Note Justifiably described by Colin Peel and Mick Blakeman as “a truly atmospheric little ground that is one of Non League’s best”, there is indeed plenty to be found at Harrison Park to satisfy the average grounds enthusiast even, as was the case when I visited, they are unable to actually get into the ground. Harrison Park is hemmed in by housing and local industry and despite being on the outskirts of Leek, has the feel of a traditional town centre venue.
Although a Leek side played neighbours Macclesfield as long ago as 9 March 1876, little is known of those early origins of the club, and the most reliable history dates from the post-war years when Abbey Green Rovers FC was formed in 1946. In those early days the club played at Sam Goodfellow's field next to the White Lion pub (aka the White Lion Ground). A name change to Leek Lowe Hamil FC saw the club move to a narrow pitch on Millward’s Field before the club was able to purchase the then-Hamil Park for £1,250 in 1948 as a permanent home for the club. Three years later the club name was changed again to Leek Town FC, but at the time Hamil Park was still little more than a field with a hawthorn hedge surrounding it, and a large natural bank at the back.
In 1953, on discovering that the pitch was encroaching onto land that did not belong to them, the club decided to rotate it by ninety degrees, which meant excavating the bank – as Kerry Miller states, the bank which now stands behind the far goal at the southern end of the ground, was originally much nearer the main road. It also affords a fine vantage point.
The players had previously changed in the Blue Ball pub some 600 yards away but, soon after the rotation of the pitch, dressing rooms were built at Hamil Park, complete with a small overhang to provide shelter for spectators. Meanwhile a small cover was also constructed on the opposite touchline but was destroyed in a storm soon afterwards.
The demise of Rugby Town FC in 1972 saw their floodlights relocated from their Bilton Road ground to Hamil Park, later renamed Harrison Park after the club’s late Chairman Geoff Harrison.
The late 1980s – early 1990s saw significant developments, as the club began to prepare for the possibility of Conference football. The small seated stand on the car-park side was renovated in 1987 but after further terracing was laid in 1989, was demolished and replaced by the imposing cantilever stand in 1992, with the seated area elevated above a paddock area in front.
Both end terraces were covered during the 1993-94 season as Leek were controversially denied promotion to the Conference on financial grounds, despite finishing as runners-up in the Northern Premier League. By way of a sad irony, the following season Leek instead found themselves playing Southern League football for a season, whilst Macclesfield took the Conference title. A belated promotion came in 1997, but the club’s spell amongst the Non League elite lasted just two seasons, during which the ground was flooded when the dam of a local reservoir was breached in October 1998, sending millions of gallons of water into the river that runs adjacent to the ground (see photograph on the first of the two websites listed above)
Not surprisingly, the ground’s official record attendance was set against Macclesfield Town when 3,512 spectators watched an FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round tie in 1973 that ended 2-2, with Macclesfield winning the replay 4-2. DB