The Dell, the former home of Southampton

Southampton - The DellSouthampton - The Dell 14.09.2016: The Dell was the home ground of Southampton F.C. for more than a hundred years. In particular, it was between the years 1898 and 2001, when the club moved to their new home, St. Mary’s Stadium. In the 1880s Southampton played their home matches at the Antelope Ground, but in 1896 they were forced to move away, as the site was sold to property developers. The club then played for a short time at the County Cricket Ground, and in 1897 they announced the purchase of a plot of land where they would build a new stadium.

The new stadium was located in a valley (a ‘dell’), north of the Southampton Central Station. Southampton F.C. bought the land from a rail company, which had dropped their plan to build a railway line there. The Dell was inaugurated in September 1898, by a match against Brighton United, which Southampton won 4:1.

At first, The Dell had two roof-covered stands, and it could hold about 25,000 spectators. The Southampton F.C. home ground underwent further redevelopment in 1928, when a new West Stand was built – it was designed by architect Archibald Leitch. A year later, the East Stand was destroyed in a fire, so it was rebuilt in a similar style as the West Stand.
  During World War II, on 30th November 1940 to be precise, a bomb was dropped by German bombers onto the pitch, creating a crater in the penalty area. Before the pitch was restored, Southampton played all their remaining matches away. In March 1941 another misfortune struck The Dell – munitions stored in the ground exploded and caused a big fire in the West Stand. But the stand was rebuilt shortly afterwards, so it was merely the beginning of the 1941/1942 season that Southampton had to spend “in exile”.

In 1950 The Dell was the first stadium in England to have floodlighting installed. The first match played under the floodlights was on 31st October, a friendly match against Boscombe Athletic. In the post-war years The Dell was often packed to capacity. The attendance record was beaten in 1969, when 31,044 spectators came to see the match against Manchester United.

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In those times one of the iconic parts of the stadium was the two-tier terrace at the southern end. The second tier consisted of three boxes, which looked like and were also referred to as chocolate boxes. In the early 1980s these chocolate boxes were replaced with a new family stand, which was, in turn, rebuilt in the early 1990s, when the stadium was turned into an all-seater in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

Foto: Colin Smith (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Due to a lack of space the new stand had an unusual triangular shape, with only six or seven rows of seats going up on the left side and about five times as many on the right side. By turning the stadium into an all-seater, its capacity got reduced to mere 15,200 seats. And as no further expansion was possible, it was clear that Southampton would soon have to find a new home ground.

In 1999 construction of the St. Mary’s Stadium began and Southampton moved there two years later. They played their last official match at The Dell on 19th May 2001. In a Premier League match Southampton played Arsenal, and they won 3:2 thanks to local hero Matthew Le Tissier and his last-minute goal. Shortly afterwards the stadium was demolished and replaced with a housing estate. The apartment blocks on the estate bear the names of former Southampton players.
Foto: David Martin (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Author: Jiri Vojkovsky |


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