From The Vaults

01 November 2021
#FromTheVaults - Twickenham Stadium Site Plan

As full crowds are about to return for the Autumn Nations Series, this month's featured object from our collection is an architect's drawing showing the proposed site of the first North stand, opened at Twickenham in 1925. The new stand vastly increased the stadium's capacity - prior to this, there were only stands on the East and West sides of the pitch.

The existing stands and terraces had been large enough to accommodate the 18,000 spectators who had arrived for Twickenham's first international match in 1910, but following the restart of rugby after the close of the First World War, it was decided that capacity should be increased. The Rugby Football Union appointed the Scottish architect Archibald Leitch (1865-1939) to construct a two-tier grandstand for the north end of Twickenham Stadium.

Initially an engineer and factory architect, Leitch later moved into stadium design and was commissioned to build a stand at Ibrox Park in 1899. After witnessing the subsequent collapse of the stand in 1902, he was hired for the rebuild and patented new methods of construction to improve safety. He went on to play a role in the design of over 20 sports stands in Britain and Ireland, including football grounds such as Anfield, Hampden Park, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane, and rugby grounds such as Cardiff Arms Park and Twickenham.

The drawing in the first image above shows a site plan of Twickenham Stadium. Measuring 52 x 44cm, the purpose of the drawing was to illustrate Leitch's proposed amendments to the rugby ground. The new North stand is clearly marked out in red. On the right-hand side there is an annotation, a mathematical sum written in pencil. The new stand was characteristic of Leitch's industrial style, with its two tiers, criss-cross steel balconies and pitched roof. It had seats for 3,515 people and space on the terrace for over 7,000 standing spectators.

The new stand was unveiled for New Zealand's first visit to Twickenham on 3rd January 1925 - a victory for the visitors, 11-17. The match came at the end of a four month long, 28 game tour of Britain and Ireland, during which New Zealand won every match they played. The 60,000 spectators present on that day smashed the existing record for the largest number of people assembled to watch a game of rugby. They witnessed a particularly fierce and hard-fought match, which featured the first sending off in international rugby when one of New Zealand's forwards was punished for stamping on an England player after both packs had received several warnings from the referee. Rugby at Twickenham continued to draw the crowds, however, and shortly after this, the East and West stands were extended, opening in 1927 and 1932 respectively. Leitch's stand was demolished in 1990 and Twickenham's current North stand was opened the following year.