Memorial Grounds

West Ham United may have moved out of their original Memorial Grounds home 110 years ago, but there are closer links between the Hammers' past and its future than you may think.

The Hammers played at the stadium under their original guise, Thames Ironworks FC, and in the early days following their re-formation as West Ham United in 1900.

The Memorial Grounds, located adjacent to West Ham Underground station and just over a mile from the Olympic Stadium, played host to a number of sports alongside football and proved to be a central venue for leisure in the local community.

With the Hammers now planning a momentous move to the Olympic Park, bringing them closer to their old home, your Official Programme paid a visit to the Memorial Grounds - now a multi-purpose recreation ground - with Club historian John Helliar.

Helliar takes up the story…

"When the Thames Ironworks Football Club first started, they played at another ground called Hermit Road, then in 1897, Arnold Hills [owner of Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Co. Ltd] announced that he had bought a large piece of land and that he was going to build a multi-purpose sports centre at the Memorial Grounds.

"It was called the Memorial Grounds because it was opened in 1897, which was 60 years after Queen Victoria's ascent to the throne and, as a tribute to her, he gave it that name.

"It was actually built in six months, opened in June and something like 8,000 people came along to the opening.

"The ground, it was said, could take 100,000 spectators - it had a banked cycle track, which was one of the best in the London area, and the ground was believed to be fit to host an FA Cup final, although it never did.

"The football pitch sat in the middle of the cycle track, and there were other things here like tennis courts, cricket pitches and a swimming pool. Of course there was a stand and administrative offices too, so it was quite a fantastic centre for sport in east London.

"When West Ham United were formed in 1900, Arnold Hills continued to support the new football club, not only with money and kit, but he allowed them to use the Memorial Grounds at a nominal rent as well.

"On 1 September 1900, they played their first match here in the Southern League, and they were fortunate enough to win that by seven goals to nil, and their famous Scottish inside-right Billy Grassam scored four of those goals.

"It was still used by the community in general after West Ham left here in 1903. For many years, up to and after the Second World War, many schools held their sports days and events like that here."

Memorial Grounds

West Ham United in action at the Memorial Grounds in 1904

The land still fulfils that purpose to this very day and Helliar believes Hills would be proud.

He added: "It is still used by the community for sport today - and that is one of the things that Arnold Hills wanted to do when he started up all the different clubs and societies at the Thames Ironworks. He wanted to give something to his employees that they could use during their spare time, and of course sport and other leisure activities were something he was very keen on to give back to the community.

"It's really turning full circle, because when you think about the number of sports that took place on this ground, but also from the legacy of the Olympic Stadium, it's not just West Ham and football in the Park. It's really Arnold Hills' idea of a multi-purpose venue in the community.

"It's also a funny enough fact, that West Ham, by moving to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford will be nearer to their original home than they are on Green Street and the Boleyn Ground. We are moving back towards our original birthplace."