Burnden Park was the home of English football club Bolton Wanderers who played home games there between 1895 and 1997. As well as hosting the 1901 FA Cup Final replay, it was the scene in 1946 of one of the greatest disasters in English football, and the subject of an L. S. Lowry painting. It was demolished in 1999.
Situated on Manchester Road in the Burnden area of Bolton - less than a mile from the town centre - the ground served as the home of the town's football team for 102 years. It also hosted the replay of the 1901 FA Cup Final, in which Tottenham Hotspur beat Sheffield United 3-1.
Bolton Wanderers was formed in 1874 as Christ Church FC, with the vicar as club president. After disagreements about the use of church premises, the club broke away and became Bolton Wanderers in 1877 meeting at the Gladstone Hotel. At this time Bolton played at Pike's Lane but needed a purpose built ground to play home matches. As a result, Bolton Wanderers Football and Athletic Club, one of the 12 founder members of the Football League, became a Limited Company in 1894 and shares were raised to build a ground. Land at Burnden was leased at £130 per annum and £4,000 raised to build the stadium. Burnden Park was completed in August 1895. The opening match was a benefit match against Preston and the first League match was against Everton in front of a 15,000 crowd.
The finals of the Rugby Football League's 1986–87 John Player Special Trophy, and 1988–89 John Player Special Trophy tournaments were played at the ground before crowds of 22,144 and 20,709 respectively.
In its heyday, Burnden Park could hold crowds of up to 70,000, but this figure was dramatically reduced during the final 20 years of its life, mainly because of new legislation which saw virtually all English stadia reduce their capacities for safety reasons. A section of the embankment was sold off in 1986 to make way for a new Normid superstore.
The club's directors had decided by 1992 that it would be difficult to convert Burnden Park into an all-seater stadium for a club of Bolton's ambition. They were members of the new Division Two (which was known as the Third Division until the creation of the Premier League) but the club wanted to build a stadium to meet these requirements in the event of promotion to Division One and ultimately the Premier League.
The last ever Wanderers game played at the historic ground was against Charlton Athletic in April 1997. Bolton, who were already Division One champions, defeated Charlton 4-1 after being 1-0 down at half time. Whites' legend John McGinlay scored the final goal shortly before Bolton received their trophy and the crowd united in singing Auld Lang Syne.
It was decided to build a new multimillion-pound 25,000-seater stadium (later raised to around 29,000) – the Reebok Stadium – 6 miles away at the Middlebrook development. The move took place in 1997, bringing an end to 102 years of football at Burnden Park.
On 9 March 1946, the club's home was the scene of the Burnden Park disaster, which at the time was the worst tragedy in British football history. 33 Bolton Wanderers fans were crushed to death, and another 400 injured, in an FA Cup quarter-final second leg tie between Bolton and Stoke City. There was an estimated 85,000 strong crowd crammed in for the game, at least 15,000 over-capacity. The disaster led to Moelwyn Hughes's official report, which recommended more rigorous control of crowd sizes.
The railway embankment of Burnden Park was seen in the 1962 film A Kind of Loving, starring Alan Bates and June Ritchie. Part of the Arthur Askey film "The Love Match" was also filmed at Burnden Park in the early 1950s. A painting of Burnden Park in 1953 by L. S. Lowry, Going to the Match, was bought for £1.9 million by the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) in 1999.
For some years, the site suffered. Travellers camped in the car park of the derelict Normid superstore and Burnden Park itself fell into disrepair, with demolition not taking place until two years after the last match had been played.
There is now an Asda superstore on the site, which opened in 2005 after taking over the Big W. The Asda store identifies itself with Burnden Park by having a number of extremely large photographs of the former stadium and players, placed high above the checkouts. Also on the site are a Co-operative travel, a Subway, a Carphone Warehouse and a Johnson's Cleaners adjacent to Manchester Road.