In memoriam: 10 of England's beloved, long-lost grounds
1. Sunderland (Roker Park)
- Opened 1897
- Closed 1997
- Record attendance 22,500
The Roker Roar had a nice alliterative ring to it, but coming up with an equivalent for the Stadium of Light has so far proved beyond the wit of headline writers.
Roker and Ayresome Park were the north-east venues used for the 1966 World Cup – St James’ was adjudged not good enough – and there was a time when one could no more imagine Roker Park being knocked down than one could foresee the closure of the mines and the shipbuilding industry that had long sustained Sunderland.
However, the Taylor Report rendered Roker redundant, unsuitable for the all-seater era, and it closed its gates for the final time in its centenary year of 1997. The site is now a housing estate.
2. Hull City (Boothferry Park)
- Opened 1946
- Closed 2002
- Record attendance 40,179
With many of the grounds in the Football League dating from the Victorian or Edwardian eras, when Boothferry Park opened in 1946 it stood out as a beacon of newness.
Hull City fans certainly took to their new home, with 55,019 watching their FA Cup tie with Manchester United in 1948/49. For a while the ground even had the luxury of its own railway station: Boothferry Park Halt. And by 1963, it had also developed what became part of a staple pub-quiz question: six free-standing floodlights.
In 2002, the Tigers left for the swish comforts of the KC Stadium, and Boothferry Park slowly rotted. Tenant supermarkets Kwik Save and Iceland closed in 2007, demolition began in 2008 and the floodlights finally went in 2011. There are now houses on the site.
3. Derby County (Baseball Ground)
- Opened 1895
- Closed 1997
- Record attendance 42,000
Brian Clough often spoke about keeping the ball on the ground, but that was easier said than done on some of the mudheaps his Derby County side had to play on at the Baseball Ground.
It did indeed host baseball in its early days; until they moved there in 1895, County had played on a cricket pitch in the middle of a racecourse. The venue certainly improved considerably during Clough's time there: the 41,826 attendance record was set in 1969, when the club was promoted and the new Ley Stand made it one of the few contemporary British grounds to have seating and standing on all four sides.
After Pride Park opened in 1997, Derby’s reserves played at the Baseball until 2003, when it was demolished for housing.
4. Huddersfield Town (Leeds Road)
- Opened 1908
- Closed 1994
- Record attendance 67,037
The British football ground as we knew it before the Taylor Report was largely the invention of a Scottish civil engineer named Archibald Leitch. From 1899 to the Second World War, almost every major ground in the country was either designed by him or else borrowed heavily from his blueprints.
So when, in the opening decade of the last century, newly formed professional club Huddersfield Town wanted to join the Football League, there was only one man to call. Leitch designed a 4,000-seat Main Stand, the rest was terracing, the capacity was 34,000 and Town were in.
The colossal paddock on the Popular Side was one of the great sights of English football, the Leeds Road End was quickly named the Cowshed for its distinctive barreled roof, while up the other end the Dalton Bank was never covered – and really quite cold for visitors unprepared for a Pennine winter.
The record attendance of 67,037 was set in 1932 for an FA Cup tie against Arsenal, led by former Town title-winner Herbert Chapman. But the capacity was down to 17,000 by the time the Terriers left in 1994 for what was then the Alfred McAlpine Stadium. The RIBA-award winning ‘spaceship’ couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the defiantly old-fashioned Leeds Road.