Sherborne Town FC was founded in 1894, and played their matches in those early days at Marston Road. Following the opening of the Terrace playing fields just before the Second World War, this became the new venue for home games. The club then moved across the road from the playing fields in 1985 to its present home, Raleigh Grove, referencing Sir Walter Raleigh’s historical connection with the town.
The Raleigh Grove site was built on a grazing field, at the level of the raised banking that exists today on the northwest side of the ground. This had to be levelled, to create a playing area, a task made all the more difficult as there was a pond in the far right corner of the ground. When the ground was built the club noted the regulations laid down for promotion from the Dorset Premier league at the time, so a covered section on the south west side of the ground was erected for supporters. The pitch also had four drains laid to aid the playing surface. When the site was completed the new ground was somewhat ahead of its time, considering many of the club’s rivals at that time were based on little more than park or village pitches.
The clubhouse was a project reflecting the forethought of the then chairman of the club, Ken Mullins. This spacious facility also incorporates the dressing rooms, bar, function room, kitchen, storeroom and toilets, including disabled facilities.
The record attendance at the ground is 1,000 versus Eastliegh (featuring ex-Southampton and England international Matthew Le Tissier), in the Andy Shephard Memorial match on July 27th 2003. Four Football League clubs have played at Raleigh Grove: Plymouth Argyle, Torquay United, Swindon Town and Yeovil Town.
In 2001 the committee at Sherborne Town FC outlined a three-phase, five-year plan for the future development of the ground. The plans included a hard standing path along the north west side of the pitch for spectators, a 150-seater stand on the same side, relocating the dugouts, clubhouse improvements, and the installation of floodlights.
Planning permission was granted in 2003 and in 2004 phases one and two were completed, with hard standing, a grandstand, new dugouts and floodlights erected and working in just three months.
Then manager Martyn Starnes season by season lowered the average age of the playing staff and also attracted quality players with a genuine hunger for the game. This combination led to the team finishing in the top six of the Dorset Premier League for five seasons running, leading to the long battle to convince the league officials of the club’s determination to join the south west’s premier football league.
In the season 2003/4 the club finished in fourth and also won the Dorset Senior County Cup. An application was made to the Western League but the Dorset Premier League refused to grant consent.
However, with the last game of the 2005-6 season Sherborne produced an excellent performance to beat Bridport Reserves 2-0 away to secure the runners-up position, and days later the news broke that the club had at last been accepted into the Western League.
The first campaign in the Western League First Division proved one of consolidation, before earning promotion as runners-up to Wellington the next season under the guidance of Kevin Leigh.
Sherborne started life in the Premier Division with a new manager at the helm, as Nik Flory assumed the reins. However, Leigh was back in charge before the season's end, despite the club securing mid-table safety largely thanks to a 13-game unbeaten run.
Leigh stepped down for a second time in August 2009, replaced by former Yeovil Town striker Mickey Spencer. Relegation was avoided on the last day of the season, with Spencer's impact shining through at the start of the 2010-11 campaign.
On Saturday 25 September 2010 Sherborne played arguably the biggest game of their 116-year history as they hosted Hungerford Town in the FA Cup Second Round Qualifying - the furthest they have ever reached in the competition.
Spencer left the club in November 2011 and was succeeded by player turned manager Jamie Manley. Despite a strong push towards the end of the season the club was relegated to the First Division by the smallest of margins.
The 2012/13 season saw Sherborne return to the Premier League at the first time of asking and as First Division Champions; Jamie Manley also won the league's Manager of the Year award.
At the end of the season the club secured substantial funding from The Football Stadia Improvement Fund, Viridor Credits Environmental Company, Sherborne Town Council and West Dorset District Council to improve the clubhouse facilities and renovate the pitch. Work has already started.
The future looks bright for STFC and its supporters.