them to enjoy promotion to the Conference in time? Was this just spectacularly bad planning on their part?
Others have filled in some of these gaps now, and that blog from the raffle ticket seller (#11) adds to the story too. But I'd just add that the processes in place for promotion to the Conference in those days were not as well-defined as they are today. A glance in the Non League Directories from that time reinforces this point, with references to the Conference working to address "misunderstandings" about promotion into it, and the Conference reviewing its processes for dealing with (amongst other things) groundshares, which might possibly be relevant to the LI situation given that their move to Dagenham seemed to happen very quickly, presumably as a result of the proposed new ground either looking doubtful or having just fallen through by the summer of '89.

And any further info pertaining to any of the clubs involved in this story around that time (photos/Video footage would be a bonus!)
If you haven't done so already you'll probably find some photos and bits of info on the old forum. Using the search function with, say, the names of the clubs and the grounds will pull up a few different discussion threads that might be of interest: https://www.nonleaguematters.co.uk/forum/gforum.cgi?do=search;search_forum=forum
 

essexian

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As an Avenue fan from 1968 to the very last match they played in May 1988, I can only outline what I saw during the build up to the end days. THESE ARE PERSONAL OPINIONS ONLY. I was part of the ABC in a small way: not that we did much IMHO, but that is where my links with the club ended....apart from missing no more than around 5 matches in total between 1975 and 1988 including the way FA Trophy reply at Scarborough...still upset 45 years later that I couldn't go that one as it was a school night!

Anyway, the problem with the Avenue was a simple on....age. Most of the committee men (as it was typically men) were seniors or certainly getting there. Most of the supporters were likewise getting on a bit, remembering back to glory days of the 1950/60 with the likes of Jim Lewis etc. There were very few people watching who were teenagers, fewer still who were in there 20's and just about no one in their 30's. We were an old club, with old people in charge/watching.

And as happens with old people, they tend to die off leaving no one to replace them. Well we did try and for a couple of seasons we did have a small group of teens/twenties watching (1978 to around 1982) but again, people of that age go and do "normal" things such as get jobs/get married/get mortgages etc and drift away from the club, returning only now and again when "the wife let me."

Attendances at the club were never great: perhaps 250 a match during the 70's. The question must have been: "Why go the Avenue when I can walk up to Spurs for 50p, or Orient for less." Indeed, I remember walking up and getting in to all the league clubs in North and East London in the 1970/80's without being bankrupted or having to buy a ticket in advance. Crowds slowly dropped and by the mid 80's we were lucky if we got 150 and after going down a division, 100 was more likely. That's not sufficient to pay for a club in London let alone one with such a large group to up keep.

There were other issues too.... the lack of leadership. As I said above, most of the committee was old and finding younger people, especially younger people with money to replace them provided impossible. I may be wrong in this but I believe the Chairmans role was vacant for some time, while the club President wasn't seen for years on end. With regards to the job of Chairman, I heard a rumour once that a new one had been lined up: the landlord of the pub across the road from the Lighthouse on Markhouse Road...you know the one, yes, the one with strippers on a Sunday.... but it turned out he only wanted the club for the social club and intended to sell off the ground/close the football side. Strangely when asked for money, he did a runner.

I have no actual knowledge of the merger as I was not engaged in that but it was clear that it was a take over and that "they" were simply after the ground, which proved to be true (this is a personal opinion). A lot of the older supporters said that they would not be supporting the new club (I moved 140 miles away in the summer of 1988 so there was no way I was going to make a trip to see Leytonstone play). This was reflected in the poor attendances they had during their seasons at the Pond (and no one called it the "Ditch" ever... no idea where that came from. Yes, the pitch was terrible but not a great deal worse than many pitches at the time). This is in part down to the distance between the two grounds (although its not like there isn't public transport links) but in part to the fact that Leytonstone were as poorly attended as the Avenue were before the take over: indeed,I would suggest more so.

As noted above, many of the supporters were against the take over and indeed, one bloke call George suggested starting a new club using the name (or something close to it) to play Sunday league football and that way build the club back up from the bottom. At the time I thought that was a silly idea: "we are The Avenue, we won the cup twice and scared the doings out of Man U....". God I was stupid at the time as that would have been the way forward....although I think a lower league Saturday side would have been a better idea. Frankly, thinking back 33 years, I can't remember the name of the lowest league but one line the current Middlesex would have been prefect.

As to the replacement club finding a new ground, there was some talk about Wadham Lodge but that at the time was just basically a sports ground and not much more, while the "new" running track by the swimming pool was mentioned but that wouldn't even have been up to the standard needed level they were at. To be honest, with some TLC, the Pond could have been brought up to standard....it would mean spending money which I don't think Leytonstone wanted to do.

As you may be able to tell, I was not one for going forward with the take over but as noted above, I was too stupid (and poor) to do anything about it. I was pleased when a new club was formed in 2000 as this was done by a former player. It was sad that it never too off: I suppose waiting 12 years and then playing many home matches out of borough would do that. It would have been better to have set up the new club straight away as George had suggested. I saw the new club play three times.... they lost 1-4, 1-3 and 1-4!

These are personal and I will admit rather coloured views of the take over. I did see the new Dagenham/Redbridge club play in an away FA Cup match in around 1995 and knew one of the travelling supporters from his time at the Avenue, so at least one supporter moved to the new club, new club. I doubt many more did.

I believe earlier someone asked about the internals of the club house. I can bore you with these if you wish but in a later post.

And again please note these are my personal thoughts. They may be wrong, they may be not as you saw it etc etc etc. I can only report what I saw/heard at the time, across the fog of time.
 

ComradeBT

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A fabulous account that really does play relevance to the period because it reflects the sentiment of a true supporter. I'm sure your opinions are true of many an Avenue supporter from the time too.

A question that I would like to ask about both clubs. Considering the stands and terracing at both Green Pond Road and Granleigh Road were fairly substantial, did both clubs average high crowds prior to the 1970's? Such large main stands with paddocks beneath (I love that classic combo, btw) would intimate crowds of 4-figures must have been common place?
 

essexian

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I can't give a direct answer to your question as I wasn't born until 1961 so was seven when I went to my first match: an FA Cup game, but from speaking to "old timers" line "Len" and "Norman" I would say four figure attendances were quite normal.

As you say, the ground was large with a main stand which could hold (at the time: I bet it would be rated several hundred lower now days if it was still around) of 940 to 980 people. There were also four "normal" set of turnstiles to get into the ground with (if I remember correctly), six, four, four and one turnstile making a total of 15..... thinking about it, I think there was a turnstile to the left of the stand as you look at it from the outside, although I never saw this in use..... I doubt they would have built so many unless big crowds were expected, although I never saw more than four turnstiles open for any league match.

IMHO, large crowds in non league football were quite common in the 1950/60, dying off towards the end of that time scale. Perhaps supporters of clubs like Dulwich and Tooting who both had large stadiums at the time could confirm this?
 

Lionarm

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Here's my contribution. It doesn't add anything to the story but I saw them 2/2/1981 at Bedford Town's Eyrie (we had no idea that the ground would be shortly lost). They lost 1-0 in the F.A. Challenge Trophy and the attendance, thought to be rather good at the time, was 1340 making for what I still recall was a good match played in a great atmosphere.
 

Cleeve

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Here's my contribution. It doesn't add anything to the story but I saw them 2/2/1981 at Bedford Town's Eyrie (we had no idea that the ground would be shortly lost). They lost 1-0 in the F.A. Challenge Trophy and the attendance, thought to be rather good at the time, was 1340 making for what I still recall was a good match played in a great atmosphere.
I also remember that game and was equally impressed by the ground and crowd (thank you for the official attendance).
My one visit to Green Pond Road was a year later, against Wycombe Wanderers also in the Trophy, and I was equally impressed with that ground. My estimate of the crowd that evening was about 150.
 

MiddxSaint

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Following the merger of Ilford & Leytonstone, the club were to be named Ilford & Leytonstone but the FA objected due to the club playing at Leytonstone. Ilford were to get a new ground at Fairlop (the Berger Isthmian News had a photo of the first turf being cut at the new ground).
 

town ender

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From distant recollection the merged club was initially Ilford and Leytonstone and the FA objected due to Leytonstone being in some way perceived to be the more Senior of the two clubs - it may have been the use of their ground but I think there was something more to it.
The first few programmes of 1979/1980 are Ilford & Leytonstone ones, the cover design subsequently changed so you couldn’t tell which name came first.
 

Manchester Warrior

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Seem to be some common themes here...

Long established clubs down on their luck, recent relegation(s), dwindling support, accumulating losses, ineffective elderly club board possibly not wishing to continue trading whilst insolvent, grandiose plans of moving to a new built ground and selling the old ground to clear historic debts, speculative developers eyeing a prime piece of development land.

Have I missed anything? 🤔
 
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