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Page last updated at 10:34 GMT, Monday, 24 August 2009 11:34 UK
A walk through Hillsborough stadium

By Jason Dickinson
Sheffield Wednesday author

It is difficult to imagine that when Sheffield Wednesday bought a plot of land at High Bridge, Owlerton in 1899, that the area where the ground now stands was just meadowland. Serious doubts were expressed at the time that the club was moving too far away from the Heeley area of Sheffield, where the majority of its fans resided, but the club's forefathers would be proved correct in their decision.

New seating at Hillsborough Stadium in 1960
New seating at Hillsborough Stadium in 1900

Wednesday paid £4,500 for the land and immediately transferred - brick by brick - the stand from their previous Olive Grove ground, which was erected on the River Don (South) side of the enclosure. The ground was a hive of activity during the summer of 1899 and in addition to the aforementioned stand, Wednesday levelled the pitch, erected railings around the majority of the playing area, and installed turnstiles. On the north side of the ground the club erected a stand that boasted 3,000 seats and standing for around 2,500. The ground was completed with a covered 3,000 capacity standing area at the Leppings Lane end, while the Penistone Road end was banked to give fans an elevated few of the action on the pitch.

Local rivals Chesterfield were the first opponents at Owlerton in September 1899 and the club would make minor improvements over the ensuing years before in 1913 they erected the impressive new South Stand, costing almost £18,000, and seating 5,600 fans. Designed by famous football ground architect, Archie Leach, the new structure was the finest in England and immediately made Hillsborough, as it was now known, one of the finest enclosures in the country. The only significant changes in the inter war period (1919-1939) occurred in the late 1920s when two new structures were built at the Leppings Lane end. The first was a relatively small enclosure in the North West corner before the old stand was demolished to make way for an impressive structure that provided covered standing for 7,000 plus a further 5,000 uncovered.

The Kop end of Hillsborough was slowly extended and improved for several decades but the North Stand was the next to be developed as in 1960 the Owls demolished the previous stand and started work on a state of the art 10,008 seater, Cantilever Stand. Consisting of 115,000 bricks and 508 tonnes of steel, the stand was one of the finest in the country and was opened by the FA Chairman in August 1961. With the World Cup on the horizon the club threw all their energies into further improving the ground with the enclosure in front of the South Stand converted into seating for 3,356 and the whole west end flattened to make way for a new £109,036 stand which seated 4,471 fans with uncovered standing below.

Sheffield Star special supplement celebrating the queen's visit in 1986
Sheffield Star special supplement celebrating the queen's visit in 1986

The long talked about roofing of the Kop end finally became a reality in 1986 when the area was vastly extended and roofed at a cost of £850,000. Opened by HM the Queen in December 1986, the structure boasted covered standing for an incredible 22,000. The disaster of 1989 saw all ground capacities in England fall considerably with Hillsborough of course at the forefront of any new legislation; the capacity of the Kop was slashed and 11,210 seats installed in 1993 at a cost of £750,000 while two years earlier the infamous Leppings Lane terrace was re-opened with 2,494 seats.

The 1996 European Championships proved the next catalyst for improvements with the new, and vastly improved, South Stand being constructed on top of the shell of the 1913 stand. The multi-million pound works involved the installation of a single span 500-ton girder, 3,000 extra seats in the grandstand area, 30 executive boxes and a collection of hospitality suites. Since the impressive 'new' South Stand has been completed the Owls have also replaced all the seats in the North Stand

The floods in 2007 caused over 1million worth of damage to the stadium
The floods in 2007 caused over 1million worth of damage to the stadium

The floods of 2007 caused over £1 million of damages to the stadium but with ambitious plans recently announced to take the capacity to 44,825 by 2013 - with a major Championships proving a catalyst for the third time - it is clear that as Hillsborough enters it's 111th year as the home of Sheffield Wednesday it is still not quite the finished article.

Shock waves of a tragedy
14 Apr 09 |  Magazine
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19 Aug 09 |  South Yorkshire


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