COMMENT | Learning lessons from Wembley

Neil Griffiths Baker MallettSome projects become part of your DNA. They help to shape the company you become through the lessons you learn, the people you meet, the struggles you overcome… and sometimes, very rarely, through the extraordinary life you get to see them have, writes Neil Griffiths, chairman of Baker Mallett.

The original Wembley Stadium, where we acted as quantity surveyor, was one of those extra special projects. We were commissioned just three years into our history to work on the construction of what was then known as the Empire Stadium, a defining moment and a huge achievement for such a young company.

The stadium was built by Sir Robert McAlpine and constructed on the site of Watkin’s Tower, with the stadium’s first turf cut by King George V in 1923. The total project cost was £750,000.

The stadium became famous for its twin towers and was the privileged venue for world famous moments in sport, music and humanitarian history, hosting Live Aid in 1985, Muhammad Ali v Henry Cooper in 1963, and, how could we possibly leave out of this list, the 1966 World Cup final and England’s only victory in the competition.

The 1923 FA Cup Final was the first to be played at the stadium and featured finalists Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United. This match became particularly significant for us when an office move and long overdue archive clear-out in 2017 unearthed three pedigree bitter canisters, containing large scale original photographs of this very occasion. Photographs we didn’t know we had.

Lilleshall 1966

Photograph from 1966 of the Lilleshall Athletes Campus

We felt that there was only one place for these valuable pieces of history and so donated them to the permanent collection of the National Football Museum in Manchester, who were delighted to receive such rare pieces in such good condition.

These photos will be on display for the first time at our Centenary Celebration at the National Football Museum in Manchester. We are using this occasion to bring together the property community for a lively party, while raising money for TACKLE4MCR, an initiative between Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany and Mayor Andy Burnham, addressing the region’s homelessness issue.

The football theme has continued. Today, we are working at Lilleshall Elite Athletes campus, converting the listed manor house into a 4* hotel and conference facility, the very site where our 1966 world cup team trained before the competition. Other sporting projects include premier league stadia projects at Middlesbrough FC and QE2 British Gymnastics Hall for Sport England.

Baker Mallett has never stood still. As a company we constantly embrace change and look for how we can make ourselves better. We never give up and never settle. Ultimately, that has been why we have stood the test of time.


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