Showing posts with label Lost Grounds in Falkirk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lost Grounds in Falkirk. Show all posts

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Blinkbonny Park

For most of this week I have been looking for the location of Falkirk FC's second permanent home: Blinkbonny Park. All of my life the only Blinkbonny Park in Falkirk has been a public space between Gartcows Road and the railway line close to the High Station. Now there is a substantial problem with this being the ground where Falkirk played teams such as Dumbarton and Renton in Scottish Cup matches over nearly three and a half seasons, namely that most of the sporting references to this Blinkbonny Park in the local press are about tobogganing!


Yes, it has a very pronounced slope.

The biggest problem that we have is that Falkirk played at Blinkbonny almost exactly halfway between the 1860 and 1896 OS surveys, so the ground is missing from the best sources available. A secondary problem is that Blinkbonny [and variant spellings] is a somewhat common name, so much so that there was another one [and another Blinkbonny Park] in the district, in Slamannan. So sorting out which references were to which Blinkbonny/ie took time and patience, plus the multiple references to sales of Turnips at Blinkbonny Farm never once mentioned its location.


Blinkbonnie, and Blinkbonnie Park, Slamannan 1896.

Therefore, as ever, you have to look wider than the football to find the parts of the jigsaw puzzle not staring you in the face. And so some five years after Falkirk FC had moved to Brockville, in 1890, Falkirk Town Council started looking for a suitable piece of land in order to create a public park for the residents of the town. In the reports of the Falkirk Herald of the time it was reported that they had had several possibilities and had sounded out the landowners as to the terms were a purchase to be necessary: among the possibilities was Blinkbonny.

On Saturday April 19th 1890 the FH reported that

 "... the committee were strongly of opinion that they could not get a better site for a park than the ground at Blinkbonny. It was splendidly situated, and its only drawback was its distance from the town. The Committee had visited Blinkbonny, and they were of opinion that if they could get that part lying to the west of the road leading to Greenhorn's Well, it would make a splendid park. The land was very similar to the town's muir, and if they could make arrangements with Mr Forbes [of Callendar] in the way of excambion, they might get the one for the other. The land had special advantages for a public park. In one corner was situated Greenhorn's Well, and near it was a natural hollow, which by being flooded, would make a splendid skating pond. ... The northern boundary ran along the Bantaskin wall, and formed a natural boundary".

The simple fact that they were looking at the land west of Greenhorn's Well, and that Blinkbonny was bounded to the South by the Railway Line and to the North by the Bantaskine Estate, and stretching from Drossie Road presumably to the estate of Glenfuir House means that Blinkbonny (Park) in the 1880s and 1890s was much bigger than the current park.


The area known to Falkirk Bairns as Blinkbonny in the late 19th Century

This, though, is still a huge piece of land, and just because a passer-by in 1882 would notice the throng of a football match, means nothing to anybody nowadays, the entire area is built over by the Windsor Road housing estate, and very little of it looks remotely suitable for a Scottish Cup Match.

And it was here that I was incredibly fortunate in coming across an article about a dispute over several 'rights of way' which were regularly used by Camelonites going to and from the different parts of Falkirk. In the summer of 1891 some of these 'rights of way' were blocked by the landowners and it took the law to settle which parties were in the right.

The single most important path/right of way here

"opens from the southern bank of the Forth & Clyde Canal near to Lock 16, at Glenfuir Lodge and passes between the estates of Glenfuir and Bantaskin, and thence through the estate of Callendar, joining Maggie Wood's Loan, near Blinkbonny. The thoroughfare is still open from the entrance at Glenfuir Lodge till a point a little beyond East Bantaskin pit, a new working which is presently being formed". [Falkirk Herald Sat 25th July 1891]

The part here from the Lodge to the mine is shown clearly as a path on the 1860 map, and equates exactly with modern day Blinkbonny Road.


1860 - Ordnance Survey


2017 - Google Maps

And the second part of the 'right of way' from the East Bantaskin Pit [renamed Camelon Pit No. 2 when opened in 1895] to Maggie Wood's Loan follows the path, almost exactly of the current Windsor Road.


1896 - Ordnance Survey & 2016 - Bing Maps Hybrid from the marvellous NLS Maps Site.

The reason that the course of this 'right of way' is so important to Falkirk fans and Scottish Football historians in general is what the Falkirk Herald went on to report.

"On Wednesday one of our representatives visited the district, and passed along the disputed road. Judging from its appearance, it appeared to have been in use for a considerable period. At one side of the thoroughfare is a hedge, while the other side is not fenced. The road does not appear to have been largely used of late, judging from its grassy surface. It passes along the north side of the park which was formerly occupied by the Falkirk Football Club, and when matches were played at Blinkbonny a great number of the spectators came from Camelon and Lock 16 by the road which has now been closed. Since the club left Blinkbonny the road has been chiefly used as a nearer approach to the High Station, and if it be closed great inconvenience will, it is stated, be caused to those who have been in the habit of using it for that purpose. ... our representative was informed that the road was formerly known as "the old mill road" and was largely used by people going to the Union Canal and the High Station".

If I have added everything correctly, and not misread everything, this would put the Blinkbonny Park somewhere in the vicinity of Balmoral Street, Falkirk - Google Street View.

After Falkirk FC left Blinkbonny the ground was taken over by Erin Rovers [who themselves were born out of Falkirk Harp] the local "Irish" team who did not last for much more than a season.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Milnquarter Park

I just came across a fantastic new 'thing' on the NLS maps website, where you can look at the 1898 Ordnance Survey map cross-checked with the current bing maps to give it a historical context. So when I was playing about earlier, looking at the parts of Falkirk that I do not have on paper I came across a couple of grounds, some of which I am not sure about and will need to research a bit further, but some I knew but had never looked at on the map.

Football in Falkirk District started in Bonnybridge, but although they were enthusiastic the Grasshoppers never quite had the ability challenge on the field of play. As a result of this they never really managed to establish themselves so paid the ultimate price when the great cull of village clubs came in the wake of professionalism and league football.

Local knowledge has it that Grasshoppers' first ever match was played on a the field where Bonnybridge Library now stands [sometimes known as Bonnyside]. Exactly where the Grasshoppers played over the next couple of seasons is difficult to pin down. Occasional match reports state "Peathill" whilst others state "Highland Dykes" and whilst it is possible they were the same ground it still only vaguely locates it to the area about modern Larbert Road in Bonnybridge.

Around 1880-1881 Grasshoppers moved to what would be largely their permanent home for the rest of their history: Milnquarter Park. The club had relocated to the, then, largely vacant, fields between Bonnybridge and Greenhill. I say it was largely their permanent home because they spent season 1886/87 in Longcroft.

Since I have never come across any descriptions of the actual ground in any match reports I do not know what it was like, but it is fairly safe to assume it was very basic, probably just a roped off area in a field, the teams getting stripped in a nearby pub or similar hostelry. In the map [below] it is quite a bit off the local roads, this would affected access, and the fact that there was unlikely to be any Grandstand would have made it virtually impossible for the club to charge the any crowd for the privilege.


Milnquarter in 1896

According to the OS map it seems that the ground was partly built over the Antonine Wall, which leads one to presume that at least that part had been dismantled by 1880. Another thing which is missing from this map which is in later maps, is that the land immediately to the East on the other side of the railway lines was the home of Bonnybridge Cricket Club, part of which is now the playing area of the Antonine Primary School.


The exact same area taken from Bing Maps 2015

Although Milnquarter was never the greatest of grounds in the district, it was important enough. Several Scottish Cup matches were played on the ground, so we can tell that the ground was up to scratch in the eyes of the SFA, there are countless recordings of teams being forced to replay matches, or play matches away from home simply due to the quality of the ground.

I must admit to ignorance at this point though, I am not completely sure if the ground was shared in latter days with Bonnybridge Juniors, and even if so, how long football was played on the ground after Grasshoppers became defunct. I will get round to looking up these things in time, but for the time being I'd like to think that the ground was at least being used in the Junior Cup matches until it was finally built over.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Lost Grounds of Falkirk District - Merchiston Park

I asked Drummond Calder of The East Stirlingshire Supporters Society to write a piece on the 'Shire's old ground Merchiston Park, knowing that he would have researched in far more detail than I would ever get round to doing, and he did not dissapoint. -




Action Shot from (New) Merchiston Park



Merchiston Park was the home to East Stirlingshire from the 1880s to the 1920s and is actually the story of 3 grounds. East Stirlingshire had previously played at Burnhouse and then at Randyford before returning back to Bainsford in March or April 1882. The club’s 3rd ground, which they played on from then until the end of season 1882/83, was basically a playing field in Bainsford which was rented from Mungal Farm.


At the start of season 1883/84 East Stirlingshire had moved again to their 4th ground, which was adjacent to one they had just vacated, and it was formally opened with a match against Our Boys (from Dundee). This east/west ground was rented from the owner of Mungal Farm, James Young, who would shortly afterwards become the Baillie for the Northern Ward of the town which included Bainsford. He was also the club’s 1st President from at least May 1883. Initially the ground was just a playing field but the club gradually improved it. Originally it did not having a name (it was known only as “the ground at Bainsford”) by the end of season 1885/86 it was referred to as “Bainsford Park”. At the end of that season extensive ground improvements were made, including levelling the pitch, and from the start of season 1886/87 the ground was formally named Merchiston Park with the club playing a friendly against Aston Villa in August 1886 to celebrate the occasion. Merchiston Park during its’ history did have a “Match box” stand but after the great Ibrox disaster in 1902 along with other clubs in the district (Falkirk excepted) it was condemned. In the early years on the 20th Century Bainsford was continuing to be developed rapidly and one consequence was that the ground had to make way for a railway line to an iron foundry. So at the end of season 1905/06 the ground closed its gates for the last time.


Edinburgh Evening Telegraph - Thursday August 26th 1886


After losing their ground to the railway line over the 1906 close season the club moved back to the playing area used by the club from March/April 1882 to April 1883 (East Stirlingshire’s 3rd ground) and built a new ground, their 5th, called New Merchiston Park (though latterly it was just known as Merchiston Park). New Merchiston Park was a substantially more developed from the playing field that was the 3rd ground, it would been more like some of the more basic Junior grounds we find today (without the toilets !). The club would play at this ground from of start season 1906/07 to the end of 1920/21 when once again they were forced to find a new ground. The East Stirlingshire club booklet gives us the following information about what happened after the club moved from Randyford back to Bainsford which confirmed the link between the 3rd and 5th grounds;


“...after which they took up their quarters at Merchiston Park, on the identical site of the field which they were forced to leave two years ago. This fact is known to only a few of the present-day followers of the club, whose reminiscences go no further back than the time when East Stirlingshire played on the pitch slightly to the north, which had to be vacated in 1907 owing to the construction of a new railway.”


The following two maps show the actual locations of the club’s grounds from March/April 1882 to May 1921 (Grounds 3 to 5).

The first Ordnance Survey map from 1897 shows the location for Ground 4 (Merchiston Park). The basin just south of the ground was Burnhouse Basin. Church Street, to the East of the ground is the current Smith Street. The ground was entered from the East side through Black Close, just off the Bainsford Main Street.
 



The following 1922 Ordnance Survey map shows the location of Ground 5 (New Merchiston Park) that the club played on and this area was also where Ground 3 was situated. Note the location of Mungal Cottage (where the club’s’ first President, James Young, lived) in the top left-hand corner of the map. It can be seen that the ground was situated south of the 4th ground and was a lot closer to the canal. The railway line where the old ground was can be seen as well. The ground was directly north of Burnbank Iron Foundry and the east side of the ground backed onto Burnhouse Basin.





Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Victoria Pk Camelon

The Second Home of Camelon [in their first Season there is mention of them playing on 'the Policies of Camelon House'] was that of Victoria Park. Known as Victoria Park because, frankly, the times demanded it, there were very few features that described it in the reports, other than it was 'in a hollow'.

The ground [as far as I can tell] was in use for about twenty years, from the early 1880s until the early 1900s, when it was built over by a foundry, one which famously made Mills grenades during WWI.


 
The ground as a football ground was, seemingly, ever-problematic, costing as village side like Camelon more than they could reasonably bring in in gates per season. It was only that Victoria Park was easily the third most important grounds of Falkirk District, easily recognised by the fact that it hosted most of the neutral matches between East Stirlingshire and Falkirk, that it continued so long: two local Cup Finals [Falkirk District Charity Cup & Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Infirmary Shield] that kept it going so long.

The ground though, by all reports was quite impressive, laid in a 'natural amphitheatre' between Glasgow Road to the South and the Railway line to the North, and with an incline from the Stirling Road to the East, it's beauty was often commented upon, the simple fact was that Camelon could not support a team to support the ground. Later Junior clubs returning to, Camelon House & Carmuirs Park.

In the 1897 map, the ground is at the very west of old Camelon.



This is the current google map of the area.



Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Tannery Park

The original home of Falkirk Amateurs, so called - because it was right next to a tannery. This ground is one of the easier grounds to find even though it is not on any of the OS maps. But it was described in Jimmy Henderson's Obituary as being on the policies of Comely Park House and that the East Burn ran down one side of it.

This places the ground in between the Callander Walls and Kemper Avenue [the East Burn is now piped under Kemper Avenue] ie, the car park across from The Cladhan.

This is almost certainly the same ground as Comely Park had used previously, even the Ams called it Comely Park occasionally, but also adverts for Comely Park matches stated "entrance via Burnhead Lane"



The ground was also used by various junior clubs.