I cannot find any photos of United playing at North Road or of the stadium itself, but I'm sure there must be some out there, so I've looked for some old ordinance survey maps of the area to post here:North Road was a football stadium in the district of Newton Heath, Manchester, England. It was the first home of Manchester United F.C. – then known as Newton Heath Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Football Club – from the club's foundation in 1878 to 1893, when they moved to a new ground at Bank Street, Clayton.
The ground was originally just a pitch, around which an estimated 12,000 spectators could congregate, but the addition of stands by the club in 1891 increased the capacity to around 15,000. However, the football club split from the railway company by whom they were run and, without the company's financial support, they were unable to afford the rent on the ground and were evicted.
Upon the foundation of Newton Heath L&YR F.C. at the request of the employees of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company's Carriage and Wagon Works, it became apparent that the club would require a pitch upon which to play. The site chosen was a "bumpy, stony patch in summer, [and] a muddy, heavy swamp in the rainy months". Located adjacent to the railway line operated by the L&YR, the ground was often clouded with a thick mist of steam from the passing trains, and there was not even a place for the players to get changed on site. Instead, they had to change at the Three Crowns pub, a few hundred yards away on Oldham Road.
The first recorded matches at the ground took place in 1880, two years after the club's formation, and were mostly friendlies. The first competitive match held at North Road was a Lancashire Cup first round match against Blackburn Olympic's reserve team, played on 27 October 1883; Newton Heath lost 7–2. The details of the match attendance have been lost, though it is assumed that the ground was now enclosed as an entry fee of 3d was levied. Football became a professional sport in England in 1885, and Newton Heath signed their first professional players in the summer of 1886. Their income at the time was not sufficient to support the new wage bill, a problem they overcame through the extension of the 3d admission charge to all matches at North Road, later rising to 6d.
Expansion and eviction
Records show that the ground originally had a capacity of around 12,000, but the club officials decided that they should be able to provide for more spectators if the club was to have any hope of joining the Football League. Therefore, in 1891, Newton Heath used what little financial reserves they had to purchase two grandstands, each able to hold 1,000 spectators. However, this transaction put the club at odds with the railway company, who refused to contribute any finance to the deal. The two organisations began to drift apart from that point, and, in 1892, the club attempted to raise £2,000 in share capital to pay off the expansion of the ground. The split also meant that the railway company now refused to pay the rent on the ground, which actually belonged to the Manchester Cathedral authorities, who then raised the rent. Unable to afford the increased rent, especially as the Manchester Deans and Canons felt it inappropriate for the club to charge admission to the ground, the Heathens were served with an eviction notice in June 1893. Fortunately, the club's management had been seeking a new stadium ever since the first attempted eviction in May 1892, and they moved to a new ground on Bank Street, three miles away in Clayton. They attempted to take the two grandstands with them, but the attempt failed and the stands were sold for just £100.
The stadium no longer exists, and North Road has been renamed Northampton Road. The site now serves as the location of the North Manchester Business Park, and before that it was Moston Brook High School. A red plaque could once be found attached to one of the school's walls at the location of the old stadium, as a marker of the social history of the city of Manchester, but the plaque has since been stolen and not replaced.
This is North Road In about 1880:
Here's a closer look:
Here's the same area in 1908 after the stadium was demolished:
And the area the following year:
Some years later Moston Brook High School was built on the site, here's an aerial photo C2000:
The school itself was demolished in about 2003 and a compulsory purchase order was issued for the site and plans for Europe's largest business park to be built on the land were announced:
This is a picture i made with the old OS map superimposed on the area as it appeared after the school was demolished:
There are no recent aerial photos on the site as it appears now, but I patched a few "bird's eye" views of the area together instead: