Aston Villa are one of the oldest and most successful English football clubs having won both the Championship and the FA Cup on seven occasions.
|Witton Lane Gates|
Aston Villa Football Club was formed in March 1874 by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel in Handsworth (arguably in West Bromwich Albion territory as the Hawthorns is located on the borders of Handsworth).
They quickly established themselves as one of the best teams in the area and won their first trophy, the Birmingham Senior Cup in 1880.
Their initial games were played at Aston Park, moving to Perry Barr in 1876. After 11 years at that venue they moved again to the Aston Lower Grounds, which was named by the supporters, Villa Park. Here they have remained ever since.
|Team of 1899|
Villa Park was opened in 1897, it was sited on an old fairground / amusement park area of a Jacobean stately home called Aston Hall. The area had also previously been used as a fishpond and kitchen garden belonging to the halls owner, Sir Thomas Holte.
At its inception, it was of an oval shaped design with a concrete cycle track and a cinder running track encircling the football playing area. It could accommodate a crowd of 40,000 which is not a dissimilar figure to the current all seated capacity.
Most of the crowd would be on foot, many of which would stand on the cycling track, but there were a few seats available in the upper areas on each side. The infamous Holte End (named after the land owner) at one end of the ground, was then known as the Church End.
|Villa Park in 1907|
In 1911, negotiations were made to purchase the land where the ground was situated for £8,250, along with the car park and office buildings for £1,500. The carriage drive and bowling green on the site were also bought for £2,000. These purchases helped make up the very ambitious plans of club director, Frederick Rinder. His idea was to increase the capacity to 120,000 but this was thwarted by the outbreak of the 1st World War.
The running track was removed in 1914, along with the cycling track another 8 years later. The bowling green survived and was a feature of the ground up until 1966, when it was removed to make way for increased car parking at the World Cup matches to be played at the venue. Villa Park actually hosted 3 matches during the World Cup and also 4 in Euro ’96.
The last ever final of the European Cup Winners Cup was staged at Villa Park, when Lazio were successful beating Real Mallorca 2-1. The ground has also hosted England international matches, the first being in 1899 to the most recent in 2005 - the 1st English ground to host internationals in 3 different centuries.
The first Rugby League test series was won at the ground when, in 1909 Great Britain beat the touring Australian Kangaroos 6-5 and it was used for many athletics and cycling events prior to these facilities being removed.
In later years, the facility has also housed music concerts with many famous acts playing, including Bruce Springsteen and Duran Duran. In 1984 it also played host to American evangelist Billy Graham.
|Villa Park Panorama|
Highest attendance, 76,588 - 2 March 1946, FA Cup tie v Derby County.
Lowest attendance recorded, 2,900 - 13 February 1915, League v Bradford City.