The Birth Of The 'Grand Old Lady'

With the rapid progress being made on the new Everton Stadium project at Bramley-Moore Dock, I find it an ideal time to reflect on the time spent, and the highs and lows of the current home of Everton FC.

This is taken from Out of Doors (October 1892), included as an appendix by Percy Young in his book, Football on Merseyside (1963).

Behold Goodison Park! The half dozen pictures we give of this splendid enclosure must serve instead of a long description of it. In any case to substitute pictures for words is our mission in journalistic life. At the same time no single picture could take in the entire scene the ground presents, for it is so magnificently large, it rivals the greater American Baseball picture. On three sides of the field of play there are tall covered stands, and on the fourth side the ground has been well and truly banked up with thousands of loads of cinders that a complete view of the game can be had from any portion.

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The spectators are divided from the playing piece by a neat low hoarding, and the touchline is far enough from it to prevent those accidents which used to be predicted at Anfield Road, but never happened. In the centre of the banked up portion but set against the walling, is the secretary's office, where Mr Molyneux can sit either to write out cheques in his easy chair, or keep his eye on the uttermost extent of his vast Dominion. The Chairman Mr George Mahon when play is on, is accommodated exactly opposite, and in his seat which is in the centre of the large stand, where a door leads to a passage, and this is the handy way the players and referee pop in when the game is over, and the latter personage can bid defiance to the angriest crowd. This is superfluous however, as Goodison Park spectators never throw missiles at the referee, for there is no better disposed crowd in the Kingdom.

Inside the rooms the scene is as shown, in our pictures, the bathrooms are models of comfort and convenience,  each of the two rooms [ one for the visitors and one for the home team] contains a large double bath, 'not with shallow', but with perpendicular sides. The latest patent in gas water heaters is shown at the end by the window, with marble hand-washing bowls at the side of it. The floor is a trellis work of planed board arranged so as to give the maximum of comfort to the feet, the gas brackets are set off with opaque globes, which add a warm and pleasing softness to the scene, and even the shades above are of the latest pattern.

’Tubbing“ being over, the players pass through to the adjoining dressing room, which is large enough to give even the stoutest full-back all the elbow room he needs – and more. The seats are inclined to that comfortable hollow which induces you to sit a little longer than is absolutely necessary; even the pegs for your clothes are of an attractive design, and there is a kind of raised platform on which your body servant [if you have one] can give you a rub-down, a room which can best be described as the place for 'finishing touches'.

The referee has already been mentioned, but a glance of his room will show how he is provided for, it seems almost a pity that there is no chance of a Collier's game of Rugby on the ground, for the room would stand a large amount of bombardment! But there are even further attractions for this august personage, for if he opens the outer door he is face to face with the pretty girl who sells hot Bovril. The stairs also lead exclusively to the Press stand and therefore the convenient way a busy reporter can run out with an urgent message is self-evident.

Truly, we might spare pages over this modern arena but space forbids, suffice it however to remark an inspection of the strong and substantial foundation alone, shows how carefully the whole thing has been planned, and if it only cost £3,000, it is £3,000 well spent. Mr Prescott the architect (himself a worthy footballer once, by the way) and Messrs Kelly Brothers, the contractors, may take all the credit, for they deserve it. But this noble ground was not made with the simple wave of a magician's wand! It is the outcome of much thought and study, and Mr Mahon and the many co-workers he had, can now look upon the result of their efforts with the utmost pride.

Looking at this ground and stands as now completed, it is difficult to realize that only a few months ago, the spot was a barren waste, and a dismal swamp in wet weather.

The covered stand on the east side of the ground is a well built imposing building of its kind, entered at the rear by three staircases ascending to the highest seat. A much preferable mode of approaching the tiers of seats, than ascending through a throng of people usually found at the bottom. This stand will afford seating accommodation for about 5,000 persons without the slightest crushing, and standing room for a great number more. The goal stands which are covered, average 270 feet in length, and will afford sheltered standing room for about 10,000 spectators, whilst the cinder bank on the Goodison Road side, and the sloping margin round the field, between the enclosure and the stands, will give room for about 40,000 more.

The under part of the covered stand is well utilized as dressing-rooms for the home and visiting teams, fitted up with lockers and seating, and having bathrooms in connection, supplied with both hot and cold water, wash basins WC's and all possible conveniences, there are also various offices and rooms for the officials, groundsmen, etc. beneath the structure; the Liverpool Echo and Express telephone sections; a commodious office occupied by the secretary, in which the general business of the club is transacted. Tents are also provided in which the public can be supplied with tea, coffee, Bovril and other refreshments.

Taking it altogether, it appears to be one of the finest and most complete grounds in the Kingdom, and it is to be hoped that the public will liberally support the promoters.

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Reader Comments (32)

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Bernie Quinn
1 Posted 29/09/2022 at 21:04:45
Thank you so much, John, for this article. The 'Old Lady' has always been very close to my heart and I shall be so upset when we finally move away from her.
Brent Stephens
2 Posted 29/09/2022 at 21:22:51
John, thanks for posting that piece from Percy Young. I hadn't seen it before.

So things are coming full circle. I have this vision of us, on the final whistle of the final game of our final season at Goodison, linking arms and sinking Auld Lang Syne.

Out with the old and in with the new.

Paul Birmingham
3 Posted 29/09/2022 at 22:42:17
Superb, John, and incredible to think in a couple of years Goodison Park, when there will be no more games at Goodison Park.

Lifetimes of memories and journeys, famous and not so famous games, but for character and atmosphere on the day or night, it takes no prisoners, and has the best partisan crowd and best atmosphere in the UK.

Long may Evertonians, cherish the memories.

Kieran Kinsella
4 Posted 30/09/2022 at 00:36:08

Thanks for sharing. I love the details about the baths, the fans not throwing missiles, best stadium in the empire. It gives a real sense of what pioneers like your Grandad experienced back in the day. Great piece

Bill Watson
5 Posted 30/09/2022 at 01:20:53
Thanks for this, John. I have lots of books on Everton's history but have never seen this report before.

Now, like a lot of us seniors, I'm trying to hang on to be at the last game at Goodison and the first at Bramley-Moore Dock. Thanks again!

David Currie
6 Posted 30/09/2022 at 07:28:40
Thanks John, It will be a very sad day when we leave Goodison Park.
Danny O’Neill
7 Posted 30/09/2022 at 08:25:54
The vision in moving to Goodison is not lost and there are similar echoes in our decision to build Bramley Moore Dock. A long neglected barren wasteland that will rejuvenate north Liverpool and Everton Football Club. That's from a southie by the way!!

I love Goodison. I've watched us bring titles home there. Win on what felt like a weekly basis with no expectation we would do otherwise. I've seen us survive by the skin of our teeth when I didn't think we would. I watched Kevin Sheedy mesmerise me (sorry!!). The place holds magical memories and emotions.

The people at the Goodison Supper Bar who serve me are the same ones who did when I was a child. They don't know or remember me, but I recognise them. The Gwladys Street ledge. My first experience of the Top Balcony, gulping as I looked down on what looked like a Subbeto pitch. We were pioneers in high stands before Newcastle and the cousins even thought about it. The ability to study the game from the Upper Bullens. First undersoil heating and tiered stands. Goodison was pioneering in its day.

But it's had it's day. Unless we were going to totally redesign of the area and do what Tottenham have done, it had its day many decades. ago.

I'll miss Goodison dearly. The thought of leaving her makes me very emotional. But sadly it is time to move on. Stadium and as a club. It should have happened a long time a go and has set us back probably more than any other big club I can think of.

But we have a bright future ahead on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey.

Our city and everyone will see it. We will live it.

Rick Tarleton
8 Posted 30/09/2022 at 11:47:44
Thanks, John. A lovely piece of history.
John McFarlane Snr
9 Posted 30/09/2022 at 16:57:38
Hi Bernie [1] there are so many memories of both the ecstatic and horrific kind, but I wouldn't swap places with supporters of any other club, for any thing in the world. I don't think that there is any other ground to compare with Goodison when the chips are down, let's hope it can be replicated at Bramley Moore.

Hi Brent [2] it will be a sad day when we have to leave Goodison for the final time, but it's the beginning of a new era. In the autumn of my life, with the winter approaching swiftly, it's my ambition to wake up every morning, and I thank God that I have a season ticket, which should guarantee my entrance to the new ground.

Hi Paul [3] My message to you is exactly the same as the one I posted to Bernie [1]

Hi Kieran [4] although my Grandad never really spoke of his youth, I can imagine that the Everton bug bit him early in his life, [much earlier than the seventeenth year of his life] when Goodison Park was opened.

Brian Murray
10 Posted 30/09/2022 at 17:12:20

Plus we single-handedly changed the corner kick rule when Sam Chedgzoy ran from the corner and put it in the net.

From 1969, the first year for me, my only memories in no particular order are:

Pipe smoke, getting tied to the Street End ledge, Whittle's blond hair, Newcastle nil-nil (my first game, I think, but I remembered the advertising on the roof at Blackpool for an away game).

Ball running riot v Chelsea, a 5-2 win. Last but not least: getting more or less thrown on the pitch v West Brom in the title decider but people fainting so I ran back after 10 yards.

I'm sorry, Danny that's where the fun ends. Very painful the rest of the '70s so, in that way, I'm glad to see us move on. Hardly missed a game and a hell of a lot away for such a young age. Double-click then so bunked in, usually with a older bro or dad. Different times, eh.

Tony Abrahams
11 Posted 30/09/2022 at 17:15:18
My sentiments are completely echoed by your-good-self John Mc, in response to Bernie in paragraph1, and are definitely followed by Paul B's@3👏

The day I begin to write about all my Goodison memories Brian, already sends a big shiver right through my body.

It's funny how I've already changed my driving route, and often drive home via Bramley-Moore Dock now. I turned into the middle of Boundary Street today, coming from Vauxhall Road, and when I went over the little brow, my very first thoughts were, WOW!

Brian Murray
12 Posted 30/09/2022 at 17:29:02
Goodison is from a by gone era of obstructed views. Archibald Leitch designs and any other relic you can think of needs to stay where it is. Pan towards the main stand.
Tony Abrahams
13 Posted 30/09/2022 at 17:37:34
Don't start me on that smug photograph above the ticket office on Goodison Road, Brian, or the timeline that froze once Kenwright got his mittens into an English institution, although it has been said (mostly by people who are thankful for small mercies) that it's better the devil that you know.
Barry Rathbone
14 Posted 30/09/2022 at 18:19:19
Makes you proud to be blue.

There's another old newspaper piece somewhere (the Mercury??) which stirs the blood reporting on the meeting when John Houlding and shifty compadre, Joey Orrell, were told to shove the rent increase up their arse.

Can't remember the exact words but It culminated in extolling the defiance (which unfortunately has vanished over recent decades) in dealing with the seemingly insurmountable issue of having nowhere to play.

Something like "undaunted they picked up their spades, barrows and picks and in a matter of weeks created one of the finest grounds in the country at Mere Green"

We took no shit back in the day.

Danny O’Neill
15 Posted 30/09/2022 at 19:31:19
Nothing is insurmountable, Barry.

Brian highlights the late 70s. Along with the early 80s, my introduction to living memory of Everton. I often wondered what my dad was talking about. And then it happened.

Leaving Goodison is going to break all of our hearts.

But we'll see her out with a bang.

And it's going to happen again. When we win that next trophy, the football world won't know what's hit it. Nothing false. Nothing staged or choreographed. Pure passion. We need no explanation. Just watch us.

Tony Abrahams
16 Posted 30/09/2022 at 19:38:04
And then fine us millions, because nobody or absolutely nothing, will be able to contain a lot of young toffees, when Everton finally win a trophy once again.🙏
Danny O’Neill
17 Posted 30/09/2022 at 19:47:24
They deserve their moment Tony. I'll just cry like a baby.
John McFarlane Snr
18 Posted 30/09/2022 at 19:50:36
Hi Bill [5] like yourself I am hanging on in the hope that I can see the first game at Bramley Moore, but I get the impression that some of the younger fans consider the likes of you and I as ancient's, but what they seem to forget is that 'today's fans' are 'tomorrows ancients'.

Hi David [6] it will indeed be a sad day when we have to say goodbye to Goodison Park, but I believe that a great many of us, who have experienced both 'ecstasy' and 'heartbreak' wouldn't have swapped our club for any other.

Hi Danny [7] I believe that Goodison, if closer to the middle of the country, would have staged a far greater number of big games, 'internationals, and FA Cup replays'.

Hi Tony [11] I hope I'm around when you relate your experiences, can I order a signed copy?

Hi Brian [12] I don't know how old you are, but if I had the opportunity to turn back time, I would pan on to the Goodison Road stand as it was, before being replaced by the monstrosity of the main stand. The old stand was a thing of beauty.

Brian Murray
19 Posted 30/09/2022 at 19:55:10
John mc. I’ve just turned 60 and when I say pan to the main stand I certainly wasn’t on about the the structure as a relic that shouldn’t follow us under any circumstances. Il say no more big j.
Danny O’Neill
20 Posted 30/09/2022 at 20:03:41
John Senior, Brian may have just turned 60, I've just turned 51 but Brian is a youthful as you and all of us when it comes to Everton.

I think we all know which part of the Main Stand Brian refers to that should stay in London rather than follow us to Bramley-Moore Dock.

Says London boy himself!!

Tony Abrahams
21 Posted 30/09/2022 at 20:21:16
I can only speak for myself John Mc, but I have always thought that the younger generation of Evertonians, have always had a lot of respect for their elders. I have always viewed elderly people who have been going to watch Everton for most of their lives, with affection, and this is something that I think you learn to do very early, when you are a regular visitor to Goodison Park? From the cradle to the grave for many, and all because of our love for Everton FC.
Neil Copeland
22 Posted 30/09/2022 at 23:03:16
John Mc, thank you for a lovely article.

I am dreading the day we leave Goodison but at the same time I can’t wait for the new era at BMD to begin.

So many memories, too many to list. I am hoping for one more before we leave. Come on blues, let’s go out with a bang!

Christine Foster
23 Posted 01/10/2022 at 00:30:15
John, that's a wonderful nugget you have posted! I have lived in relative slums and palaces through my life, but not one single place I have ever been t, takes my breath away as much as looking down from the top tier of Goodison road, as you emerge from the stairwell... it's the same feeling I had on my first visit as a wee child, nothing in my life comes close.don't ask me why, I don't know. All I know is I am supposed to be there. So thank you for finding this bit of history, the pride I have in the old lady was built all those years ago. It's cement is the love we all have for her.
Danny O’Neill
24 Posted 01/10/2022 at 07:19:51
John Senior @18, interesting point on internationals.

As a self-confessed not too interested in England person, I suggested at the time that when they looked to rebuild Wembley, they should have considered a more central location in the Midlands.

I don't want to take away the magic of those trips to Wembley that many of us have witnessed. But maybe bringing the national team closer to the majority would make it more appealing. For me, it is dominated by the south of England and London / South East in particular.

Maybe what Germany do. There is no national stadium as such (technically the Olympic in Berlin). But they rotate and play in different stadia around the country. Take the team to the people.

But for me it's just Everton.

John McFarlane Snr
25 Posted 02/10/2022 at 13:58:23
Hi Neil [22] I too will be sad to leave Goodison, [if God spares me], but my main concern is that the Bramley Moore ground or whatever it may be called, will lack the atmosphere that is generated on special occasions.

Hi Christine [23] there was no better feeling than gazing down from the old Goodison Road stand, I took my son to an evening reserve game when he was six or seven, and he found it incredulous, he remarked "It's like a big coloured Telly"

Hi Danny [24] I think that some football fans lost interest in England games, when the FA agreed with the Wembley authorities to stage all their games at Wembley. I have just looked up venues for international fixtures prior to that agreement and going back to 1894 when Goodison Park was built, there have been 38 grounds from [St James Newcastle} down to Fratton Park [Portsmouth].

Brian Murray
26 Posted 02/10/2022 at 14:19:50
As for the atmosphere on the banks of, Dan Meis has said the stands will be steep and close to the pitch. That is something that even Spurs' new stadium hasn't got to an intimidating level. These fine margins win and influence officials big time.
John McFarlane Snr
27 Posted 02/10/2022 at 18:06:32
Hi again Danny [24] my post [25] should read, "1892 when Goodison Park was built", and 1895 was when the first international fixture was staged at Goodison. one more mistake and I'll have to stand in the corner wearing a 'Dunce's Cap'.
Alasdair Jones
28 Posted 03/10/2022 at 16:32:26
John Senior,

Such an interesting and historically valuable article you have unearthed. Had I been aware of it, I might well have incorporated some of it in my earlier post of March 2021; "Memories of the Old Lady".

As you rightly note, John, we are moving ever closer to the day when the removal men will arrive. I anticipate therefore many more will begin to crystallise their thoughts about their first and abiding impressions of this valuable piece of sporting architecture, time spent there and the highs and lows of the club's history.

John McFarlane Snr
29 Posted 03/10/2022 at 19:34:30
Hi Alasdair [28], I got my information from 'Association Football and the Men Who Made It' by Alfred Gibson & William Pickford.

I inherited three volumes of what should have been four, it seems that my Uncle Tommy must have loaned Volume One to someone, who never returned it. They are the original books published in 1906, prior to Everton's 1-0 victory over Newcastle United, in the FA Cup final, at the Crystal Palace.

In the write-up on Everton, it reads, "It is true that Everton carried away chief honours in the season of 1890-91, and that Liverpool copied that excellent example 10 years later. But these two big performances stand out by themselves, as starring the history of football in the city."

David Kennedy
30 Posted 06/10/2022 at 09:55:27
The Kelly Brothers contracted to build Goodison. Pretty sure they had some hand in building Anfield prior to that, as they were mentioned in reports from 1892 removing club property such as turnstiles from Anfield to be brought and recycled (as we'd say today) at the new ground.

Also, one of them (Benjamin?) was the father of Theo Kelly, Everton manager of the '30s?

Danny O’Neill
31 Posted 06/10/2022 at 10:10:52
I agree John Senior. I always have thought that the powers that be missed an opportunity by not taking the national team out to the nation.

Aside from my family background, it's probably a contributing factor in why I don't really affiliate with the England team.

Trevor Edwards
32 Posted 06/10/2022 at 16:09:31
That's a great article, John. Lovely to read it in its entirety. I have certainly read a few of the lines in the past - certainly the 'Behold Goodison Park' and the first and final paragraphs. My first game was August 15th 1970. It was a moment I had dreamt of since I first got the Everton bug. Dad was a Toffee but worked weekends so couldnt take me, and as he had relocated to Manchester, this 'wool' by birth was too small to get the game on my own. Dad had a friend who was a policeman at Goodison and the plan was for me to be dropped off with the PC and gone in the boys pen. That never transpired and I have mixed feelings about that. On a positive note, I would have seen my heroes in the flesh during that glorious 69-70 season. But on the flip side, with my accent, naivety and not being street wise, I would have been a target for the scallies in the pen!
But that first match at Goodison, with dad and my red supporting Uncle, will live with me forever. The excitement I felt was indescribable and to think I nearly didnt make it as dad's car broke down on the East Lancs Road on the way! I lived and breathed Everton, Alan Ball in particular, and I felt for a few moments that my world had ended! Fortunately, we made it and now, 1500 games (home and away) or so later, Everton are on the move again. This time, the excitement is different, and tempered by the sadness of the inevitable goodbye to Goodison. I know I will be a blubbering 63 year old when that day comes. We all will. But move, we must. And if anyone can recreate the atmosphere at a new ground, with the superb designs by Dan Meiss, it will be us blues.

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