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100 years on…

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Another 100-year-old photo depicts life at Stonebridge Road a century ago – this snap taken on Easter Saturday – 3rd April, 1920 – as Fleet fans queue up for a friendly versus Clapton Orient.

The O’s, then in Division Two alongside the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Leicester City, as well as defunct clubs Rotherham County, South Shields and Leeds City.

At this point in time, Fleet fans would only have seen about 20 matches at the ground after the long dormant period of the First World War and the crowds reflected it, with multiple four-figure attendances the healthy norm.

Northfleet had budgeted for crowds of 2,500 on their resurrection 11 months before and riding high in the Kent League, they treated their followers to a successful first season back in business.

This fundraising friendly against Orient attracted another big crowd as the recoloured photograph depicts, with an orderly queue up Stonebridge Hill and other supporters crossing the road to join.

The fashions might be a little different but the scene hasn’t changed greatly in the century since. The Plough building remains (albeit now a food outlet) and parts of the wall around Huggens College (now Wallis Park) still exist, as do the houses to the hill up the right.

The details, too, are interesting – with a couple of kids moving at pace towards the ground, a motorcycle on its kick-stand left parked in the middle, a number of supporters arriving in wheelchairs or other carriages and a small table and bench selling perhaps programmes or raising funds for the supporters’ association.

The Second Division side proved their worth in this game, winning 6-0 as Fleet warmed up for the big Easter Monday Kent Senior Cup Final with Maidstone United two days later. Fleet lost that, too, by 2-1 – but triumphed in the Kent League.

What’s more, a profit was recorded by the club at the end of its first post-war season, of £41 11s and 10d.

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