Ground: New Bridge Meadow
Capacity: 3500 (450 seated)
Nickname: The Bluebirds
Admission: £6 adults, £4 student/OAP, Free children Under-5
Haverfordwest (Welsh: Hwlffordd) is the county town of Pembrokeshire, in south-west Wales.
Haverfordwest serves as the market town for most of Pembrokeshire. It forms an important road network hub between other towns in Pembrokeshire such as Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock, Fishguard and St David’s, as a result of its position at the tidal limit of the Western Cleddau river.
The name of the town means “ford used by bucks” from Old English hæfar=he-goat, buck. The added “west” distinguished it from the originally-identical Hertford in England. In local dialect, it is pronounced “haffad”. The Welsh name is said by Charles to be “merely a corruption of the English name”, and as such has no meaning in Welsh.
There is no documentary or archaeological evidence for the existance of a settlement on the site before the twelfth century, when the first Norman castle was established. This occurred around 1110. It was constructed by Tancred, a Flemish marcher lord.
The town rapidly grew up, initially around the castle and St Martin’s church (the settlement being called Castletown), then spreading into the High Street area. It became immediately the capital of the English colony of Roose (part of Little England beyond Wales), and because of its pivotal position, the commercial centre of western Dyfed, which it has remained to this day.
In common with other British towns, its growth was meteoric during the period up to 1300, and its extent by then was much the same as it was in the early 19th century. On 30 April 1479, the town was designated a county corporate by a charter of Edward, Prince of Wales, with the aim of supporting a campaign against piracy in local waters. It shared this distinction only with Carmarthen and a few towns in England, and remained officially “The Town and County of Haverfordwest” until the abolition of the borough in 1974.
In common with other large towns in Europe, Haverfordwest was hit hard by the Black Death in 1348, suffering both depopulation (perhaps by more than 50%) and diminution of trade. Large parts of the town were abandoned, and did not start to recover until the Tudor period. At the end of the seventeenth century, the town was still significantly smaller than in 1300. In 1405, the town was burned by the French allies of Owain Glyndŵr, although in its early history Haverfordwest suffered less than most towns in Wales from such depredations.
During the Civil War, the burgesses of the borough supported Parliament, while the ruling gentry were royalist. As a result there was considerable conflict, and the town changed hands five times. There followed a period of stagnation in which the comparative status of the town declined. Haverfordwest today has the air of a typical small country market town, but the centre still conveys the feel of the important medieval borough. The badly run-down riverside area has been renovated and Bridge Street has been pedestrianised, so the area now affords pleasant walks and interesting shops.
Culturally, the town has always been essentially English in language and sentiment, but because the town markets traded the goods of Welsh farmers to the north and east, there has always been a significant Welsh-speaking minority, and the air of a “frontier” town. The suburb of Prendergast seems to have originated as an extra-mural Welsh dormitory, dating from the times when all agricultural trade had to pass through the borough, but no Welshman was allowed within the walls after nightfall. Prendergast is still significantly more Welsh in nature than the town proper.
How to Get There
Follow A40 to the town centre, pass the Railway Station, take the 4th exit at first roundabout and then the 1st exit at next roundabout. At next (third) roundabout take the Safeways exit. Immediately turn right Safeways, the ground is now 250 yards along this road.
map to New Bridge Meadow
Parking: Ample car parking in front of ground.
Nearest railway station: Haverfordwest (0.6 miles)
Haverfordwest County v Connah’s Quay Nomads, 26/08/06
This ground is a motorists dream, there is ample car parking without charge either in the parking bays or along the road near the ground, as well as some parking to the left on grass. There was a Haverfordwest committee member on hand to help as well.
First impressions outside
I noticed that the perimeter fence is not made of solid concrete or wood, but railings, so therefore it is possible get a free view or restricted view of the match. The ground is also unfortunate to be situated at the bottom of a steep sided bank where, again, a free but somewhat distant view can be obtained. With the Football social club forming an integral part of viewing this ground from the outside I must say I was very impressed.
First impressions inside
Entry was painless, but through the Maintenance shed and not through the turnstiles which remained locked for some reason. Stewards/Committee members were friendly and there was a feel good factor about the stadium. I noted that the stand was fairly new but, unfortunately it has not got uninterrupted views because of vertical pillars which I found annoying. On closer inspection of the main stand I was horrified to find that there were in excess of a dozen seats either broken or missing altogether. I must say that the rest of the blue seats in the stand looked rather tired or slightly shabby. Leg room was adequate for a man of 6’2 and access to the stand was easy for able bodied people and provided good weather cover especially to the rear. There is a ramp to access the stand for accompanied disabled people.
There are two small but perfectly acceptable terraces which gave me the impression of a real football ground. Behind the goal at the Wythybush side of the ground I noticed that a gate is left open for ball retrieval. I have also noticed on previous occasions at Haverfordwest free entry being gained here with the lack of stewarding at this location, but today there was a yellow coat steward there for the duration. Changing rooms are situated within the single clubhouse complex behind the town end goal accessed by a few steps on to the playing area.
The match day programme at Haverfordwest is superb.
There are toilets situated near the corner flag but are not obvious. There are ample urinals but a single toilet and, to their credit and responsibility to hygiene, four wash hand basins. Also as the club house is en-suite, there is no problem using the conveniences there without leaving the arena. Again, I suggest that toilets are built near the main stand during summer 2007.
Hospitality or sponsors are entertained in two portacabin type accommodations at ground level in the Bridge Meadow. Whilst realising the need to boost club revenue, I am not in favour of temporary buildings within the stadium. Also to their credit there is a club shop (again temporary) in the ground.
Food and Drink
Hot food and drinks are available from a window in a permanent building (the clubhouse kitchen) and is therefore not an eyesore. This is situated behind the goal at the town end and I felt that the typical football fare was simple, hot and reasonably priced and served by a nice friendly group of women.
Public Address system and announcer
Good – If anything too loud in the stand. The announcer gives us the facts and future fixtures and he does not go on and on. What pleased me in this predominantly English speaking area he is bi-lingual – Today however it was English only.
Overall Impressions of a day at the Bridge Meadow
I thoroughly enjoyed the Bridge Meadow experience, although I was annoyed that people can view from the outside. I suggest also that some covered disabled dug out type constructions be constructed on level ground. The big plus of this ground is that there is no problem parking and there are full social club facilities. Particularly I would recommend viewing the game from behind the goal at the town end – it is atmospheric, but not in the least intimidating. However, to finish on a note of constructive criticism – Haverfordwest have a superb stadium but, alas today the Main stand’s obvious disrepair let them down, especially as it was the first game of the season and they have had all summer to fix the problems.
Ground review from the Groundhopper section of the official Welsh Premier league website.
Rivals: Carmarthen, Aberystwyth, Port Talbot, Llanelli
Haverfordwest County was founded on December 7th 1899, when the Haverford Hockey Club established a group dedicated to Association football. Football soon became the dominant sport and the football club became known as Haverfordwest Town. They only played sporadic friendly matches before becoming members of the Pembrokeshire League after World War I.
By 1930 the club was ready to follow their local rivals Milford United into the Welsh League. They secured the Bridge Meadow as their permanent home and were admitted into the League in 1936. During this period the club changed its name to Haverfordwest Athletic and, after winning promotion in their first season, they had established themselves in Division One by the outbreak of world War Two.
After the war the club regularly pulled in crowds of 3,000 for their derby matches against Milford United and Pembroke Borough. There was a relegation blip in 1954, but they bounced back as Division Two champions in 1956, and the following year, after changing their name to Haverfordwest County, they stormed to the Welsh League title, with legendary ex-international Stan Richards scoring 40 goals in the season.
In the early 60s the club brought in ex-Spurs and England star Arthur Willis as manager, but, despite a number of near misses, could not take the title again. The club’s next championship came in the 1981 season, under the leadership of Mickey Lenihan and Ray Davies. They won the title again in 1990 before the club became a member of the League of Wales in 1992.
After the club had played two seasons in the League of Wales, their old Bridge Meadow ground was bought by the Safeway supermarket chain and, since the club had to play for a season on the local rugby club ground, which the League did not regard as suitable, County were forced to drop out of the League and to win their way back. Their three seasons in the Welsh League saw them finish as runners-up for two seasons before winning the championship and promotion in 1997.
The Safeway affair did have one real plus, in that the club was furnished with a new pitch and facilities and can now boast one of the best grounds in Welsh football.
The Bluebirds for years had strong links with Swansea City and with the Swansea area generally, which they have found in the past a ready source of playing talent.
Past players include Welsh greats like Ivor Allchurch, Mel Charles, Derek Tapscott, Ronnie Rees and Alan Curtis, supplemented by a core of “Swansea boys” like Don Smitham, Mickey George, Jason Jones and Neil Frederickson, who played for the Bluebirds for many years. However, the club decided, in 2001, to move in a new direction and to move towards a situation in which the main pool of talent was local youth.
They entered the MacWhirter Youth League in 2000, and have developed a Youth Academy in conjunction with Pembrokeshire College. At the start of the 2002-2003 season, they appointed the ex-Norwich City and Wrexham player Deryn Brace as player-manager, with a view to developing a side in which the many skilful young players from West of Whitland could play alongside experienced professionals.
The result is the present set-up, in which a typical squad contains seven or eight locally-based players.
UEFA Cup entrants: 2004-05
Welsh League champions: 1956-57, 1980-81, 1989-90, 1996-97
Welsh League runners up: 1969-70, 1970-71, 1994-95, 1995-96
West Wales Senior Cup winners: 1980-81, 1981-82, 1988-89, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1997-98, 1998-99
New Bridge Meadow, Haverfordwest, SA61 2EX
Tel: 01437 769048