Previous Grounds

Sunderland moved into the light in 1997, following 99 years at Roker Park.


Blue House Field, Hendon

It was appropriate and probably inevitable that the Blue House Field ground was close to Hendon Board School where the club's founder, James Allan, taught.

Raich Carter, perhaps the finest Sunderland player ever to wear the red and white stripes, also attended the school as a child. Hendon Board School, however, is no more, having been replaced by the Valley Road Infant School, now Commercial Road. The present Blue House pub that replaced the original is now some 200 yards down the road.

The rent charged was £10 per annum, which at the time was a fairly steep sum for the Sunderland & District Teachers' Association.

In 1888, when Sunderland's founder broke from his beloved club to form the rival Sunderland Albion, he took his new favourites back to the Blue House Field and the club set up home there, playing Football League sides at Hendon until their demise in 1892. The HQ for Albion was in the nearby Norman Street.

The field, incidentally, was boarded in, a cycling track was laid and a grandstand surrounded both the East Side and the 'footpath side'. The field was nearly as long as Roker Park, although narrower, measuring 110 x 60 yards.

The Grove, Ashbrooke

By the time the club took up residency at Ashbrooke, 'Teachers' had been dropped from the name and it was now the familiar Sunderland Football Club.

The Grove, in Ashbrooke, stood between Percy Terrace and The Cedars.

It is generally accepted that the ground formed part of the current Ashbrooke Sports Ground, which hadn't at that stage been planned and didn't open until 1887 - long after the football club had departed.

Horatio Street, Roker

Sunderland moved over the River Wear to the north side of the city where they remain to this day.

Horatio Street was an open field with a clay-pit and brickworks at the north end.  Also known as the 'Clay Dolly Field', only the south side of Horatio Street was fully built then and ran along the line of Givens Street. Appley Terrace now covers much of the old pitch.

There were no changing facilities and the players got kitted out at the Wolseley Hotel on the sea front at Roker, on the bottom corner of Gosforth Street.

This is probably the closest Sunderland Football Club ever got to Roker beach.

Abbs Field, Fulwell

Abbs Field was a significant move for Sunderland AFC.  For the first time, the club was able to charge gate money and it was not unusual for attendances to top 1,000, with fans paying the sum of three pence.

It was at Abbs Field, on 20 December 1884, that Sunderland recorded their highest ever victory, against Castletown - 23-0 in the Durham Challenge Cup.  The club's founder, James Allan, scored 11 times!

Newcastle Road

The move to Newcastle Road would have far-reaching consequences for Sunderland AFC.  It would be the venue for their entry into the Football League, in 1890, mainly as a result of the 7-2 thrashing of Aston Villa by the 'Team Of All the Talents', on 5 April, 1890. 

The ground stretched along Crozier Street to Eglington Street North.  Netherburn Road and Newlington Court are now built over it.

A high wall surrounded much of the ground.  It had a grandstand and Sunderland favoured attacking the top end, or Hood Street - facing the sun.

Sunderland's first ever Football League game was played at Newcastle Road and ended in a 2-3 defeat by Burnley on 13 September 1890.  The stadium recorded the highest ever attendance at an English football ground in January 1891 when 21,000 spectators witnessed a first round FA Cup tie against Everton.  People watched from the roof of the stand!

Perhaps the grounds most famous representation is in the Hemy painting of 1894-95, which portrays Sunderland in action against Aston Villa.  The world's first painting of a football match now hangs in the main reception area of the Stadium of Light.

The last League match at Newcastle Road was on 23 April 1898, when the Black Cats routed Nottingham Forest, the English Cup holders, 4-0.  James Chalmers scored the final goal.

From Newcastle Road, Sunderland AFC moved on to one of Britain's most famous sporting venues, Roker Park.

Roker Park

Roker Park was built within a year, the wooden stands within 3 months.  The Clock Stand, as it would become known, had 32 steps, no seats and crush barriers for safety.  The turf for the pitch was brought from Ireland and was of such quality that it lasted for 37 years.  There was a slight drop of about one foot from the centre to each side for drainage purposes.

The Marquis of Londonderry officially opened the ground on 10 September 1898, the then President of Sunderland AFC turning a gold key in a locked gate that led onto the playing field.  He also had a pub named after him: 'The Londonderry' in the city centre. 

The opponents for the Black Cats that day were Liverpool.  The game kicked off at 3.30pm, and a goal by James Leslie, who had been signed from Clyde, gave Sunderland a winning start at their new home.  The winning strike came just six minutes from time.

In 1912, the Roker End was concreted and by 1913 the capacity rose to 50,000.  Originally, the Roker and Fulwell Ends were known as 'North' and 'South', indeed a 1924 picture of Roker Park still refers to them as such.

In 1929, the old wooden grandstand was demolished and replaced by a new Main Stand.  Archibald Leitch, whose influence can still be seen today at Ibrox, home of Rangers, designed the stand.  His criss-cross latticework was also evident at Aston Villa's ground.

Whilst the official capacity of Roker Park was now 60,000, an incredible 75,118 were present to witness the FA Cup 6th round replay defeat by Derby County in March 1933.

Building work, however, continued at a relentless pace and in 1936 the Clock Stand was rebuilt.  The 375ft-long structure was officially opened by Lady Raine, whose husband Sir Walter Raine was the Chairman, on 2 September, prior to a game against Derby County.

In 1950 the Main Stand was given its 'shelf' that was positioned in between the top seats and the paddock.  By 1952 Roker Park had floodlights, opened in a friendly match against Dundee.

As the 1966 World Cup loomed, Sunderland AFC was chosen as a venue, ahead of St James' Park, and received substantial grants and loans from the Football Association to install permanent seats in the Clock Stand and temporary ones in the Fulwell End.  The famous 'Kop' was also roofed and the Roker Park Suite was added.

The 1970s witnessed even more improvements to Roker Park with the floodlights upgraded to European standard lux value.  A year later an underground sprinkler system was laid and in the late 70s, electronic crowd monitoring systems were put in place and roofs were re-sheeted.

The 1980s brought about a downturn in the club's fortunes and in truth we began to see a parallel demise with Roker Park. The capacity was reduced considerably, with the Roker End suffering the most.

By the 1990s it was evident that another home for Sunderland AFC was required. Roker Park, hemmed in on all sides, gave no room for expansion.  With football now moving on at an incredible pace, both on and off the field, the club had to keep up.

Roker Park was knocked down in 1997 and is now a housing estate - to commemorate Roker Park, the streets were named Promotion Close, Clockstand Close, Goalmouth Close, Midfield Drive, Turnstile Mews and Roker Park Close.