3. Carrow Road
FLOWN FROM THE NEST: The Canaries
move to Carrow Road in 1935 - this view from the
1950s shows a crammed car park and the Boulton
and Paul factory alongside. The River End is uncovered.
In these days of technological advancement, it is difficult
to comprehend the speed with which Norwich City transferred
their operations from The Nest to Carrow Road in the
summer of 1935.
|First match (competitive):
Norwich City 4 West Ham3 (att 29,779) August
First goal: Doug Lochead (left) v West Ham.
Biggest crowd: 43,984 (v Leicester City,
FA Cup 6th rd, March 30, 1963.)
Having just completed their first season in Division
Two, Canaries officials were stunned to receive a letter
from the FA, dated May 15, expressing concern at their
ground being used to host large crowds.
Yet by August 31 just 15 weeks later they
were welcoming West Ham to Carrow Road for the first
match of the new season.
The task involved would have been impressive by modern
standards, never mind pre-war conditions, and was sparked
by the announcement on May 18 by City chairman Billy
Hurrell that there is a grave possibility of The
Nest being declared unsuitable.
On June 1 it was announced that arrangements had been
made with J &J Colman Ltd for the club to take over
the Carrow Road Ground, home of Boulton & Paul Sports
Club on a 20-year lease. Tenders were invited the same
On June 3 plans were submitted to Norwich City Council
and the chief constable for approval.
On June 11 builders Harry Pointer Ltd started making
the terraces at 3.45am!
June 28 constructors Boulton & Paul started erection
of Main Stand; and on July 25 T Gill and Son began building
the dressing rooms and club offices.
It was not only the speed of the building work which
amazed the rest of the football world but its scale.
Within six months the new ground was holding a crowd
of 32,378 for an FA Cup tie against Chelsea. The first
development at the new ground followed in 1937, with
the erection of cover at the Station End, renamed the
Barclay End in honour of Captain Evelyn Barclay, a vice-president
of the club who donated the roof costs.
This helped take the ground record up to 33,346 for
the FA Cup visit of Aston Villa in January 1938, which
in turn was smashed in April 1948 when 37,863 were attracted
by the prospect of seeing Tommy Lawton play for Notts
County, the England star sensationally having left Chelsea
to play in the Third Division South.
Next came the installation of floodlights in 1956, the
£9000 cost of which were a contributary cause
of the financial problems which almost bankrupted the
club soon afterwards. But the new board, which revived
the clubs fortunes on the field, culminating in
promotion from Division Three and the 1959 FA Cup run,
were also responsible for changing matters off the pitch
More than 430,000 people watched the Canaries battle
their way through to their first FA Cup semi-final appearance
and the profits from this run were spent on South Stand
improvements, most notably a cover two-thirds the length
of pitch. It is now the oldest-surviving part of the
Carrow Road stadium.
With their place in Division Two assured, attention
turned to completing the South Stand. In the summer
of 1962 plans were drawn up to fill in the corner with
the Barclay Stand with banked terracing and extend the
roof to extend halfway round the ground towards the
corner with the Main Stand. This was intended to increase
ground capacity to 48,000, although for safety reasons,
this figure was never actually put to the test, coming
closest in March 1963, when an FA Cup quarter-final
with Leicester was made a 44,000 all-ticket affair.
With the City Supporters Association providing
£20,000 of the £33,000 needed to fund the
project, secretary Stan Springall took an optimistic
view of the future.
He declared: With this increased accommodation,
I am hoping the powers that be will allocate one or
two matches to Norwich in the World Cup of 1966.
In the end, however, the closest Carrow Road got to
realising his dream was an England Under-23 match with
France in 1965, when the increased capacity was hardly
needed with a crowd of only 20,203 on hand to see a
3-0 home victory.
The Canaries, in common with most other clubs, did little
to develop their ground until concerns for supporter
safety first began to be voiced following the Ibrox
Stadium disaster of 1971, when 66 fans were crushed
The 1970s were to see football grounds having to seek
safety licences from local council and potential access
problems at Carrow Road resulted in the Canaries being
threatened with having their capacity slashed to less
But by then, Carrow Road had already begun to be more
in keeping with what fans would expect from an established
Division One outfit.
During the Canaries first two seasons in the top
flight, they had suffered from an acute lack of seating,
so the unpopular decision was taken in the summer of
1975 to convert the South Stand from terracing to seating.
Faced with a break-even figure of 28,000, City chairman
Sir Arthur South insisted that increasing revenue was
the only way the club could survive. But even Sir Arthur
could not have envisaged the next bombshell to befall
Faced with the prospect of a £400,000 bill to
bring the River End terrace up to acceptable standards,
the decision was made to replace it with a £1.7million
two-tier stand, containing both terracing and seats.
More importantly, however, and indicative of football
clubs diversification of reliance on gate recepits alone,
it would also contain a pub, function rooms and 20 executive
The terracing was used for the last time in April 1979,
before 9000 cubic metres of soil and concrete was removed
from Carrow Road. The enormous new stand 10,500
nuts and bolts were needed to support its roof
meant the ground was three-sided for the opening months
and drew criticism from visiting officials for sub-standard
lighting after two of the original floodlight pylons
were demolished. But after its completion in December
1979, Carrow Road was converted into a stadium holding
28,392 with seats for 12,675.
Features taken for granted now were steadily introduced
segregration fences to keep home and visiting
fans in the Barclay apart in the 1970s, a scoreboard
on top of the Barclay Stand roof at the start of the
But while most major redevelopment was foisted upon
the Canaries by events elsewhere, the next major structural
project was caused by events closer to home.
In the early hours of October 25 1984, fire destroyed
much of the old wooden stand. A massive clear-up allowed
the home match with QPR to go ahead four days later,
but that was to prove the least of Citys problems.
It had quickly become apparent that the whole stand
would have to be demolished, but a combination of relegation
to Division Two, fresh safety considerations following
the Bradford City fire disaster of 1985 and a boardroom
upheaval heaped delay upon delay on rebuilding work.
Plans were unveiled and then scrapped, and it was not
until the 1986/87 season that the new City Stand came
into use, being formally opened by the Duchess of Kent
on February 14, 1987. It was unique in that it contained
no turnstiles, spectators being admitted on production
of a membership card/season ticket.
Coming to a football match within the City Stand
is very much like going to the theatre the only
difference being that our stage is covered with grass,
declared Robert Chase a man many fans would accusse
of putting ground development before team strengthening.
The chairman countered by insisting that opposition
to the concept of all-seater stadiums, laid down in
law, after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, was futile.
The ground would have to be converted into an all-seater
stadium and so he considered it worth getting the work
out of the way sooner rather than later.
He won no friends in converting the lower tier of the
River End to seating and beginning the redevelopment
of the Barclay End in 1992, two years before the government
deadline for clubs doing away with their terracing.
But he insisted that his action would ensure the maximum
Football Grounds Improvement Trust grant before payments
were due to be cut back. As a result the £2.8m
cost of the new two-tier Barclay Stand, modelled on
the River Stand, was offset by a £2m grant from
the Football Trust.
To further increase capacity, and, intentionally or
not, give the ground a sense of uniformity, the corners
in between the City Stands and the River and Barclay
Stands were filled in, resulting in the largest City
attendance of modern times being the 21,843 who witnessed
a 2-1 defeat by Liverpool on April 29, 1995.