The Perry Barr Grand Stand

The most imposing structure ever built at Aston Villa’s Perry Barr ground was the Grand Stand, erected in mid-1887, shortly after Villa’s first ever FA Cup Final triumph, a 2-0 win over West Bromwich at the Oval in 1887.

In order to raise the cash Villa set up a Pavillion Fund. This more than paid for the £383 costs of the construction, and guaranteed each individual subscriber a seat.

The stand itself measured some 30 yards long and was designed by Daniel Arkell, a local architect who had, that same year, finished a much grander edifice, the Victoria Hall on Victoria Road (now an Islamic study centre). Arkell advised the Villa for several years while they were at Perry Barr, and was later disappointed when the club chose another architect for the club’s new home at the Lower Grounds. But in 1887 his neatly embellished Grand Stand was quite the most handsome stand in the Midlands.

Its proud opening took place before a representative match, Birmingham & District v Lancashire, on October 22, 1887, watched by 11,000. Deemed by the Birmingham Daily Gazette to be ‘in every respect admirable,’ the new stand had nine rows of seats, accommodating 700-800 spectators (who had to peer past no fewer than 14 slender columns), with a ‘reserve promenande of ashes’ along the front. The flat area, together with two sets of old wooden terraces placed on either side of the stand, held up to 1,500 spectators.

As surviving etchings show, the stand was chiefly characterised by a central pedimented roof gable, on the front of which was a clock donated by a Mr Wray of New Street. Above the gable flew a large pennant-style flag with the intials AVFC. The ridge of the roof was lined by decorative ironwork.

• source: Simon Inglis, Villa Park, 100 Years

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