English non-League has enjoyed a significant boom in recent years and months, with extra attention brought to the National League, in particular by Wales club Wrexham, who have just earned promotion to the Football League after a decade and a half of non-League football.
The Welsh club have a historic stadium in the Racecourse Ground. However, other non-league grounds are attractive from a historical or architectural viewpoint too. Here are some examples:
The Racecourse Ground (Wrexham)
It is hard to start anywhere else when we talk about the history of non-League grounds than in Wrexham.
The Racecourse Ground is not just one of the most historic in non-League football but also in British football in general. The ground is acknowledged as the world’s oldest international football ground, having held Welsh national team games as early as 1877.
As the name suggests, in its early days, the Racecourse Ground was used for horse racing, as well as cricket. The ground initially opened way back in 1807 but was not used for football until 1864.
Like many of its contemporaries on this list, the Racecourse Ground has been redeveloped over the years. The dilapidated Kop was declared unsafe for use in 2008. However, the club are in the midst of building a new 5,500-seater replacement, which is expected to be completed by the start of season 2024/25.
The ground will likely be redeveloped with the club’s rich US and Canadian owners at the helm. However, everybody at the club will be keen to retain the same historic feel that makes the Racecourse Ground one of the most historic football grounds in Britain.
Meadow Lane (Notts County)
Undoubtedly, Notts County’s Meadow Lane is one of the most historic grounds in the non-League. The ground has been host to the Magpies since its construction in 1910. When it comes to capacity, Meadow Lane has got the biggest outside the Football League, as there is room to accommodate 19 841 spectators.
The high capacity is because, for most of its history, Notts County has been a Football League club. In fact, their ground has seen every level of football in English football’s top five tiers.
An interesting fact about the ground is that when it was first built in 1910, a temporary stand from the Cricket ground Trent Bridge was transported over the Trent River to provide extra seating.
Although Meadow Lane has transformed in the last 30 years, there is still something special and historic about the ground and its football club.
Coach and Horses Ground (Sheffield FC)
While the likes of Meadow Lane and Racecourse Ground are likely familiar to many readers, the Coach and Horses Ground that houses Sheffield FC may not be. However, the ground holds a unique history within the history of the game.
The ground is historic because of its football club Sheffield FC. The club’s claim to fame is that on the 24th of October 1857, Yorkshire cricketing pair Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest created the first-ever football club and christened it ‘Sheffield FC’. The tag of ‘The home of football’ is often used for Yorkshire outfit.
The ground itself may not be the best in non-League or the biggest with a 2,000 capacity, but it is worth a visit simply for its team’s history.
Earls Orchard (Richmond Town FC)
This is another ground that cannot claim to be the best in non-League, as it’s barely a ground, but Richmond Town FC’s Earls Orchard is one of the most unique football grounds in Britain. Earls Orchard is on this list because its backdrop includes the remains of Richmond Castle.
The 1000-year-old castle was built just after the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD. A day out at the football and visiting the castle seems like a perfect family day in this picturesque setting.
Wellesley Recreation Ground (Great Yarmouth)
The Wellesley Recreation Ground in Great Yarmouth has the oldest grandstand in Britain, having been constructed in 1892. The grandstand is now a grade two listed building to signify its historical meaning and is a must-see for any football historians out there.
Although the historic grandstand still stands, the rest of the ground has been redeveloped recently, with a running track and indoor facilities now available within the ground’s site.