A PIECE of Plymouth sporting history is in the process of being demolished.
After sitting on ‘death row’ for years, the old main wooden stand at Devonport Services’ Rectory ground is finally getting knocked down.
The stand has been out of use for 16 years after it was deemed ‘unsafe’ in 2004.
Just 14 months before that a bumper crowd had packed into the stand as a sell-out crowd watched the Barbarians, who gave final appearances to Doddie Weir and Graham Dawe, play the Combined Services in a 27-26 thriller at the ground.
The stand can trace its origins back more than a century to when the Rectory was the home of the famous Devonport Albion prior to the First World War.
However, the stand suffered heavy damage during the blitz of World War II and a large part of it had to be rebuilt.
The stand has witnessed some memorable matches and plenty of international touring teams and world stars.
Probably the last major international showpiece event the stand played host to was in 1993 when New Zealand played the Combined Services on the last day of November.
Current England defence coach John Mitchell captained the All Blacks team that night. A try by hooker Norm Hewitt, who was given a start with Sean Fitzpatrick on the bench, decided the match in favour of the tourists who ran out 13-3 winners against a Combined Services side that included British Lions players Rory Underwood and Rob Wainwright, as well as Navy players Bob Armstrong and Dave Sibson.
The Rectory and Plymouth will always have a special place in All Blacks history. The first-ever New Zealand team to tour outside Oceania – the 1905 ‘Originals’ – arrived in Plymouth for the start of a mammoth 35-match, five-month, series. The tour included playing the then mighty Devonport Albion at the Rectory, which the visitors won 21-3.
The New Zealand ‘Invincibles’ also opened their unbeaten 32-match 1924 tour at the Rectory by beating Devon 11-0.
The stand will be sadly missed as it has been a prominent landmark in the Stonehouse area with its large ‘Devonport Services RFC’ signage on the roof.