After a few years playing at Tottenham Marshes, and following a very brief spell at Northumberland Park, Tottenham Hotspur moved into White Hart Lane in 1899. The move, like the previous one to Northumberland Park, was due to increasing attendances and a need for a larger capacity ground. The Londoners rented the site from the local brewery and renovated it into a usable football pitch with help from local groundsman John Over. The local land was well known for its superb growing conditions and a landlord of the White Hart public house in the 1890s, George Beckwith, had set up a nursery on the site behind his pub at 750 High Road. After the nursery became disused Beckwith saw potential in renting the plot of land to a football club.
Spurs brought the mobile stands used at their previous home with them to White Hart Lane, giving cover to 2,500 spectators. The ground quickly started to take shape and within five years the ground had a main stand seating 500, covered accommodation for 12,000 and an overall capacity of 32,000. However, the terms of the lease restricted the club's ambition and the ability to fully develop the stadium, so in 1905 the club had to buy the freehold to the land and become permanent owners of the ground. In order to do this they needed to raise £8,900 for the existing site plus an additional £2,600 for the land adjacent to the Edmonton end of the ground. Parts of these funds were raised through a share offer made through the club’s handbook. With the freehold owned, the capacity was increased to 40,000 with a huge bank built at the Paxton Road end mirroring the Park Lane end developed a year earlier.
With the restrictions on expansion lifted and the club securing their place in the football league, White Hart Lane began a huge redevelopment process in the early 20th Century, headed by architect Archibald Leitch. Plans were drawn up for a new main stand that was to have 5,300 seats with a paddock in front for 700 standing spectators. He also added the famous golden cockerel which was placed on top of a mock-Tudor apex. The 1910s saw further development – the wooden terracing in the East stand was replaced and brought up to date with a new concrete structure. Using concrete instead of wood allowed for this stand to be built much larger and raised the capacity of the stadium to 50,000.
A split level terrace was built at the Paxton Road end in 1925 and two years later the Park Lane end was similarly redeveloped at a cost of £3,000. The funds for these stands came largely through the profits made during the FA Cup winning run of 1921. Leitch was again involved in the design of the new stand and the development added room for another 5000 fans and gave cover to 40,000. With the West stand development completed in 1934, Spurs’ home had an incredible capacity of 80,000.
Since then the stadium has undergone modernisation rather than expansion. The pitch was renovated in 1952 and during this process remnants of the old nursery were discovered; including a concrete water container, iron piping and greenhouse foundations. Floodlights were introduced in 1953 and from 1962 onwards, seats were added to the corners of the ground and gradually began to replace the terraces.
The old West stand was completely demolished in 1980 and replaced 15 months later by the present structure. During the end of the 1980s the East stand would be refurbished to how we find it today. This led to the removal of the floodlight pylons and saw spotlights added to the East and West stands and in 1992, seats finally replaced the terracing in the lower tiers in both of these stands. A year later, the lower North Terrace was also converted to an all-seater area. The roof of the North stand was built to link up with the East and West stands. The South Stand re-development was completed in March 1995 and included the first giant Sony Jumbotron TV screen for live game coverage and away match screenings. The capacity of the stadium increased to just over 33,000.
The building of a new upper tier on the Paxton Road members’ stand was completed at the end of the 1997/8 season. This also incorporated the second Jumbotron screen and has increased ground capacity to just above 36,000.
At the turn of the millennium talks began over the future of White Hart Lane as a point had been reached where it could no longer be expanded. Over the years many rumours have emerged, including the possibility of moving into the new Wembley Stadium or the currently unfinished London Olympic Stadium. It was announced on October 30, 2008 that Tottenham are going to develop on the current site and also to the north where they have purchased land, to create a 60,000-seater stadium. The new area will include leisure facilities, shops, housing, a club museum, public space and also a new base for the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. There will be public consultations with a view to applying for planning permission in late 2009.
These plans – currently known as The Northumberland Development Project – will allow for the club to remain at White Hart lane whilst most of the new stadium is built. Once two thirds of the stadium is complete, Spurs will move into it to allow for the rest to be built on the current White Hart Lane site. Designs for the new stadium show it to be similar to that of arch-rivals Arsenal's Emirates Stadium and Chairman Daniel Levy has confirmed the new stadium will not maintain the White Hart Lane name – and is instead pursuing a corporate sponsor.
Key Pieces of Information
Full Name: White Hart Lane
Cost (in 1934): £100,000
Owner: Tottenham Hotspur FC