A history of Chester FC stadiums

Chester FC and its predecessor Chester City FC may not have the glamour and success of other nearby clubs like the Liverpool and Manchester giants, but they boast just as much history. Formed in 1885 and reformed in 2010, the Blues’ journey has always been one of pride, struggle and sorrow, and six grounds have acted as their home venue over the last 131 years:

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Faulkner Street 1885-1898

Not a great deal is known about Chester’s first official ground, other than that it had a very poor playing surface. Located in Hoole and also referred to as the ‘Tomkinson Street’ ground, this served as City’s home venue for more than a decade. However, in 1898 it fell into the hands of builders, and the club was forced to find somewhere else to play.

Old Showground 1898-1899

A spot between Hoole Lane and Hoole Road was settled upon for the club’s next home, but it proved to be a very fleeting stay. Just a year after moving there, the area had to give way to a housing project, and the now homeless club disbanded altogether for a couple of seasons.

Whipcord Lane 1901-1906

A change of ground and a change of kit heralded the turn of the century, as Chester turned out in green and white rather than their usual blue and white stripes of today. Details of Whipcord Lane are also sketchy, but it fulfilled its role for five seasons. However, its small size and tendency to flood made it an unsuitable long-term home for the ambitious club.

Sealand Road 1906-1990

For most of Chester’s history to date, Sealand Road was where they played their home games. It saw the transition of the club from a Chester Combination League outfit to a Football League club in 1931, was the scene for an incredible run to the semi-finals of the League Cup in 1974/75, and during the 1980s was home turf to future top division stars like Ian Rush and Lee Dixon.

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From an architectural point of view, perhaps its most striking feature was a large grandstand erected in 1979. Some fans argued that its detachment from the rest of the ground caused a breakup in the atmosphere during games, but it accommodated almost 3,000 spectators and offered excellent viewing facilities.

Said to be one of the earliest examples of a ground with a public address system, Sealand Road hosted an FA Cup game against Chelsea in front of more than 20,000 supporters in 1952. It was also relatively quick on the ball in installing floodlights, which came in 1960.

Sealand Road was undoubtedly a soulful ground, but its aging facilities began to catch up with it as football approached the Sky and Premier League era. In 1989, it had its capacity slashed to under 6,000 after its away terracing was deemed not up to safety standards. A year later, the stadium was sold.

One of the last pictures of the still standing Sealand Road ground, in a dilapidated and unkempt state, can be seen on photographer Stuart Clarke’s Homes of Football website, depicting a sad end for a proud stadium.

Moss Rose 1990-1992

The short-notice sale of Sealand Road left Chester without a home ground and with no option but to share a venue with another outfit. Several clubs were consulted, and the most viable option available turned out to be non-league Macclesfield Town and their Moss Rose stadium.

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Still the home of the Silkmen today, the ground at the time consisted mainly of standing terraces, whereas today the stands are a mix of standing and seating areas. The away end has always been without a roof and, as many travelling Chester fans have discovered from trips to Macclesfield in recent years, the area is very prone to wet weather!

It was, and still is, a basic ground, but Chester surprisingly managed to avoid relegation from the old Division Three (the third tier of football at the time). This was despite some understandably poor attendances, most notably one of just 409 in a Leyland DAF Trophy game against Bury, as supporters struggled to make the 75-mile round trip to attend ‘home’ matches.

In 1995, Macclesfield won the GM Vauxhall Conference, but were denied promotion as Moss Rose was deemed not up to new Football League standards, even though Chester had used it for two years. They did enjoy a spell in the League from 1997 to 2012, but today play in non-league’s top flight once again, along with Chester FC.

Deva Stadium 1992-present

Chester finally returned to their home city in 1992 when the Deva Stadium (currently known as the Lookers Vauxhall Stadium for sponsorship reasons) was built.

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Initially intended to hold more than 10,000, the eventual capacity turned out to be just over 6,000, which was the bare minimum required to host Football League games at the time. In the years since, this has been cut further to 5,126, largely due to converting the South Stand from terracing to seating.

At the time of its construction, a novel list of the number of bits and pieces used to make the stadium did the rounds. If you’ve ever wondered what can be done with 48,000 bricks and 4.5 tons of screws and nails, wonder no more!

Two interesting pieces of trivia can be associated with the Deva: it was the first Football League ground to be built in compliance with the Taylor Report, published following the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989, and it may be the only football ground in the world to straddle the border of two countries, with the offices and car park being in England and the stands and pitch in Wales.

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Recent years have seen the addition of an analogue clock to the roof of the South Stand, which can just about be seen in the above picture. Altrincham’s Jamie Lawrence holds the dubious honour of being perhaps the only player the hit the clock with a wayward shot.

As football grounds go, it’s tidy and sufficient for Chester’s needs, and while traditionalists may argue it lacks the soul of Sealand Road and bemoan its out-of-town location, the Deva is more than sufficient for the Blues’ purposes for the foreseeable future.

Posted by Mark
September 21, 2016
Features

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