The borders of London encase some of the world’s greatest stadiums, each with its own unique—and sometimes surprising—story to tell.
For issue 06, Contributing Editor Kim Lightbody compiled a map of every football ground in London from the Premier League down to League Two. Below, check out the finished product. (Click the magnifying glass for a closer look.)
Griffin Park, Brentford FC
Record attendance: 38,678, Brentford vs. Leicester City in 1949
Brentford leased the land where Griffin Park now sits from Fuller’s Brewery back in 1903, when the site was still an orchard occupied by gypsies. After evacuating the unwanted inhabitants, the club began construction, taking the stadium’s name from the nearby Fuller’s-owned pub, the Griffin, which was sometimes used for dressing rooms and accommodation.
Record attendance: 89,874, Portsmouth vs. Cardiff City in 2008
The UK’s largest stadium, Wembley has a circumference of one kilometer and could fit 7 billion pints of milk under its roof. Its two large screens are each the size of 600 domestic television sets, and its amenities include 34 bars, eight restaurants, 98 kitchens, and 688 food and drink stands. During halftime, approximately 40,000 pints of beer can be served.
Stamford Bridge, Chelsea FC
Record attendance:82,905, Chelsea vs. Arsenal in 1935
Originally opened as a home for the London Athletic Club, the world’s oldest independent track-and-field club, the Bridge also hosted the World championship of shinty in 1898. It wasn’t until 1904, when Gus and Joseph Mears bought the lease, that the stadium began hosting football matches.
The Hive Stadium, Barnet FC
Record attendance: 5,233, Barnet vs. Gateshead in 2015
The Hive was originally envisioned as a new home for Conference South side Wealdstone FC, but the project faltered in 2004 due to financial troubles. Barnet moved there in 2013 but hopes to return to its home borough and build a stadium of its own.
Cherry Red Records Stadium, AFC Wimbledon
Record attendance: 4,784, AFC Wimbledon vs. Liverpool in 2015
AFC Wimbledon purchased the Kingsmeadow lease from semiprofessional side Kingstonian FC in 2003. As part of the deal, Kingstonian was granted a 25-year sublease and guaranteed an annual preseason friendly against AFC Wimbledon, the proceeds of which help Kingstonian pay its rent. Since 2009, however, AFC Wimbledon have pulled out of the yearly competition, with Kingstonian instead taking on Woking and Fulham.
Craven Cottage, Fulham FC
Record attendance: 49,335, Fulham vs. Millwall in 1938
Craven Cottage gets its name from an actual cottage built by William Craven, the sixth Baron Craven, in 1780, where the center circle of the pitch now sits. The cottage was surrounded by a forest, which included part of Anne Boleyn’s hunting grounds. The cottage was destroyed by a fire in 1888, and in 1894 Fulham came across the site and decided to turn it into their pitch—but had to wait two years for the overgrown land to be cleared.
Loftus Road Stadium, Queens Park Rangers
Record attendance: 35,353, QPR vs. Leeds in 1974
Loftus Road became the first professional football stadium in England to install an artificial pitch when, in 1981, it replaced its grass with Omniturf. This lasted only until 1988, when legislation forced the club to return to a grass pitch. Only three other league stadiums in the country had artificial turf, but all were removed by 1994.
The Den, Millwall FC
Record attendance: 20,093, Millwall vs. Arsenal in 1994
The Den was the first new football stadium constructed for a professional team in London since 1937, as well as the first new all-seater stadium constructed after the Taylor Report on the Hillsborough disaster. It came to fruition after Millwall’s chairman determined that the club could not redevelop its original home, the Old Den, as an all-seater stadium.
Emirates Stadium, Arsenal FC
Record attendance: 60,161, Arsenal vs. Man Utd in 2007
Queen Elizabeth II was scheduled to officially open the Emirates on Oct. 26, 2006, but Prince Philip had to sub in for her after she suffered a back injury. To make up for it, the Queen invited Arsenal’s chairman, manager, and the first team to Buckingham Palace for afternoon tea.
White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur FC
Record attendance: 75,038, Spurs vs. Sunderland in 1938
White Hart Lane was originally a nursery, owned by the landlord of the White Hart public house at 750 Tottenham High Road. By 1899, when Spurs rented the grounds, the nursery was in disuse. But during renovations in 1952, remnants of the nursery were found, including greenhouse foundations and a concrete water container.
London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium, Dagenham & Redbridge FC
Record attendance: 7,200, Dagenham vs. Reading in 1967
Although Victoria Road has been a football ground since 1917, it remained undeveloped until Dagenham FC moved there in 1955. Prior to that, the site was used by local factory team Sterling Works.
Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace
Record attendance: 51,801, Crystal Palace vs. Burnley in 1979
Real Madrid played its first match in London at Selhurst Park on April 18, 1962. The game, organized to celebrate Palace’s new floodlights, ended with Real winning 4-3.
Matchroom Stadium, Leyton Orient FC
Record attendance: 34,345, Leyton Orient vs. West Ham in 1964
In the early 2000s, a property developer purchased part of Brisbane Road and turned the stadium’s four corners into residential apartment blocks. Visible from the pitch, the brick apartments give Brisbane Road an unusual look and enable tenants to view matches free of charge.
The Valley, Charlton Athletic FC
Record attendance: 75,031, Charlton vs. Aston Villa in 1938
Charlton supporters have long been involved in The Valley’s upkeep. In 1919, volunteers converted a sand pit into the club’s first pitch, and in 1990, when the local council rejected renovation plans for the stadium, a group of supporters formed a political party and won 15,000 votes, successfully pressuring the council to approve the renovation.
Boleyn Ground*, West Ham United FC
Record attendance: 42,322, West Ham vs. Spurs in 1970
West Ham was briefly forced out of its home in 1944, after a V-1 flying bomb landed on a corner of the pitch. Despite being displaced, the team managed to win nine consecutive matches while waiting for their stadium to be repaired. This came just a few years after the Hammers won the Football League War Cup in 1940, beating Blackburn Rovers 1-0 in front of more than 40,000 fans at Wembley.
*The team is moving to Olympic Stadium starting in 2016.