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I was there…Wembley Stadium


Professionally, there is nothing sadder than seeing a building disappear on which you’ve previously worked. And for me that means the loss of Wembley’s two famous Twin Towers that were demolished in 2003 to make way for the new stadium…

The Towers, part of the original 1923 construction, were symbols of our national game and recognised across the world wherever the beautiful game is played. To be honest, I’m not a great football fan but I will never forget the day we spent, thirty or so years ago, not so much at Wembley Stadium, but on it…

The stadium was originally commissioned for the proposed British Empire Exhibition; designed by Sir John Simpson and Maxwell Ayrton; built by Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons in just 300 days and cost £500,000. The predominant material used for its construction was concrete, specifically a type of reinforced concrete called ferro-concrete. Everything was concrete, including the towers – and both their flagstaffs and the crowns that capped them. And it was those crowns that we were restoring – 126 feet above London. The first few minutes were undoubtedly the scariest of my career because we were swaying up there. Properly swaying. Instinctively, our first thought was the scaffolding but, of course, our platform was as solid as a rock. No, what was swaying was the flagstaff and that was the day I learned that concrete can move with the wind, just as it had been designed to do.

I learned a lot that day and watching the Towers come down on TV some decades later simply confirmed what I have known from the beginning – restoration is so much more satisfying than demolition.

Chris Regan