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The David France Collection
A Status Update

 The future of the David France Collection hangs in the balance 

 

 Introduction

  

17 November 2004

Dr David France has spent a lifetime — and no small fortune — amassing the most incredible collection of Everton Memorabilia.  As the Catalog shows, it goes far beyond an unequalled collection of Everton Programmes, through season tickets, shirts, postcards... to medals, and — perhaps the most prized and unique items of all — the Everton Ledgers.  Hand-written records books minuting the decisions of every Everton Board Meeting from 1886 until 1965, the Everton Ledgers convey a fantastically detailed record of the decisions that shaped what we know was the greatest club in English football since the formation of the Football League in 1888.

The oldest Everton team photo in existence 1881

Sadly, ill health has forced David into retirement and he can no longer do full justice to the collection, so last year he made the difficult decisions to pass the collection on to new custodians — with the main provision that it be held together and made available for public viewing.

  

 Final Negotiations

  

The negotiations surrounding the future of The David France Collection have been long and at times arduous.  Experts at both Sotheby's and Christie's have called it the most comprehensive and unparalleled collection of football artefacts that they have ever seen.  However, along with immense interest came the huge pressure to respond to unsolicited bids for the complete collection from a legion of dealers, private parties and syndicates of overseas investors.  Or alternatively split out the more valuable items and sell them on in sealed-bid auction to the highest bidder.

Dr David France with a tome of ‘The Scriptures’
The volume dates back to 1885; the reader dates back to 1948

But David has held out for his ultimate dream: that the collection would go to Everton itself — the one and only rightful home for such a unique and especially meaningful collection. David wants Evertonians young and old to be able to view the heritage this represents, and to appreciate the depth history and the significant events underlying the Club's past, and the continuous responsibility of its custodians.

To that end, David was approached by the Club in 2003 and in response offered the complete collection to Everton Football Club at significantly below the appraised value.  Unfortunately, it was at a time when the Club was being run by Michael Dunford, the club secretary from Derby who many thought had been promoted well beyond his capability to the role of Everton CEO and even more thought had no appreciation of Everton‘s history or of the importance of that history to proud Evertonians.

David France told us: "It has been a frustrating period for everyone and quite rightly the focus at Goodison has been on securing the future rather than the past.  That said, Sir Philip Carter has been supportive throughout the 18 month period but I recognised at a very early stage that he had his hands tied by other priorities for the available funds.  But most recently I’ve been gained heart from my meetings with Bill Kenwright, a man who definitely understands the wealth of Everton’s heritage and the need for the People‘s Club to secure the People‘s Heritage, as well as those with Keith Wyness, who came across as a breath of fresh air with no lack of enthusiasm or creativity for the challenges facing him. 

"Both recognise that no other club in the world has such a richness of archives or such a richness of history within their grasp.  Of course, during that period, I’ve had to wrestle with other priorities in my own life and have gained strength from the support and encouragement of Evertonians worldwide.  It should go without saying that I plan to continue to cooperate with the club and their partners, certainly for the next six months or until we have exhausted all realistic avenues for securing the collection for future generations of Evertonians."

  

 Private Viewings

  

To expedite the final negotiations, and in particular the steps needed to secure the Heritage Lottery Funding, some 70 or so treasures have been selected from the collection, dealing with the club’s pioneering days, and will be viewed today and tomorrow under special security arrangements at an undisclosed venue in the North West.  At the request of the club and their partners, David has flown from his sick-bed in Victoria, Canada, to be present at this important time, and to oversee the private viewings, when the following items from the collection will be on display:

  • FA Cup, League and European medals including the first Everton Championship medal from 1890
  • Pre-League programmes (including three volumes dated 1886-1890 containing over 100 home programmes at Anfield plus first volume of Joint Everton-Liverpool programmes dated 1904-05)
  • Pre-league season tickets from 1881 (12 examples including those for Stanley Park, Priory Road, Anfield and Goodison)
  • Players’ contracts from 1890
  • Pre-League Club hand-written correspondence from 1888 (plus the Hardman letters from 1903-06)
  • Sepia-toned Everton team photographs from 1881 and 1891
  • Travel itinerary from first European trip in 1904
  • Other ephemera including Anfield construction tenders from 1886
  • Cash-books from 1892
  • The Everton Scriptures - 31 volumes of board minutes (containing 10,000 handwritten pages)

Of course, these items don’t even scratch the surface of a collection of over 10,000 individual artefacts, each one representing a piece of Everton‘s history.  Among the invitees for this private showing is Lady Carter, who has indicated a sincere interest in viewing the collection.

League Championship Medals dating back to 1891

  

 The Current Position

  

The final plan for The David France Collection is now taking shape; David France is looking to sell the complete collection (including all but one of his medals) to someone who will protect the club‘s heritage, maintain the integrity of the collection, build on the collection, and ensure public access through the physical display of the collection on Merseyside.  A website should also be developed to display the collection worldwide.

The Charity Shield versus Liverpool 1966

Everton Football Club are working with Dr David France on an application for lottery funding that will enable the collection to be based at the City's Records Office.  Select items will be loaned on a long-term basis from the collection to Everton Football Club.  This final step depends on a successful application for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a process that will take a further 6 months to complete.  An important apart of that process is demonstrating the level of interest in the collection as a prospective recipient of HLF funding, and showing that there is broad cultural interest in the collection from the public at large.

Michael Kenrick
ToffeeWeb Editor

17 November 2004

  

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