The Wellesley Recreation Ground was officially opened on 6th August 1888. Initially temporary grandstands or marquees were erected, when required, for important sporting occasions, but it was soon recognized that there was a need for a permanent grandstand on the east side of the ground, from which to view the sports.
A strip of land measuring 25 feet by 135 feet was added to the recreation ground from the vacant plots facing Marine Parade to accommodate the building of the grandstand away from the track.
On 26th June 1890, the Borough Surveyor was instructed by the Recreation Committee to draw plans for a permanent grandstand.
In September 1891, the Recreation Committee recommended the erection of a grandstand, dressing room and refreshment pavilion at an estimated cost of £1,000. The tender was won by a local builder, Mr. A. E. Bond of Saxon Place, Albion Road, with the sum of £1,015. The grandstand was opened on Whit Monday, 11th June 1892, when a combined athletic and cycle sports meeting was held, attended by a crowd of 4,200. A few months later, the Yarmouth Mercury in its report on the August Bank Holiday sports, described the grandstand as: perhaps the finest in East Anglia.
This grandstand is still in use and is thought to be the oldest football grandstand in Great Britain.
In December 1999, after completing his History of the Wellesley Recreation Ground, David Tubby wrote to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, applying for listed status for the Victorian Grandstand, the Bowls Pavilion and the Gatehouse.
Further letters in support of his application were sent by both the Great Yarmouth Archaeological Society and David Holland, a supporter of the Great Yarmouth Town Football Club. The application was referred to English Heritage for consideration and they commissioned a surveyor to inspect the buildings and to draw up a report.
On 2nd May 2000, David Tubby received a letter from the department stating that the Secretary of State had decided to list the buildings. They were judged to be buildings of special architectural and historic interest and added to the list as Grade II listed buildings. The listing schedule includes a full description of all three buildings. The description of the grandstand is of particular interest, and is included below.
Football Grandstand 1891-92 by J. W. Cockrill, the Borough Engineer. Brick ground floor with timber superstructure, asbestos clad roof of 1953.
EXTERIOR: west elevation of 12 bays of canopy above brick ground floor. Ground floor with central brick and concrete steps flanked by one canted bay window right and left, each bay with half-glazed double doors and 3 paned fixed windows. 9 cast iron windows at intervals, those either side of south canted bay circular, the remainder oval. Brickwork with square billet ornament at top.
Superstructure in the form of an open grandstand with raking terrace platform. 12 open bays defined by square timber posts with feathered chamfers and with moulded capitals and stopped bases.
Each post with passing brace to east and 3 scolled braces in other directions. Scalloped and pierced fascia board. Central gable with elliptical insert with decoratively pierced tympanum.
Gable heads each with decoratively pierced semi-elliptical boarding. Rear (east) elevation consists of 12 bays of twin round-headed lancets with flat buttresses between each pair. Common string course. Grandstand stage with braced timber panels.
Clock of 1896 by E. Green of Yarmouth. North and South returns with double timber doors to the ground floor under 5 vaned fanlights and 2 segmental openings above, those to the west open, to the east with timber panelling below 5 vaned fanlights.
INTERIOR: grandstand with roof of 13 king-post trusses and diagonal horizontal braces between the posts. Ground floor with timber-lined changing rooms, showers and toilets. Longitudinal passage running between doors in gable ends, on west side of which are cast iron columns.