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Vicarage Road at 100: Dig for Victory

Mark Harrowell with some fascinating facts about Vicarage Road


The cemetery on Vicarage Road originally extended onto the site where the football ground was subsequently built, while Shrodells hospital was formerly a Victorian infirmary for the criminally insane. It is said that many inmates of the asylum suffered terribly at the hands of barbaric ‘carers’ and died in agony before being buried under what is now the six-yard box at the Rookery end. Ever since the ground was opened, staff at the club have reported sporadic paranormal experiences, and terrified wailing and moaning has often been heard, particularly around 5pm on Saturdays.

In 1941, the pitch was dug up and used for the cultivation of vegetables to help the war effort. Meanwhile, the adjacent allotments to the south were converted into a leisure space, and a full-size football pitch with goals and temporary stands was constructed to help the town’s morale.

When the greyhound track was reopened in 1974, the circuit quickly became known as ‘the six and five’ as the outside lanes were clearly advantageous. Indeed, the first four races were won by dogs from trap six wearing the black and white vest, with dogs from trap five in yellow all coming home in second place. Ironically, Watford lost 2-1 at home to Grimsby Town on the following Saturday.

When the decision was made to finally redevelop the Main Stand, it is rumoured that Gino Pozzo contacted Ken Bates, who was Leeds United chairman at the time, suggesting that visiting supporters could be given carte blanche to demolish what was left of the structure were Watford to beat Leeds on the final day of the 2012/13 season, particularly if there had been a perceived refereeing injustice. Health and safety rules scuppered the plan.

In 1979, a sum of £276.43 was raised in pubs around Bushey with a view to strengthening the roof of the Supporters Club tea bar after it had successfully been used as a refuge from rioting West Ham fans during a 2-0 victory. The funds were eventually put towards the signing of Keith Cassells from Peterborough United later in the season.

PC Simon Watson, a traffic policeman stationed outside the north-west corner of the ground, was nicknamed ‘Prince Charles’ due to his uncanny resemblance to the potential future monarch and organic food enthusiast. Watson was invited to open the Co-op supermarket on Market Street alongside popular Queen Elizabeth II lookalike Jeanette Charles in 1982. PC Watson had to decline the offer as he was investigating an incident where a 321 bus had been vandalised due to its advertised destination in Bedfordshire. 

The seats in the Sir Elton John stand are made of a revolutionary material with an incredible tensile strength of 37,000 psi. The reinforced thermoplastic was first tested by NASA for use in its Artemis project and can sustain the heat and stresses associated with re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere. It was decided to use this substance as even though the seats bear the brunt of the unique combination of blinding sunshine and driving rain that the stand offers, they won’t need to be replaced until the year 2350.