Archibald Leitch

Not a name that springs to the minds of many Kiwi’s I’d imagine, but to any football nut, this guy is a legend.

engineering-archie

Finally got my copy from University Bookshop today, and am a very happy football-architecture-stadium fan. Put this on your shopping list for xmas, it’s a fantastic read and a great history of a stunning stadium architect.

villapark

For a brief history of the man and a list of the parks that he has designed that has literally entertained and housed millions of sports (and concert) fans go to his Wiki entry here.

The publisher’s page, Played in Britian, has a nice summary of the book too, found here.

In the second book of the Played in Britain series, stadium expert Simon Inglis recalls the life and work of Archibald Leitch (1865-1939), the Scottish engineer whose designs were to football what Frank Matcham was to theatre.

Millions of spectators sat or stood in Leitch’s structures, built for such famous clubs as Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Hearts and Glasgow Rangers. No other stadium architect can claim such an illustrious list of clients.

And from the Author’s sub site on the Played in Britian website.

For author Simon Inglis, Archibald Leitch was one of the most intriguing figures in British football history. He was also the man who inspired Inglis’s career as a historian of the game.

‘Although I didn’t realise it at the time,’ recalls Inglis, ‘I watched my first ever game from a Leitch-designed building, the Trinity Road Stand at Villa Park, in April 1962, when the magnificent redbrick stand was 40 years old and I was just seven. Villa won that day 8-3, and I was hooked. That year I even wrote a few school compositions about Villa Park, which I re-discovered in the attic years later and was amazed to find included references to double-decker stands, floodlights and Wembley Stadium. I then spent the next 20 years standing on the Holte End, only to find that Leitch had designed that also.’

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Archibald Leitch

  1. I’m a proud admirer of Archibald Leitch and delighted to say I’ve been in a number of stadia that he’s designed in the UK and Ireland. Nice blog, really enjoyed it.

  2. Phil Cole

    Thanks for that! I’m a born and bred supporter of Fulham F.C and followed them through the ‘dire years’ of 1970 to 1999 before I moved away from Fulham and on to New Zealand – just as Al-Fayed took over Fulham and took them to the Premiership where they have been since 2001! Talk about timing!

    The Stevenage Road Stand at Fulham’s ground was built in 1904 and was the first example of a two-tiered stadium stand. On the centre of the pitch stood the original ‘Craven Cottage’ where Lord Edward Lytton wrote ‘The Last days of Pompeii’ (evidently a famous piece of literature!)

    When the ground was redeveloped in the early 2000’s Al Fayed paid for the original stand to be restored to its original condition but meeting exisitng building conditions without compromising the original integrity of the stadium, proving that old building can be lovingly restored. The proof in the pudding is that Fulham is the only Premiership ground that has ‘character’. Not only do they have the Archibald Leith Stand, they also have a ‘cottage’ (built in the 1930s) that they use as changing rooms. Shades of Carisbrook, perhaps!

    Do you know if they have another copy of the book at the Uni bookshop?

  3. I’m not sure how readily available literature on Archibald Leitch is, from what I’ve discovered they’re a little hard to come by. I’m a Crystal Palace supporter myself and that’s how I discovered him. I’ve been to Anfield and Old Trafford too, and living in Dublin I was delighted to discover that he also designed a few stadiums I’ve been to here also. I’ve never been to the cottage but my Gooner brother loves it over that way. I never realised that Al Fayed did so much to keep the heritage of the stands, pity we can’t do the same at Selhurst Park!

  4. Phil Cole

    My commiserations on being a Crystal Palace fan! I guess we all have our crosses to bear…;)

    Whilst there are some fantastic new stadium designs going up, and I’ve been to a few, they never create the atmosphere of the ‘old-fashioned’ stadium where the crowd were close to the action and capacity to the ground was usually limited. Obviously, with disasters such as Ibrox (Rangers Vs Celtic) in the ealry 70s, Hillborough in the 80s and the tragic fire at Bradford City in the 80s things had to change. We now have modern stadia where the spectators are far away from the action and the atmosphere suffers as a result (as well as the viewing spectacle).

    I’m not sure if you have been to Dunedin, footballorphan, but a new stadium for the rugby world cup is being constructed here. It has caused a lot of debate and has split opinion for a number of reasons amongst the people of Dunedin – the main one being the huge cost to the ratepayers for a stadium that will be primarily used for rugby (in a sport context). We already have ‘Carisbrook’ – been around since the turn of the century and still perfectly functional with upgrading required. This would cost around $25 million, but a bit more acceptable than the (official) $91.8 million cost to the ratepayer and the more likely +$150 – $300 million it will eventually cost.

    The sad thing is, is that in all the many football stadiums I have visited in England and across Europe, the one in Dunedin is by far the most ugly and depressing one I have seen. It also sticks out like a sore thumb on the landscape of Dunedin (but that is purely a personal view).

    I have seen pictures of the new stadium in Dublin (where you currently live?). It looks fantastic and kind of surreal when you see the old houses in front of it (from the photo I saw). Have you been inside it yet? It would be interesting to see what the viewing perspective is, as well as the ‘roar’ of the crowd.

  5. peter

    Phil
    Your view of the stadium’s ugly appearance may well be a personal one, but it’s also one shared by the wider public. When the ‘wow factor’ is expressed by the likes of the boofheads on the Fubar website it is more often than not about the size, which is ironic given it is a small stadium, in world terms, with only 17,242 permanent seats. The so-called east and west stands are now largely imaginary, fleetingly there for the occasional event in the form of seat scaffolding. Like in the Big Tent at a Whirling Bros circus! The stadium’s dominance on our city landscape is a two finger salute by the greedies to secure what they wanted all along – a rugby stadium. For me the words stadium and corruption are synonyms.

  6. Phil Cole

    Peter,

    Yes…I share your frustrations! All football stadia back in England went through a staged upgrade after the Hillsborough disaster. Obviously the teams in the top division upgraded their stadiums first, followed by the divisions below in a descending order. The stadium upgrades were paid mainly by the clubs themselves with help from a levy that was laid on the ‘Football Pools’ (a bit like the National lottery). Basically, each club had to pay for their improvements or fall by the wayside.

    That’s why personally I was always against a ratepayer funded stadium but not against a new ‘multi-purpose stadium’ paid for and funded by private sources. For the simple reason, the stadium itself doesn’t generate enough revenue to make profit (not even in the world of ‘Premiership Football’ – the gate revenue doesn’t normally cover the players wages!) It’s the marketing and especially the TV revenue that keeps the clubs going (and wealthy owners!) ie. money generated privately.

    Although I love sport – even cricket (still) after being thoroughly ‘tonked’ by the Irish yesterday – I would love to see Sky TV go bust; the shake-out amongst the ‘big’ sports would bring home the realisation that sport cannot continue the way it is. To use your ‘favourite’ word, Peter, …it is not sustainable.

  7. kate

    Who posted this site – EJK or PLeC? I am thinking the later – sorry I missed it in December or do I malign EJK – are you a football fan?

    • Elizabeth

      This is a Paul Le Comte special, Kate. Paul was sole author of the site for quite a stretch and has produced very good posts such as this. Paul is the football fan and player. And the great admirer of stadium architecture.

      ****

      I like football, hate rugby. I went over to soccer and cricket* in protest when very young (primary school age), since every other family member and family friend lived only for rugby – the whole culture, endless beer drinking and visual manifestation of the rugby game bored me to death.

      *These were the ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ sports codes of old, worth watching on TV or the paddock – at weekends, and in season. I miss those days, in relation to where (amateur) sport at national/international level used to sit.

  8. kate

    Sorry just realised how old the original post was – thought it last December! Hockey albeit grass (aka frozen ice occasionally on Logan Park at 9am Saturday games) was my winter code of preference – neither parent followed those other games – learnt the rules by watching TV – very late on to attend a game in person!

    • Elizabeth

      As a follow-on to (then known as) soccer rules, since girls didn’t play ‘male’ sport… I took up A grade hockey! Snap.

  9. Deano

    Mr Al Fayed has done a great job with the Leitch stand at Craven Cottage but lets not give him all the credit, as this and the cottage are both Grade 2 listed buildings so I don’t supposed he had a lot of choice really. I wish the old Park Avenue ground at Bradford had been offered the same treatment as it was very similar indeed to Craven cottage and also a Leitch ground.
    Good article!

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