A Place In History

Friday 20 May 2011 09:30

If you're looking to purchase a Season Ticket at Fulham Football Club| for the 2011/12 campaign, you will not just be supporting the oldest London club in the Barclays Premier League next season, you will be sitting in a stadium steeped in rich history.

There is arguably no other stadium that can match the unique character and matchday atmosphere of Craven Cottage. It is one of a kind that stands apart in the new era of modern stadia.

This week we guide you through the early years of the Cottage, from 1780 until the advent of World War II, when nearly 50,000 supporters packed themselves into the Cottage for a London derby against Millwall.

A Place In History Part I - The Early Years

The original 'Cottage' was built in 1780, by William Craven, the sixth Baron Craven. At the time, the surrounding areas were woods which made up part of Anne Boleyn's hunting grounds. It was lived in by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and other somewhat notable (and moneyed) persons until it was destroyed by fire in May 1888. Following that, the site was abandoned.

When representatives of Fulham first came across the land, in 1894, it was so overgrown that it took two years to be made suitable for football to be played on it. A deal had been done that meant this work was done by the owners of the ground, who then would receive a proportion of the gate receipts.

The first event at which there were any gate receipts was when Fulham played against Minerva in the Middlesex Senior Cup, on October 10th, 1896. The ground's first stand was built shortly after. Described as looking like an "orange box", it consisted of four wooden structures each holding some 250 seats, and later was affectionately nicknamed the "Rabbit hutch".

Before the ground could become too well established, the now defunct London County Council became concerned with the level of safety at the ground, and tried to get it closed. A court case followed in January 1905, as a result of which Archibald Leitch, a Scottish architect who had rose to prominence after his building of Ibrox a few years prior, was hired to work on the stadium. In a scheme costing £15,000, he had a new pavilion (the modern Cottage itself) and a stand built, in his characteristic red brick style.

The image below was taken during an International between England and Wales in 1907, the famous Billy Meredith is pictured here scoring for Wales in a 1-1 draw. You can still clearly see the windows at the back of the then called Stevenage Road Stand.

Below is a panoramic image of the Cottage taken from the Fulham’s 2-0 defeat to Bury. The Bury side that day went on to win promotion to Division 1. The Johnny Haynes Stand, as it is known today, has not changed a great deal since then.

Fulham managed to stay up on the final day of the season thanks to a 1-0 final victory over Stockport.

We have managed to unearth another image from 1934, the match shows Fulham goalkeeper Alf Tootil beating Plymouth’s Jimmy Cookson to a through ball. The background shows a packed Putney End and Stevenage Road Stand. Crowds at the Cottage in the 1930s were at an all time high. The club’s highest ever attendance of 49,335 was recorded against Millwall in October 1938.