Old Trafford: The origin of Manchester United’s iconic stadium

Old Trafford is a monument to football in the 21st century, a state-of-the-art all-seater stadium with capacity for over 75,000 fans. But it’s origins are much more humble, as our beautiful map from 1931 reveals.

Following Manchester United’s success, winning the First Division in 1908 and FA Cup in 1909, the club’s new chairman, John Henry Davies decided that the team needed a stadium worthy of champions. The spot he chose was a piece of land in Old Trafford, just south of the sprawl of Trafford Park industrial estate and Manchester Docks.


The detail of this location is elegantly captured in the map, with the stadium nestled between the Electric Cable Works and Saw Mills to the north, and the railway track to the south.

The new stadium, designed by architect Archibald Leitch, was completed in 1910. It had a capacity of 80,000, with seating in the covered South Stand, but the other three sides were open terraces (all precisely rendered on the map). It’s interesting to note that the stadium is simply labeled ‘Football Ground’ – no reference to the club, or the now familiar Old Trafford name!

Shortly after this map was made the stadium was developed in the early 30s, with a roof added to the United Road Terrace, but German bombing during the Second World War brought devastation to Old Trafford. Manchester United didn’t play there again until August 1949, when the restoration was complete.

Much has changed around Old Trafford in the 85 years since this map was made. The Electric Cable Works and Saw Mills are car parks now. Warwick Road North has been renamed Sir Matt Busby Way (in 1993, the year before he died). The warehouses on Manchester Docks have been replaced by offices, shops and the Lowry arts centre. But the stadium remains the same – bigger, certainly – but still wedge in between the railway lines to the south and the Bridgewater canal to the north.

Whether you’re a fan of Manchester United, or just interested in the history of Manchester, I think this 1931 map gives a vivid insight into Old Trafford and the origin of Manchester United’s iconic stadium.

Image credits: image 1: geograph-3365076-by-JThomas. Image 2:geograph-3528375-by-Graham-Hogg

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