The history of Leyton Orient FC

Peter Åhlén har skrevet denne saken om Orients hjemmebaner gjennom de årene de har vært i ligasystemet.  

The history of Brisbane Road

Orient´s present ground was the home of Leyton amateurs who were having some difficulty paying the rent to the council in 1937. Wasting no time, Orient stepped in and took over the ground during the summer. There was one stand seating 475 people, scathingly referred to as "the orange box" and a cover on the West Side for standing spectators.  All the banking was cinder. The club's first game there was on 28.08.1937 vs. Cardiff City, watched by 14.598. 

At last it looked as if Clapton Orient had a permanent home, but the club's financial problems had not disappeared. After the second World War, when the club changed its name yet again, to Leyton Orient, a fighting fund was needed to save the club.  This, and the appointment of a new chairman and manager proved the way for a successful period ahead. 

In 1951 a new perimeter wall was built in place of the pre-war years and in the summer of 1956 after celebrating promotion, a new main stand was erected on the East Side.  The stand was bought from Mitcham Greyhound stadium in South London, but initially Orient rebuilt only two-thirds of the structure storing the reminder elsewhere.

The East Stand was opened for a game vs. Nottingham Forest in October 1956, and nearly ruined the same day by a fire, thankfully spotted in time. The late chairman, Harry Zussman, quoted in Neil Kaufman's and Harry Ravenhill´s history of the club;  -" For years we hoped the old stand would catch tire to collect the insurance, and now the new one nearly goes up on it´s first day of use "-.

Brisbane Road's floodlights were first used for a game vs. Brighton in August 1960, and cost £15.000.

The club reached it´s zenith in 1962, winning promotion to Division one for the first time. To accommodate extra seats, the remaining section of the East Stand at the southern end was completed, and the West Terracing opposite improved.  But their joy was shortlived, for one season later Orient were back in Division Two, their financial struggles returning as gates dropped.  By 1966, Orient (they dropped the prefix Leyton that year since the area had been absorbed into the new Borough of Waltbam Forest) had to pass the bucket around to help raise cash needed to keep the club afloat.  More mergers were mooted, with Romford FC and with Basildon.

By 1970, Orient were back in Division Two, and so in 1977, came under jurisdiction of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act.  It is interesting that the club found it cheaper to put seats onto the West Terrace, rather than pay for new crush barriers, even though this reduced the capacity of that section from 11.000 to 3,700.

Brisbane Road's highest gate goes back to January 1964 for the Cup visit of neighbours West ham United FC (excuse me for using bad language); 34.345 attended.  The capacity is now 13.842, according to Rothmans Football Yearbook 1997-98.  The record receipts stand at £87.867: 92, also against our "dear neighbours" from the FA-cup 3.rd round, January 10, 1987.

As you all know Brisbane Road is going through a lot of changes at the moment and another chapter in this ongoing saga will most certainly be written. If anyone got some information about the current situation, please share the news with the rest of us. One thing is for sure: Brisbane Road will change, as all English grounds.  It's inevitable that the football grounds have to change, but personally I'm afraid that some of the charm will be lost in the process.

Orient and their Previous Grounds

Leyton Orient are relative late-comers to their present ground at Brisbane Road.  The club was formed by members of the Glyn Cricket Club, for the usual reason of keeping together during the winter months, and first played football on a wasteground near Glyn Road in 1884.  The road still exists, in Homerton.  In 1888, on the suggestion of a player who worked for the Orient Shipping Line, the club adopted the current name (the article is written when the clubs name was Orient F.C.), apt indeed since it plays in East London.

Four years later the club moved a short way up the road to the Whittles Athletics Ground, Pond Lane Bridge. Next door was Whittles Whippet Ground, so spectators could watch either sport over the fence.  When the borough took over orient's pitch to build a powerstation, the club simply moved next door.  Meanwhile, in 1898 they added the prefix Clapton to their name in the hope that since Clapton was a desirable suburb they would gain some respectability.

Orient moved again in 1900, also not far away to Millfields Road, Homerton, a ground which had belonged to the Bailey Fireworks Company.  It was at the time one of the best venues in the south, holding 12.000 spectators, with terracing built on top of slag from the nearby powerstation.  The players had to change in horse-drawn tram cars.

Admission to the Football League came in 1905, but the expense of running a professional club proved hard for the club to bear.  A new company was formed in 1906 to replace the one set up a year earlier, and among various fund-raising activities at Millfields were boxing matches and baseball.  A crowd of 3500 saw Orient beat Fulham in 1908 to win the "British Baseball Cup Final" There were even plans to increase the ground's capacity to 40.000

During the First World War, when Orient players formed the largest single contingent of Footballers Battalion, Millfields Road was taken over by the Army.  In recognition of the club's patriotism, the Prince of Wales visited the club soon after the War, and a year later was followed by the Duke of York.  A new multispan stand (similar to Highbury's) costing the enormous sum of 30.000 pounds was opened at the ground in 1923, and in the late 1920's crowds of up to 30.000 flocked to see Orient first FA-cup exploits against First Division opposition.  But the record gate was for the visit of Second Division Tottenham in 1928-29: 38.219 attended, the highest at any of Orient's three League grounds.

During the Easter of 1927, the syndicate which owned the Millfields Road Ground spent 80.000 pounds installing greyhound racing facilities and inevitably a few years later Clapton Orient were asked to move.  To exacerbate matters, the club had just been relegated to Division Three South.  The Clapton dog track no longer exists, it was built over with homes for the aged in the mid-1970's.

Orient's new ground was only half a mile away, at the large but rather bleak Lea Bridge Speedway Stadium.  They managed to take with them a few fittings from Millsfield Road, but soon encountered problems. After beating Torquay United at Lea Bridge in one of their first gams there in 1930~31, complaints were made that the perimeter fences were too close to the touchlines.  The Leauge ordered Orient to lay extra turf within a fortnight, since the lines could not be moved inwards as the pitch was already at minimum width.  The speedway company refused to sanction this alteration, so Orient had to make hurried arrangements to find another venue for their home games.  Neighbours Leyton F.C. and Walthamstow Avenue were approached unsuccessfully, then incredibly, Wembley Stadium agreed to host Orient's next fixture vs.  Brentford.  Wembley's officials had already been considering leasing the stadium to a League club in order to increase its usage, and were therefore pleasantly surprised when a crowd of 10.300 watced orient's 3-0 win on 22. November 1930. (Although Wembley is a long way from Clapton, it is very near Brentford).  The Daily Herald correspondent "Syrian" noted, "I question if Brentford will ever play at Wembley again" and also reported that the sacred turf had been a quagmire and might need relaying.

At this point the speedway company agreed to add the turf at Lea Bridge, but Orient, flushed with victory in nobler surroundings went to Highbury for their next home fixture, a cup replay versus Luton on 4. December.  But after their second game at Wembley two days later against Southend - the attendance was only 2500 and receipts of 100 pounds was insufficient to cover Wembley Stadium's guarantee, so they returned to Lea Bridge, poorer but wiser.  Wembley also decided to drop the idea of staging League Football.

The 1930's continued to be difficult for Clapton.  There were talks of a merger with Thames F.C., another East London club in the Third Division, and moving to Hackney Wick Stadium where the rent would be less.  Nevertheless, Lea Bridge gates averaged 7000, and in 1936/1937 Orient's match versus Millwall attracted the ground's highest attendance, 20.400. But the club was never happy at the speedway stadiln, and in 1937 rode their final move to Brisbane Road, a mile away in Leyton.  The Speedway Stadium has gone since, the site having been taken up for industrial use.

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