LARKHALL ATHLETIC FOOTBALL CLUB – A BRIEF HISTORY
Larkhall Athletic Football Club dates from 1914. In 1951 the club regained access to its home at Plain Ham after it had been turned over to allotments during WWII. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength, achieving the status in 2004 as a Premier Club and in 2008 as an FA Charter Standard Community Club, the first club to achieve this recognition in Bath. This status was renewed in 2011 and 2014.
Initially the club rented the Plain Ham match by match. It offered a sloping pitch, a timber hut for changing and a single tin bath for washing, a nearby standpipe providing the water source. In 1962 a cricket team was formed and the club became Larkhall Sports Club. Around the same time the then Bath City Council granted the club a long lease on the ground at Plain Ham. A small club house was erected in 1965.
In 1975 the main football pitch at Plain Ham was levelled to create a pitch suitable for senior football. In 1983 the club house and changing rooms were doubled in size and in 1989 the club purchased adjoining land at Pow’s Field.
In 1996, aided by a Lottery Grant, the club further extended and improved its club house. In 2004 Plain Ham was re-levelled, drainage improved and floodlights installed, all with the help of the Football Stadia Improvement Fund. At the same time the car park was extended and new floodlights installed on the training area. In 2005, with tremendous financial support from the local community and members past and present, the club completed the purchase of Plain Ham from the Bath and North East Somerset Local Authority.
In 2010 the battle with drainage of Plain Ham was once again a priority and in 2011 the hard standing was further extended to completely surround the pitch. At the same time new protective fencing was installed in the bottom corner of the pitch, new safety rails were constructed in front of the stand, pitch side rails and posts were refurbished, a turnstile was created at the entrance and new lighting was connected. To address ongoing drainage problems the pitch was gravel banded from across the pitch. Funding from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund helped towards this work.
To meet FA grading requirements, applications for funding to Sport England and Football Stadia Improvement Fund were successful, securing 50% of the cost of the project to construct new changing rooms and to extend and update the clubhouse to provide improved hospitality facilities for spectators and visiting officials. Work started in December 2012 and the formal opening of the new facilities was celebrated with guest of honour the Mayor of Bath, Councillor Malcolm Lees, in August 2013.
In late 2013, inspired by recent developments on and off the field, friends of the club contributed to more facility improvements that had been identified in order to satisfy Grade E of the FA Grading requirements, including additional seats, more covered standing, improved turnstiles and new outside toilets. This work was completed to enable the club to accept promotion in our double winning centenary year. Further facility improvements, including a new ground boundary fence, pitch perimeter infill and a medical room have enabled us to satisfy the Grade D requirements. Half of the funding for this work came from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund.
In 2014 the club celebrated its centenary year with gusto. Performances on the field provided an appropriate backdrop, the first-team manager was selected as manager of the year by the Western League, we were treated to a marvellous reception in the Guildhall Bath hosted jointly by the Mayor of Bath and the Chairman of BANES Council, and returned to the Guildhall for a Centenary Dinner in September 2014.
On the pitch the first team have a long list of honours, including: the Somerset Senior Cup in seasons in 1975-76 and 2003-04, the Western League First Division Championship in 1988-89 and 2008-09, the Western League Premier Division Championship in 2010-11 and the Western League double – Premier Division Championship and Les Phillips Cup – in 2013-14. The Larks reached the last 16 of the FA Vase three seasons in succession; in 2012-13 and 2013-14 we lost to the eventual finalists of the competition. In 2014 we gained promotion to the Southern League. Our first season was a huge success and we reached the play-off final where we narrowly lost out 3-2 to Stratford Town. We also enjoyed a wonderful FA Cup campaign defeating Merthyr Town and Truro City away before losing in a replay with Gosport Borough from the Football Conference.
In 2015-16 the first team finished the season in the top half of the Southern League Division 1 South and West table, had another fine FA Cup run including taking Conference side Havant and Waterlooville to a replay, and reached the final of the Somerset FA Premier Cup for the first time in club history. Elsewhere, the Reserves just missed out on promotion to the Premier Division of the Somerset County Football League and the Ladies team capped a successful league season by retaining the Somerset FA Senior Cup for a second consecutive year.
In 2008 Larkhall Sports Club was recognised as the BANES Club of the Year by the Chairman of BANES Council. In December 2011 we were selected by our local paper, the Bath Chronicle, as the local sports team of the year; quite an honour given the richness of the local competition. In 2011, two of the club’s longest serving officials were recognised by the Somerset County FA, receiving the award of Somerset County FA Volunteer of the Year and a Somerset County FA Long Service Award. In 2012 the Somerset FA added Clive Burge to our hall of fame by recognising his ‘Outstanding Contribution to Community Football’. In 2014 the club was once again selected by the local paper for an award, this time as Senior Team of the Year. In July 2015 we were honoured to receive FA Charter Standard Community Club of the year award from the Somerset FA. In 2017-18 we made it to the semi-final of the League Challenge Cup.
This season we are looking to build on the success and enjoyment of our first decade in the Southern League. We offer to all of our visitors a very warm welcome at the Securitas Stadium, probably the prettiest ground in the country.