Sporting celebrations as Great Yarmouth grandstand reaches 125th anniversary

CORONATION SERVICE: the outdoor congregation at the Wellesley Road recreation ground.

CORONATION SERVICE: the outdoor congregation at the Wellesley Road recreation ground. - Credit: Archant

It is a grandstand that has offered Bloaters fans a perfect view to watch their football team win, lose and draw thousands of games.

On June 11 1892 the people of Great Yarmouth celebrated the opening of the Wellesley Road Recreation Ground's new grandstand.

It is said the grandstand has the honour of being the world's oldest football stand and to mark the anniversary of its opening a special event will be held at the recreation ground.

Between 11am and 3pm on Sunday, June 11 people will be able to view the stand, buy a souvenir badge for £5, ask questions about the stand's history and be given a leaflet on its heritage by chairman Kevin Cruickshank and fan and author David Tubby.

As can be expected there are many fascinating facts to be told about the structure's history.

When it officially opened there were 4,200 people there to witness it as they watched a combined athletics and cycle meeting.

It had been built for an £1,015 by local builder Mr A E Bond.

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In the 1901-02 football season Great Yarmouth Town FC were given permission to play home games at the Wellesley ground, which had been opened in 1895 to provide an arena for all kinds of sports.

During the Second World War Americans could be seen in the stand as US airman played games of baseball at the ground.

In 1953 the ground saw its biggest sporting attendance when 8,944 people watched the Bloaters win 1-0 against Crystal Palace in the first round of the FA Cup. Extra terracing was provided in the form of fish boxes behind one of the goals.

On September 16 1967 disaster struck the grandstand when a fire broke out in it and gutted the treatment room and adjoining dressing rooms.

In 2000 the ground and all its buildings were listed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and a blue plaque was unveiled at the grandstand celebrating its claim to the oldest of its kind.

In 2010 the grandstand and ground celebrated a major refurbishment scheme with football commentator John Motson visiting the stand and being surprised to learn about its claim to fame.

Last season the fans enjoyed seeing the Bloaters reach fifth in the Premier Division of the Eastern Counties Football League.

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