Aug 30 The Rev Chambers, Everton & Liverpool
Today we travel to Yorkshire in the north of England where Ben Swift Chambers was born in 1845. He would become a Methodist minister and the founder of St Domingo’s football club which is now known as Everton and has an estimated worth of £2.8bn.
In his teenage years, Chambers served as an apprentice to an engraver in Huddersfield – and showed so much potential that he was offered a partnership in the business. It must have been a quite tempting offer as it was a viable business, a highly sought-after skill and a secure career would follow. However, Chambers felt a higher calling and became a Methodist minister. After two years training, he started his career on the Ashton circuit in Manchester.
By 1877, Rev Chambers’ career in the Methodist ministry brought him to the New Connexion Chapel in Liverpool. Once settled at St Domingo's Church in the Everton district of the city, he became a promoter of the Band of Hope movement, a temperance organisation for working-class youngsters. Quickly Rev Chambers formed a cricket club to provide local youngsters with healthy exercise as well as the opportunity to develop the qualities of Christian sportsmanship. To that end Chambers persuaded the members of Young Men's Bible Class to start St Domingo Football Club in 1878. It was a period of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation in Britain, with many people migrating to the cities from the countryside to engage in hard physical labour in factories. Alcoholic drinks was generally viewed as a necessity of life, and a form of escape from the drudgery and squalor of city life (see pod of Apr 10) the Rev Chambers introduced the Band of Hope to St Domingo’s to counteract the influence of pubs and brewers. The movement had started with a Baptist minister in Leeds, following the death in June 1847 of a young man whose life was cut short by alcohol. Activities for youngsters were held that encouraged them to avoid alcohol problems. Football and cricket meant that they could play sport year-round – and St Domingo’s was renamed Everton in November 1879, as people outside the congregation wished to participate
John Houlding was a prosperous Everton brewer and businessman and was active as a Conservative councillor for the Everton & Kirkdale ward and would eventually become the Lord Mayor of Liverpool. As the first president of Everton Football Club, he ushered the club from Stanley Park to the Anfield ground adjacent to his Sandon Hotel and masterminded the 10-year transformation from amateur enthusiasts into League champions. With the formation of the FA (See pod of Mar 23) and the development of the laws of the game, a ruling forced Everton to play their games at an enclosed ground, having previously played them on the public Stanley Park. A meeting held in the Sandon Hotel in Anfield, Liverpool, owned by Houlding, led to Everton renting a field off Priory Road. When the owner of this field eventually asked them to leave, Houlding secured a new pitch at Anfield Road, paying a small rent to John Orrell, a fellow brewer. The first football match at Anfield was on 28 September 1884, when Everton beat Earlestown 5-0. At Anfield stands were erected, attendance figures reached 8,000 per game, and Everton became a founding member of the Football League in 1888.
They would get changed in the Sandon Hotel before the game, and this lead to conflict with the Everton committee was his association with alcohol. Not the widespread myth is that he sought to charge more rent after the club became successful. The club's 279 members met to discuss the matter and the club decided to leave Anfield and find a new ground. Anticipating this Houlding served them with a notice to quit in 1892 and recruited a new squad of players for his new club. The new club was called Everton Athletic but the Football Association would not allow this name to be used due to its similarity to the original club, so the new club was renamed Liverpool F.C. Their first ever Liverpool F.C. game was a friendly match with Rotherham Town, then of the Midland League, on 1 September 1892. Later that year Everton F.C. moved to Goodison Park, on the north side of Stanley Park Within nine seasons Liverpool Football Club was anointed League champion. Houlding died following a lengthy illness in 1902 in Cimiez, a neighbourhood of Nice, France, in his 69th year. At his funeral, players of both Liverpool and Everton carried his coffin as a mark of respect for all he had done for football in the city. After the acrimonious split Houldings death brought the two clubs back together. Four years later Everton would win the FA Cup knocking Liverpool out of the semi-final, but the Liverpool directors would meet the victorious Everton at Central station to congratulate them on their victory after the final.
In between the two world wars they would worship once a year for ‘Football Sunday ‘ at St Domingo’s chapel. However it wasn’t until 20096 the two , now world-famous teams, together restored and rededicated the delipidated grave to Rev Ben Chambers at Shepley Methodist Church