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Decision Summary

This building has been assessed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest. The asset currently does not meet the criteria for listing. It is not listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended.

Name: The Memorial Stadium, Horfield, Bristol

Reference Number: 1420469


The Memorial Ground (The Memorial Stadium) sports ground. Entrances on Filton Avenue, Bristol, England. Latitude: 51°29’10.42”N. Longitude: 2°34’59.22”W.

The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: City of Bristol
District Type: Unitary Authority
Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Decision Date: 16-May-2014


Summary of Building

A rugby ground of 1921 designed by James Hart for the Bristol Rugby Club, dedicated to those members of the Club that fell in the First World War and latterly the Second World War, substantially rebuilt since the late 1980s.

Reasons for currently not Listing the Building

The Bristol Rugby Memorial Ground (also known as the Memorial Stadium), dating from 1921 and substantially rebuilt from the late 1980s onwards, is not listed for the following principal reasons:

Level of survival: the original stand and related structures of 1921 have been lost (except for the entrance gate piers and gates, which are listed at Grade II).

Architectural interest: the replacement stands dating from the late 1980s onwards do not display sufficient levels of innovation in their design, and lack the degree of architectural or technological interest needed to merit listing.

Historic interest: its historic interest as a sports ground or stadium lies on a local rather than national level. Its historic interest as a war memorial ground is appropriately acknowledged by the designated Gate Piers and Gates (listed at Grade II).


After the First World War the Bristol Rugby Football Club (founded in 1888), formed a Bristol United side to provide rugby for returning service men which led to the rebirth of Bristol Rugby in 1919. At the beginning of the War most members of the Bristol Rugby Team, including their Captain, had enlisted together, and sadly many lost their lives on the battlefield. In 1920 an anonymous donor presented the Club with a piece of land and subsequently Bristol Rugby Football Club launched a public appeal, with support of the Lord Mayor, to fulfil their long standing wish to have their own headquarters. It was decided that the new rugby ground was to become a memorial to commemorate those members of the Club that fell in the First World War, ‘as no better way could be found of paying a lasting tribute to the players who played the game right to the end’ (Western Daily Press, 11 March 1920). The donated field, situated at the bottom of Wellington Hill in Horfield, had been in use as allotments during the First World War and prior to that it had been a public show ground which became locally known as Buffalo Bill’s Field, after Colonel William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, performed his Wild West Show there in 1891.

The Memorial Ground was designed by the local architect James Hart, who had been for many years a member of the Rugby Club’s committee, and the works were carried out by Messrs William Cowlin & Son. The entrance gate and gate piers were presented by former rugby player J S Edbrooke, and the plaques inscribed by AG Bird, another Bristol player. Over a period of 12 months extensive landscaping was undertaken including the excavation of limestone, the building of drainage works, levelling and turf-laying. The Memorial Ground was opened on 24 September 1921 by the Lord Mayor of Bristol, BG Britton, and celebrated with a match between Bristol and Cardiff, won by Bristol (19-3). A memorial service was held at the entrance gates and continues to be held there annually on Armistice Day. On 8 September 1945 a service was held on the rugby pitch to commemorate those members of the Club who fell in the Second World War.

Photographs and a pencil drawn birds' eye view of the Memorial Ground in the booklet commemorating its opening in 1921, indicates that the rectangular pitch was enclosed by terracing on three sides, set in earth banks created from the limestone rubble and spoil during the levelling of the pitch. The pitch had a covered stand built in timber, along its west side, with standing terraces on the other three sides. The view shows the entrance gate piers just off Filton Avenue, and a further 'Motor Entrance' at the north corner of the pitch, giving access to a 'Motor Park' north-west of the pitch. The Alton Road entrance is shown as having a broad flight of curved steps leading to the standing terraces. The north boundary of the Ground is lined by a row of trees. During the 1920s the Bristol Rugby Club had a number of notable players including Don Burland, ‘Bunny’ Chantrill, Tom Brown and Jimmy Barrington, all of whom played for England.

The Memorial Ground is first shown on the Ordnance Survey published in 1934, and by then, as confirmed by aerial photographs taken in 1935, a second covered stand had been built east of the pitch, probably also built in timber. The aerial photographs suggest that the remaining standing terraces, initially constructed in timber had by now been rebuilt in concrete. The field behind the east stand is labelled on the Ordnance Survey map as a football ground (since the 1980s built over with housing with the remaining part now tarmacked over and in use as a car park).

During the Second World War a Bristol Supports Team was formed and as such the Club had available players after the War, including George Gibbs who played for England. In 1962-63 Bristol Rugby Club celebrated its 75th Anniversary and introduced floodlights around the pitch. The Ordnance Survey Map published in 1974 shows both the east and west stands with further new buildings and structures added, most notably on the north side of the pitch, including a clubhouse.

During the 1980s Bristol Rugby Club sold part of the former training pitch behind the east stand for development (see above). Since then the stadium has been gradually rebuilt. In 1988, to celebrate the Club’s Centenary, the east stand was replaced with the Centenary Stand offering covered seating. In 1997, after Bristol Rovers FC had bought the stadium, with the Rugby Club continuing to use it, a new stand with executive boxes was built replacing the west stand. During the later C20 and early-C21 further ancillary structures were added, including a covered stand south of the pitch, a number of new stiles, public toilets, and other facilities.


A rugby ground of 1921 designed by James Hart for the Bristol Rugby Club, dedicated to those members of the Club that fell in the First World War and latterly the Second World War, substantially rebuilt from the late 1980s onwards.

The Memorial Rugby Ground stands in a residential area in the suburb of Horfield in Bristol. The rectangular site oriented north-west / south east and covering just over 3ha is surrounded by terraced houses on all four sides. The site is enclosed by concrete panel fencing (some dating back to the 1930s) to the north side, and late-C20 timber fencing elsewhere, separating the ground from the surrounding houses and their gardens. Along the north boundary, to either side of the Grade II listed entrance gate piers and gates of 1921 stands a short row of mature Pine trees, probably planted around that date. It is possible that the north boundary was originally fully sheltered by a row of Pine trees, as was probably the case on the east boundary too, as indicated by the 1921 birds’ eye view.

The vehicle entrance with late-C20 metal gates, giving access to the tarmac covered car park behind the Centenary Stand, is situated further north-east, in the same location as that marked on the 1921 view and subsequent historic Ordnance Survey Maps. An emergency exit is situated in the east corner of the site at Alton Road, flanked by late-C20 concrete steps and metal gates, which replace a former curved flight of steps that marked this additional entrance to the ground. Near each of the entrances are a number of mid- to late-C20 stiles constructed in concrete with both metal and wooden doors.

The rectangular pitch at the centre of the site remains in its original position but was dug up in the late 1990s in order to install new drainage. North of the pitch stands the single storey club house, originating from the mid-1970s with later alterations. It is built in brick with plastic windows. The 1988 Centenary Stand east of the pitch, has a concrete base with metal a framed seating stand clad in corrugated metal and with a large overhanging metal canopy. The West Stand, built in 1997, behind the West Enclosure, incorporating the executive boxes, is constructed in red and yellow brick, clad in cream panels at the upper part and with a curved roof. Next to it, below to its north, is the covered family stand. The South Seating Stand is metal framed with a tented cover. The standing terraces to the north (Blackthorn End), east (Centenary Terrace) and west (West Enclosure) are constructed in concrete, possibly dating back to the 1930s. They have steel bars introduced in response to football ground safety legislation introduced in the late-C20. The stands to the west and north are covered by late-C20 metal canopies. All the stands and terraces are plain and functional in design and do not have architectural detailing or decoration of note. Interiors were not inspected.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Hay, I, Southern Football Grounds from the Air, (2008), 8
Winston, R, Bristol As It Was 1913-1921, (1976), Photo 160
WT Pearce, , others, , Bristol Football Club Jubilee Book 1888-1938, (1938)
'Western Daily Press' in BRISTOLS TRIBUTE TO RUGBY SOLDIERS, (11/03/1920), 5
'Western Daily Press' in Bristol Rugby Memorial Ground - Committeee and First List of Contributors, (1 May 1920)
'Bristol Evening Post' in SERVICE HELD ON PITCH, (08/09/1945)
'Bristol Post' in Memorial Memories - In Memory of Sporting Heroes Lost, (15 April 2014)
'Western Daily Press' in Revival of the Rugby Game- The Question of A Ground, (15 August 1919)
'Western Daily Press' in Bristol Rugby Memorial Ground at Horfield, (26 April 1921), two photographs
'Western Daily Press' in Letter from Frank Cowlin re Rugby Memorial Ground, (1 May 1920)
'Western Daily Press' in THE BRISTOL RUGBY CLUB MEMORIAL GROUND, (24/09/1921)
'Western Daily Press' in A RUGBY MEMORIAL, (11/03/1920), 7
'Western Daily Press' in The Rugby MemoriaL - Impressive Service at Redcliff - Spirit of Great Game, (24 November 1919)
, accessed from http://www.ukniwm.org.uk/server/show/conMemorial.7323/fromUkniwmSearch/1
Aerial Photographs of Bristol Rugby Memorial Ground, Ref: EPW048281 & EPW048282 , accessed from http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/asearch?search=Memorial%20Stadium
The Memorial Ground, Horfield, accessed from http://www.parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/site/8175
Records on Bristol Memorial Stadium held by the War Memorials Archive, Imperial War Museum, ref 7323,
Souvenir Booklet of the Opening of the Bristol Rugby Memorial Ground 24 September 1921,
Title: OS Map 1:1250 Source Date: 1952 & 1974 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: OS Map 1:2500 Source Date: 1934 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


National Grid Reference: ST5960776513

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This copy shows the entry on 18-Sep-2019 at 08:42:39.