Showing posts with label home grounds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label home grounds. 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.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Falkirk FC Home Grounds

The exact identities of Falkirk FC are rather blurred. Okay from 1884 they played almost completely at Brockville, but I'm not here to drone on about early grounds and maps and stuff.

I don't know if it's a record [don't really care either] but a very strange quirk happened when Falkirk left Brockville to share with Stenhousemuir for a season. It seems that Falkirk played five consecutive 'home' matches at five different stadia [stadiums?].

Scottish League 10th May2003 Falkirk 2 Inverness CT 3 at Brockville Park, Falkirk
Pre Season Friendly 7th July 2003 Falkirk 3 Queen's Park 0 at Grangemouth Stadium, Grangemouth
Stirlingshire Cup 19th July 2003 Falkirk 0 Dumbarton 0 at Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir
Pre Season Friendly 27th July 2003 Falkirk 1 Wigan Ath 0 at Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld
Pre Season Friendly 30th July 2003 Falkirk 1 Celtic 1 at Shyberry Excelsior, Airdrie

I don't know, I might have missed a match, some other teams might have more wanderlust, I just thought it was interesting, but not interesting enough to write anything wordy about it.