St Domingo Chapel and Everton's origins

by   |   22/01/2024  32 Comments  [Jump to last]

I have just read online an item entitled “The origins and development of association football in the Liverpool District c1879 until c1915”.  This was written by Thomas John Preston for a PhD degree from the University of Central Lancashire and revised in 2007.  

In this thesis, he debunks the view that Everton arose from St Domingo Connexional Methodist chapel and provides compelling evidence to support this view.  He also promotes a theory for the reason Everton FC is tied to the chapel.  

It is a truly interesting read and ToffeeWeb members should look at it.  The one thing that I found lacking is a consideration of another prominent Liverpool club named White Star Wanderers.  However, all-in-all it is a riveting piece of history of football in Liverpool at the turn of the 20th Century.

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Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
1 Posted 22/01/2024 at 13:30:34
Thanks so much for posting this, David. It opens up a resource that I think only David Kennedy has scratched the surface of for us with his fascinating historical contributions.

The academic world exists almost as a parallel universe to the one we occupy on a daily basis that is driven by clickbait headlines and vacuous apologies for meaningful writing.

I've added a link to the University of Central Lancashire, from where the full PDF on Tom's dissertation — all 349 pages of it — can be downloaded.

I listen to podcasts and audiobooks and this may just trigger me to download a tool that will effectively turn any PhD Thesis into an audiobook — it's called Listening and is available on a 2-week free trial.

Michael Kenrick
2 Posted 22/01/2024 at 21:14:48
In case I'm the only one reading this, there are some fascinating gems from the hand of Tom Preston.

The very first mention of Everton in the Abstract hits on something that is particularly pertinent to at least one ToffeeWebber:

Profit seems to have been a priority for the original Everton FC and its positive commercial prognosis led to the club's selection as a founder member of the Football League.

That's a pretty good teaser for what's in store, but it doesn't seem to fit with the Corinthian image that Tony Abrhams and many others seem to have formed about the early years of football at the club.

Tony Abrahams
4 Posted 22/01/2024 at 21:34:10
Interesting Michael, but if the club hadn't stood up for itself after getting bumped for the rent, then it's quite possible that the most evil organization in the country, would have never been formed!

Derek Thomas
5 Posted 22/01/2024 at 21:52:21
Michael @ 2; There's more than one kind of truth (be it Everton or The Middle East)

There's the - everybody knows "this" and then there's - everybody knows "that"..

But in reality, everybody knows that what 'everybody knows' is wrong

(and who are these 'Everybodys' anyway?)

So what you do is, if the truth wasn't what you wanted it to be, you turned it into a different version of the truth.

Maybe not 'The Truth' and definitely not 'the whole Truth and nothing but the truth', just a version thereof - A Truth.


Michael, as a publisher aren't you supposed to traditionally - if given the choice between truth or legend - obliged to print The Legend...(which, as 'Everybody Knows' has some truth in it somewhere)?

Danny O’Neill
6 Posted 22/01/2024 at 21:53:41
I don't know what's worse Tony.

A row over rent leading to the creation of Lucifer's Children. Or that we would have played at Anfield.

I always point out to our cousins. If you cross the road from the Kop, you are in L5, so technically in the district of Everton? Maybe someone can comment. I still debate whether Goodison is in Kirkdale or Walton.

Michael Kenrick
7 Posted 22/01/2024 at 22:41:02

Not sure you're on the right thread but you seem to be channelling the widely respected ramblings of one Donald Rumsfeld and his:

"As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know."

Talking of "The Truth", here's a Mythbuster for you and Tony to sleep on:

The present study provides compelling evidence that St Domingo's FC never existed and that Everton FC actually derived from a pre-existing Church of England football club.

Danny O’Neill
8 Posted 22/01/2024 at 22:51:45
In 1878, Everton Football Club were formed, and they were known as “St Domingo's Football Club”. We then changed our name to Everton after the district.

This leads me onto the repeated debate about the naming of the stands for the new stadium following the stunning picture of the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock I saw today.

Prince Rupert's Tower
St Luke's
St Domingo

And get a statue up for the '80s team!

Michael Kenrick
10 Posted 22/01/2024 at 22:59:05

This bloke says that may not be true.

Here's another good one:

Even when the Football League began, Everton were still the only one of the twelve original clubs from a properly constituted city.

Not many people know that!

Michael Kenrick
11 Posted 22/01/2024 at 23:06:39
Here's another one:

Clerks constituted the single largest employment group in the earliest football teams in Liverpool, with a sizeable minority of teachers and skilled manual workers. Casual unskilled workers, on the other hand, had little involvement with football in the early years.

I should really go to bed. This is going to get me into trouble.

Danny O’Neill
12 Posted 22/01/2024 at 23:20:27
Haha Michael.

Have a good night. I'm off myself having been hit on the other thread for my political comments.

I'll read into this tomorrow. Interesting subject and football / Everton related.

Tony Abrahams
13 Posted 23/01/2024 at 07:34:15
Brilliant Derek, maté. I'm glad to see that I’m not the only one who has noticed that literal Mike, isn’t always so literal, when he his trying to get people to engage!
Dennis Stevens
14 Posted 24/01/2024 at 03:32:15
The thesis makes for interesting reading. However, the great shock of the author's comments casting doubt over the common view of Everton originating as St Domingo FC seem to be largely based on his inability to come up with much evidence in support of that widely held belief, especially from the local press.

The alternative proposed seems equally sketchy, circumstantial, and grounded somewhat on supposition. The case made is a slight one, imo.

I was also surprised that this area of research didn't seem to touch upon the man generally credited with starting it all: Rev Ben Swift Chambers. Surely, he should merit a mention somewhere in the tale?

David Peate
15 Posted 24/01/2024 at 10:42:48
It is not fair to criticise the author for an inability to come up with much evidence in support of that widely held belief. There is no written evidence.

I have searched through all local Liverpool, Crosby, Bootle and Birkenhead newspapers and there is no mention of St Domingo Football Club whatsoever. There is no report of a change of name to Everton either. To that extent, his conclusion has a real element of validity.

Personally, I subscribe to the view that Everton was formed from the chapel team. Being local to the area, I was brought up believing it to be so. This is similar to the formation of Bootle FC from St John's Anglican church's football club in 1879.

Incidentally, Bootle's first fixture was in 1880 against … Everton.

Dave Abrahams
16 Posted 24/01/2024 at 11:06:59
Michael (11),

I think that while ‘Casual unskilled workers‘ had little to do with organised football, they had more than plenty to do with playing football all over the city on waste ground, streets and parks and were just as good or better than the organised footballers.

James Hughes
17 Posted 24/01/2024 at 12:02:46
I am not religous and normally ambigous about it. but I definitely do not want a stand named after a saint.

Keep your religion for your home life and away from football, many thanks

David Peate
18 Posted 25/01/2024 at 09:50:49
James (17) What on earth has your comment to do with the subject under review?

In fact, most of the comments so far have been wide of the mark.

Danny O’Neill
19 Posted 25/01/2024 at 10:19:27
Everything I've always read and understood tells me that our club was initially formed as St Domingo, a Methodist Church. I'm a Catholic but I don't care much for religious conflict. Seen too much of it and the destruction it causes.

James, it is purely down to our history and heritage. It's not about religion.

Alan McGuffog
20 Posted 25/01/2024 at 10:25:19
My understanding is that one of the most significant roots of Association Football, especially in northern Britain, was the church. And by that I mean churches of all stripes.

The phrase " muscular Christianity" was coined. Football, cricket and other sports were encouraged by religious bodies to keep young men away from the pleasures of the flesh. Not sure how well that worked, to be honest! 🤔

James Hughes
21 Posted 25/01/2024 at 10:34:21
David, it is my reponse to the comment @8 and Danny's suggestions for stands at Bramley-Moore Dock. I just don't agree with it… but, if it happened, I would just shrug and get on with it.

Apologies for not being clear as obviously a comment 9 posts earlier was too far for you to scroll.

Jim Milner
22 Posted 25/01/2024 at 15:47:47
While I did find thesis to be very informative and interesting. As David Peate has said it does leave out some informative pieces, that maybe would have gave his thesis more balance.
Firstly I have seen a newspaper clipping from 1878, whitch tells of St. Domingo FC beating Everton Church Club 1-0.
Secondly he takes about Liverpool could only support two teams. South Liverpool FC and Marine were formed in 1890s which in former's case lasted until the 1920s before they moved the team to New Brighton and Marine are still very much alive and well today.
David Peate
23 Posted 29/01/2024 at 09:52:05
Perhaps I am too late in asking this as comments have dried up but I will do so nevertheless. In my original post, I mentioned White Star Wanderers the successor to Bootle FC.

I am most interested in this short-lived and under-rated local team. If anyone has information relating to the White Star Wanderers other than newspapers and Internet sources, I will be pleased to learn of them.

Danny O’Neill
24 Posted 22/02/2024 at 14:04:55
On original names, here's an interesting read.


They didn't exist until we moved.

World famous Arkles my arse. Try the Brick.

Danny O’Neill
25 Posted 22/02/2024 at 14:34:28
One more point having re-read.

I don't being labelled a Liverpudlian. Just don't.

It's offensive!!

Scouser, Evertonian, Liverpolitan.

But never a Liverpudlian.

Danny O’Neill
26 Posted 22/02/2024 at 14:50:04
**don't like
Paul Kossoff
27 Posted 22/02/2024 at 14:58:49
Micheal 1, Here's a good text converter,
Brent Stephens
28 Posted 22/02/2024 at 15:38:12
Danny #25 "World famous Arkles, my arse."

Danny, I'd never heard of it until you started posting about it!

Danny O’Neill
29 Posted 22/02/2024 at 16:14:35
I've been going there since I was a youngster with my Grandad, Brent.

With my mates when we used to visit him on Arkles Lane and get fed by his good lady wife after the match.

It was his local.

Brent Stephens
30 Posted 22/02/2024 at 16:34:05
I know, Danny.
Mark Murphy
31 Posted 22/02/2024 at 17:17:45
I've got to say, same here Danny. I always thought Arkle was a racehorse.

I'd never heard of the pub until you told me that's where YOUR cousins (They're not mine) go to drink their shandies, Sake and schnapps after 80 mins… KAGSEFOOT!

Ray Roche
32 Posted 22/02/2024 at 17:29:15
Danny, when I first got married in 1972 or was it 1973?...we lived in a flat belonging to Gordon Dugdale who played for Everton in the same side as Harry Catterick. My girlfriend, later wife was there for an extra couple of years beforehand and we used to walk up to the Arkles for the last pint.

I don't recall it being a Red House then, no paraphernalia around or crap like that, otherwise we'd have gone elsewhere. It must have realised the monetary value, customer wise, having having shite all over the place to entice the tourists in on matchday in later years.

David Prentice
33 Posted 27/03/2024 at 11:31:43
Apologies for being late to this debate – but I can comprehensively – and happily – refute the suggestion raised in the 2006 thesis that St Domingo's FC never existed – and that the St Domingo's ‘myth' was some sort of sectarian point scoring!

The issue was raised at an Everton Heritage Society meeting some years ago and was shot down in spectacular – and scholarly – fashion!

The student's ‘compelling evidence' for the non-existence of St Domingo's was that no reference to St Domingo's FC ever appeared in 1878 or 1879 newspapers.

The outstanding local Everton historian Steve Flanagan, however, did unearth such a reference in the Liverpool Daily Courier from 20 October 1879 (Reproduction below):

ST. DOMINGO v. EVERTON CHURCH CLUB (Association). This match was played on the ground of the former, at Stanley Park, on Saturday last, and after a closely contested game victory rested with the St. Domingo by one goal to nil.

That alone appears to confirm St Domingo's existed as a football team, but there is other compelling evidence to verify the existence of St Domingo's FC.

An 1893 Handbook entitled ‘History of the Everton Football Club by Floreat Evertonae' which is now part of the Everton Collection also refers quite specifically to the members of St Domingo's Cricket Club forming a football section (see below).

“However, as far as authentic records carry us back, the year 1878 seems to be the first definite date where its chronicles begin. In that year the St. Domingo Cricket Club, playing upon a plot of ground opposite the old Anfield Cricket ground, in Oakfield Road (and whose members chiefly consisted of the younger portion of the worshippers at the Congregational Chapel, in St. Domingo Vale), in order to keep themselves in training during the winter months inaugurated a Football team for Saturday afternoons' practice. No matches were arranged, but those so disposed journeyed to Stanley Park and indulged in a little Football exercise. Their play, of course, was of a most elementary character. In the following year, 1879, the Club was properly organised under the name of St. Domingo Football Club. Matches were played against against St. Mary's, St. Peter's, Everton United Church, and Bootle St. John's, which latter club became, and has existed until recently as, the Bootle Football Club. About November the members appeared dissatisfied with their Club's name and, being ambitious of a more imposing one, at a meeting held at their then headquarters, Clarke's Queen's Head Hotel in Village Street, resolved unanimously to call their Club ‘The Everton Football Club', and Mr. J. Clarke was elected their first secretary.”

There is also Thomas Keates' Jubilee History of the club in 1928.

Mr Keates was a resident of Anfield (Rockfield Road and Anfield Road) from 1874 and involved with Everton since their earliest days, becoming a shareholder in the early 1890s and briefly a club director. He was surely personally aware of the club's birth. I find it fantastical that he would have repeated falsehoods.

I must admit I found the thesis initially troubling. Had we been labouring under a misapprehension for almost 150 years?

But thanks to the wonderful work by Steve Flanagan, Peter Lupson, my good friend Dr David France and Co, we can safely continue in the knowledge that St Domingo's FC definitely did begat Everton Football Club – and that 1878 IS our accurate date of birth!

Christine Foster
34 Posted 27/03/2024 at 11:46:47
David @33,

Thank you for the excellent read regarding our founding.

I confess when I read it, I remembered reading much of it before in 1978, it was in a matchday program commemorating our 100 years, but like most curious and interesting snippets, memory fades and leaves a hole filled with alternative explanations. The truth is still there for all to see!

Thanks again, David.

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