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Northolt Park Grandstand, site of
northwest of Mandeville Road, Northolt, Middlesex, UK
Northolt Park Grandstand, site of
associated engineer
Oscar Faber
Stanley Vaughan
date  1927 - 4th May 1929
era  Modern  |  category  Stadium/Arena/Pool  |  reference  TQ134848
photo  courtesy ICE, published 1944
Northolt Park Racecourse opened in 1929 as the national centre for a new type of horse racing pony racing, or trotting. The course designer, New Zealander W.A. Read, lent his expertise for the brief given to Oscar Faber for the design of the Grandstand and four other stands. However, the last race meeting was held in 1951 and there is little to see now as shortly afterwards the site was cleared for housing.
The 1.5 mile racecourse, located on the west side of London, was the brainchild of Sir William Bass and Viscount Lascelles. The first meeting was held on 4th May 1929, opened by Lord Harewood and his wife the then Princess Royal.
Uniquely in the UK, Northolt boasted a new type of starting gate, one based on a South African pattern, where the starter operated the release by foot so jockeys couldn't anticipate the start. It also had photo-finish equipment, and in 1935 a large electronic clock for race timings was installed. The Empire Cup was run here each year, attracting teams from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. This event was televised for the first time in 1938.
In the 1920s, Oscar Faber was acquiring knowledge and experience in the design of sports-related structures. The design of a spectator stand at Lords Cricket Ground in 1923 set him in good stead for this project, and his success here would lead to a commission later as architect and engineer for the Harringay Arena (1936, demolished), a venue for ice-hockey and boxing.
Unlike at Lords, where architect Sir Herbert Baker's designs were understated, the facades of Northolt's grandstand had clear precedent. The design owed much to the European Modern Movement, with its white rendered walls and rounded corners, curved black-painted window frames and glass, and finely proportioned columns and walkways.
Of the five stands designed by Faber, three were designated 'public'. These were separated by fences from the Members' Stand and the Grandstand. The latter included a Royal Box, and measured 55m x 27.5m. Its extensive restaurant facilities were accessed via a high level walkway, providing views over what was then surrounding countryside. The most striking feature of the Grandstand was its cantilevered roof, which projected 20m. The building was open-sided, allowing panoramic views of the racing.
Faber was responsible for the structural concept of the grandstand its parabolic shape moving smoothly from terrace to cantilevered roof. Faber's business partner and the project's supervising engineer, Stanley Vaughan, did the detailed calculations for the steelwork. At first glance, the stand looks to be made of concrete, as all the whole is finished in a seamless smooth white render. However, the frame is steel.
Northolt Park Racecourse was requisitioned for military use during World War II. Soon afterwards, in the 1950s, the Grandstand, along with the rest of the complex, was demolished to make way for housing. Its seating was re-erected at Brands Hatch motor racing circuit in 1955.
However, images still exist of Northholt Racecourse as it was used as a location for the 1938 Warner Brothers film, Thank Evans, a comedy starring Max Miller.
Supervising engineer: Stanley Vaughan
Contractor: Holland Hannan and Cubitts, F.S. Snow
Racecourse design: W.A. Read
Research: ND
bibliography
"Oscar Faber, his work, his firm, & afterwards" by John Faber,
Quiller Press, London 1989
"Modern appointments: for pony racing", Evening Post (New Zealand), Vol CXXXVI, Issue 86, pp. 26, 8th October 1938, available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz
Location

Northolt Park Grandstand, site of