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Gallery: Flag to fly over Salford for historic Swinton Lions 150th anniversary

Salford City Council headquarters will fly the Swinton Lions flag this week to mark the exact date 150 years ago the club was founded.

On Thursday 20 October at 10am in a a special ceremony for supporters, the city’s Ceremonial Mayor Karen Garrido will hoist the rugby league club’s colours of blue and white over Swinton Town Hall.

The day of celebrations includes the opening of an exhibition at Swinton Gateway at 10.30am covering the full history of the local club.

Swinton Lions was founded on in October 1866 by a group of Swinton Cricket Club players who wanted to keep playing together during the summer sport’s off-season.

Swinton at the time was just a colliery village with a few cotton mills dotted about the place, so the club’s meteoric rise was all the more remarkable.

Five years after forming the players renamed themselves Swinton & Pendlebury FC and became virtually unbeatable in the local area and beyond.

Their most famous pre-war player – and arguably still the best-known Lion – was Jim Valentine.

He served the club for over 20 years, his finest hour coming when he led his team to victory against bitter rivals Salford in the Challenge Cup Final at Fallowfield in 1900.

During their rugby union era the Lions produced several England internationals and success continued despite financial struggles.

The First World War took the lives of 13 Swinton players, but back home the Lions played on in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.

Their home at Station Road boasted a capacity of 60,000 and the famous ground hosted 19 internationals, 17 Lancashire cup finals and 30 Challenge Cup semi-finals.

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By the late 1960s the club was in decline due to poor management decisions; although Swinton won a fourth Lancashire Cup in 1969 by the time 1973 rolled around the Lions were no longer a top-flight club.

As the seasons turned Swinton failed to live up to their history and by the end of the 1970s the club had hit the bricks.

Hope briefly flourished in the 1980s with the likes of players Danny Wilson and Les Holliday, but despite three promotions the side saw three successive relegations too.

When the club was forced to sell Station Road because of accumulated debt, they moved to Gigg Lane in Bury in 1992.

A change of scenery didn’t bring back the good old days. 2002 brought the club briefly back to the local area, when they played at Moor Lane – now home of on-the-rise Salford City FC.

From 2004 to 2010 Swinton played home games in Whitefield, and for the 2016 season the Lions make Sale FC’s ground at Heywood Road their home.

Swinton will return to their home town – with a deal for 7.3 acres of land in Agecroft providing a home stadium for the first time in decades.

Read: New future for Lions with Agecroft stadium in 2017

At 7.30pm on Thursday 20 October the day of celebrations will end with a service at the Swinton Parish Church of St Peter’s.

Reverend Jeremy Sheehy will deliver a service of commemoration in honour of the club and its past players, officials and supporters.

All are welcome.

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Tom is SalfordOnline.com's News Editor and community co-ordinator.