When assorted monarchs looked at fortifying Berwick and securing the Anglo-Scottish border, it’s fair to assume football wasn’t at the forefront of their minds. Yet the Stanks, which takes its name from the local word for ‘ditch’, lives on as an unlikely football ground in the former moat outside the town walls.
It’s a unique venue: one goal is dominated by the old Brass Bastion, one side is flanked by a sheer wall. The grassy ramparts offer a vertiginous view of the action, the old Bastion combines sporting action with sea views.
Today it’s little used. Facilities aren’t so much limited as non-existent, even the North Northumberland League might ask a little more of its member clubs. But during the summer it’s the focal point of the venerable Berwick Charities Cup, contested by an assortment of pub teams, works teams and local enthusiasts.
It’s a tournament with history: photos from the 50s hint at crowds of thousands perched on the ramparts as civic dignitaries are presented to the teams before kick-off. L.S. Lowry sketched a match-day scene, not so much jumpers for goalposts as smudges for strikers.
Today’s tournament is smaller scale, but still attracts a couple of hundred to watch the Free Trade Ultras take on ‘Ammies ion the 2019 final: ‘Ammies take a 2-0 lead but lose 4-3 to an extra time penalty; the Ultras pick up the trophy and £1,000-worth of vouchers for the upcoming Lindisfarne Festival. In many respects, this is pub football at its best – an honest contest, supported by a crowd that lives, works and drinks with the lads on the field. The details are homespun, with raffle prizes resting on the grass bank, but the sense of community is real. But whatever the action on the field, the setting is the star of the show.