Engineering Archie

Archibald Leitch - football ground designer


By: Simon Inglis
RRP: £14.99
Format: 208pp softback 210mm x 210mm
ISBN: 1 85074 918 3
Published by English Heritage in April 2005
Runner Up for William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2005

In the second book of the Played in Britain series, stadium expert Simon Inglis recalls the life and work of Archibald Leitch (1865-1939), the Scottish engineer whose designs were to football what Frank Matcham was to theatre.

Millions of spectators sat or stood in Leitch's structures, built for such famous clubs as Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Hearts and Glasgow Rangers. No other stadium architect can claim such an illustrious list of clients.

But while his pedimented gables and criss-cross steelwork balconies formed a recognisable and much-admired style, Leitch remained virtually unknown during his lifetime. Moreover, following the modernisation of stadiums brought on by the Hillsborough disaster, only a handful of his buildings survive, the listed stand and pavilion at Fulham's Craven Cottage in London being perhaps the best known.

In this long overdue and affectionate study of Leitch's major works – which features many previously unseen original plans and photographs (including plans of the Ibrox Stadium in 1902 where Leitch's career almost came to an abrupt end as a result of football's first major disaster) Inglis seeks to engineer a fascinating account of the man who defined the distinctive look of British football grounds during the first half of the 20th Century.

In addition to his work in football Inglis also traces Leitch's roots as an engineer and factory architect during his formative years in Glasgow in the late 19th century. We also learn more about Leitch the man. Did he like football? And if so, who did he support? And how was he affected by the 1902 disaster?

Engineering Archie is sponsored by HOK Sport Architecture, designers of several of the leading stadiums in the world, including the Emirates Stadium (Arsenal), the Reebok Stadium (Bolton), Wembley Stadium (with Norman Foster and Partners) and the proposed Olympic Stadium for 2012.

Read more about how Simon Inglis has followed Archibald Leitch's trail for the last 25 years.