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SPORT

Norwich City grounds

1. Newmarket Road

An early game at Newmarket Road
FACTFILE
First match (competitive): Norwich City 1 Ipswich Town 0 (crowd 1,700) – November 15, 1902.
Final match (competitive): Norwich City 3 Swindon Town 1 (crowd 4,000) – April 25, 1908.
Record crowd: 10,366 (v Sheffield Wednesday, FA Cup second round, January 11, 1908).

Norwich City’s first home at Newmarket Road is still staging sporting events nearly 95 years after being vacated by the Canaries.

These days the venue is used by youngsters at the nearby Town Close House School and, depending on the season, there will generally be a game going on, whether it be cricket, football, rugby or hockey.

When City were formed, 100 years ago, the ground was already being used to stage high profile football matches.

It was leased from the Town Close Estates by the Norfolk Football Association and used to stage county finals and other big games, but there was plenty of scope to accommodate the new Norwich club – and they duly moved in after a rent of £25 per annum had been agreed.

About 2000 supporters lined the ropes for City’s first ever home game, a friendly against Harwich and Parkeston on Saturday, September 6, 1902, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

Their first competitive home match, a 1-0 victory over Ipswich Town in the Norfolk and Suffolk League, followed a little over two months later.

Crowds at Newmarket Road tended to vary between 2000 and 5000 during City’s three seasons in the local league but the switch to the Southern League at the start of the 1905-6 campaign saw interest in increase still further and 7000 packed into the compact little ground to see the Citizens, as they were known then, draw 1-1 with Southampton in their first home game at a higher level.

City’s finest hour at their first ground was to follow two-and-a-half years later when, with the help of some temporary accommodation, 10,366 people were able to watch Norwich beat holders Sheffield Wednesday in the first round of the FA Cup.

Tickets that day cost between one and four shillings (five and 20 pence) – and it certainly was money well spent.

By then the writing was on the wall for Newmarket Road.

The Town Close Estate Charity had written to City outlining the terms of any future lease and with restrictions likely to be put on the club’s use of the ground chairman John Pyke decided it was time to move on.

He said agreeing to the terms would be like “renting a shop, stocking it and preparing for business and someone else having the run of the place for five and a half days a week” and quickly identified a new site for Norwich City to play their matches – a disused chalk pit off Rosary Road.

It was certainly a less obvious footballing venue than the wide open spaces of Newmarket Road – but less than five months after playing their final fixture at their old home City were kicking off a new era at the Nest, where they were to remain for the next 27 years.

The Nest
Carrow Road

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