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Non League Football Under The Microscope

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Eastbourne Borough fans celebrate - August Bank Holiday Monday 2003                                Photograph by Sam Hicks

Tow Law Town AFC

The Ironworks Ground, Ironworks Road, Tow Law, County Durham
Telephone: 01388 731443
Nickname: The Lawyers
Northern League

Note The Lawyers’ Ironworks Ground is an infamous as it is iconic. Peter Miles, in his Homes of Non League Football notes that it is one of those places that always seems to be freezing cold, and urges visitors to take a flask of something to thaw themselves out. Kerry Miller meanwhile states that “the football follower will not see a game any nearer the moon than at Tow Law, and will never be more grateful for a covered stand”.

Despite having already visited Buxton, whose Silverlands ground has strong claims to being the highest in England; suffered near hypothermia at Wisbech; and, as an Eastbourne Borough supporter, being well accustomed to the howling gales that whip across the Pevensey marshes, Tow Law was nevertheless everything it is cracked up to be. High up in the middle of the old Durham coalfields, even on a fine early autumn afternoon, it was difficult to stand and keep the camera steady!

The ground’s history is inexorably linked with the local mining industry, having been first laid out by volunteers during the miners’ strike of 1892/93 on Coal Board land to replace the club’s first ground in Church Lane. Then, in 1921 it was rebuilt during another strike, with banking and dressing rooms added, again with help from the miners.

The site was purchased from the Coal Board in 1966 and the original wooden grandstand was replaced about four years later, with the terracing was completed and changing rooms rebuilt on the same side. Soon afterwards, much needed low cover with a couple of steps of shallow terrace, and a characteristic stepped roof was completed behind the far goal to offer some additional respite from the elements. Floodlights were the most notable recent addition, and were erected in 1992.

The link with the mining industry surfaced (or rather subsided) in 2004 when part of pitch was affected, rendering it unplayable and the Lawyers were forced to ground share at Esh Winning FC for the remainder of the season, whist repairs were carried out by the Coal Board.

I really must watch a game there one day… preferably early in the season when I will only require a hat and thick coat. DB