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Burnden Park
Burnden Park hosting the 1901 FA Cup Final
Location Burnden, Bolton, Greater Manchester
Coordinates 53°34′08″N 2°24′58″W / 53.56889°N 2.41611°W / 53.56889; -2.41611Coordinates: 53°34′08″N 2°24′58″W / 53.56889°N 2.41611°W / 53.56889; -2.41611
Opened 1895
Closed April 1997 (final game)
Demolished 1999
Surface Grass
Capacity 70,000 (maximum)
25,000 (at closing)
Bolton Wanderers F.C. (1895–1997)

Burnden Park was the home of English FA Premier League football club Bolton Wanderers who played home games here between 1895 and 1997. As well as hosting an FA Cup Final replay it was the scene of one of the greatest disaster's in English football and the subject of an L.S. Lowry painting before it was demolished in 1999.



Situated on Manchester Road in the Burnden area of Bolton - approximately one mile from the town centre - the ground served as the home of the town's football team for 102 years. It also hosted the replay of the 1901 FA Cup Final, in which Tottenham Hotspur beat Sheffield United 3-1[1].


Bolton Wanderers was formed in 1874 as Christ Church FC, with the vicar as club president. After disagreements about the use of church premises, the club broke away and became Bolton Wanderers in 1877 meeting at the Gladstone Hotel.[2] At this time Bolton played at Pike’s Lane but needed a purpose built ground to play home matches. As a result Bolton Wanderers Football and Athletic Club, one of the 12 founder members of the Football League, became a Limited Company in 1894 and shares were raised to build a ground. Land at Burnden was leased at £130 per annum and £4,000 raised to build the stadium. Burnden Park was completed in August 1895. The opening match was a benefit match against Preston and the first League match was against Everton in front of a 15,000 crowd.[3]

In its heyday, Burnden Park could hold crowds of up to 70,000, but this figure was dramatically reduced during the final 20 years of its life, mainly because of new legislation which saw virtually all English stadia reduce their capacities for safety reasons. A section of the embankment was sold off in 1986 to make way for a new Normid superstore (which had closed by the end of the 1990s). At this time, Bolton were in a dire position financially and were struggling in the Football League Third Division, so there was a low demand for tickets and the loss of part of the ground gave the Bolton directors good value for money.

The club's directors had decided by 1992 that it would be difficult to convert Burnden Park into an all-seater stadium for a club of Bolton's ambition. They were members of the new Division Two (which was known as the Third Division until the creation of the Premier League) but the club had ambitions to reach the top flight.

The last ever Wanderers game played at the historic ground was against Charlton Athletic in April 1997. Bolton, who were already Division One champions, defeated Charlton 4-1 after being 1-0 down at half time. Whites' legend John McGinlay scored the final goal shortly before Bolton received their trophy and the crowd united in singing Auld Lang Syne.

It was decided to build a new multi-million pound 25,000-seater stadium (later raised to 28,000) - the Reebok Stadium - at the Middlebrook development and the move went ahead in 1997, despite the sadness of many fans.

Burnden Park Disaster

Burnden Park was the scene of the Burnden Park Disaster. On 9 March, 1946, during a Football Association Challenge Cup (FA Cup) quarter-final second-leg tie between Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City, crowd congestion led to 33 Bolton Wanderers spectators losing their lives through compressive asphyxia and hundreds suffering injuries in a crowd estimated to be in excess of 85,000 people [4]. The disaster happened at the Railway End of the ground where, in common with many other post-war grounds, facilities were rudimentary, The bank was crude, just dirt with odd flagstones for steps.[5]

The disaster led to the Moelwyn Hughes's official report, which recommended limitations on crowd sizes. A conference on the licensing and regulation of sports grounds where it was recommended that, as a voluntary code, local authorities should inspect grounds with a capacity of 10,000 spectators and agreed safely limits should be in place for grounds of more than 25,000 capacity. Turnstyles should mechanically record spectator numbers and grounds should have internal telephone systems.[6]

The Burnden Park disaster was the greatest tragedy in British football history, until the Ibrox Park disaster at Rangers' home ground in 1971. On 24 August 1946 England and Scotland drew 2-2 in an additional fixture in aid of the Disaster Fund. All tickets to the match at Manchester City's ground were sold raising £12,000 (2010: £369,000).[7] [8]

Outside football

The railway embankment of Burnden Park was seen in the 1962 film A Kind of Loving, starring Alan Bates and June Ritchie. Part of the Arthur Askey film "The Love Match" was also filmed at Burnden Park in the early 1950s. A painting of Burnden Park in 1953 by L.S. Lowry, "Going To The Match" was bought for £1.9m by the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) in 1999.[9]


For some years, the site suffered. Travellers camped in the car park of the derelict Normid superstore and Burnden Park itself fell into disrepair. As one of the main routes into town, the site needed to be redeveloped. There is now an Asda superstore on the site, which opened in 2005 after taking over the Big W. The Asda store identifies itself with Burnden Park by having a number of extremely large photographs of the former stadium and players, placed high above the checkouts. Also on the site are a Co-op travel agents, a Subway restaurant, a Carphone Warehouse and a Johnson's Cleaners adjacent to Manchester Road. A new JJB fitness centre/sports store has also moved here (roughly where the Burnden Stand was), to make a significant, out of town development. There is one empty unit situated between Asda and JJB which was for conversion into three shops and was due to open November 2007 - January 2008, a Poundstretcher, a Pets Galore and an unknown food shop similar to Home Bargains.


  • Darby, Paul; Johnes, Martin; Mellor, Gavin (2005), Sport in the global society, Routledge, ISBN 0714649465 
  • Mangan, Tom (1999), Sport in Europe: politics, class, gender, Routledge, ISBN 0714653527 

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