Memorial Ground, Horfield (also known as The Memorial Stadium)8175

Bristol, England

Brief Description

The Memorial Ground is an inspired, life affirming and dynamic war memorial in Horfield, Bristol. The ‘soul’ and home of Bristol rugby is a special war memorial because it is in the unusual form of a vibrant sports ground - whereas many war memorials are static, formal and sombre. The site is surrounded by terraced houses on all sides. The Club house was built in the 1970s, the Centenary Stand in 1988 and the West Stand in 1997. The playing pitch is in good order. The entrance gates are Grade II listed.

History

The Memorial Ground was designed by local architect and Bristol Rugby Club committee member James Hart. The building works were carried out by William Cowlin & Son.

Visitor Facilities

The site is open to the public during matches.
Features
  • Entrance
  • Description: Original metal gates, labeled BRISTOL RUGBY MEMORIAL GROUND. Bath stone gate piers. Central pier has inscriptions. Plaques inscribed by AG Bird, a Bristol Rugby player.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Gate Piers
  • Description: The inscription on the entrance gates to The Memorial Ground reads as follows: “1914-1918 In proud and grateful memory of the services rendered to their country in the Great War, by rugby football players of Bristol. This ground was established 1921”. Another inscription was added after the Second World War: “1939-1945 And in the World War of 1939-45, the rugby football players of this city gave their services and their lives. To them also this ground is a memorial”. Presented by former Bristol Rugby player JS Edbrooke. Plaques inscribed by AG Bird, another Bristol Rugby player.
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The site is open to the public during matches.
History

Detailed History

The Memorial Ground is an inspired, life affirming and dynamic war memorial in Horfield, Bristol. The ‘soul' and home of Bristol rugby is a special war memorial because it is in the unusual form of a vibrant sports ground - whereas many war memorials are static, formal and sombre. It is nationally important - the interplay of sporting values and the good spirits of soldiers in World War 1 is well documented. "It was the young men of the country who won the war, and it was the sporting instinct that enabled them to do it. ...to endure untold suffering and misery. ...Those glorious lads ... had done their part nobly and it was to those who were able to live on, to see that their memory should never fade." (The Western Daily Press, 11 March 1920). The Memorial Ground represents our debt to sport.

The Memorial Ground was built for the Bristol Rugby Club on Buffalo Bill's Field, in a north Bristol Victorian suburban area. Buffalo Bill's Field had been a public showground for flying loop-the-loop air displays, various sports, etc. The showground was named after Colonel William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, whose Wild West Show had performed there in 1891. During World War 1 the field was taken over by the Ministry of Agriculture and used as allotments.

The Great War had been traumatic for the people of Britain, France and Germany. In the aftermath of the catastrophe, local "communities of the bereaved"(see references) created war memorials as they saw fit, within the context of national guidelines. There was a wave of memorialisation.

It was recognised that physical sports made men healthy and strong. Team sports also instilled a respect for the opponent and his team - which made them more effective and humane servicemen in time of war. In the aftermath of the war, great foresight was shown by creating sports grounds to replicate those winning characteristics in future generations.

In March 1920, a public appeal was launched in Bristol to raise money to build stands and dressing rooms and to equip the ground. The intent was for a permanent memorial in the form of a permanent sports ground, as a tribute to the city's three hundred rugby players who had died in the war. The people of Bristol readily donated enough money to pay for the construction works and the equipping of The Memorial Ground.

Several strata of limestone were found just beneath the surface. Thousands of tons had to be excavated and removed, before the playing pitch could be levelled and turfed. Further construction works included installing a drainage system and building stands for spectators.

The whole of Memorial Ground is a war memorial (Imperial War Museum War Memorials Archive ref 7323), not just the entrance gates. The founders and trustees intended that the playing field would be used for sport (especially rugby), for ever. Lest we forget.

See short history of The Memorial Ground in "The Bristol Football Club Jubilee Book 1888-1938" by W.T. Pearce et al (1938).

Detailed history contributed 18/04/2014

Period

  • Early 20th Century (1901-1932)
Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Jamie Carstairs

    1