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Address: Wilkie Road,
Capacity: 5,045 (Approximately 1,000 Seated)
This is a football ground that has been in use since the early 20th century, and you can honestly tell that it has been in use since then.
Whilst recent redevelopments have taken place to make the matchday experience better for travelling fans, this is a ground that would admittedly look very out of place next to other modern venues.
In some ways though, that can help to make a matchday at Holker Street much more memorable.
Currently known for sponsorship reasons as the SO Legal Stadium, the Holker Street name comes from the road that passes by its eastern side.
The ground dates back to the early 20th century, when it was originally a rubbish tip owned by Furness Railway. Hindpool Athletic Football Club converted the sight into a football pitch, though there weren’t any stands surrounding it and the pitch was in very, very poor condition.
Barrow Association Football Club, formed in 1901, took an initial five year rent from Furness Railway in 1909, building a wooden all-seater stand on the site in 1912.
By the early 1920s, Holker Street had stands on all four sides and was deemed a ground fit for the Football League. Barrow have continued to play here ever since first moving in 1909.
The ground in the past has also been in use for Speedway, with the Barrow Bombers based here for a couple of years in the 1970s.
Location and Getting There
Holker Street is based on the edge of a commercial and industrial park, around 1.5 miles northwest of the centre of Barrow-in-Furness. The ground has an Asda Superstore located directly to the southwest of it, the Lower Ormsgill Reservoir is around 100 metres away to the northeast, and Craven Park, home to rugby league team Barrow Raiders, is roughly 0.5 miles to the south.
Coming to Holker Street by car is certainly possible.
Barrow AFC offer car parking spaces outside the ground’s southern side, but these are limited in number and cost £2 per vehicle.
Finding free parking within close range of Holker Street is also possible, with residential streets based not far from the football ground to the east and the south. Ensure that you are legally allowed to park on the street you’ve selected though and do not block the drives of residents living there.
It's also worth noting that despite being used in the past, the ASDA Barrow Superstore directly south of Holker Street has parking eye cameras installed and so will no longer be available for matchday parking.
Fans do now however have the opportunity to make use of free parking at Liberata, which is located off Phoenix Road to the southwest of Holker Street. Parking is also possible along Phoenix Road itself.
Barrow-in-Furness Station, served by northern rail, is a short distance southeast of Holker Street and walking from here can take a little under 15 minutes, making it very accessible for those coming by rail.
The Number 3 bus service covers a route that goes from Ormsgill in the north to Newbarns in the east, and the Asda/Holker Street stop will drop you right outside the football ground.
Outside the Stadium
Holker Street’s eastern side is known as the Holker Street End.
There isn’t much to talk about when it comes to the stand’s exterior, as it is simply divided between a blue brickwork base and corrugated iron higher up, with multiple advertising signs placed along it.
The turnstiles for this stand are not located around the Holker Street End’s exterior. You instead will need to head around the ground’s northeast corner and onto Wilkie Road, where you can find the turnstiles for the Holker Street End a short way along.
Continuing round in a clockwise direction however takes you past Barrow and District Car Repairs and to the stadium’s South Stand, named after Ray Wilkie and better known as the Popular Side.
Ray Wilkie was the manager of Barrow AFC over a five and a half year period between the late 1980s and the early 1990s, overseeing many memorable moments including a Northern Premier League Title in 1989, Barrow’s first appearance in the FA Cup Third Round Proper in 1991, and a 3-0 win at Wembley in the FA Trophy Final in 1990.
Wilkie passed away on 28th November 1992 at the of 56, having resigned as Barrow manager a year earlier requiring surgery on a brain tumour. His legacy with the Bluebirds will never be forgotten by the club’s supporters.
The exterior of the Ray Wilkie Stand is simple in design, using a concrete base and blue corrugated iron higher up, though the exterior does admittedly show its age in places.
Turnstiles for the stand can be found along the outermost wall, with a small car park out beyond there.
Holker Street’s West Stand is currently known as the Steelworks End, but has previously been known as the Crossbar End.
It isn’t possible to walk along the exterior of it as there is a large football pitch right outside of it.
Access to the Steelworks End comes via entrances next to the Ray Wilkie Stand on the southern side of the ground, and via a large concrete building off Wilkie Road on the northern side of the ground. This building holds the CrossBar as well as Barrow’s Main Reception Entrance and Club Offices, with a small number of private parking spaces in front of the entrance.
Out beyond the Steelworks End’s exterior is a building that houses The Soccer Bar and the Barrow Football Supporters Club. The building has a good number of parking spaces available around it that Barrow AFC recommend using as they are available at a small cost on a first come first served basis.
Holker Street’s North Stand is the stadium’s Main Stand and is named after Brian Arrowsmith.
Born in Barrow-in-Furness on 2nd July 1940, Arrowsmith was a defender who played more than 500 times for the Bluebirds between 1961 and 1978, captaining the Barrow side that won promotion from the old Fourth Division (now League Two) into the old Third Division (now League One) in 1967.
Holker Street’s Main Stand was named after Brian Arrowsmith in January 2017, and he sadly passed away in April 2020 having contracted COVID-19.
The Brian Arrowsmith Main Stand runs right alongside Wilkie Road, and its exterior is simple in design, consisting mostly of a brickwork base. The centre of the stand which houses the elevated seating area has blue corrugated iron above its large brickwork base.
Turnstiles for the stand can be found along its outer wall either side of the elevated seating area.
Inside the Stadium
The Holker Street End used to be a large, fully uncovered standing terrace.
Following Barrow’s promotion back into the Football League in 2020 however, the stand underwent notable renovation work that included the addition of a blue and white striped roof. The Holker Street End is still mostly standing terrace but now also contains an area of seating for 130 people. It also now has a good level of protection from above and behind offered by the new roof, with a couple of rows of metal bars running across the terraced area for fans to lean on.
There are supporting pillars coming down from the roof at regular intervals however, and they are likely to restrict your view of the pitch slightly depending on where you are stood.
Both sides of the covered terracing area are also left completely open for easy access, and so your level of protection from the sides is limited on a matchday. Compared to the level of protection that was previously available at the Holker Street End however, it is a massive improvement.
The Ray Wilkie Stand consists entirely of standing terrace.
There is a large roof that covers the central area of this terracing, but either end of the stand is left uncovered and completely exposed to any wind or rain that is present. There are three rows of blue and white striped metals bars in place for fans to lean on, and right up at the back of the covered terraced area is an elevated platform that holds the matchday camera.
Supporting pillars come down at regular intervals at the front of the roof, and they will restrict your view slightly depending on where you are stood in the covered terracing area.
Windshields are also not in place at either end to enable easy access between the covered and uncovered parts of the Ray Wilkie Stand.
The Steelworks End consists of a few rows of uncovered standing terrace with a blue and white striped wall in place behind it.
The stand however is dominated by the large concrete building that houses Barrow’s Main Reception, Club Offices and the CrossBar. This building additionally houses the stadium’s changing rooms and tunnel, which is part way along the terraced area and therefore divides it into two sections.
Your view from the Steelworks End is perfectly clear, but with no roof or windshields in place, you only have the back wall and concrete building available as means of offering protection from the elements.
The Brian Arrowsmith Main Stand consists of a single tier of blue seating with the letters BARROW spelt out in white across this blocks. This covered seating however is not that big, only covering an area roughly one third of the length of the pitch, and it is positioned alongside the half-way line with the football ground’s dugouts located down at the front.
There are three pillars coming down from the blue and white striped roof above, one at either end of the stand and one in the middle, and they are likely to restrict your view slightly if you are sat in the back rows of any seating block.
The Brian Arrowsmith Main Stand additionally has no windshields in place at either end, which can leave the sides exposed to any wind or rain present on a matchday.
Away fans are housed behind the goal in the Holker Street End.
This was once an uncovered terraced area which swooped round to include both the northeast and southeast corners, but following Barrow’s promotion back into the Football League in 2020, a roof was erected over most of this standing terrace.
A limited number of seats are also available for away fans to use on a matchday.
Whilst the new roof provides a good level of cover from above and behind, the regular supporting pillars in place can potentially restrict your view slightly if you are stood towards the back of the covered area, and both ends are left open to enable easy access.
Pubs available to supporters on a matchday include:
-The Ambrose Hotel (Duke Street, LA14 1XT) (Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located very close to Craven Park)
-The Bay Horse (136 Hawcoat Lane, LA14 4HS) (Typically Home and Away Supporters)
-The Crossbar (LA14 5UW) (Away Supporters Welcome) (The Club House Bar at Holker Street itself)
-The Furness Railway (76-80 Abbey Road, LA14 5UB) (A JD Wetherspoon Pub, Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located south of Barrow-in-Furness Station)
-The Owl and Pussycat (Hindpool Road, LA14 2NA) (Home and Away Supporters) (Located near to Craven Park)
-The Soccer Bar (LA14 5UQ) (Home and Away Supporters) (Located very close to Holker Street itself)
Put Holker Street next to the many modern professional football grounds, and it will admittedly feel very out of place. This is a place that predominantly offers standing terrace for visitors over fully covered seating, and whilst new redevelopments have improved the overall experience in its away end, this is a ground that still shows its age in a number of places.
In some ways though, that’s what helps to make a matchday at Holker Street more memorable.
It isn’t one of your generic, bowl-shaped, all-seater venues. You can get a different viewing experience across each of its four sides, and it’s a lot easier to reach via public transport than many other professional stadiums elsewhere in the country.
One that shouldn’t be properly judged until you’ve been there first-hand.
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