Archibald Leitch

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Archibald Keir Leitch
Born(1865-04-27)27 April 1865
Glasgow, Scotland
Died25 April 1939(1939-04-25) (aged 73)
Projects Ayresome Park, Bramall Lane, Arsenal Stadium, Stamford Bridge, Celtic Park, Anfield, Craven Cottage, Hampden Park, Roker Park, Old Trafford, Villa Park, Ibrox, Goodison Park, White Hart Lane, Fratton Park, Valley Parade, Tynecastle Park (Heart of Midlothian), Leeds Road, Dens Park.

Archibald Keir Leitch (27 April 1865 – 25 April 1939) was a Scottish architect, most famous for his work designing football stadiums throughout Great Britain and Ireland. [1]


Early work

Born in Glasgow, Leitch's early work was on designing tea factories in Deltota in the former Kandyan Kingdom of Ceylon, as well as factories in his home city and in Lanarkshire, the sole surviving example of which being the category A listed Sentinel Works at Jessie Street, Polmadie, [2] just south of Glasgow city centre. In 1896 he became a member of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, and later of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. [3] He moved into stadium design when he was commissioned to build Ibrox Park, the new home ground of his boyhood heroes Rangers, in 1899.

Stadium design

Leitch's stadiums were initially considered functional rather than aesthetically elegant, and were clearly influenced by his early work on industrial buildings. Typically, his stands had two tiers, with criss-crossed steel balustrades at the front of the upper tier, and were covered by a series of pitched roofs, built so that their ends faced onto the playing field; the central roof span would be distinctly larger, and would incorporate a distinctive pediment.

His first project in England was the design and building of the John Street Stand at Bramall Lane, which provided 3,000 seats and terracing for 6,000 and was dominated by a large mock-Tudor press box.

The double-decker 1926 Bullens Road Stand at Goodison Park home of Everton FC Bullens Road.jpg
The double-decker 1926 Bullens Road Stand at Goodison Park home of Everton FC
The Johnny Haynes stand at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham Football Club Ccffc.jpg
The Johnny Haynes stand at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham Football Club
The concrete Midland Road stand for Bradford City Football Club nearing completion in 1908 Midland Road stand for Bradford City Football Club.jpg
The concrete Midland Road stand for Bradford City Football Club nearing completion in 1908
The Bill Struth Main Stand at Ibrox, home of Rangers Football Club Wfm ibrox main stand.jpg
The Bill Struth Main Stand at Ibrox, home of Rangers Football Club

Leitch's reputation as an architect was damaged as a result of the Ibrox disaster of 1902, when 25 people were killed when a bank of wooden terracing collapsed due to substandard pine being used in the terraces. [5] Leitch, in attendance at the disaster, convinced Rangers to hire him to build the replacement stand. Leitch patented a new form of strengthening terraces for the Ibrox rebuild. [6] Over the next four decades he became Britain's foremost football architect. In total he was commissioned to design part or all of more than 20 stadiums in the UK and Ireland between 1899 and 1939, including:

Many of his works have since been demolished for redevelopment, especially in wake of the Taylor Report and the move to all-seater stadiums. [6] For instance, the Trinity Road Stand at Villa Park, considered his masterpiece, was demolished in 2000. [11] The main stand and pavilion at Craven Cottage, the facade of the main stand at Ibrox (although the stand itself has been remodelled) and the Bullens Road and Gwladys Street stands at Goodison Park survive; they are now listed buildings, as was the Leitch-designed main stand at Heart of Midlothian's Tynecastle Park; however, in 2016 permission was granted for that structure to be demolished and replaced. [12] [13]

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  1. "The chronicles of Archibald Keir Leitch: Remembering Britain's legendary football architect".
  2. "Sentinel Works, 61-89, Jessie Street, Polmadie". Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  3. "Dictionary of Scottish Architects - DSA Architect Biography Report (November 7, 2015, 2:04 pm)".
  4. "Reinforced Concrete Football Stand at Bradford", Concrete and Constructional Engineering , Vol. V., No. 1, January 1910, pp. 16-22.
  5. Sheils, Robert (November 1998). "The fatalities at the Ibrox disaster of 1902" (PDF). The Sports Historian. British Society of Sports History. 18 (2): 148–155. doi:10.1080/17460269809445801.
  6. 1 2 Brocklehurst, Steven (25 April 2019). "Archibald Leitch: The man who built Britain's football grounds". BBC.
  7. "A Place in History". Fulham F.C. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  8. Athletic News, 9 June 1913.
  9. "Archibald Leitch – 'Engineering Archie': The Designer of Ibrox". Gersnet, the Rangers Archive. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  10. "Pittodrie Stadium Aberdeen-A New Discovery" . Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  11. Inglis, Simon (14 May 2000). "Last rites for the holy Trinity". The Observer. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  12. Anderson, Barry (15 November 2016). "Hearts ready go to work on Tynecastle's new main stand". Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  13. "Tynecastle Park reinstated". Heart of Midlothian FC. 28 April 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2017.

Further reading