The name of Francis Edward Brettell first appears on the Liverpool census in 1871 when he is reported as living at No 5 house, Court 13, on Boundary Street. His Father, William Brettell, lists his occupation as that of a Nut and Bold Maker and gives his birthplace as West Bromwich in Staffordshire. His wife Harriet, the mother of Frank, has been born in Devonshire. Frank, who is 9 years old, is the eldest of her three children and he has been born at Smethwick in Staffordshire.

The premature death of Harriet, in 1881, saw Frank, along with rest of the family, move in with his father’s brother at 62 Aughton Street off Netherfield Road. It was around this time that he was first reported to be playing football for Everton. The match, against Birkenhead, took place on St Anne’s field where Everton lost by 2 goals to 0. The date was January, 1880.

Frank Brettell became a regular feature of the Everton forward line during the early years of their existence but was never, regularly, on the score sheet. The 1881 census tells us that he is still living in Aughton Street where he lists his occupation as being that of Pupil Teacher. On the 17th of April 1882 Frank, who is now living at 46 Westbourne Street, married Lavinia Spearman at the Anglican church of St Augustine that stood, close to his home, on Shaw Street in Everton. The marriage certificate tells us that Lavina has been at Stoke Dameral, Devon and she lives in Tennyson Street which is situated in Toxteth Park area of Liverpool.

Brettell, when the 1882-83 football season commenced, took over the role of club secretary, having previously been a member of the committee, and was instrumental in formation of Liverpool & District FA later that year. In October 1883, Brettell played possible his finest game for Everton when he kept goal for the in Lancashire Cup tie against the all-conquering, Blackburn Rovers. Although beaten eight times he made a string of excellent saves which caused one local Lancashire journalist to comment that “no one ever kept goal better than Frank Brettell”.

The game however, proved to be zenith of his Everton playing career and, next season, Frank soon found himself playing football with the club second eleven. On the 26 April 1884, while playing for the reserves, Brettell broke his leg at Anfield and was admitted to the Royal Infirmary. The injury caused him to relinquish his duties as club secretary. Later that year Brettell, along with his wife and son, took up residence at 26 Faraday Street in Everton where he became the next door neighbour of his Everton team mate, Tom Evans.

The 1891 census reveals that the Brettell family have now moved to 20 Hughes Street and they now have three children. Frank declares his occupation to be that that of a Schoolteacher. In 1892 he chose not join Everton on their trek across Stanley Park but remained at Anfield where he performed some semi-official secretarial duties for the new residences of the ground. He was also supplementing his income by working as a sports journalist with a Liverpool newspaper.

In the summer of 1996 Frank Brettell applied for the vacant position, along with eighty others, as Manager/Secretary of Bolton Wanderers and was offered the post. He was then interviewed by a local journalist, who wrote under the nom-de-plume of The Pilgrim, and he found Frank Brettell to be…

willing to talk, but rather lath to be dragged in to conversation which might savour of blowing his own trumpet with unnecessary force. When pressed for his early memories Brettell stated that… my first connection with association football came in 1878 when the game was first played, in Liverpool, by the old Everton club on Stanley Park. (No mention of St Domingo’s) I was of course quite a youth at the time, the club being run by a lot young fellows for their own amusement.
(The Cricket and Football Field, 1 August 1896.) 

Brettell remained with the Bolton club until March 1898 and then made a surprise move to take over the managerial duties at Tottenham Hotspur. The club directors had employed him in the hope he could break the stranglehold, held by Southampton, over the Southern League. Brettell immediately returned to Liverpool where he signed John Cameron from Everton. He then took the London club on an extended FA Cup run. They eliminated both Newton Heath and Sunderland to reach the last eight of the competition where a game with Stoke awaited them. Frank Brettell, before the tie could be played, then promptly left Spurs and joined the new Southern League club that was beginning to take shape at Portsmouth

Local folklore has it that a large increase in salary induced Brettell to leave the North London club where his place was taken by the former Everton man, John Cameron. The dockyard town had formerly been represented by the men stationed at the local Royal Artillery depot but they had now withdrawn from the Southern League. Frank Brettell again returned to Liverpool where he gained the signature of Harold Clarke from Everton. The new Portsmouth club became an immediate force within the Southern League where Frank Brettell narrowly out on the championship when his side finished in second place behind the team he previously managed, Tottenham Hotspur. 

The 1901 lets us know that the Brettell family are now living in Portsmouth at 100 Jubilee Road. Frank gives his occupation as being a Manager of a Professional Football Club. He now has five children and all of them have been born Liverpool. Brettell remained at Portsmouth until June 1901 and left the club when his contract expired.

In 1903 Plymouth Argyle made a successful application to join the Southern League and appointed Frank Brettell to manager their affairs. He immediately signed several well-seasoned professionals who were now playing in the Southern League. He then returned to Everton and gained the signature of Charlie Clerk. The team Brettell assembled survived their first season and finished ninth in the Southern League.

He remained in charge at Plymouth for one more season before retiring from the game. The 1911 census reports that the Brettell family are now living at 12 Princess Street in Plymouth. The couple now have six children the youngest, a daughter named Rose, has been born in Portsmouth. The family later moved to Dartford in Kent. Frank Brettell, a founder member of Everton Football Club, died in 1936 and was buried at St Paulinus churchyard in Crayford.

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Rob Sawyer
255 Posted 02/02/2014 at 00:16:31
Great work, as always, Tony. Thanks.

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