Crushed to Death - Leppings Lane, Hillsborough, Sheffield

"that everything would be done to prevent a future occurrence"

The record books state that the highest ever attendance at Hillsborough, Sheffield was 72,841 on Saturday 17th February 1934 for an F A Cup 5th Round game against Manchester City.

On Monday 19th February 1934, The Manchester Guardian gave the following report on the match which ended in a 2 - 2 draw

However the newspaper report made no mention of the record crowd nor did it report a rather ominous tragedy

The Manchester Guardian dated 21st February 1934 rectified this omission with a report of an Inquest that was held the day before in Sheffield

 As is often the case a more detailed report of the Coroners Inquest appeared in the local Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 21st February 1934

A dense crowd that was jammed together, spectators climbing over railings, men screaming for help, over 100 police on duty - and all at the Leppings Lane end of the ground. You could be forgiven for thinking this was April 1989, the day of the Hillsborough Disaster but this was February 1934.

There is an excellent article in History Today that gives an overview of crowd safety at football games in the twentieth century - it is well worth reading as it fills in the background to Fred Hill's untimely death. The author notes

"(Fred) Hill, a fifty-three-year-old unemployed man, was crushed against railings after two iron gates, which had been locked when the ground was declared full before kick-off, burst open under pressure from people trying to get into the match. The police drove them back, and a mounted policeman took his horse through the crowd to try to rescue Hill, who had been unable to climb the railings. Swaying played its part in this, and there were a dozen fainting cases in the same area. The coroner remarked that:

There is a good deal of comment and criticism about this man’s death, and … the pictures in the newspapers have rather shocked some people. Some of the evidence this afternoon of men screaming for help is rather shocking.

This was only a step beyond the regular cases of fainting in football crowds, treated as a matter of course in grounds across the country, which led to bodies being passed over heads to waiting ambulance men.

Spectators encroached on the fringes of the playing surface and sought vantage points on stanchions and stand roofs. At Liverpool’s match with Arsenal in January 1936, ‘Several intrepid spectators climbed up the iron stanchions of Spion Kop and sat on the girders.’ At Sheffield on one occasion:

So many people got on the roof of a stand that the roof sagged and the occupants … underneath were in terror that the roof should fall in."

But the most tragic words are those uttered by Mr L. J. Clegg who represented Sheffield Wednesday FC at the Inquest. He stated

"that everything would be done to prevent a future occurrence"

If only that had been the case!!


1. Death registered Hill George F Age 52 Wortley Volume 9c Page 368

2. This was not the first time that Hillsborough had experienced problems with regard to crowd safety. Twenty years earlier on 4th February 1914 a second round tie went to a replay which was held before a record home crowd of 43,000. However the match was remembered for the collapse of the new retaining wall at the Penistone Road end of the ground. It caused 70 injuries and caused the match to be suspended while the casualties were taken to the Infirmary.

3. The replay took place rather surprisingly on the day of the Inquest. A report appeared in the following day's Manchester Guardian



The Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 21st February 1934

Manchester Guardian dated Monday 19th February 1934

Manchester Guardian dated Monday 21st February 1934

History Today


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This page was last updated on 15/03/10 11:15