2. The Nest
HANG ON TIGHT: A head for heights
was necessary for anyone watching football at
The Nest, as the crowds perched on the cliffside
terraces for this 1935 Cup tie against Sheffield
|First match (competitive):
Norwich City 0 Portsmouth 0 (6700) September
Final match (competitive):
: Norwich City 2 Swansea Town 2 (7415) May
25,037 (v Sheffield Wednesday, FA Cup fifth round,
February 16, 1935).
It was a football ground unlike any other. According
to the late EDP columnist Eric Fowler, writing under
the more familiar name of Jonathan Mardle, the
crowd seemed to cling like a swarm of bees to the face
of the cliff.
The Nest, Norwich Citys home ground for 27 years
between 1908 and 1935, was situated in a disused chalk
pit off Rosary Road and while it had a character
all of its own it certainly wasnt the safest
place in the world to watch football, or play it come
Footballers risked injury by crashing into the massive
concrete wall which held up the cliff that dominated
the arena and rose sheer, barely a couple of feet from
the touchline. And the manner in which up to 20,000
fans regularly crammed into the precarious looking stands
built into the old quarry would have had ground safety
officers in a real panic had they existed in those days.
It should never have been a football ground and
I was glad to get away from the place it was
a wicked ground, said 90-year-old former City
stalwart Bernard Robinson, who played at The Nest for
the first four years of his career.
At one end of the ground it just went straight
up and to stop all the earth coming down on to the pitch
they had a huge cement wall. It was five or six feet
from the touchline so wingers had to be careful.
Behind the other goal were the dressing rooms
and a small stand and apart from that there was just
a row of houses and the gardens were 15 to 20 feet below
the level of the pitch. There was a big wire netting
fence to stop the ball going in there. It was very dangerous.
|NEST MAKING: Work is under way transforming
the old chalk pit in 1908. Note the rising wall
being constructed to shore up the hillside in readiness
for the terraces which went on top. INSET: A rare
action shot from a game at The Nest. Note the square
goal posts which were the fashion at the time.
As for facilities for spectators Robinson added: How
they crammed so many people in there Ill never
know. There was a lot of very steep terracing and Im
amazed no-one ever fell down.
The crowd there were good but I wasnt sad
when the place was pulled down. The Nest was so enclosed
and you felt the crowd were on top of you.
You certainly noticed the difference when we moved
to Carrow Road. That was a great place to play. There
was just so much space!
Norwich made the switch to The Nest during the summer
Thousands of tons of earth had to be shifted before
a pitch could be laid and stands erected and there then
followed the painstaking process of dismantling the
old Newmarket Road structures and moving them painstakingly
by horse and cart to their new home on the other side
of the City.
Chairman John Pyke, the man behind the switch, kicked
off the first game at Citys new home on September
1 as City beat Fulham 2-1 in a friendly in front of
a crowd of around 3000. It wasnt all plain sailing
after that an FA Cup tie against Reading later
in the year had to be switched to a neutral venue when
Citys opponents complained that the Nest pitch
wasnt big enough but the club soon settled
into their new home and it wasnt long before five
figure crowds were packing into the compact little ground.
The Nest was gradually improved over the years, with
the playing surface re-laid and extra terracing added,
and by the time the Canaries were elected to the Football
League in 1920 crowds of between 12,000 and 14,000 were
Further developments in the 1930s, including an extension
to the chicken run opposite the Main Stand,
saw the capacity rise still further and, on February
16, 1935 an incredible 25,037 crammed into the ground
to watch City lose 1-0 to Sheffield Wednesday in the
fifth round of the FA Cup.
Alas, by then, the Nests days were well and truly
numbered. Concern over the facilities had already been
expressed by Norwich directors and the matter came to
a head just a month after the big cup tie when the Football
Association wrote to the club saying they were not satisfied
the ground was suitable to house large crowds.
With the Canaries having been recently promoted to Division
Two it was quickly decided that the time was right to
move on and City kicked off the new season at a plush
new stadium, the original Carrow Road having been constructed
in just 82 days.
The Nest stood derelict for many years after being declared
surplus to requirements before the site was redeveloped
after the war.
Its now occupied by Bertram Books factory
and offices and walking around the grounds today
its hard to imagine that a football ground capable
of holding more than 25,000 people once stood there.
A small section of the wall so feared by visiting wingers
is all that remains of the remarkable old stadium.