The Avenue Stadium
Home of the Magpies since 1990
The main entrance
The main entrance

The Avenue Stadium is situated on the southern outskirts of Dorchester, overlooking the junction of the Dorchester By-pass (the A35) and Monkton Hill (the A354).

It was opened in August 1990 and stands on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. The stadium was designed by the Duchy’s architects, with the Duke of Cornwall himself - HRH the Prince of Wales - taking an active interest in its design. Prince Charles made a handful of visits during construction, followed by an official visit on 20th November 1991.

Dorchester's previous ground was also known as the Avenue, and was situated only a few hundred metres from the current stadium. The Magpies had played at the old Avenue ground since 1929, but made the move to the vastly superior venue following Tesco's interest in building a supermarket upon the land. Construction took place at a cost of £2.3 million, of which £110,000 was spent on the playing surface. 32,000 tons of chalk were laid to ensure the good drainage of a pitch what was prepared a whole 18 months before completion of the stadium. The chalk lies 1 metre deep at one end, and 3 metres deep at the other, to ensure a level surface. The facilities of the stadium itself are of Football League standard, and although now nearly twenty years old, the venue is still regarded as one of the finest venues in English non-league football.

The Fordingtons Grandstand
The Peter Aiken Stand

The Avenue initially had an official capacity of 7,210 with seating for 710, though this was reduced - for safety reasons - in 2001 to around 5,000 when the Magpies' League neighbours AFC Bournemouth played a number of home matches at Dorchester during the redevelopment of their own Dean Court ground. The success of this partnership led to a second temporary groundshare, with Yeovil Town the tenants for the first month of their Football Conference championship season.

The highest attendance for a league game at the Avenue came on New Years Day 1999, when 4,129 football fans entered the stadium to witness a 1-1 draw with local rivals Weymouth. Outside of competitive matches, a similar-sized crowd turned out for the official ground opening in October 1990, when Chelsea's first team, including future England internationals Graeme Le Saux and Dennis Wise, visited Dorchester. Chelsea ran out 4-1 winners, which included a penalty scored by goalkeeper David Beasant. Colin Sayers hit the net for the Magpies on a remarkable evening.

The Railway Terraces
The Railway Terraces

Although the Chelsea match was the official stadium opening, the first fixture at the ground was a pre-season friendly two months earlier against Exeter City, who won the game 2-0. The first league match at the Avenue was against Worcester City, where Dorchester ran out 3-2 winners, despite full-back Peter Morrell deputising for goalkeeper Jeremy Judd, who was sent off after only 15 minutes.

Perhaps the most unusual story relating to the Avenue comes from the 1993/94 season, when Dorchester suffered from a terrible home record. With only four league victories (of a possible 21) at the stadium all season, the Magpies had to rely on their victories on the road to stay in the Southern League Premier Division.

The reason for the poor home form was, allegedly, due to a curse placed upon the stadium by a local white witch, following a dispute with the Duchy of Cornwall. After the witch's apparent confession, club chaplain Rev. David Fayle decided to bless the pitch, and Dorchester won the following day's home fixture against Nuneaton Borough 1-0. Whether the curse was real or not, the story did enough to give club officials an appearance on the BBC's television chat show 'Esther'.

The By-pass Terrace
The By-pass Terrace

In recent years it has become apparent that, due to the large amount of chalk underneath, there is very high drainage on the ground that leaves the pitch particularly dry. With the aid of a 90 per cent grant of £24,000 from the Football Association, a computer-operated sprinkler system that feeds off a natural underground water supply was installed that's able to deliver the equivalent of an inch of rain in two hours.

Photos are reproduced courtesy of David Bauckham at Pyramid Passion.

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