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History of Stamford Bridge

September 1918:  Crowds on the pitch at Stamford Bridge during a sports day in aid of disabled=

Where The Journey Started

Stamford Bridge is unique in the history of English football grounds as the only ground to have been the only ground to have been built before the creation of the team whose home it became. Stamford Bridge was bought and developed even when it was not clear if it would be used by an existing club, a new club, or for FA cup finals and internationals.

The story starts from 1896, when two brothers, H.A and J.T Mears tried to buy the leasehold of Stamford bridge, then the headquarters of the London athletic club who had taken the site over in 1876, when it had been a market garden. H.A or ‘Gus’ mears intended to turn the ground into the biggest and best football stadium in whole London- hardly a difficult task to considering that the leading football clubs at that time. Fulham had moved into their present ground lately and all the other football grounds were highly primitive compared with some northern and Scottish grounds. The London should have one large venue at crystal palace, and that hardly aquedate, seemed ridicules to Mears, who foresaw how to game, would capture the metropolitan imagination.

But they were unable to takeover the Stamford Bridge until the owner, Mr Stunt, relinquished control. Even when stunt died in 1902, mears had to wait because the stadium was given for least to London athletic club. Finally they took permission on 29th September 1904, 8 years after their original idea of setting a football club in the area. Several ideas were available for them at that time. Should they develop Stamford Bridge and then rent it to other football clubs maybe Fulham, should they establish their own football club or should they give the area to the great western railway to turn the area to coal damping area as they had given an attractive offer to turn the place to coal damping area.

Gus Mears was very tempted by the railway offer for the prospect of quick profit, and it was the only influence of his friend Frederick Parker, that saved Stamford Bridge from a railway company. Parker tried to persuade Mears that it could be rented for FA cup finals for potential profit of £3000 per match. But mears was unconvinced. At the point, Mear ‘s dog bit parker’s leg! The story goes that as Parker reacted in such a cool manner that mears decided that maybe parker’s judgement was to be trusted! On such a small incident rested the faith of CHELSEA F.C.

Parker and mears first step was to visit Glasgow, home of three biggest football grounds in the world, and the man who had responsible for their design, Archibald.

Suitably impressed, the pair returned to London and by early 1905 the work at Stamford Bridge was well under way. Like leitch’s Glasgow designs, the London ground was to be a large bowl with one main stand, on the east side. That stand was to hold 5000 seated, with a covered paddock in the front and was virtually identical to the leitch build for Fulham and Tottenham at the same time (and Huddersfield a few years later) with that distinctive central gable.

The other three sides were open banking, built up with thousand of tones of sand and clay excavated during the construction of the London underground nearby. Gradually the earth was raised up to form the present familiar bowl shape, and extra cinders were brought in from the local sewer.

Stamford bridge it was claimed ‘will stagger humanity’ with a capacity of 95000 a figure tested only once. It was the second biggest stadium in the England after crystal palace, which had its own professional club installed.

Mears offered Fulham the chance to rent the ground for £1500 year, but they choose to develop their own home at craven cottage 1950, so mears had no alternative then to form his own club. The story is well told elsewhere, so suffice to say here that Chelsea was born in April 1905, without players but with a strong board of directors.

Submitted by Chelsea Fanatic

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