BAT Sports, British American Tobacco, Football, groundhopping, Non League, southern gardens, Totton and Eling, wessex league
With the football season over prematurely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic I’m in the unusual position of actually having this blog up to date! So to keep the content coming, and for something to do, I’ll do some old grounds and games where there’s a story to tell.
Saturday 1st April 2006 ko 15.00
Wessex League Division One
B.A.T. SPORTS 3 (Lowther 2 (1 pen), Thorney)
BROCKENHURST 2 (Beck, Burton)
I hate smoking, I hate the smell, and that it invariably triggers my asthma. But I do have history with British & American Tobacco. The firm owned International Stores and if my grandfather hadn’t moved to Oxford to manage their store in High Street, you wouldn’t be reading this. I’ll leave you to consider whether that’s a good thing….
The BAT sports ground was off Southern Gardens in Totton, near Southampton. The football club was formed in 1925 by BAT employees and played initially as Bramtoco FC changing their name to BAT Sports in 1971 when they entered the Hampshire League. They won promotion to the Wessex League in 1989, and its worth pointing out that this game was in the Wessex’s top flight in 2006; the divisions were restyled Premier and One for the next season.
I suspect that my view of smoking isn’t unique, and with the closure of the BAT factory in 2007 the news came that the sports ground was to be sold off to a house builder. Now in groundhopping terms my regular reader knows what happens next, yes every single hopper that hadn’t ticked off the ground made a beeline for the place. I was no different and there were no lack of hoppers at this game.
The club moved to Little Testwood Farm, now called Millers Park in 2009, changed their name to Totton & Eling and took the seated stand with them. That was exactly the same as near neighbours AFC Totton and their move from Testwood Park. And maybe now you’re seeing the curiosity that is AFC Totton and Totton & Eling.
The two grounds are adjacent to the extent that Totton & Eling have use of AFC Totton’s clubhouse but there’s only reference to AFC Totton there. Back when I visited Miller Park I wondered whether they’d end up being swallowed up by their larger neighbours- Millers Park does have the feeling of an annexe. I’m pleased they haven’t, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
But what happened to Southern Gardens? Well houses were built, mainly on where the clubhouse was. The rest of the site was developed as a leisure complex and cricket facility with BAT Sports’ cricket club moving in during 2007. And here’s a little irony for you, the Wessex League hold meetings there! The facilities are excellent, I visited there twice in 2015 when we were trying to get a Wessex Hop off the ground. That that project failed to get off of the ground, but it was interesting to have a look round, I just wish I’d brought my camera!
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