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'The Vic'
'The Vic'
 The Oatcake - Virtual Victoria Ground

By Gareth Cooper
Date: 9/6/2005

The Victoria Ground | Stoke City's ground for well over 100 years before the move to the Brit in 1997. Here you should be able to find out everything you wanted to know about the Potters' former home, The Victoria Ground. Click the links to explore this section further

The Stoke End Stand

The Story Of The Victoria Ground

 

The Boothen End  |  The Boothen Stand  |  The Butler Street Stand
The Stoke End  |  Around The Vic  |  Demolition Of The Vic
The Story Of The Britannia Stadium  |  Stoke City FC Guide

 


The Victoria Ground
1878 - 1997

When Stoke City said goodbye to the Victoria Ground in May 1997 they bought to an end a stay of over 119 years stretching back to March 1878. By the time the final game came around the Potters had been associated with their spiritual home for a longer period than any other club in the history of English Football.

The Victoria Ground took its name from the Victoria Hotel, which would go on to occupy the site of the club's first ground, Sweeting's Field, just across the road from the stadium. Originally a venue for athletics, the ground was made up of an oval-shape and a large running track. What would later become the Boothen End, Butler Street and Stoke End stands were little more than uncovered banking in the early days, with just the one small, wooden construction running along Boothen Road, the side that would later become known as the Boothen Stand.

Stoke's first game at The Vic was a friendly against local side Talke Rangers on 28th March 1878. City won by one goal to nil in front of an estimated crowd of 2,500. Due to a lack of money the new home didn't see much in terms of ground improvements for the first ten years. Even in 1888, when the club gained league status as founder members of the Football League, the ground remained largely unchanged due to a lack of cash in the coffers. The ground was a mess when City dropped out of the Football League in 1908, considered to be one of the poorest in the country, before minor improvements were made on a gradual basis shortly before the outbreak of the First World War.

Following the Great War normality resumed and League Football got underway again. In 1919 Stoke were once again back in the Football League and the Victoria Ground had undergone something of a makeover. Two further covered stands were added, taking shape on the opposite touchline, while a changing hut was erected on the corner of the Boothen End and Boothen Stand. During the early 1920s another wooden stand was assembled alongside the changing hut with a capacity of 2,000. The freehold of the Vic was finally purchased in the summer of 1928, thanks to the club pulling in record season ticket sales that year.

By 1931 the Boothen End had been fully covered with terracing, while shelter from the elements was also provided. At this point the previous oval-shaped appearance of the stadium had disappeared completely. In 1935 the Butler Street Stand was built and soon became the showcase of the ground. It would hold seating for some 5,000 supporters with additional paddock sections at the front and at each end of the stand. Additional cover was also provided with a barrel-style roofing design.

On 29th March 1937 the Victoria Ground recorded its record attendance. 51,373 packed inside the Vic to watch Stoke take on Arsenal in a First Division encounter. The game finished goalless while the Stoke team included the likes of all time greats Frankie Soo, Stanley Matthews and Freddie Steele. To emphasise how up and down attendances were back then the home game prior to the Arsenal match had attracted 20,000 while the following fixture against Sheffield Wednesday pulled in just under 12,000.

The outbreak of The Second World War came soon after. In what has since become a popular piece of trivia, the Butler Street Stand went on to lead an alternative existence as an army camp. Come October 1956 the Vic saw the introduction of floodlights, turned on for the first time in a Second Division game against our Potteries rivals Port Vale. Stoke won the game by three goals to one in front of a crowd of 38,729, Coleman scoring twice and Kelly getting the other goal.

Our centenary celebrations took place in 1963 by which time the club had regained top flight status. A new main stand was built in three separate stages along Boothen Road. In order to save money the Directors paid the playing squad one shilling (5p) an hour to lay down the concrete on the terracing of the newly constructed Boothen Stand. In April, Stoke celebrated their centenary with a glamour home friendly against Real Madrid. The Spanish side included like likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas while the legendary Stanley Matthews ran out for the Potters. Close on 45,000 packed inside the Vic to see Stoke draw 2-2 with the Spanish giants.

The Victoria Ground pitch witnessed some of its greatest football during seventies, but the wheels would fall off for Stoke in January 1976. Gale force winds hit the Potteries that winter and the roof of the Butler Street Stand was blown off. The ground damage meant the next home game against Middlesbrough had to be played at Vale Park. The cost of the roofing repairs saw plenty of asset stripping from the squad and, ultimately, the resignation of manager Tony Waddington. Stoke were relegated from the top flight the following season.

City soon found their feet again under Alan Durban and in October 1979 the club launched another major redevelopment. A new two tier stand was opened at the Stoke End of the ground, containing 4,000 seats at the back and a terraced paddock towards the front. Soon after two new floodlight pylons were erected to replace an older pair, giving the ground a unique look in so much as it became the only professional venue in the country to have two completely different sets of floodlights behind both goals. Another rarity came with the Boothen End floodlights, located behind the actual stand rather than in the corners. 

In 1983 the surviving corner of the Butler Street Stand was demolished while on the corner of the Boothen End and Boothen Stand the club opened 'The Stanley Matthews Suite', containing a bar and facilities for corporate events. In July 1992 the club launched a club shop and promotions department, built into the side of the new Stoke End Stand just off Boothen Road. Two years later in 1994 Stoke announced plans for a new 9,000 all-seater stand, costing a proposed £5 million. Work was planned to begin in May 1995 although this development never came about, the club taking up the option to make the switch to a new purpose built stadium instead. A complete development of the Vic would have been astronomical in terms of finance, and despite the addition of 25 executive boxes in the Butler Street Stand the seating capacity was below 10,000 with the majority of the stadium made up of terracing, a condition that conflicted heavily with the Taylor Report.

The Victoria Ground played host to its final league game against West Bromwich Albion on the last day of the 1996/97 season. As a coincidence the first ever league game to take place at the Vic had also been against Albion, this back on the 8th September 1888 in front of 4,500 in which Stoke lost by two goals to nil. We signed off from the last encounter with victory, winning 2-1 in front of a 22,500 crowd. 

The club failed to deliver on talk of one last big friendly against International opposition. Instead we had a couple of reserve and youth cup fixtures after the West Brom game. The final two first team games at the Vic were low-key pre-season friendlies. The first saw Everton visit for Ian Cranson's testimonial, while we finished off with a two nil win against Coventry City. The attendance against the Sky Blues was little over 4,000. It wasn't a glamour game by any means and many supporters had already said their final goodbye against West Brom. The Vic was still standing on the day we opened the Britannia Stadium before demolition work commenced in the winter months.

A grand old football ground, it joins the likes of Roker Park, The Baseball Ground and Ayresome Park, now long gone, but it will forever be remembered in the hearts and minds of supporters. This page is dedicated to the memory of 'The Vic' and all who set foot in her, and those younger supporters who were never so lucky.

This section has been put together using many photographs from the world wide web. Some of the photos come from fan websites (Pistol, Ski) some dating as far back as 1997. Wherever possible we've tried to credit as many of the photos as possible, notably from The Swedish Stokie picture gallery, Pistols World and AndyP's 90 Miles From Home, dedicated to Leeds and West Yorkshire Stokies. Other photographs have been put up on our messageboard at one time or another down the years but we can't remember who by. If this is you and you want to get in touch then we'll be happy to attach your name to the image, or remove them from the section, whatever the case may be. Meanwhile if anybody else wants to help develop this section further then either get in touch with us on the message board or email any photographs to the usual address found on the SCFC Menu bar.
 


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