Some 130 years ago, Boro won the Cleveland Cup, beating Stockton at the Linthorpe Road Ground, Middlesbrough. Manchester Metropolitan University historian Dr Tosh Warwick delves into the archives at Middlesbrough Reference Library to look back 


In the club’s early days, Middlesbrough’s successes in the Cleveland Association’s premier tournament - the Cleveland Cup - captured the imagination of the Teesside football public. The reports that survive provide rare depictions of Middlesbrough FC’s time at the Linthorpe Road Ground prior to the move to Ayresome Park in 1903.

On March 29, 1890, Middlesbrough faced Stockton in a showcase final for the chance to win the trophy for an incredible seventh time since its inception in 1882.

The tie was held at Middlesbrough’s Linthorpe Road Ground, Boro having won the toss to host the tie at their home stadium.

The match attracted a ground record attendance that underlined the popularity of local clashes and silverware amongst the football public. In fact, such was the draw of the final that teams nearby postponed fixtures and town rivals Ironopolis arranged to play at Darlington.

The Northern Echo match report described the attendance ‘as probably the largest in the records of the Linthorpe Road Ground, and was variously estimated from 8,000 to 10,000, every inch of room, including the trees in the plantation at the west end of the field, being occupied.’

The Northern Review report estimate put the attendance at 12,000 and described a packed grandstand, over 3,000 passing through the entrance for boys and the special entrance for ladies (admitted free) thronged from two o’clock until the 3.30pm kick off.

The match report from the Yorkshire Post provides a summary of the key moments:


Stockton won the toss, and, with the wind and sun at their backs, had rather the better of the game in the first half, but half-time arrived without either side scoring. On crossing over Middlesbrough forced the play, and Stockton had to act on the defensive for the greater part of the time. Dennis from the left wing sent in a lofty shot which was carried by the wind between the goal posts. Deakin and McKay, two Stockton players, were temporarily hurt, which somewhat handicapped the visitors, but no further point was scored.

Score: - Middlesbrough 1 goal to Stockton nil.

The Northern Review report reveals the controversial lead up to Dennis’ cup-winning strike that denied Stockton a replay north of the Tees:

The goal scored by Middlesbrough was got in a curious way. A Middlesbrough player sent the ball into touch, and the umpire gave the throw in to Middlesbrough, instead of Stockton. Bach threw in to Dennis, who scored with a magnificent shot. But for the mistake there would in all possibility have been another great match next week, at Stockton.

With the match complete and Boro once again Cleveland Cup winners, attention turned to the presentation of the silverware.

The Northern Echo described how ‘spectators gathered round the stand to witness the presentation of the cup and ‘loud cheering’ as Boro captain Wynn accepted the trophy from Middlesbrough Mayoress Scupham.

Sketches from The Northern Review - scanned from copies held in the newspaper collections of Middlesbrough Libraries - provide a rare contemporary depiction of the Linthorpe Road Ground, for which there are no known photographs of the stands or pitch.

The sketches capture young lads in the plantation end trees watching the game, the two captains, the Boro’s cup winning team, and the trophy presentation. A couple of weeks later a celebration was arranged for the cup winning side and the Northern Review once again recreated the day, including sketches of the team drinking from the cup and described singing and merriment amongst the players and staff as Boro toasted another cup triumph.