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Everton’s First Soccer Ground In Stanley Park

The present-day Everton Football Club began their playing days in 1878 under the name of St Domingo’s, a Methodist chapel situated in the north end of Liverpool. Changing to their present name one year later, they continued to play their home matches on Stanley Park, a piece of open parkland that still separates them from their neighbors, Liverpool Football Club.

During the 1880-81 season, Everton and the now-defunct Liverpool Association became the first team from the area to enter the Lancashire Cup competition. They drew Great Lever, a well-established side from Bolton who beat Everton at the third attempt by 1-0. In the 1882-83 competition, Everton played their biggest game to date, an away tie at Blackburn Rovers. The home side, firm favorites to lift the trophy, proved too strong for the visitors, who lost 8-0. In October 1882, the visit of Crewe Alexandra highlighted the problems that Everton was beginning to experience when staging popular home matches in Stanley Park. The Cheshire club arrived accompanied by a local newspaper reporter, who described the playing pitch resembling a “Howling Brickfield.” A large crowd swarmed around the pitch as Everton began the match defending the Arkles Lane end of the ground.

The Crowd Are On The Pitch

stanley park sign in liverpool united kingdom
Image: Rodhullandemu

Liverpool Parks and Gardens, the custodians of the venue, refused to allow any part of the park to be roped off; consequently, the crowd frequently encroached on the pitch and disrupted the pattern of play. Despite this drawback and the absence of a referee, the two sides managed to fight out a creditable 2-2 draw. The visit to Stanley Park of the famous Bolton Wanderers in March 1883 produced yet another enormous crowd. The visitors, fielding several reserves, exposed the limitations and the naïve nature of the home side and routed them by 8-2. Later in the same month, Everton was beaten 3-1 by Bootle in the semi-final of the newly inaugurated Liverpool Cup, on the enclosed playing fields of the Liverpool College. An entrance fee was charged at the gate, the proceeds, along with those of the final, were donated to the local hospital’s trust. As the 1883-84 season approached, Everton faced severe opposition to their development from Bootle and Liverpool Ramblers. The two sides, who had met in the Liverpool Cup final (won by Bootle), we’re now going from strength to strength. Bootle, who began their days playing on a narrow pitch in Marsh Lane, had recently announced their intention of sharing the enclosure developed by the local cricket club. The ground, situated on Hawthorne Road, had a good playing field and, more importantly, a large pavilion. These facilities provided the visiting teams with a place to change, wash after the game, and enjoy local hospitality before their journey home. Liverpool Ramblers, a team of former public schoolboys, were also striding forward. Leaving their original pitch behind the Aigburth Hotel (whose facilities they had used on match days), the club had found new winter quarters at the newly opened cricket ground on Smithdown Road. The large, flat, and even playing field, complete with a pavilion, was conveniently situated near the road from Sefton Park Railway Station.

Everton Need A New Ground

If Everton were to attract noteworthy opposition, they would have to move fast and find a suitably enclosed ground where they could charge an entrance fee. Facing the eastern side of Stanley Park was a large private house named Coney Green that was owned by William Pruitt, who was a local cattle merchant. Pruitt, who must have seen the large crowds in the park from his front window, was approached by the club committee and agreed to rent the field adjacent to his house. Battling against the clock, the Everton staff and supporters toiled throughout the hot summer months to get the ground ready in time for the coming season. They enclosed and fenced off the playing area and constructed a wooden stand and changing room. Unfortunately, the season’s opening game against Southport could not be played on the unfinished ground, so the club hired a nearby pitch at Walton Stiles, where they enjoyed a 3-1 victory. By mid-October, the ground, which Priory Road fronted, was ready for occupation.

Redeploy To Another Location In Stanley Park

Old Stanley Park Map

The opening match on the new ground was played between teams representing the Liverpool & District Association and the Walsall & District Association. The new Stanley PARK pitch, which sloped severely to the east, was in poor condition from the outset. The two teams battling against the wind and rain played out a 3- 3 draw before a disappointing crowd of around 300 people. The visit of Bolton Wanderers to Liverpool on the same day did little to help swell the crowd at Priory Road. The Bolton site, fielding several reserves, proved too much for a weak Liverpool Ramblers team who went down 8-0 at Smithdown Road.

Burslem Port Vale had agreed to visit the new ground in mid-November, but Everton, in the meantime, had to be content with what fixtures they could find, which resulted in Hartford St John’s becoming the first club side to play at Priory Road. The visitors, a church side from the Northwich area, went down 3-1. The game with Burslem Port Vale, at last, attracted a considerable crowd to the ground, but once again, the weather was unfavorable. The pitch was reported to be heavy and slippery and deteriorated as the game progressed. The home fans, surprised by the passing style of play displayed by the visitors, watched Everton lose 1-0. To fulfill a FA Cup tie with Liverpool Ramblers, Wrexham Olympic canceled their prearranged visit to Priory Road at short notice. Everton struggling to find a replacement accepted a challenge made by the players from the small rural community of Croston.

Only 8 Players?

The visitors arrived with only eight men and enlisted the services of two local players. The game though acknowledged by the press, went unreported as Everton won 8-0. Wrexham Olympic, in the meantime, received a late telegram from Liverpool Ramblers claiming they were unable to place a team in the field and declared the FA Cup tie a walkover in favor of the Welshmen. The move to Priory Road was proving to be unpopular with the local fans who were not prepared to pay to watch local opposition. The Bootle enclosure at Hawthorne Road hosted the two remaining Liverpool District representative games with Cheshire and Manchester. At the same time, a team from Queen’s Park, Glasgow, paid a visit and beat Bootle 9-1. When playing Bolton Wanderers, Liverpool Ramblers switched the game to Hawthorne Road, but Everton had yet to play a fixture there against the home club. After disposing of Bootle in round one, Liverpool Ramblers were drawn against Everton in round two of the Liverpool Cup. The game, after much deliberation, was finally played at Liverpool College, where Everton enjoyed a 4-1 win. They reached the final with a 5-2 win over Bootle Wanderers. Everton then lost 5-3 at home to Eagley before beating Earlestown 9-0 three weeks before the two sides met in the Liverpool Cup final. The game played at Hawthorne Road, Bootle, saw Everton lift the trophy for the first time with a single goal that Perry scored. Everton played one last match at Priory Road, an 8-1 victory over Burscough before the season ended. Several theories have been aired about why Everton decided to leave Priory Road, the most popular being that they were asked to go by their landlord, William Pruitt. The fact remains that the ground was primitive and well away from the local transport infrastructure. Bootle was now becoming the leading club in the area with their well-appointed ground attracting quality fixtures. If Everton Football Club were going to survive and prosper, a move was surely inevitable.

Everton’s Next Move

Everton New Football Ground As Of 2024

Everton Football Club moved to a ground on Anfield Road. This location becomes their home for seven years. Then, in January 1892, they moved to the north end of Stanley Park. Back in 1892, this area was known as Mere Green Field. Today, it is known as Goodison Park and is still the home of Everton Football Club. Everton is leaving Goodison Park.  It has started building the new stadium that will be based north of Liverpool. The 52,888 seater stadium will be ready for the 2024/25 season.

The Future of Stanley Park

In 2021, Stanley Park now has a proposal to build a new football stadium.  The stadium has a planned capacity of 60,000 and will become the new home of Liverpool Football Club.

Main Image: Google Maps

 

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