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From the Archives: The name Villa Park? Urgh!

From the Archives: The name Villa Park? Urgh!

Villa Park's name conjures up connotations of class, the stadium's latest coup being the hosting of the Community Shield before the start of next term. 

Villa Park is renowned as a stadium not only boasting a rich football history but also state-of-the-art modern facilities which have been brought right into the 21st century. 

But, delving through the archives, it appears the ground's change of name didn't go down that well with Villa fans back in the day! 

Of course, the stadium's official name is Aston Lower Grounds. 

The name Villa Park, according to Simon Inglis's excellent 'Villa Park 100 Years' book, seems to have crept into use during Villa's first few years at the ground, until eventually, around 1907, it seems to have stuck. 

There was certainly never any official decision or announcement by the club. 

As far as we can tell, the first recorded use of the name Villa Park was in the 'Football Gossip' column of the Birmingham Daily Mail, in August 1897, five months after the opening. 

But then the Mail and most other newspapers referred to the 'Lower Grounds' far more often and for many years after that date. 

Other names used by the press include the 'Villa Grounds', the 'Aston Grounds' or simply 'The Lower.' 

For our part, we gave the new registered address as the 'Aston Villa Grounds' while even the Villa News & Record official matchday programme stuck faithfully to the 'Lower Grounds' throughout its first season as a publication, in 1906-07, and did not start to mention Villa Park until August 1907. 

There have been suggestions that the name 'Lower Grounds' had negative connotations, hence the unofficial name change. 

But not all fans were keen on the alternative new name, as the below letter in the Birmingham Daily Mail of September 1897 suggested: "Sir. While perusing my Mail a week or two ago, I suddenly came across the term 'Villa Park.' 

On finding that it referred to our beloved sports arena, the historic Lower Grounds, I turned sick and have recovered to find that Villa have lost two matches and that Haydock has refused to come! 

And Mr Editor, can you wonder at it? Villa Park? Urgh! Yours truly. A Chirl. Handsworth." 

Jimmy Haydock, of Blackburn Rovers, never did sign for Villa. 

But no-one else seemed to share this correspondent's dislike of the name Villa Park - and so it became known! 

On the subject of names, nowadays we all refer to the Holte End but in the early years it was known variously as the City End, the Church End or more fully as the Holte Hotel End. 

Similarly, where now stands the North Stand was banking called variously the Great Hall End, the Witton Road End and then later simply the Witton End. 

The original Witton Lane Stand was also called the Main Stand or Grand Stand until the opening of the Trinity Road Stand in 1922. 

Paul Brown
By @paulbrownavfc 20th May 2016