On 28th April 1923, the original Wembley Stadium in London opened with the FA Cup Final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United.  Official figures placed attendance at 126,000 people – 1,000 more than the stadium’s capacity – but the crowd was probably twice that size.

The stadium had originally been built for the British Empire Exhibition that was to take place in 1924, but it was finished ahead of schedule.  Despite concerns that they wouldn’t have enough spectators to fill the enormous stadium, the FA played the match there anyway.

When the gates opened at 11.30am, an orderly queue of people made their way inside.  Just over two hours later the steady flow had increased to the point where stadium authorities decided they needed to close the gates.  However, the increasing number of people outside the stadium forced the gates open, leading to spectators flooding the pitch.

It was only after the mounted police arrived that the situation began to calm down.  They managed to clear the pitch enough for the match to begin just 45 minutes behind schedule.

Although many others were involved it was a light grey hose called Billie, ridden by PC George Scorey, who became the symbol of the day.  Appearing white on the newsreel footage, Billie’s appearance led to the match becoming known as the ‘White Horse Final’.  The bridge outside the new Wembley Stadium was subsequently named White Horse Bridge.  As for the football match, Bolton Wanderers beat West Ham 2-0.

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© Scott Allsop