Oxford City’s White House Ground was a typical Isthmian style ground but with a few quirky attributes that today’s groundhoppers would have loved. City played their first match at the White House Ground in 1900 and stayed there until 1987 when, following a legal battle the ground was lost to the freeholders and the club made homeless.
The main entrance to the ground was from the Abingdon Road, to the east, behind one of the goals. On the left, as you entered, behind the same goal, was a small stand that only took up about 35% of the end. Along the touchline to the left was a long covered terrace and to the right a main stand, with an uncovered terrace to the side of it.
However, the finest and most memorable quirk was St Matthew’s Church, the grounds of which, abutted the football ground itself in the north west corner. In order to gain access to the west terrace from the main stand, one had to pass through a gate and then along the side of the church grounds so as to access another gate, allowing one to move behind the goal.
On 19th December 1953, the visitors to the White House ground were Clapton FC for an Isthmian league fixture with a 2.15pm kick off. Clapton were said to be having a better season in the league whereas the hosts were struggling and, in fact, finished bottom of the pile that season and had to apply for re-election.
But Christmas must have come early for the Oxfordshire men that afternoon as they ran out 4-1 winners thanks to a hattrick by home centre forward Tony Skull. The Clapton team featured goalkeeper Terry Dove, centre forward Peter Wylie and Mick Lyons (left).
The matchday programme, costing 3d, has some lovely advertisements including one from the Co-operative Sports Department who laid claim to providing ‘wing wizard’ Stan Matthews with boots of his own design. A bargain at just 45/6 a pair. (That’s £2.27p in today’s gelt) Others include the Simons brewery that were swallowed up by Courage in the 1960s and better known local brewer, Morrells who fragmented in the late 90s and are no more.
Following their eviction from the White House Ground, City endured a couple of seasons of inactivity on the pitch and then had to virtually start again. However, the club itself had remained intact and a gradual re-emergence took place. They came back through feeder leagues, were promoted to the back into the Isthmian league, enjoyed a Wembley appearance in an FA Vase final and then further promotion to the Conference South (National League).
Today Oxford City run numerous teams for men, women, girls and boys. They play in a stadium with a 3G pitch and are wholly immersed in their local community. They have shown that a club can come back from adversity without going to the wall and re-emerging as an ‘AFC’.
The last Isthmian League meeting between the clubs took place on 19th February 1994 when City ran out 5-0 winners in their first season at their Court Place Farm Ground. But for me, whilst the meeting at the White House Ground of the 19th December 1953 was most important, the real match of the day was taking place some 150 miles away in Heavitree, Exeter. My Mum and Dad were getting married. Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad.
See some fabulous photos of the White House Ground and previous City teams here