If anyone wants a read also of our first ground I’ll post this piece. Today it has been taken over by housing, completely by 1906 onward. Forgive some photograph text but if you have any old Wigan history books there are photos showing early Wigan teams of the era. Now that’s enough for today and no more nostalgia
Folly Field: Upper Dicconson Street
Back in 1872, Rugby started up in Wigan town by a group of Cricketers who wanted to stay competitive during the winter months and also bring in a good stream of revenue to keep their Cricket ground healthy. These men met in the now vanished Dicconson Arms pub on Upper Dicconson Street and decided to set up a rugby team and play a few trial matches. A meeting of the Cricket Club was called for the 21st November, 1872 and was to be held at the Royal Hotel, Wigan to discuss the possibility (whilst sober) of forming a Wigan Football Club. Once this was all agreed, the Cricketers decided to find a venue for their trial matches in the hope of forming a team. The Wigan Cricket Club based on Frog Lane were doing quite well in their respective league and of course, there was no chance of tearing up the wicket pitch whilst playing this new sport of rugby.
Looking out of the window of the Royal Oak Hotel, they saw an expanse of land which was big and wide enough to carry out the training needed, an area known as Folly Field. It was located inbetween Mesnes Park and Swinley, to the North West of the town centre up towards the Royal Infirmary. It was only a stroll from Cricket HQ and a stones throw from the watering hole of the Dicconson Arms. Of course, thirty years earlier, the Field would have been much larger. Wrightington Street today cuts across Folly Field and the building of dwellings along Avondale Road, Shaw Street and Sandycroft Avenue have also eaten into this land. You have to remember, in 1906 Wigan no longer needed Folly Field.
The first trials match was watched by around 2,000 people on 30th November 1872. It'd be like, in todays money, 2,000 people turning up at Aspull Civic Fields watching a group of men trying their hand at Gaelic Football, such was the foreigness of the sport.
Every Saturday afternoon throughout November and early December, trial matches were called and the numbers involved started to dwindle - not because of lack of interest but many men who tried were better spinning a ball than passing one. By early 1873, the Wigan Football Club was ready to play their first match against Warrington. The final trial match prior to this was attended by many supporters and well wishers at Folly Field.
The first team to represent rugby in Wigan were: Kyrke (captain), Blakeney, Bromilow, Hughes, Sayer, Sowter, Tarbuck, Wilson, Woodcock (forwards) Hayes, Sayer Jnr. (halfbacks) Clar [sic,Clare] (three-quarter) H & W Wall, E.R. Walker (backs). The game with Warrington ended in a draw, somehow.
Folly Field wasn't anything special, it was just a large field big enough to play and entertian rugby. There were no stands or turnstiles and members of the club had to rely on donations and money collectors during matches. There is no record - to my knowledge - of any changing rooms but one could assume that the players would have had the Dicconson Arms as a base to meet, change and act as an unofficial HQ.
There can't really be much more to say about Folly Field. It had served it's purpose and had established Wigan to the rugby world. The original Wigan Football Club didn't last very long and due to a lack of finances and quality players, the club disbanded and merged with Upholland in 1876 before again getting into difficulties. Wigan Wasps, set up in 1879 had much more success and that team eventually moved into a purpose built area at Prescott Street in the late 1880s but still had Folly Field as a base until then.
The pitch itself wasn't flat, think of Bradford's Odsall as it curls up ingoal at the corners, but worse. The pitch at Folly Field was sloping and below street level (worse than Batley's Mount Pleasant), and the fullbacks of those days had a rough time of it. In the North West corner of the field, between the try line and the dead ball line, was a small hill. When the full-back made a save over his own line, he would find it an advantage to run up this hill to punt the ball back into play. But all too often his opponents would grab him by the legs and haul him down again. It is unknown how big this hill was but it must have risen about a foot in height.
Folly Field however was Wigan's home when the first pieces of silverware was won, The Wigan Charity Cup in 1883, the West Lancashire Trophy in 1884 and the Wigan Union Charity Cup in 1885 when they beat Haigh in the Final.
In those early days, hacking and punching was permissable and so too were mauls in goal which by all accounts seemed like a perfectly legal brawl. You had to be tough to play at Folly Field (although 'mauling in goal' was abolished in the 1880s) and the picture (above, left) shows the eighteen men who brought home the West Lancashire Cup in the 1884-85 season. The photograph was taken by H. Wragg, a Mesnes Street commercial photographer, possibly in the Dicconson Arms. The lineup is believed to be Samuels, Ingham, Holt, Astle, Slevin, Presst, Rutter, Dawber, Murphy, Webb, Thomas, Crowshaw, Baguley, Layland, Norris, Marsden, Anderton. Holt, the captain at that time (back row, third from left), is holding the trophy. Mad scenes were often seen at Folly Field involving these men. An account states that when Wigan Supporters were playing Pagefield Supporters (extreme local derby), there was a maul-in-goal which became so boisterous that the police had to make a baton charge to sort out the combatants.
Discuss all things Wigan Warriors. Comments and opinions on all aspects of the club's performance are welcome.
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