A Final Farewell to Gay Meadow

As football ground names go, Gay Meadow was certainly one of the quainter to appear on your fixture card. The home of Shrewsbury Town for 97 years, it saw more than 3,000 matches in it’s time, but in 2007 was condemned to the bulldozers as it was sold to property developers to fund The Shrews move to the nearby Greenhous Meadow Stadium.

Shrewsbury Town were formed in 1886 in Claremont Hill, one of the more up-market hotels in Shrewsbury. This followed the winding up of local sides Shropshire Wanderers and the Castle Blues, known for their rather hard and unsporting approach to the game. After fourteen years without a permanent home, Shrewsbury settled on Gay Meadow in 1910 and faced Wolves in their first match, losing the game 2 – 1.

The stadium was expanded and modernised during the 1950′s, with the capacity increased and floodlights added. The first match under the lights was an historic 5 – 0 thrashing of Stoke City, watched by more than 10,000 spectators. The floodlights turned out to be a shrewd investment, surviving for the next 47 years and become a famous feature of the Shrewsbury skyline.

Gay Meadow remained unchanged for the next half a century and became regarded as a quaint hark back to the football grounds of old. However, it was the Taylor report, following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 that would serve as the first nail in the stadium’s coffin. Because the stadium only had one road to serve as an entrance/exit the report demanded that the capacity be reduced from 16,000 to 8,000. The report would also make standing areas in English football illegal for grounds in the top two divisions. If The Shrews were to have any ambitions of ever climbing the league pyramid then a new, modern stadium would become a necessity.

The final match at Gay Meadow was held on the 5th May 2007 in a hard fought match against Grimsby Town. The predictable pitch invasion followed the match, although fans were given the chance to actually play at the stadium one last time in specially arranged friendlies. While a small part of the stadium lives on as 500 seats were sold to Welsh side Caernarfon Town to be used at their ground.

In October 2007 after 97 years of history, Gay Meadow was reduced to rubble. While originally earmarked for a housing development, the company who purchased the site has yet to start work on any project, leaving the site derelict. The new stadium comes complete with cafes, bars, shops and even a new Shrewsbury hotel, gleaming proudly amidst the Shropshire scenery. While these things take time to develop a character and a history of their own, I can’t quite shake the feeling, that it’s just not the same old Gay Meadow.

February 7, 2012 | Author: | Posted in Destinations


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