Saturday 1st October 2011
Newcastle played at Ashton Gate in successive away matches early in the season and we decided we would rather make the 600 mile round trip to Bristol to see the landlords rather than the tenants play at Ashton Gate.
I also missed out on watching Rovers play at Twerton Park in 1992, as I was on a beer, sex and souvlaki holiday on the Greek island of Rhodes. The Magpies made a blistering start to the 1992-93 season, and a 2-1 win gave United their fifth in a sequence of eleven consecutive wins at the start of that season. On that sunny afternoon the Toon were led out by a 5 year old mascot, who at the time was visiting his 13th ground and some 15 years later became Squad#79 in the 100FgC.
Bristol is the sixth most populated city in England, built around the River Avon with a short coastline on the Severn Estuary, which flows into the Bristol Channel.
Historically the city was an important port, handling trading goods to the likes of Ireland, Iceland and Gascony and became a centre for shipbuilding and manufacturing. Bristol’s chief sea port has a long history in trade, where deals were personally struck in the former trading area around The Exchange in Corn Street over bronze trading tables, known as "The Nails". It’s said that maybe this is where the expression "cash on the nail", meaning immediate payment, may have originated from.
The following year the club were renamed Eastville Rovers playing at Ashley Hill, Horsfield Downs and also the Ridgeway in Upper Eastville. In 1897 the club joined the Birmingham & District League and finally found a settled base at the former ground of Bristol Harlequins RC in Eastville.The renamed Bristol Eastville Rovers became a professional outfit in the 1897-98 season, dropping the middle name in February 1899, before joining the newly formed Southern League where they played until 1920, when they were accepted into the Football League.
Eastville Football & Athletic Ground was purchased for a measly sum of £150 and remained Rovers’ home for the next 89 years until 1986, when financial problems resulted in the club being forced into a temporary ground share at Twerton Park in Bath.
Bristol Rovers were tenants at Bath City for 10 years until taking up another tenancy with Bristol Rugby Club in 1996 at the Memorial Ground in the Horsley area of Bristol.The stadium was opened in September 1921 on an area of land named Buffalo Bill's Field that was previously occupied by allotments. The ground is named in honour of the Rugby Union players from the city that died during World War One.
Bristol RFC redeveloped the ground, replacing the old Shed with the Centenary Stand to mark the club's 100th anniversary in 1988 and the West Stand, which had stood since the ground was built, was demolished and replaced in 1995. The Memorial Ground was also renamed with the Stadium suffix around this time.
The rugby club suffered major financial difficulties after relegation from the Premiership in 1998, resulting in Bristol Rovers taking over the ground ownership. The roles reversed with the rugby club becoming tenants in their original home.