Construction of the Main Stand at Valley Parade, 1907

The following was published in the Bradford City AFC match day programme vs Blackpool, 5th August 2017…

In August, 1907 Valley Parade was in the midst of redevelopment with the extension of the main stand on South Parade that dated from 1904. The stand which burned down in May, 1985 was essentially the structure that was completed in 1907 and in this photograph taken at the beginning of the season the construction work can be seen to be underway.

teamgroup1907-08 - Copy

Facilities at Valley Parade were basic and subsequent to being elected to the Football League in 1903, limited resources had existed for Bradford City to invest in ground improvements. However the lack of security of tenure was an issue that deterred major investment and in 1907 the criteria was that any new stand should be of a transferable nature as a contingency measure in case the club was forced to relocate. Whilst it might seem incredible to us, the idea of a portable stand was not a new idea because the Manningham FC members were already familiar with moving a stand to a new ground (as had been the case in 1886 when the uncovered grandstand – what would better be described as a viewing platform – had been relocated to Valley Parade from Carlisle Road).

The risk of fire was clearly discounted when the main stand was erected. Or rather, the implicit assumption was that any risk of fire could be managed. It was not as if grandstand fires were unheard of, but what tended to encourage complacency was that incidences of fire had tended to be when grounds were unoccupied and therefore the risk was associated with sinister reasons rather than as an issue of crowd safety.

The stand was completed in time for the fixture with West Bromwich Albion in November, 1907 and thus provided a quick solution to the need for additional covered accommodation. It was claimed that it had a capacity of 12,000 of which 5,000 seated but the minimal facilities and lack of dressing rooms hardly made it worthy of being described as a grandstand. Even by contemporary standards in 1907 it would have been considered basic and the predominant use of wood was a cheaper (and transportable) option compared to concrete. The irony is that it was considered a temporary structure, constructed as cheaply and quickly as possible with the intention of eventual replacement by a cantilever stand.

In February, 1907 work on the new Kop had been completed, christened Nunn’s Kop after the name of the director responsible. A new stand on the Midland Road was constructed the following year.

The 1907/08 season proved to be a major turning point for Bradford City. After the rejection of merger with Bradford Park Avenue in May, 1907 twelve months later the club was crowned champions of Division Two. The architect of the transformation was manager Peter O’Rourke who had been appointed in 1905 (pictured far right). It was his signing of namesake Frank O’Rourke (seated front right – circled) and James McDonald (seated front left – circled) in April, 1907 that was said to have transformed his team into promotion winners.

John Dewhirst

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