Separated by the width of a car park entrance gate, Boldon Colliery Welfare and the Boldon CA Sports Ground are the home grounds of the Wearside League’s Boldon CA and Northern League Division One side Jarrow Roofing.
Formed in 1892 as one of the eleven founding members of the Wearside League, Boldon CA (formerly known Boldon Star, Boldon Villa and Boldon Colliery Welfare) have since lifted the title on four different occasions (in 1953, 1955, 1975 and 1997) and had success in all three cup competitions, winning the Sunderland Shipowners’ Cup in 1976, 1977, 1979 and 1989. In 1934, after a goalless final in the South Tyne Alliance Cup, Charlton Athletic signed a young goalkeeper from Boldon called Sam Bartram who would eventually become one of the Addicks’ greatest ever players.
Born in nearby South Shields, Bartram started out as a wing-half with Boldon Villa, where he combined playing with morning shifts at the nearby colliery. He briefly switched to centre forward during a spell at North Shields, during which he partnered his uncle in attack and scored 33 goals in just 25 games, including six in a single match against Wallsend. In 1934, aged 20 and back with Villa following an unsuccessful trial match with Reading, he volunteered to play in goal when Boldon’s regular keeper was injured. In the crowd that day was Angus Seed, whose brother Jimmy, once of Tottenham Hotspur and England, had recently been appointed manager of Charlton Athletic.
Despite conceding eight goals in his opening two reserve games, Bartram soon broke into the first team as Charlton finished eight points clear of Reading at the top of the Third Division South. He would remain the Addicks’ first-choice goalkeeper for the twenty-two years which followed, his 623 games encompassing all three divisions of the Football League, second, third and fourth place finishes in Division One and two successive FA Cup Finals. “Sam is to Charlton what Matthews was to Blackpool or Milburn to Newcastle,” says Mike Blake, author of Sam Bartram: The Story of a Goalkeeping Legend. Today, within a goalkick of the Valley you’ll find Bartram’s Restaurant, Sam Bartram Close, the Sam Bartram Gates and a nine-foot bronze statue of “Charlton’s greatest ever goalkeeper”, balancing a ball in the outstretched fingers of his right hand, sleeves rolled back, and polo-neck shirt tucked in to his shorts. Supporters raised £60,000 in a mere nine months to pay for it: “Charlton without Sam is like Laurel without Hardy” as the inscription on the 1950s bubblegum card went.
Four months after signing their goalkeeper, Jimmy Seed – born in nearby Consett and an ex-Wearside League player himself – returned for Villa’s 17-year-old full-back, Jack Shreeve. Both Shreeve and Bartram played in the FA Cup Finals of 1946 and 1947, Charlton emphatically losing the first to Derby County but winning the second 1-0 against Burnley in front of 98,215 fans (they had beaten Newcastle United, the team Bartram had grown up supporting, 4-0 in the semi-final). Later that year, the two men paraded the Cup around the streets of Boldon Colliery after Charlton had played at Sunderland. Another Boldon goalkeeper, Harry Smith, signed for the London club at the same time as Shreeve. A decade later, Ron and Jack Vitty followed them south. Jack would go on to make almost 250 appearances for Brighton & Hove Albion and Workington Town. In 2008, Boldon hosted the inaugural Sam Bartram Cup. Charlton Athletic donated a signed goalkeeper’s shirt, which still hangs in the clubhouse. In April this year the Sam Bartram Floodlights were officially turned on during a friendly with York City, who Bartram played for and managed. There are plans to further redevelop the Welfare Ground – there’s currently no hard standing and the only cover is an overhang by the turnstile – to the standard required for Northern League membership. Entrance to games is £2.50 (£1.50 concessions).
Jarrow Roofing were set up ninety-five years after their near-neighbours but, after playing in the South Tyne Senior, Tyneside Amateur and Wearside Leagues, soon eclipsed Boldon CA on the pitch, entering the Northern League in 1996 and winning promotion to Division One at the very first attempt. FA Vase semi-finalists in 2005, when they lost 2-0 on aggregate to Didcot Town but pulled in a record crowd of 1,100 to the Boldon CA Sports Ground, they were relegated in 2008 but bounced back at the second attempt and last season just about managed to retain their place in the top division. Craig Russell, once of Sunderland, Manchester City and St Johnstone, and Whitley Bay’s Paul Chow have both previously turned out for Roofing, who were founded by Richie McLoughlin – also the club’s chairman, manager, treasurer, main sponsor and groundsman. Admission to games is £5 (£2.50 concessions). The ground has cover on two sides of the pitch.
There are plenty of parking spaces at or around the two grounds (postcode NE35 9HX). Boldon Colliery can also be very easily reached by public transport with a number of buses passing through the village and Brockley Whins Metro Station under a ten-minute walk away. If you’re coming from the direction of Newcastle, cross the bridge and follow the path as it drops down (and then very steeply back up) Station Burn, crossing the stream at the footbridge. At the top of the hill take a right along the tarmacked path and then turn left when you reach the main road. The ground is behind and to the left of The Shack Social Club. There’s a 24-hour Asda directly opposite The Shack with a multiplex cinema and a Frankie & Benny’s restaurant behind. If you follow the road to the left of Asda towards the hilltop St Nicholas’ Church, you’ll reach the village of West Boldon, where you’ll find three pubs – The Wheatsheaf, The Black Horse and The Red Lion (the last two are both listed by CAMRA).
South Tyneside Council have put together a series of self-guided walks, many of which pass through or near Brockley Whins and Boldon Colliery. England bowler Simon Brown and ex-Newcastle, Carlisle, Dundee and Torquay United defender Wes Saunders both grew up in Boldon. In 1644 a skirmish – the Battle of Boldon Hill – was fought between Scottish troops and a Royalist force from Durham City under the command of the Marquis of Newcastle. You can read more about Boldon’s history here.