The Twickenham Museum
Places : Twickenham

The Rugby ground
Billy Williams' Cabbage Patch

Billy Williams
In 1906, all-round sportsman and property entrepreneur, William Williams, was charged by the Rugby Football Union to find a home ground for the England game. But so dubious was his choice of site that it was immediately dubbed 'Billy Williams' Cabbage Patch.' Despite huge difficulties, two covered stands were eventually built east and west of the pitch and the ground was opened on Saturday 9 October 1909 to fewer than 2,000 spectators who turned out to see the New Ground's tenants, Harlequins, beat Richmond 14-10.

International Fixtures start

The first International match to be played at Twickenham took place on January 15 1910 when England beat Wales for the first time since 1898, ending a 12-year losing streak. The England side quickly found success in its new home at Twickenham and went on to win the championship, share it with Ireland in 1912, and go on to twice win the Triple Crown. With the outbreak of war in 1914, the RFU suspended play for the duration and mothballed the stadium.

New Stands built

The first Varsity match was played in December 1921, by which time the popularity of Twickenham had soared. Extra accommodation was found in a North Stand built in 1925 by the legendary football stadium architect, Archibald Leitch. By 1931, the famous 'Twickenham Look' had come about. This comprised a huge slab of concrete forming the South Terrace, Leitch's North Stand, and two great double-decker East and West Stands that spoilt the view from Richmond Hill.

A Civil Defence role

At the outbreak of World War Two, Twickenham stadium became a Civil Defence Depot, with special responsibilities as a decontamination centre in the event of a chemical attack on London. The closest the stadium got to being hit by enemy action was in July 1944 when a V1 flying bomb fell in the front garden of a house opposite the West Gate, injuring 16 people.

Post-War developmentsAfter the war and for the next three decades, Twickenham lagged behind other large grounds in all areas of development. In 1981 a South Stand was built, followed in the 1990s by new North, East and West stands. The 'concrete horseshoe' was completed in 1995 exactly 100 years after the issue of amateurism split the Rugby Football Union in two and almost destroyed the England game. The year 2005 marked the centenary of the idea to build England's national stadium, which was realised in Twickenham.

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