Highbury – the early days

Highbury – officially Arsenal Stadium, unoffically ‘The Home of Football’ – was Arsenal’s home ground from 6 September 1913 until 7 May 2006. Unable to increase the capacity of what was now an all-seater stadium, Arsenal built a new 60,000-seater stadium on a site barely a quarter of a mile away. Highbury was known for its Art Deco stands, built in the 1930s, when the club were champions five times and FA Cup winners twice. The stands exist to this day, their facades and listed features including the famous Marble Halls incorporated into a residential complex.

But for the first two decades of its existance, Highbury was far more workmanlike in its appearance, comprising a single gabled stand on one side and open terraces on the other. Designed by football stadium architect Archibald Leitch, the ground was hastily constructed ahead of the 1913-14 season as the then Woolwich Arsenal, newly relegated to the Second Division, relocated to North London.

Photographs showing the construction of the ground and the gabled East Stand, which though in use is still incomplete. Note that the houses seen beyond the under-construction North Bank terracing are still there to this day.

Three aerial views of the original stadium during the 1920s.

The ground as it was in the early 1930s, with a clock showing the minutes played mounted on the North Bank. The club was soon ordered to remove it as it was thought to undermine the authority of the referee, who was the sole timekeeper. An ordinary clock took its place; this was later moved to the south terracing (which in consequence became known as the Clock End) when the North Bank was covered. The gabled East Stand was still in use at this point, and there is a rare picture of the stand as seen from Avenall Road before a match against Aston Villa.

Highbury Stadium, Arsenal AFL03_aerofilms_c19089

The old and the new: the Art Deco West Stand opened in 1932, but the old East Stand would not be replaced until 1936. In fact, the club had not planned to build the replacement before 1941, but the stand was deteriorating and rather than making short term repairs, the club opted to bring forward its replacement.

This final group show the ground as completed in the 1930s, an early postwar view from inside the ground after the North Bank covering had been destroyed by wartime bombing, and the club offices in the East Stand.

Photo credits: Unknown.

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Author: prehistorian

Prehistorian & author

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