Worn Football Pitch from Above

What is the Oldest Football Stadium in the UK?

Football is a sport with a love of tradition and this is part of the reason why the beautiful game is so special. Fans end up forging so many memories at their home stadium that they often develop a real attachment. It can be painful, therefore, for sentimental reasons, when a club decides they have to relocate to a new home.

While many British clubs have ended up moving stadiums, for a variety of reasons, others have been at the very same location for well over a century. All stadiums will have undergone improvements over the decades, of course, but they still maintain that same feeling of ‘home’ and the history that comes with it. There is a surprising number of stadiums still used on a weekly basis that were originally built in the 1800s and here we will focus on the very oldest among them.

Stadium Club Year Built
Racecourse Ground Wrexham 1807
Bramall Lane Sheffield United 1855
Field Mill Mansfield Town 1861
Tannadice Park Dundee United 1870
Deepdale Preston North End 1875
Stamford Bridge Chelsea 1877
Rodney Parade Newport County 1877
Ewood Park Blackburn Rovers 1882
Turf Moor Burnley 1883

Racecourse Ground (Wrexham)

Wrexham's Racecourse Ground
Image: Markbarnes, Wikimedia Commons
  • Year Built – 1807
  • Capacity – 10,771

Although the Racecourse Ground opened in 1807, it was not until considerably later (1864) that it was used for football. Prior to this, the venue typically held cricket matches and occasionally horse racing (hence the name). The reason why the ground broadened its offering in 1864 was that this was the year Wrexham AFC were founded. The Dragons have spent the vast majority of their history at the Racecourse Ground ever since.

The Welsh outfit did however temporarily relocate to the short-lived Recreation Ground in Rhosddu between 1881 and 1883 as the Wrexham Cricket Club, then the Racecourse Ground owners, decided to up the rent. Today, the ground is owned by Wrexham AFC though because on 9th February 2022 the club announced they had purchased the freehold back from Wrexham Glyndwr University.

As well as being the oldest club stadium in the UK, the Racecourse Ground is also the oldest still-active ground used for international football. Admittedly this does not happen very often these days but the north Wales venue does host the Welsh national side on the very odd occasion. It last did so in 2019 when Wales narrowly beat Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in a friendly.

Bramall Lane (Sheffield United)

Bramall Lane Plaque
Photo © M J Richardson (cc-by-sa/2.0)
  • Year Built – 1855
  • Capacity – 32,050

Bramall Lane, located close to the heart of Sheffield, was first built to operate as a cricket ground. One of the six cricket teams signed up to play home matches here was the Wednesday Cricket Club, the very same club responsible for the creation of Sheffield Wednesday FC. Seven years after opening, Bramall Lane hosted its first football match as Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest football club still in existence, took on Hallam FC. Incidentally, Hallam FC are the second oldest, still active association football club in the world, having formed in 1860.

A few years later, Bramall Lane hosted the final of the world’s first football tournament, the Youdan Cup, a competition contested among various teams based in the city. This is far from the only reason why you might find this charming ground in the record books though. It is one of only two grounds that has hosted the England national football team, an FA Cup final and an England cricket test match. From these two, the other being the Oval in London, it is the only ground to have also hosted an international football tournament match as it was one of the stadiums selected for the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022.

Field Mill (Mansfield Town)

Mansfield Town's Field Mill
Image: Rileyandco, Wikimedia Commons
  • Year Built – 1861
  • Capacity – 9,186

Field Mill is one of the oldest football grounds still used today and it is possible that its history dates even further back than 1861. There is some evidence to suggest that the ground was home to sporting activities sometime in the 1850s but either way, this is one extremely old pitch. Employees of the nearby Greenhalgh & Sons Works ended up using Field Mill for their football matches, playing under various different names such as Greenhalgh FC, Field Mill FC and Mansfield Greenhalgh. The ground was also used for the Greenhalgh cricket team and later (1984 to 1986) by the Mansfield Marksman rugby team.

The modern-day Mansfield Town FC, who play their football in League Two, did not move to Field Mill until just after World War I had concluded. The opportunity arose when previous tenants, by this point the Mansfield Mechanics football team, who had only been there five years, could not keep up with rent payments. Due to this, the Mechanics had to relinquish their place at the first ground in the world to host a competitive floodlit game of football.

Tannadice Park (Dundee United)

Dundee United's Tannadice
Image: TallOranje, Wikimedia Commons
  • Year Built – 1870
  • Capacity – 14,223

It is not entirely clear when Tannadice Park first hosted a football match but we do know it was sometime in the 1870s, just not necessarily as early as the year 1870. At the time much of the nearby area was open countryside so finding space to erect a football pitch was far from an issue. The first club to use the ground, then known as Clepington Park, as a permanent home, were Dundee East End, doing so for the 1882/83 season.

This arrangement did not last long though with Dundee Violet taking their spot the following season. When both teams ended up relocating in 1884, Clepington Park was briefly club-less but Dundee East End returned three years later. In these early years, clubs could not charge an admission fee as the ground was not enclosed. This changed when Johnstone Wanderers moved in and opted to build a modest wooden grandstand that housed approximately 500 fans.

Johnstone Wanderers merged with another local side in 1894 to become Dundee Wanderers and later in the year applied for Scottish Football League membership. As this was approved, Clepington Park held its first SPL fixture on 25th August 1894 against Motherwell. Wanderers played here until 1909 but then they were replaced by the newly established Dundee Hibernian as their chairman offered the stadium landlord considerably more rent. A furious Wanderers did begrudgingly leave but they stripped everything they could from the stadium prior, including the goalposts.

Deepdale (Preston North End)

Tom Finney Splash Statue at Preston's Deepdale Stadium
Image: Nic McPhee, flickr
  • Year Built – 1875
  • Capacity – 23,408

Preston’s home of Deepdale may not be the oldest stadium still used today but it contends that it is the oldest ‘continuously used’ football ground in the world. The other main candidate for this accolade is Bramall Lane but this, as covered earlier, initially began as a cricket ground. Although Sheffield FC played their first match there in 1862, there are some questions as to how regular football was in these early years.

The response from Yorkshire is usually that Deepdale was used as a prison of war camp in World War II, putting a stop to its continuous football use. Prisoners were known to have played football though, so there is some argument to say the streak never truly died. The debate will never likely be settled but what we do know is that Deepdale hosted its first football match on 5th October 1878, shortly after being built. It was Preston North End that played here, yet another club that started off playing cricket, followed by rugby. The football club itself was not technically founded until 1880 though, two years after their first association rules match, as it took them some time to fully adopt the football association code.

Stamford Bridge (Chelsea)

Chelsea's Stamford Bridge Shed End
Image: theodoritsis, flickr
  • Year Built – 1877
  • Capacity – 41,837

Although an incredibly well-known football stadium today, the initial intent for Stamford Bridge was to create a space in which to host athletics. Once fully constructed, the London Athletic Club adopted it as their main base and they remained here until 1904. During this period, little else took place at the ground other than athletics although there were some exceptions. In 1898 for example, the Bridge hosted the World Championship of shinty, a game similar to field hockey.

The situation changed when brothers Gus and Joseph Mears took ownership of the lease as the pair wanted high-quality football at Stamford Bridge. They had hoped to get Fulham FC to move in but the Cottagers turned down the proposal for financial reasons. Lacking a club and turning against the idea of simply selling the land to the Great Western Railway Company, the Mears created their own club. This is how Chelsea was born and soon after the newly founded club had access to a 100,000-capacity stadium designed by the expert architect in the field, Archibald Leitch.

Rodney Parade (Newport County)

Newport County Match Against Manchester United
Image: Newport Monmouthshire, flickr
  • Year Built – 1877
  • Capacity – 7,850 (for football)

Rodney Parade is another stadium that was not originally intended to be a football ground. Instead, Newport Athletic Club wanted somewhere for their various teams to play and practice. Two years after the club was formed, they secured the rights to use the current site of Rodney Parade for their rugby, tennis, cricket and athletics teams. Soon after, Newport RFC began playing rugby at the site and this led to floodlights being installed in 1879, a first for a Welsh ground.

Newport RFU continued to play at Rodney Parade but they were joined by the Monmouthshire County Cricket Club between 1901 and 1934. The ground is unable to host cricket anymore, as a primary school was built on the land, but rugby has been ever-present. Indeed, the ground is actually owned and operated by the Welsh Rugby Union. As for football, this only become a regular sight at Rodney Parade in 2012 when Newport County AFC made the switch from Newport Stadium. So, while technically this may be one of the oldest football stadiums in the world, the claim is a little misleading given how little football there has been here.

Ewood Park (Blackburn Rovers)

Blackburn Rovers' Ewood Park
Image: Eddie Leslie, flickr
  • Year Built – 1882
  • Capacity – 31,367

Football was played at the site of Ewood Park prior to 1882 but on what would have been barely anything more than a field and nothing you could ever call a stadium. It was on this patch of grass, known as Ewood Bridge, where Blackburn Rovers played four matches, the first being against Sheffield Wednesday on 9th April 1881. Ewood Park was constructed the following year, opening in April 1882 to host football, athletics and some greyhound racing albeit not on a standard oval course.

Blackburn Rovers, who had played at several different sites in their earliest years, gave this new ground a try in 1882. It was not until 1890 that they adopted it as a long-term base, doing so by signing a 10-year lease with annual rent coming in at £60 a year. So, in many ways, Rovers’ first true ‘home’ game at Ewood Park was when taking on Accrington on 13th September. Around 10,000 showed up to watch although they saw no goals as the contest finished 0-0. Rovers have remained here ever since and they survived an attempt from the Suffragettes to destroy the stadium in 1913. Much like with Preston’s Deepdale stadium, the plan was to burn down the wooden grandstand but in both cases their efforts were foiled.

Turf Moor (Burnley)

Burnley's Turf Moor
Image: Trappedinburnley, Wikimedia Commons
  • Year Built – 1883
  • Capacity – 21,944

The last remaining spot on our list goes to Turf Moor given that Burnley FC’s home ground is marginally older than Anfield, Portman Road built in 1884 and Gigg Lane built in 1885. The site where the ground is has been used for sporting activities since the 1840s as it was here where Burnley Cricket Club set up their wickets. The cricketers allowed Burnley FC, established in 1882, to use a pitch beside the cricket field in 1883, giving the newly created football side a regular place to play.

By 1885, Turf Moor began to really take shape as the first grandstand was built along with terraces at each end of the ground. A year later and Prince Albert Victor came to visit the renovated site, becoming the first member of the Royal Family to attend a football ground. Turf Moore has been a permanent home of Burnley FC since and they have virtually had it all to themselves during this time. The only exception was a brief period between 1902 and 1904 when Burnley shared the ground with Burnley Belvedere, members of the Lancashire Amateur League, to help the former’s finances.