10 Abandoned Rugby Stadiums, Derelict Grounds & Overgrown Pitches

wilderspool-stadium-abandoned-rugby (Image: Terry Eyres; the abandoned rugby stadium in Warrington before demolition)

As the tumultuous Six Nations 2016 has shown, rugby commands a great deal of passion in Europe and around the world. While it may never reach the dizzying heights of popularity that football endures, this 200-year-old game is still an important part of the UK’s sporting landscape. And like all others, that landscape includes abandoned places, some now demolished, others slowly reclaimed by nature.

For various reasons, many rugby grounds over the years have been shuttered and left to decay. From London and northern England to Wales, Northern Ireland and New Zealand, the forgotten monuments to what is arguably “the world’s second-biggest sport” range from professional arenas to derelict playing fields. This article examines a selection of those abandoned rugby stadiums, grounds and pitches; some of them no more, the odd one saved.

Former Centaurs Rugby Football Club Stand, Osterley, London







abandoned-rugby-pavilion-centaurs-osterley-7 (Images: J. Taylor; the abandoned pavilion at Osterley before renovation)

Built in the groaning depths of the Great Depression, the old Centaurs Rugby Club in Osterley was once an escape from the decade’s money worries. A place to sit and forget the crashing global economy for a few hours on a Sunday. Built entirely from concrete, the monolithic pavilion was later considered so architecturally valuable that the whole building was given a Grade-II listing.

Sadly, this didn’t stop it falling into terminal disrepair. After the club was priced out of their home in 2000, the stand was left to go to ruin. The once-spotless white facade became grime and graffiti-streaked. Seats were broken, windows smashed, and the historic pavilion took on an air of decrepitude that seemed impossible to shake.

Although the club itself would never play at their grounds again, the building was later saved by a sensitive redevelopment. Its immaculate appearance today offers an welcome nod to its original 1930s grandeur.

Abandoned Wilderspool Stadium, Warrington (Demolished)

abandoned-rugby-stadium-wilderspool-warrington-2 (Image: Andrew Gallon/Feversham Media; old press box at abandoned Wilderspool Stadium)

abandoned-rugby-stadium-wilderspool-warrington-3 (Image: Andrew Gallon/Feversham Media; the abandoned rugby pitch remains in good order)

abandoned-rugby-stadium-wilderspool-warrington (Image: Andrew Gallon/Feversham Media; former home of the Warrington Wolves)

abandoned-rugby-stadium-wilderspool-warrington-5 (Image: Andrew Gallon/Feversham Media; weed-covered terraces flank the pitch)

abandoned-rugby-stadium-wilderspool-warrington-6 (Image: Andrew Gallon/Feversham Media)

The Warrington Wolves have the distinction of being one of the founding members of the rugby league. As such, you can appreciate that their original stadium held a lot of memories. Built in 1881, before being expanded in 1888, this slice of rugby history managed to remain standing right up until 2014.

Sadly, it spent the last ten years of its life as a derelict wreck. After the Wolves moved on in 2003 to their new grounds, the abandoned rugby stadium was left to go to ruin. With no-one to tend the grounds at Wilderspool, the stands soon became shabby, overgrown with vegetation, and clearly neglected.


wilderspool-stadium-abandoned-rugby-3 (Images: Terry Eyres; the dilapidated stand and overgrown rugby pitch)

Though it remained in relatively good order for a time, when the ground was finally torn down the pitch looked like a wild meadow; a once-proud sporting surface slowly being reclaimed by nature. Although the Warrington Wolves themselves live on, their once-iconic stadium is now sadly no more.

Abandoned Carlaw Park Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand (Demolished)


abandoned-rugby-stadium-carlaw-park-auckland-new-zealand-2 (Images: LeeAnne Adams; the derelict stand and pitch at Carlaw Park rugby ground)




abandoned-rugby-stadium-carlaw-park-auckland-new-zealand-6 (Images: russellstreet; gadfium; Auckland’s abandoned rugby stadium before demolition)

Almost no sooner had rugby become popular in Britain than it made its way out to the farthest corners of the empire. New Zealand in particular caught the bug hard, as the history of this now-abandoned rugby stadium in Auckland shows. First erected in 1916, it continued to entertain rugby-loving locals for the next 84 years.

Despite its historical pedigree, the closure of Carlaw Park at the turn of the 21st century was anything but auspicious. After a final game that ended in a humiliating 74-0 defeat for visiting Tonga, the stadium fell into a state of disrepair bordering on abuse. By 2006 it had been converted into a makeshift car park, its empty stands watching forlornly over not tough young players setting records, but family hatchbacks waiting for their owners to return from shopping trips. By 2007, the abandoned stadium was little more than a ruin, and it’s now been demolished.

Claro Road Rugby Ground, Harrogate, England



abandoned-rugby-ground-claro-road-harrogate-4 (Images: Google Maps; Mtaylor848; former Harrogate RUFC rugby ground at Claro Road)

When Harrogate RUFC played their last match there, venerable Claro Road ground was an impressive 119 years old. Opened when Queen Victoria was still on the throne, its crumbling brick stand and shabby changing rooms, the latter dating to 1928, had become something of a joke by the 21st century. But it was undoubtedly a warm joke. When the club finally moved to a new facility in early 2015, locals were lining up to pay tribute.

What was left behind was a deserted icon of local rugby. The grand old stand, neglected even before being abandoned, stood empty. The rugby pitch, more than a century old, became shabby. Time had moved on, but the Claro Road ground never really had time to fall into complete disrepair.

At time of writing, the abandoned rugby ground is in the throws of redevelopment. New homes are quickly springing up on Harrogate Rugby Club’s former site, occupying the location of one of the town’s most-beloved sporting icons.

Abandoned Scalby Road, Scarborough


abandoned-rugby-ground-scalby-road-scarborough (Images: Bing Maps; Google Earth; then & now: abandoned rugby ground in Scarborough)

For the short time period between dereliction and demolition, the abandoned rugby ground on Scalby Road in Scarborough took on an almost magnificently run down appearance. Backing out onto a stretch of green and verdant fields, it looked almost as if nature itself was trying to drag the wooden stands off into the local woods. In its blissfully overgrown state, the old club grounds seemed to achieve an atmosphere of quiet peace – like someone had chosen to build it in the middle of a vast and calming meadow.

Not that this feeling lasted for long. Deserted in 2008, Scalby Road was scheduled for redevelopment as early as 2009. Plans to build a multi-million pound health village for those in need of assisted living were rapidly filed and, in no time at all, the abandoned rugby ground with its derelict pitch were closed off. Meanwhile, the club itself moved on to a newer, much-improved stadium; their old stomping grounds gone, but hopefully never forgotten.

Abandoned Stradey Park Rugby Stadium, Llanelli, Wales (Demolished)




abandoned-rugby-stadiums-stradey-park-llanelli-4 (Images: Iain Sewell (Vollsanger); rusting posts at the abandoned rugby stadium)

Like many venerable rugby grounds on our list, Stradey Park in Wales had an impressive history. First constructed way back when in 1879 (the same year Thomas Edison patented the first light bulb), the club continued to serve devoted local supporters right up until 2008. During its long, eventful existence, it saw two world wars, two Home Nations Championships and even a rugby league game between Wales and Lebanon.

Today, the site has since been redeveloped; the grand old stadium torn down to make way for new homes. Yet haunting pictures of its abandoned form showed the stands to be in remarkably good shape, even in dereliction, revealing a ground that hadn’t quite gone to wrack and ruin. Instead, the abandoned rugby stadium appeared to merely be waiting for the next game to be played on its storied pitch, and its 130 year history to continue once more.

Overgrown Rugby Pitch in Roundhay, England


abandoned-rugby-pitch-roundhay-2 (Images: Derek Harper; Bing Maps; abandoned rugby pitch at Roundhay)

Not every forgotten rugby pitch has some long and illustrious history attached to it, or indeed a stand. Sometimes, abandoned pitches echo small clubs that have simply packed up and vanished, leaving behind nothing but an overgrown patch of land and two battered sets of rugby posts. Such is the case with this old pitch in Roundhay, near Leeds.

Backing onto the Braim Wood High School for Boys, its seems likely the pitch was once used in school tournaments, or simply during early morning sessions of games. Yet for whatever reason, it has now become almost completely overgrown. Wild flowers sprout from the field as thistles grow uninhibited between the posts. It is, to all intents and purposes, a dead pitch; one of many similarly bygone examples across the country and beyond.

Abandoned Rugby Pitch on Bangor Grammar Playing Fields, Northern Ireland


abandoned-rugby-pitch-Bangor-Grammar-Playing-Fields-2 (Images: Rossographer; Google Maps)

Like the Roundhay pitch above, this abandoned rugby pitch is dramatic only in the sense that it is desolate. Once part of Bangor Grammar’s playing fields, it now appears to be completely unusable. Photos taken in 2014 show nothing more than a single, rusting set of posts left standing  in the middle of a vast and empty field.

Put up for sale at some time in the recent past, this pitch does not seem so much ‘abandoned and forgotten’ as ‘abandoned, and waiting to find a new owner’. Google Earth and Bing Maps reveal a significant change at the school in recent years, including the upgrading of the sporting facilities but with the loss of around three pitches. It’s understood that the fields lie on greenbelt land and cannot be used for construction. Maybe this small field will once again bear witness to the frequent pounding of boots on mud. Or perhaps it’s remain empty, a sad reminder of games gone by.

Disused Stand at Islwyn Park, Pontllanfraith, Wales


abandoned-rugby-stand-islwyn-park-pontllanfraith-2 (Images: Jaggery; Bing Maps)

Uniquely on our list, Islwyn Park ground in Wales is not entirely abandoned. Pontllanfraith Rugby Football Club still continue to play there, as they have for many years. No, in this case, this active ground is home to a small curiosity. Over on one side sits a battered old grandstand that has apparently been abandoned.

Left empty for an undetermined period of time, this great green monolith is now off-limits, with a sign warning visitors that it’s a “dangerous structure. Keep OUT!” In spite of this, it still appears in better lick than many of the stands on our list. The roof remains standing, the walls appear relatively free of graffiti, and the seats are mostly intact. Perhaps it is simply a temporary abandonment until vital work can be done. Or maybe it will still be standing empty in 20 years’ time, turning to dust even as rugby matches continue around it.

Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield, England (Demolished)



abandoned-rugby-stadium-sheffield-don-valley-2 (Images: Google Earth; Bing Maps; demolition of Sheffield’s abandoned rugby league stadium)

The fate of the one-time home of the Sheffield Eagles rugby league club is a sobering one. Opened to great fanfare in 1990, the short-lived Don Valley Stadium was once the second-largest athletics stadium in England (at one point the Eagles shared their space with both local track and field athletes, and Rotherham United). Capable of seating 25,000, it should by rights have still been hosting rugby league matches well into the 21th century.

But unfortunately, with Sheffield council faced with a £50m shortfall in its budget, it was swiftly decided that the quickest way to make savings was by closing down the stadium. By September 2013, its fate was sealed. The abandoned Don Valley Stadium closed its gates for the last time. After a mere two months of standing empty, the former athletics and rugby ground was torn down in the face of stiff local opposition.

Related – 10 Abandoned Sports Stadiums & Arenas of the World


About the author: Morris M



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