In 1875 Stoke moved to their first permanent home 'Sweetings Field ' owned
by Alderman Sweeting ( the Lord Mayor of Stoke ) on the site where the
Victoria Inn public house now stands.
1878 saw them move across the road to the 'New Athletic Ground ' .To be
later called the Victoria Ground which was to remain their home until they
moved to the Britannia Stadium on the Trentham Lakes development in August
Stoke's first match at their new home was a friendly against local side
Talke Rangers, on March 28 ,1878, which Stoke won 1-0 in front of an
estimated 2,500 crowd.
Designed as an athletics ground the 'Vic' was originally oval in shape
to accommodate the running track, with open banking at each end and a small
wooden stand on the Boothen Road side of the ground - and owed it's Victoria
Ground name to the public house opposite.
The first official game after the name Victoria Ground had been adopted was
against Great Lever from the Manchester area on September 24,1883
September 8 ,1888 saw the first ever Football league game at the Vic played
against Staffordshire rivals West Bromwich, in front of an estimated
attendance of 4,500, a game which saw West Brom run out 2-0 victors -
fittingly the last ever game at the Vic was also against West Brom.
Throughout Stoke's stay a covenant existed on the ground from the lands
previous ecclesiastical owners forbidding them from playing there on a
Sunday and Good Friday.
By the time Stoke returned to the league in 1919 the Vic had two stands ,
another small 1,000 seat wooden stand having been built opposite the main
stand .In the South West corner where the Boothen End and Boothen Stand were
was a small hut used as the players changing rooms, complete with an old
stove in the centre, as depicted in a modern painting marking the life of
Sir Stanley Matthews that hangs in the foyer of the Britannia Stadium. Above
this hut was the directors box - think of a rough and primitive Potteries
version of the 'Cottage' at Fulham.
During the 1920's a 2,000 seat Main stand was built along side this hut.
In 1930 the Boothen end of the ground was terraced and later covered and it
was at this point that the old oval shape of the ground was lost.
1935 saw the building of the 5,000 seat Butler Street Stand, complete with a
barrel roof that curved slightly around the corners, in front of the stand
lay a paddock to accommodate standing spectators.- it was this roof that was
to have catastrophic consequences for the fortunes of the club some 40 years
During World War II, in common with many football grounds of the day the
Butler Street Stand at Stoke was given over for use by the army as a
October 1956 saw the Victoria Ground's floodlights switched on for the first
time in a game against local rivals Port Vale.
And in 1960 with the main stand having long past it's usefulness the club
went about rebuilding that side of the ground in three stages, including the
provision of new dressing rooms, the third stage was completed in time for
Stoke's return to the top flight.
It's reported that the players were offered the daily rate of a shilling a
day to help with the construction of the paddock that sat in front of what
was to become the Boothen Stand.
By the 70's Stoke's fortunes on the pitch under the masterful management of
Tony Waddington were slowly but surely turning the club into a force to be
reckoned with again at the highest level , it's therefore systematic and
typical of the club's history that as honours seemed theirs for the taking
fate should deal the club such a cruel and crushing blow.
A gale caused damage to the Butler Street roof, which under insured was
replaced out of club funds, the damage caused to the roof was nothing
compared to the devastation that had been done to the team and club , as the
fine footballing team that Waddington built was cruelly ripped from him with
his finest hour beckoning - these days the club would have got a grant or
been bailed out - in the 70's it was a blow from which in truth they've
NEVER really recovered.
In 1979 Stoke built a 4,000 seater stand with a small Paddock in front on
what had once been the giant open terrace of the Stoke end or ' Town End' an
end that I'd stood on more than once in the 70's in crowds well into the mid
to high 40,000s
The Stoke End stand though was never popular and seldom full and with the
rest of the stadium being in serious need of modernisation the club opted to
move home once again in 1997.
The last game just as the first league match 119 years earlier, was against
Staffordshire rivals West Bromwich Albion on May 4 , 1997
The old place was a fortress, a place where even superior teams dreaded to
come and so often went away defeated - but more than that it was home , home
to so many supporters and players over the 119 years it was our home - and
just as the gales ripped the heart out the club in the 70's the move to the
Britannia ripped the heart out of many supporters in the 90's, life and
football can be so cruel at times.
God bless the Boothen and the many Stoke fans for whom it was home and who
defended their little piece of man made mound to the hilt.
'Give me a shirt forever, on the steps where I used to dream, In that
corrugated shed of a fortress where the crowd became part of the team.'
from a poem by J Bennett.