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17 April 2020

As part of a new series, discover the landmarks that have mapped the history of our club.

In a new series, Swinton Lions club director Steve Wild guides us on a virtual tour of the local area to places that have played an integral part in the history of the club.

Part 3 – Joining the RFU and becoming Lions

The club joined the Rugby Football Union in October 1871, scarcely 9 months after the governing body had been founded, and initially adopted the name ‘Swinton & Pendlebury FC’. But quite when the club switched its HQ from the Bull’s Head to the White Lion is difficult to pin down for certain, but it’s possible that this occurred in 1873 when the White Lion came under the ownership of James Gilbody, who was known to be a big supporter of the club. The fact that the Bull’s Head also changed hands in 1873 adds credence to this theory.

This change of HQ led of course to the club acquiring its nickname of “The Lions”, and indeed this moniker was soon in regular use – although often used in the singular to begin with. i.e. the club itself being referred to as “The Lion”, rather than the players as “Lions”.

With a change of HQ came a change of playing venue, with Swinton now preferring what was described as “a meadow off the Stoneacre footpath”. The Stoneacre footpath was the original name for what became Pendlebury Road, and the playing field itself was positioned at what is now the bottom end of Bingham Street and the lower part of St Mary’s Primary School Field.

This remained Swinton’s home ground until 1886, and it should not be confused with the Lions’ later “Chorley Road” ground at the back of New Cross Street.

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This map dates to around 1888, shortly after the Lions’ Chorley Road ground had been laid out. However, between c.1873 and 1886 Swinton had played at an adjoining field, marked ‘BM243.7’ to the left of the ‘new’ ground. The White Lion pub is at ‘L.B.’ bottom centre.


The location of Swinton’s “Stoneacre” ground, c.1873 to 1886, followed roughly the line of trees across the centre of this picture (between Bingham Street and St Mary’s Primary School). Courtesy of Google Earth.
The White Lion, seen here at Whit Walks Week around the turn of the 20th century, was Swinton’s HQ from c.1873 to 1898, and gave rise to the famous nickname.



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