On the fifth of May, 1954, thousands of Rugby League fans flocked to Odsal Stadium, Bradford, for a Rugby League Cup Final replay. The eagerly awaited match was played on the doorstep of the two teams involved - it was Halifax versus Warrington. Without any of today's restrictions on crowd control, Odsal Stadium acted as a natural amphitheatre for the drama to unfold. It attracted one of the largest crowds in the country's sporting history. It was, in fact, the largest crowd ever to watch a rugby league match anywhere in the world.
Three original glass negatives from the C H Wood Photographic Archive capture the moments leading up to the game. His black and white aerial views show the hordes of spectators in the ground, eagerly awaiting the match to start. The images capture the band playing in the centre circle of the pitch, prior to the kick off. The cars and the buses can be seen tightly packed around the ground. As the match starts, the players can be seen on the pitch. At this point there are still thousands of latecomers streaming into the stadium.
How many people were at actually at the match? How many people could say 'I was there'? Did the crowd actually grow in the public's mind? The memory of this match became part of a historic folklore. These original images were used in the post-match press reports and became part of the historic record of the crowd. As the memory of this famous day became folklore, so did the potential to use these images of the crowd for commercial gain. Everybody wanted a bit of memorabilia to remind them of the day of the crowd.
C H Wood Photography of Bradford, who took these images, were a very well known commercial photography company. They produced high quality images for customers throughout the North of England. They would also look at ways of enhancing an image to suit the needs of the customer. As the crowd grew in people's minds, then the crowd could grow in the photographic images.
'Cut and Paste' is something that is done hundreds of times each day by anybody who uses a computer. In early photography, 'cut and paste' was a way of manipulating a photograph to their own needs. By clever use of cutting and pasting a 'crowd' onto different images at Odsal Stadium, the crowd could suddenly grow and cover the whole arena. These 'photographs' then became part of the history and formed an image of the crowd in people's minds.
The crowd was recorded as 102,575 paying customers but was estimated as being nearer 120,000 people. Always beware of the fact that the camera never lies but it can help to form a lasting memory.
There are many other images that have been enhanced over the years and whilst C H Wood was a master photographer, he was also a master of the unkown.
Watch the Video to hear the above transcript and see the amazing photographic images from this historic match.
Listen to Ken Dean recall his part in the match, as a player for Halifax (see Related Links below).
Several other digi stories on My Yorkshire feature iconic photographs by C H Wood (see Related Links below).
Story provided by: Bradford Industrial Museum, Home of Horses at Work