With the latest train strikes finishing on the 3rd of February and the knock-on effect they always have on the following day, we decided to stay local this weekend and visit one of the nearest football grounds to our town, Seaham Red Star.
Seaham is a small town on the northeast coast and part of the Durham Heritage Coast.
This is a wonderful stretch of coastline running between Sunderland and Hartlepool and is now rightfully considered an area of natural beauty, despite its industrial past.
In fact, its industrial past is one of the reasons Seaham is a popular place to visit these days.
Seaham Sea Glass
Its famous ‘Glass Beach’ has thousands of pieces of smooth, rounded pebbles of glass washed up on its shore every day. While we didn’t have time to search for any today, we have done so in the past and come away with some lovely pieces.
During the Victorian and Edwardian eras, Seaham and nearby Sunderland were home to many bottle works and glass-making factories. Indeed, Seaham boasted the biggest glass bottle works in Britain – The Londonderry Bottleworks, operating from the 1850s to 1921.
Nowadays, people come from near and far to have a root through the pebbles and shingle on Seaham’s beaches, hoping to find a masterpiece for their sea glass collections. There are specialist jewellery makers who use it too and it’s not uncommon to find locals making a little profit from selling it to jewellers after a hard day combing the beach.
Seaham – Journey and Pre-Game
As groundhopping trips go, this is easily the shortest one we will be making this season. Just over five miles away from our town and less than half an hour on the bus. There really isn’t much to say other than we caught the 10:44 bus and got off it at around 11:10.
Of course, when you think of the Durham area, you think of coal mining, and Seaham is no different. Despite being a coastal town, it also has a coal-mining past and a deep connection with the industry.
As soon as you step off the bus at Seaham, you can immediately start to see those connections…
The local shopping mall is called Byron’s place and that is due to the fact that the great poet, Lord Byron had a brief dalliance with Seaham. This was after he met and married a local woman at Seaham Hall, before moving on to continue his, shall we say, different(?) lifestyle elsewhere.
He made enough of an impression on the town in his brief time here that there is also a road called Lord Byrons Walk up near the cricket club.
If you are interested in learning more about Seaham and its industrial history, I came across this wonderful blog post that is both informative, witty and very well put together.
Seaham – Tommy
Tommy is the other main attraction in Seaham. Nothing to do with Roger Daltry or a ridiculously trippy musical movie from the 1970s.
Rather, ‘Tommy’ is the name given to a superb statue dedicated to the memory of the First World War soldier. He sits on the harbour front, adjacent to the town’s War Memorial and makes for a splendid sight. In 2021, Tommy. was named the best piece of outdoor artwork in the country.
Standing at 9ft 5ins tall and weighing 1.2 tonnes, it is an imposing statue and one of my personal favourites that I’ve seen, anywhere.
We walked on down to the Seaham Marina, where there are lots of little boats moored up, where there is another sculpture by the same local artist that created Tommy. This one is called ‘The Coxswain’.
Ray Lonsdale is the sculptor and he has impressive works scattered throughout the northeast communities, including one that was revealed a couple of years ago in our little ex-mining town called “Da Said, Men Don’t Cry”. This is another piece dedicated to the mining history of the Durham area.
The Coxswain is dedicated to the Seaham Lifeboat crews who manned the station between 1870 and its closure in 1979, saving a combined 289 lives. Five lifeboat crew lost their lives in an effort to save others on the 17th of November 1962.
Having killed an hour walking around the seafront, it was time to head back into the town to get some lunch.
I had been advised to try Humbles, or the Lamp Room (seafood) for lunch, both of which have excellent reviews. I had set my sights on The Coalface though and I’m not sorry we went there, either.
A very traditional-looking working man’s establishment with decor harking back to the coal mining heritage of the town. There was even coal set in the wall of the door passage.
There are six flags throughout the room for the current six-nations rugby tournament but they didn’t detract from the overall look of the place. The barman was obviously a big fan of the Scottish group Simple Minds (as am I) and their greatest hits were the constant background music while we were there.
Despite coming here specifically for lunch, there was only one item on the menu, pizza slices.
If you don’t like pizza, don’t go here for lunch. If you do, then do, because they are delicious and you can also order chilli-con-carne loaded fries (we had a portion between us).
I ordered two slices of pepperoni pizza and Mrs Hopper went with one chicken and gherkin and one vegetable teriyaki. As you can see from the photo below, portion size is not a problem and what we ordered was more than enough. The one thing I would ask them to change is the wooden forks that come with the fries.
Please use metal cutlery!
I had Guinness and Mrs Hopper went with a Hopical Storm pale ale which she really enjoyed. In fact, Mrs H told the barman it’s a good job we didn’t live in Seaham or we would be in all the time.
I would thoroughly recommend popping in here for a pint and a pizza if you are planning to visit Seaham Red Star, or just visiting the other attractions in Seaham.
Onto the Ground
Having thanked our barman, we moved on reluctantly and headed back to the bus stop to catch the number 60 bus to Seaham Town Park, one and a half miles away from the pub.
The bus stop is on the road opposite the park and once across the busy road, we headed up to the ground.
Seaham Town Park
As well as housing the home of Seaham Red Star, Seaham Town Park also hosts the town hall, a kids playing area, a cafe and a skateboarding area, as well as a cricket club beyond the football ground.
Everywhere seemed clean and there were plenty of people around using the facilities, which was good to see.
The Football Ground
We were here for the football, though and at the top of the path up the bank, was our destination.
The ground is surrounded by a tall green wire mesh fence and as far as I could tell, the only entrance is via a gate at the corner where the path leads to. A small brick edifice houses the gate man and entry is by cash at the gate. £6.00 each was handed over and we walked inside.
We also bought a programme from him. This consisted of ten pages of club and match info and was priced at £1.50.
Once inside, we had a chat with the gateman before heading off to find the clubhouse.
Once Mrs Hopper was set up with a seat and a drink, I headed off back outside to get some photographs of the ground. To be fair, there isn’t a lot to take pictures of as this is a small club but there are, nonetheless, some noteworthy pieces of interest.
I will start with the end opposite the entrance. This is basically a row of trees/tall shrubs and a net to keep the ball from leaving the ground.
The side opposite the clubhouse comprises a small covered area for standing and at least offers a little shelter from the elements if you choose to stand on that side of the pitch.
The end of the ground where you enter is another one devoid of structures.
Apart from the gateman’s hut, there is just a small terraced area on the corner of the pitch that leads to the main stands.
This brings us around to where we left Mrs Hopper. The side that contains the main structures. These consist of a small stand and a brick building that houses the dressing rooms, and the clubhouse behind the stand.
First up, we have the Brian Ritchie Stand. This is a small structure that is made up of three rows of seating and a roof that shelters its occupants.
Next to this stand is a small snack bar selling food and drinks. It is a part of the bigger building that contains the dressing rooms. This building is probably the most prominent and eye-catching part of the ground with its bright blue roof and white walls.
Seaham Red Star Clubhouse
Located behind the Brian Ritchie Stand and accessed between the two main structures, is the clubhouse.
Having completed my tour of the pitch, I went back inside to find Mrs Hopper firmly entrenched with a pint of lager. I got myself a shot of Jack Daniels honey whiskey and while at the bar, the chairman of the club, John Allan, introduced himself with a handshake.
This is also where I got my pin badge priced at £4.50, which were available from the bar.
The clubhouse appears to be the central hub of Seaham Red Star and everyone clearly knows each other and it seems like a family and friends get-together, where the club chairman sits drinking with the supporters.
Only at non-league grounds do we get to see things like this.
There is club memorabilia hung from the walls and in keeping with most northeast non-league clubs, there are shirts of both Sunderland and Newcastle on display.
During my research for this piece, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my old heroes started his career at Seaham Red Star.
Nigel Gleghorn, who scored the goal that secured Stoke City‘s promotion from the third to second tier back in April of 1993. I still remember the scenes from that night at the old Victoria Ground as some of my fondest memories in football.
Thank you, Nigel!
Derby County fans, I’m sure will remember their prolific goalscorer, Bobby Davison, who also started his career here at Seaham.
Just before we left the clubhouse to watch the match, we were given a teamsheet, which is a nice touch for visitors and fans alike. Too often when watching clubs that we don’t follow, we have no idea who the players are, as pre-printed programmes sometimes differ from the team picked on the day.
It is for this reason alone, that I know Seaham’s number three, Bryan Taylor, was a lookalike for 80s pop star Rick Astley.
Overall, Seaham’s ground is exactly what you would expect at this level of football (Seaham Red Star play in the ninth tier of English football, in the Northern League Division One). It has a real grass playing surface and three basic floodlights on either side of the pitch. The clubhouse is friendly and there is more than enough things of interest in the town of Seaham itself to make this a tick on your groundhopping travels.
Should you wish to learn more about the history of Seaham Red Star, there is a short piece on their website that you can read here.
Seaham Red Star – Stadium Gallery
Seaham – Pre-Game Video of Seaham Town Park
Seaham Red Star v Penrith AFC – The Game
Coming into this game, both sides were at the wrong end of the table, with Penrith sitting in nineteenth place and their hosts just one spot higher in a league consisting of twenty teams.
Red Star had drawn two and lost two of their last four fixtures, including a creditable 2-2 draw at second-placed Bishop Auckland in their last game.
Meanwhile, the Cumbrian visitors had lost two, drawn one and won one of their last four fixtures. The win was way back on the 3rd of December at home to Crook Town. I can only assume they have had quite a few postponed games due to the weather.
Now, as matches go, this wasn’t a great one and I won’t spend too much time on recounting it.
Most of the excitement was gained from watching the handful of spectators to our left giving abuse to the linesman, referee, Penrith bench and their players. Seaham’s manager wasn’t averse to joining in with a few digs of his own, either and it made up for the lack of entertainment on the pitch.
Which isn’t strictly true.
Red Star were pretty dominant throughout the first half, it just didn’t culminate in anything that counted.
They had a number of chances but the half, and indeed, the game throughout was littered with poor challenges, mostly from Penrith in the first half.
In the 9th minute, Morgan Dart did some good work down the right-hand side before being fouled. The resulting free-kick led to a scramble in the box before a shot was finally sent over the bar.
Three minutes later, Aaran Taylor, the Penrith keeper was quick off his line to break up a good counter-attack by Red Star.
Twenty minutes in and there was chaos on the sidelines. One of the Penrith coaching team appeared to have said something out of turn to the assistant referee on our side of the pitch and the referee came over to have a word. I ‘think’ he showed a yellow card but I’m not 100% sure.
It did provoke more heated words between Seaham supporters and Penrith’s bench though.
Just past the thirty-minute-mark and Seaham’s attacker was through on goal needing to simply lob the ball over the keeper to open the scoring. He put far too much power into the effort though and it went sailing over the bar. Probably the best chance of the whole match.
Apologies for not getting some of the players’ names but the numbers were hard to read on the back of the shirts.
in the 34th minute, another great chance for Red Star with some great work down the right again. He managed to get into the box before unleashing his shot which went agonisingly wide of the far post.
Four minutes later and Seaham had another chance but the forward failed to control the ball when it looked like a certain goal had he done so. Red Star really should have been leading at this stage of the game.
In the 39th minute, a shot from about thirty yards was unfortunately straight at the keeper who held onto the ball well.
Just after this, Taylor was again called into action for a double save to keep the scores level going into the break. First, he saved a shot from the edge of the area before catching a header from the resulting cross.
Half-time – Seaham Red Star 0 Penrith AFC 0
That brought an end to the first forty-five minutes of action and it was one that had been largely dominated by Seaham. Penrith hadn’t been without chances of their own but they were definitely on the back foot for most of the half.
Seaham would come to rue missing those chances come the full-time whistle.
The Second Half
Seaham got the second half underway, kicking from left to right.
The first action of note fifteen minutes in was of an unsavoury kind. Two players came together in the middle of the pitch and following the coming together, as they untangled from each other, things quickly escalated. A headbutt and a slap were exchanged between the players before teammates from both sides came rushing in to break up the fight.
As with any situation like this, some players got drawn into their own little skirmishes and it was amazing that only one player got sent off.
I mean, how can a headbutt and a slap/punch not result in both of the original protagonists being sent off? Then there was the aftermath to deal with and there was definitely a case to be answered for a couple of other players. I didn’t manage to catch the initial incident and it had mostly died down once I started recording but you get the idea anyway.
VAR would have had a field day with this…
So, with a red card shown to the Seaham player and just a yellow for Penrith, the game’s dynamic was changed. Penrith still didn’t have enough in them to dominate the last half hour but it also lessened the Seaham threat and the match petered out as a spectacle.
A few more feisty tackles went in, mostly out of frustration at the red card I would assume but the match never got out of hand and the players from both teams managed to keep their heads for the remainder of the game and I made no further notes, which pretty much sums up the second half.
Unfortunately, neither Seaham Red Star nor Penrith have any match highlights available on YouTube, so you will have to suffer through one of my recordings instead.
This shows the last few minutes of play, pardon the amateurish camera work.
Full-time – Seaham Red Star 0 Penrith AFC 0
Attendance – 106
Entrance Fee – £6.00
Programme – £1.50
Seaham Red Star has two more home games up next, as they face Crook Town, sitting just two places ahead of them in the table, on Tuesday the 7th. The next visitors, on Saturday the 11th, are Sunderland RCA.
Next up for Penrith is a Cumberland Senior Cup Quarter Final against Keswick on the 11th of February before another away trip in the league. This time to face Thornaby at Teesdale Park. That promises to be another blood-and-thunder encounter against the two bottom teams in the league.
Despite the lack of goals, we enjoyed our day in Seaham. A walk around the marina, a nice meal in The Coalface and a game of football that delivered excitement. Just not necessarily the right kind of excitement.
The pin badges are lovely efforts that put some bigger clubs to shame and the clubhouse is welcoming.
If you are ever in the northeast, there are plenty of grounds to visit and the town of Seaham should put this one on your map too.
Seaham – After the Game
Following the final whistle, I had a sneaky wander onto the pitchside to get a couple of quick photographs that included the dugouts (nobody seemed to mind).
After taking the above pictures, we made for the exit and down the path through the park towards the bus stop on Station Road.
After a short wait, our bus arrived and we made the short journey back home.
We were back through the front door before six o’clock, an occurrence so rare that we caught our parrot with all her friends still over, mid-party.
After throwing them all out, it was time to start planning for next week and between then and publishing this post, we have decided to head back through Cumbria once more and head on down into its southern reaches to Holker Street, home of Barrow AFC.
Onto the next!