The Development of Kingsholm - Overview
Following the purchase of the ground at Kingsholm in 1891, the new season loomed, and a pitch had to be prepared as quickly as possible. This was achieved by using land at the western end of the site, which coincidentally had previously been used by the College (Kings School), and was where the newly formed Gloucester Club had played its first match in 1873. Matches could then be played before demolition of the buildings which still stood in the middle of the site.
The plans promoting the purchase of Kingsholm were described as showing that “the ground will be one of the best in the West. There will be a cycling and running track a quarter of a mile in circumference, and refreshment stands and pavilions at convenient distances, a large pavilion occupying the centre of the sixpenny part. These works cannot, of course, be all carried out until after this season, meanwhile a contract has been entered into with the Gloucester Wagon Company for the erection of a temporary grand stand.”
We do not know if all of the original plans came to fruition, but a grandstand was constructed together with a stall for non-alcoholic refreshments and a “cigar box” (smoking was the social norm, and post-match entertainment often consisted of a “smoking concert”).
In 1892, the house, stables and pigpen in the middle of the site were demolished and removed, the ground was levelled, fencing installed and the pitch relaid with a more modern orientation. A pavilion was constructed, and there was further development of the spectator areas in the grandstand.
In 1899, plans to cover the whole of the popular “sixpenny” side had to be abandoned as too expensive (it cost a shilling to go in the grandstand at this time). Additional stands were constructed for the England v Wales international played at Kingsholm in January 1900 at a cost of £900 (one of which collapsed, fortunately without causing any serious injury). The playing area was again repositioned for the start of the 1900/01 season to give the occupants of the grandstand a full view of proceedings.
The next major development came in 1905, when a gymnasium was built in the north-east corner of the ground, and opened for the start of the season in September. This is the oldest building still standing on the ground – it currently houses the Lions’ Den and offices, but for many years the changing rooms were located here, and the players emerged from the door near the clock before running down the terrace onto the pitch. The clock was donated to the Club by the then Chairman, Sir James Bruton.
The Inter-War Years
Matches were suspended during World War 1, and the ground required a good deal of refurbishment when they were resumed in 1919. Major development resumed in 1926 with the construction of a new wooden grandstand on the south side, costing £2,500 and seating 1750. Unfortunately this stand burnt down a few years later. The first hint of luxury came in 1930 with the installation of 88 tip-up seats for patrons, quickly followed by another 22 for press and committee.
In September 1933, Bertram Mills’ Circus had rented the Club car park for 3 days; a fire started in the circus and quickly spread to the main stand. The Citizen reported “terrifying scenes” with “screaming elephants” and “roaring tigers” – the frightened animals were moved to safety, and the circus was saved, but the main stand was burnt out. Fortunately it was insured, and this allowed rapid building of a replacement. Day and night shifts were worked, so that within 8 weeks of the fire the replacement wooden stand was ready. It was slightly smaller and set 17ft further back than the stand it replaced, with seating for 1,330, but with more legroom, and with terracing in front providing standing room for 1,500, most of them under cover. This stand was to serve the Club well for 74 years until it was demolished to make way for the present stadium.
Also during 1933, the standing area opposite the main stand (referred to then as the Old Stand) was covered. However, the following year it was demolished, and a new covered stand, 180ft x 24ft, for standing only, was constructed. In 1936/7 this covered standing area was extended at the Deans Walk end. In more recent years this stand has come to be known as the Shed.
In 1934, an electric light was attached to the Worcester Street stand for use during training.
During World War 2, the ground and buildings were requisitioned by the local Civil Defence authorities, although a small part of the site was leased to Bristol Tramways and a garage erected. Club matches ceased in 1941, although Services internationals were played at Kingsholm. Many of the facilities became dilapidated, and much of the ironwork and wood was removed. Club matches resumed in September 1945, and most of the ground was derequisitioned on 25th December 1945.
A programme of refurbishment was then agreed with and funded by the local authorities, and by 1946 the Club was considering a new concrete stand and a bungalow for the groundsman. However building work required approval by the Ministry of Works, and the supply of materials approval from the Ministry of Supply, neither of which were forthcoming. The Club concentrated instead on improving the playing surface, and in 1950 introduced a Tannoy system (there had been some opposition, but it was required to meet Home Office regulations for grounds attracting crowds over 10,000). For some years the CinderfordTown Band had played on match days, for which they were nor paid but were allowed to make a collection – the Tannoy led to their replacement with recorded music.
During the 1950s, development recommenced with the construction of a social club and tea room in 1951 at a cost of £1,600, and more major works were undertaken in 1954 with an extension to the main stand, and reconstruction of the Worcester Street stand with concrete terracing. The 1960s saw a new clubhouse with skittle alley and dance floor. £4,700 was spent on floodlights, the cost of which was shared with the Department of Education and Science – the first match was against an invitation side, the Bosuns, in 1967.
The 1980s saw redevelopment of the main stand, and the need to generate more funding in a more commercial age, led to the building of the first hospitality boxes on the Tump at the Deans Walk end of the ground in 1990, with a standing terrace in front. The social club was refurbished in 1996.
The Professional Era
In 1997, Tom Walkinshaw bought the Club and the ground from the Gloucester Football and Athletic Ground Company. Temporary hospitality boxes were installed at the western end of the main stand, but dismantled each summer for use at Silverstone. This arrangement came to an end with the demolition of the main stand and social club in 2007 to make way for the modern stadium which now occupies the whole of the southern side of the ground. This seats 6,500, cost £8.9M, and provides a wide range of modern facilities, including changing rooms, bars, and hospitality and conference suites.