Birch Lane was first laid out for rugby at the start of the 1886/87 season when Bowling Old Lane Cricket Club leased an extra four acres next to the cricket field. It was common practice for rugby clubs to be formed by cricketers seeking entertainment in the winter months. Bowling Old Lane played ten years of rugby, before switching to football in 1906.
The ground became the home of Bradford FC’s association side when it was banished from Park Avenue at the start of the 1898/99 season. At the time, the ground was generally referred to as Bowling Old Lane.
Birch Lane was much less convenient than Park Avenue for spectators and players alike, with the latter enjoying excellent railway and electric tram connections. Birch Lane was a good walk away from the Manchester Road steam trams. There was no shelter for supporters but there may have been some limited banking. Bradford played their last game at Birch Lane on 8th April 1899 when they beat Hunslet 2-1.
Birch Lane became the home of the Bradford Northern RLFC in 1908 after they had spent an unhappy season at Greenfield Athletic ground. An open stand of twelve terraces was built with a press box in the middle. The stand was not covered until 1929. Northern left this basic venue for Odsal Stadium in 1934, their record attendance being 10,807 for a 1924 cup tie against Dewsbury.
The rugby field remained in use for many after Northern had departed but has now been built on. Apparently all that remains is a rusty stanchion from the main stand in a back garden. But the cricket field still exists.
This article is based largely on “The Grounds of Rugby League” by Trevor Delaney