IN the first part of a two-part feature, Sir Bob Russell takes a look at Colchester's lost football pitches.

THE list of “Colchester’s lost football pitches” is long, and the one which I have compiled from personal memory may not be complete.

In my journey down football’s memory lane I have been assisted by Peter Constable, the founding secretary of the now long gone Parkside Rangers for whom he was Secretary for many years, and Trevor Hunnaball who established the family funeral company of that name who in his much younger days was a nippy winger for Coggeshall Town.

I decided to make a list following my casual observation that for the past few seasons football has not been played on The Recreation Ground, annoyingly often referred to as “Old Heath Rec” when it is not in the Parish of Old Heath.

It was laid out when the nearby streets in New Town were being built in the closing years of the 19th century as a “new town” as opposed to the “old town”.

The Rec, as it is affectionately called, was opened in 1885 and is older by seven years than Castle Park, the first part of which was opened in 1892.

Football had been played on The Rec over 120 years, by far the oldest-established location in Colchester which had hosted football matches. It is sad to see that it is no longer the case. Perhaps one day football will return.

For as long as I can remember there were always two football pitches, on the area facing Wimpole Road.

For several seasons I can remember there were three pitches, and Peter Constable can recall one season when there were four. These two were at the Port Lane end.

The decline of participation football is the cause for the demise of football pitches at The Recreation Ground, and elsewhere, but that is another story about which I will write another day.

This article is the first of two instalments about the pitches lost since the Second World War. The population of Colchester has doubled in that time.

The lost pitches include those on four separate locations in the north of the town which continues to undergo massive development.

Perhaps the finest and most picturesque sports ground I have ever seen was that at Severalls Hospital, a huge psychiatric institution with the entrance to a football pitch and cricket pitch from Mill Road. They were circled by beautiful landscaped grounds, equal to what we have in Castle Park, with a lovely pavilion with a verandah.

A new road linking Mill Road to the A12 now sweeps through what was once an oasis of peaceful tranquillity, where many times growing up in Mile End I would watch Severalls football and cricket teams, for whom with the latter (as a ten-year-old boy in 1956) I met black people for the first time. Amongst the young men newly recruited from the West Indies to train as nurses were several who were excellent cricketers.

Also lost in Mile End was the football pitch at Turner Village, the Royal Eastern Counties Hospital (RECH) for those who today we would describe as having learning difficulties but in those days described less charitably. That pitch is now part of the car park to Colchester Hospital.

The arrival of Royal London Mutual Insurance Society in the mid-1970s included providing for staff an impressive sports centre plus football pitches (not sure how many) next to the rugby club in Mill Road. After Royal London pulled out of Colchester, their sports centre was demolished and the whole area became a housing estate.

At the top end Braiswick, opposite Bakers Lane, the sports field of Woods of Colchester Limited, which had two pitches, was sold for housing.

In the grounds of Essex Hall (RECH), to the south of North Station, Peter Constable can recall there being a football pitch there.

Perhaps the most historic setting for a football pitch in the country, next to the Roman Wall, was the one at Lower Castle Park. Football was first played there in the final years of the 19th century and early in the 20th, again between the two World Wars, and then again in the 1950s to the 1970s.

Further to the east, served by Land Lane off East Hill, Paxmans had two football pitches which around 50 years ago made way for the Riverside housing estate. Peter Constable recalls that there was another football pitch (next to Everett’s brickworks) also reached from Land Lane, before you got to the Paxmans ground. This is now also part of the Riverside estate.

Does anyone have photographs of the “lost” pitches?