At the start of the 20th Century, Goodison Park was arguably, England’s premier football stadium. Today, for better or worse, it is one of the most historic in the land. As you sit in your seat and look across the famous “Old Lady”, two of the stands you see can be credited to Archibald Leitch — stadium designer extraordinaire.
Glasgow-born Leitch was an architect specialising in the design of industrial buildings when he was commissioned to design a new 80,000-capacity Ibrox Stadium for Rangers, the club he supported. The resulting stadium was spectacular but tragedy struck in 1902 when fatalities resulted from a section of wooden terracing collapsing at an international fixture. As a safety measure, Leitch’s subsequent terrace designs were based on raised earthworks. In spite of the Ibrox disaster, Leitch remained very much in-demand. He was engaged south of the border in the early 1900s at the likes of Craven Cottage and Anfield Road where he then created the terracing for the Spion Kop (the stand constructed over it was not his design).
Everton vs Nottingham Forest, December 1957, with 1909 Goodison Road stand as backdrop
Gwladys Street Stand circa 1969 during construction of new Main Stand (copyright Everton Collection)
In 1907, Everton commissioned Leitch to create a new Goodison Road Stand. The result was a vast, steel-framed double-decker edifice dubbed the “Mauretania” by the press in reference to the huge Cunard ocean liner of that era. This was the first large stand to have a terrace directly underneath the seating balcony. The front of the balcony bore a criss-cross steel feature which became a hallmark seen at ten stadiums up and down the land – today, this motif is featured on Everton’s 2016-17 kit. Leitch would also be engaged by, amongst others, Arsenal, Manchester United, Sunderland, The Rugby Football Union (Twickenham)... but perhaps his pièce de résistance was Villa Park’s Trinity Road Stand.
Leitch felt a connection with the city of Liverpool and lived in Blundellsands for a number of years. His firm was engaged by Everton, again, in 1926 to construct a new stand on the Bullens Road side of the pitch. The £30,000 stand you see today is little-changed, bar a raised roof added in 1963. The trademark criss-cross balcony design is now, once again, visible after the removal of advertising hoardings. A row of terraced houses was demolished to create space for a larger Leitch-designed Gwladys Street Stand – it opened in 1938 at a cost of £50,000. In this form, with floodlights added, Goodison hosted 1966 World Cup matches but, three years later, Leitch’s Goodison Road Stand was demolished in phases, making way for today’s triple-decker. The Henry Hartley-designed Park End Stand was replaced in 1994 with the single-rake stand we see now.
Left: Goodison Park aerial shot, 1966, from the Park End | Right: Bullens Road stand
Gwladys Street with typical Leitch balustrade design
Leitch died in 1939 but many of his works far outlived him. The Taylor Report accelerated the replacement of his many stands and few now survive. Ibrox’s revamped South Stand still proudly displays the familiar criss-cross motif but Tottenham Hotspur’s East Stand is living on borrowed time. It is at Goodison, however, where Leitch’s work is best preserved. It is a testament to the man that, 90 and 78 years after their respective unveilings, the Bullens Road and Gwladys Street stands are virtually unchanged. The obstructed views, cramped seating and basic facilities may rankle but Leitch’s venerable creations will continue accommodating the Toffees’ faithful until the time comes to say farewell to Goodison Park (at least in the form we currently know it).
Further reading: Engineering Archie by Simon Inglis (English Heritage, 2005)
Reader Comments (34)
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1 Posted 18/07/2016 at 20:38:21
2 Posted 18/07/2016 at 21:33:27
I bloody love Goodison Park.
I feel a bloody hypocrite even saying this, because I want a "New Goodison" down by the river. But, what I really want is just... a 22nd Century Goodison Park!
All of the feeling, the charisma, the ashes of our comrades... everything, but just 22nd Century!
And I most definitely want the stands right bang up on top of the pitch with the iconic Leitch blue-upon-white criss-crosses. Without that, it'll just be a ground where we have to go to watch Everton play football, and there's plenty of them already.
TBH, I'm not that fuckin sure I really want a new ground at all... How could I possibly ever walk out of Goodison, never to ever return?
Stuff of fuckin' nightmares!
3 Posted 18/07/2016 at 21:57:41
What a flashback to refresh our Blue memory. It's a great write-up for a generation of EFC fans and future building/ structural engineers to learn from.
Please keep it up.
4 Posted 18/07/2016 at 22:48:06
I agree with every word you say!
5 Posted 18/07/2016 at 23:32:10
6 Posted 18/07/2016 at 23:57:24
7 Posted 18/07/2016 at 00:11:11
8 Posted 19/07/2016 at 00:27:38
I believe the voices of Evertonians long gone still echo around Goodison Park. Where will these voices go when we move?
A brand new ground on the docks will be awesome. For me, a restored Goodison Park in Walton, Liverpool 4, will satisfy me more, and my ghost will be happier there.
9 Posted 19/07/2016 at 01:46:43
Where TV was in B&W and the RS were still in the 2nd Division. A Goodison Park of police horses and horseshit, of Woodbines and Higsons, tea with Sterrie in it. Where I'd run back after the game to catch the opening bars of Sports Report on the radio, where Eamon Andrews would tell me, as if I didn't know, that we'd won the League. Of four tall floodlight pylons and two square clocks.
I know where my ghost will be too.
10 Posted 19/07/2016 at 02:34:25
A four-sided ground with four distinct, individual stands close to the pitch & quite steep to create an atmosphere of real intensity, please!
11 Posted 19/07/2016 at 07:52:18
I have been to the new Wembley and I just felt too far away - its essentially all single tier and the "higher tiers" are just swept back far too far from the pitch compared to say the Goodison Main Stand third tier.
12 Posted 19/07/2016 at 11:39:28
How would anyone feel about a brand new Goodison Park with old style features (cosmetic) to give it the feel of the Old Lady, continue her legacy?
Pissing in the wind, I know... but a lovely thought anyway, like getting a new car with an old patina, so to speak.
13 Posted 19/07/2016 at 11:47:45
14 Posted 19/07/2016 at 12:35:18
I'm talking replicating it, not some rubbish modern twist on it, not some small part of the ground having it. It needs to be the full length of all of the double decker stands.
15 Posted 19/07/2016 at 13:03:08
16 Posted 19/07/2016 at 13:54:46
Retractable roof, holds just over 50k for footie matches and 67k for concerts (a rock band there last weekend). Modern design, overlooking a large lake to one side and has now attracted further investment in hotel, apartments and commercial buildings for many large national and international organisations.
There is a new (last year), shopping mall next door and transport links brought in. Apparently cost approx 200M. Anyone putting two and two together???
17 Posted 19/07/2016 at 14:18:45
I can't see why you'd think you'd be shot for that opinion. Surely most here would agree with that proposal.
There's no doubt that modern stadiums look amazing (all glass and chrome, etc.), are more comfortable, are more safe, offer better visibility, etc.
But are they as atmospheric as their older counterparts? That may well be debatable. Or perhaps it's a flawed romantic view of the past.
Personally I think the most memorable arenas are those with the fans who generate those incredible atmospheres that I allude to. I would love a new fancy stadium for the club. I would love that new stadium to pay homage to classic Goodison Park. And I would love our fans to create the atmosphere that it deserves.
18 Posted 19/07/2016 at 15:02:33
Just a pen for Bill, I think. One of them free ones from dodgy insurance companies that diddle old ladies out of their life savings. Then he can sign everything over and spend his time leafing through lawnmower catalogues.
19 Posted 19/07/2016 at 16:12:14
Well said... My thoughts exactly.
20 Posted 20/07/2016 at 11:38:40
None of the contemporary UK stadiums impress me. I live near the Emirates, supposedly the state-of-the-art example, and I just find that place a soulless concrete bowl. Why they can't just thoroughly upgrade Goodison Park, I do not understand. It's important the club remains in Liverpool 4: the whole history of Everton is immersed in Walton and environs.
Redevelop stand by stand, starting with the poxy 'new' Park End a sad indictment of the lack of ambition EFC has shown since the highlights of the 1980s. Give us back our class, our style and our swagger. And keep us connected to our roots at the same time.
21 Posted 21/07/2016 at 07:13:58
Remove existing and transplant to new more like, add as necessary if need be, or maybe not to just keep some authenticity.
And doesn't someone have one of them clocks in his back garden??
22 Posted 21/07/2016 at 12:02:37
The other grace to restore is the old Main Stand gable. Absolutely beautiful it was.
23 Posted 22/07/2016 at 18:22:25
24 Posted 22/07/2016 at 21:51:35
David 11, I agree, Wembley Stadium, no longer holds any kind of aura for me.
Dave 8, I hope you will be happier when you're a ghost!
25 Posted 22/07/2016 at 22:05:54
26 Posted 23/07/2016 at 09:49:34
Tony's 100% right about Goodison though, because if you shut your eyes, for just ten minutes, then you will have loads of good, bad and absolute great memories, that come flooding back.
Thanks for taking me to Goodison, Dave, with my greatest memory of you besides trying to attack the gate men who wouldn't let you carry me in, was definately when you nearly threw me out of the upper gladdy, when Andy King, scored that goal!
27 Posted 24/07/2016 at 20:56:14
The best of the lot though is the new stadium in Lyon. All the seats are close to the pitch, the capacity is over 59,000, the concourses are huge both inside and outside the stadium and the atmosphere at the Ukraine v Northern Ireland game last month was second to none. With a retractable roof it would be the ideal solution for us on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey.
28 Posted 24/07/2016 at 21:15:55
Stands close to the pitch, good atmosphere, which some of these superbowls (eg, The Emirates) do not have. It really feels like the type of ground we would be happy to have.
29 Posted 24/07/2016 at 21:31:11
30 Posted 25/07/2016 at 11:54:11
I urge all Evertonians to go to Google images and put in "Juventus stadium".
In my opinion, this is exactly the type of ground Everton need. It could be scaled up to hold more and generates a fantastic atmosphere, something rare in Italian football.
31 Posted 25/07/2016 at 11:57:14
32 Posted 26/07/2016 at 19:21:07
As persuasive as the accompanying hype appears I'm not entirely convinced.
But, please, judge for yourselves:
33 Posted 29/07/2016 at 11:58:34
Superb, I think that is what every Evertonian thinks.
34 Posted 30/07/2016 at 21:01:58
HOW, could Everton FC ever contemplate leaving William Ralph "Dixie" Dean ?
Our GREATEST took his final breath at "God's Acre".
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