THE oldest football ground in the world still in use today is in the tiny village of Chapeltown in Turton, it has been revealed.

And the pitch where the modern game began is nearly 50 years older than previously believed.

New research has found that the pitch, the birthplace of Turton FC, first staged a football match as early as 1830.

Turton are the oldest football club in the North West and are recognised as being the first to introduce the modern "no hands" game in Lancashire.

The club was formed in 1871 and official football history dates the beginning of the modern game in that era.

Turton are also accredited with teaching the modern rules of the game to embryonic local clubs.

Academic Peter Swain - a part-time lecturer at the University of Bolton - is carrying out research which he believes will enable him to re-write the official history of football in the North West.

Turton no longer play at the ground, which is off High Street, and has been the home of Lancashire Amateur League side Old Boltonians since 1952.

One of the first local clubs to re-organise after the Second World War, Old Boltonians bought the land in 1970.

Mr Swain has unearthed an article in the Darwen News of March 9, 1878 - an interview with the participants in a match on the ground between Tottington and Darwen 48 years previously, played on the Monday before Shrove Tuesday.

The stakes of the game were £2 10 shillings a side and lodged with the Round Barn public house between Edgworth and Darwen, who won 3-0.

Mr Swain said: "The Tottington team was made up of players from Bolton, Bury and Turton, but there were five back lyers', two side players', 13 in players' and one trundler in' per side, with no umpire or referee.

"They lined up in a straight line about two yards apart.

"The ball was trundled in between them and then they started their football match.

"A line was drawn 15 yards from the fence at each end of the field, the space between the line and the fence was the equivalent of the goal.

"This was a variety of what was known as folk football.

"There are instances of it now around the British Isles, usually taking place on a Shrove Tuesday.

"These were not professional sides as we know them today, but there was always money put up for the teams, usually held by a landlord for the winner."