Note Clitheroe FC was formed as Clitheroe Central in 1877 at the Swan Hotel in Castle Street by local businessmen. After playing in local leagues the club joined the Lancashire Combination in 1903 and dropped the Central suffix from its name.
The club’s first home was a field in Up Brooks, but in 1925 Clitheroe moved to Shawbridge, then a meadow below Pendle Hill used as grazing for sheep and cattle. The ground once had a public footpath running down one side of the current touchline, and would have to be reinstated if football ever ceases to be played there. That came close to happening in the early 1970s when the ground wasn’t enclosed and could not meet grading requirements. Fortunately however, the club was able to find materials from the local railway sidings that were being demolished at the time.
Shawbridge could never be described as a pretty ground by any stretch of the imagination, but its collection of stands, buildings and covered areas lends it an undeniable character and underlines the various changes made over the years. An added bonus is that the ground is covered on all four sides. It is quite tight and one imagines that it might generate a lively atmosphere when there is a good crowd.
The ground once boasted what was considered to be the finest stand in the Lancashire Combination when it was opened in 1930, although it sadly fell into disrepair and was demolished in the early 1970s. Interestingly there was another metal side erected on the Pendle side just prior to WW2, only for it to disappear suddenly after just six weeks of use. Although the club alleged that it had been commandeered for the war effort, it later transpired that it had been repossessed for non-payment
The last decade of the 20th Century saw most of the 10 years spent getting the ground up to scratch with £130,000 being spent in the process, including £3,000 on improving the drainage of the infamous playing surface in 1992.
I have arranged the photographs below in sequence to guide you around the ground ...
The oldest area of cover is behind the goal at the clubhouse end as one enters the ground, which is little more than a corrugated iron roof and scaffolding poles, with the cosy club shop at the far end.
Following the pitch around along the touchline one comes to a couple of stands: a small stand with simple bench seating (part of which was out of bounds due to damage when I visited in the autumn of 2005), and the larger main stand with its wooden seats painted in the club colours, both of which afford rather obstructed views due to the roof supports but are still far more preferable to bland modern alternatives that would look totally out of place. Separating the two stands is a tea hut and the most modern structures at Shawbridge, the dugouts, with the dressing rooms behind.
There is a further area of cover at the far end – the Nursery or School End – where the pitch slopes up quite considerably towards the top corner; whilst the far touchline boasts a further expanse of fairly basic but perfectly adequate cover and a few steps of shallow terrace.
Shawbridge may not be the easiest ground to find (follow directions on the club website carefully or you can miss the small lane that provides access), but it is every inch a classic small town ground, and overlooked by an impressive 12th century Norman Keep, from which nice scenic shots of the ground can be obtained on a fine day (sadly not when I visited). DB