Goodison Park, or The Grand Old Lady as it’s affectionately known, has been the home of the Toffees for more than 120 years. First opened on 24 August 1892, this revered ground was the first major football stadium built in England.
From being the first league venue to be visited by a royal monarch, to the revolutionary features such as under soil heating and dug outs, Goodison Park was to set a trend for football stadiums throughout the country. We take a look back at where it all began for Everton and Goodison and how the ground has developed over the years.
Everton Football Club’s roots originate with St Domingo’s Methodist Church. In 1877 Rev. Benjamin Swift Chambers was appointed Minister of St. Domingo Chapel and founded both the cricket team and St Domingo F.C in 1878. Over the years the football club became very popular and it was decided that the name of the team needed to be changed. In November 1879 a meeting was held at the Queen’s Head Hotel, near Ye Anciente Everton Toffee House. It was decided that the team should be known as Everton Football Club, after the surrounding area.
At this time, Everton were based at Stanley Park before moving to a pitch on Priory Road. As the club began to grow, the crowds became far too large and noisy. Eventually, the team were forced to leave and find a new ground. In September 1884, the club found its new home at Anfield Road, which became their home for a number of years, before the infamous disagreement occurred with landowner John Houlding.
On 25 January 1892, Everton made the decision to move to Mere Green Field in 1892, situated on the north side of Stanley Park. This was to become known as Goodison Park.
The blues initially spent £3,000 on laying out the ground and building new stands. They employed the Kelly Brothers, who were from Walton, to build two uncovered stands with a capacity of 4000 each, as well as a covered stand that would seat 3000. This cost a total of £1,460, which at the time was a huge amount. Outside the ground, hoardings cost a further £150, gates and sheds cost £132 and 10 shillings, whilst 12 turnstiles added another £7 and 15 shillings to the bill.
On 24th August 1892, Goodison Park was officially opened by Lord Kinnaird and Frederick Wall from the Football Association. Strangely, the first event that was held at the ground wasn’t a football match. Instead, Everton welcomed an athletics competition to their new stadium. The first football match wasn’t played until 2 September 1892, were they beat Bolton 4-2.
Goodison was met with huge praise, Out of Doors reported in October 1892 that the ground “rivals the greater American baseball pitches. It appears to be one of the finest and most complete grounds in the kingdom.” The good reviews had a positive effect on Everton FC, within a year of moving to Goodison Park, the team were FA Cup finalists.
In 1894, the ground hosted its first FA Cup final which saw Notts County beat Bolton. The match was watched by a crowd of 37,000, which was seen as enormous at the time. The growing popularity of the team and football in general, alongside the threat from other stadium advancements across the country meant it wasn’t long until Goodison Park was improved further.
In 1895, a new Bullens Road stand was built at a cost of £3,407, and the open Goodison Road side was covered for £403, according to the records from the time. However, the Goodison that we know today really began to take shape after the turn of the century. Beginning in 1907, a double-decker stand was built at the Park End, designed by architect Archibold Leitch and costing a staggering £13,000.
The improvements didn’t stop there, in 1909, the large Main Stand on Goodison Road was constructed, costing £28,000. It housed all the offices and players’ facilities and survived until 1971. At the same time, another £12,000 was spent on concreting over the terracing and replacing the cinder running track.
Following these updates, Goodison Park was the best equipped stadium in the nation again. In 1910, Everton hosted the Cup Final replay between Newcastle and Barnsley, a massive 69,000 attended.
On 13th July 1913, Goodison Park became the first league venue to be visited by a ruling monarch. George V and Queen Mary travelled to the ground to visit local schoolchildren. The next big change came in 1926 when, at a cost of £30,000, another double-decker, similar to the Main Stand, was built on the Bullens Road side opposite.
In the 1930s, Everton made history by adopting an idea they had seen in Aberdeen when they had visited to play a friendly. Pittodrie Stadium was home to what were reputedly the first ever dug-outs for coaching staff. After seeing this revolutionary feature, Everton adopted the idea at Goodison Park. It soon spread to other venues, and now the covered dug-out is a feature of almost every ground worldwide.
Goodison enjoyed another royal visit in 1938 when George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to Everton to see the new Gwladys Street Stand that had just been completed. This major update meant that Goodison Park became the only ground in Britain to have four double-decker stands and was again affirmed as the most advanced stadium in Britain.
During the Second World War, Liverpool was battered by enemy shells and Goodison suffered badly due to its proximity to the Liverpool Docks. The club received £5,000 for repairs from the War Damage Commission. Shortly after the huge repairs were completed, Everton enjoyed their highest attendance ever with 78,299 watching the club take on Liverpool in Division One on 18 September 1948.
Everton and the ground continued to make huge advancements by introducing floodlights in October 1957, they were first turned on during a friendly between Everton and Liverpool. A year later, the club made history again by spending £16,000 installing 20 miles of electric wire underneath the pitch. The system melted frost and ice from the pitch, making it the first stadium to have effective under soil heating. The system worked so efficiently that the drains could not handle the extra quantities of water, so in 1960 the pitch was dug up and new drainage pipes were laid.
Everton’s good fortune continued and in the 1960s, like the 1930s, the team won the Championship twice and the FA Cup once. During the 1966 World Cup, Goodison Park staged five games, including the memorable quarter final between North Korea and Portugal and the semi-final between West Germany and the Soviet Union. No other English venue apart from Wembley hosted as many World Cup games.
In 1971, a huge three-tiered Main Stand was built in place of the original 1909 double-decker. The old stand had cost £28,000, which was considered an immense amount of money. However, the new stand cost a staggering £1 million and was nearly twice the size. It was the largest stand in Britain until 1974 when Chelsea opened their mammoth East Stand.
However, following the Safety of Sports Ground Act that came into effect in 1977, Goodison’s capacity was greatly reduced from 56,000 to 35,000 due to the entrances and exits being outdated. As a consequence, Everton had to part with £250,000 in order to boost capacity back up to 52,800. The 1986 figure stood at 53,419, of which 24,419 were seated.
In the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster and the Taylor Report, Everton made important steps to convert Goodison into an all-seater stadium. The last time spectators stood on the terrace was on 19th January at the FA Cup 3rd Round replay against Bolton.
The completion of the Park End brought Goodison Park’s capacity up to 40,100, a figure exceeded at the time by only the projected capacities of Old Trafford and Anfield.
Since then and during the Premier League years, there have only been superficial changes to Goodison Park. This is mainly due to the club focusing on moving to a new permanent home. In the last fifteen years, Everton have been actively pursuing a move to a new stadium. Plans were first made at Kings Dock and later in the Kirby area, but both times the plans fell through.
Today, Everton have embarked on a pursuit of a new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock but plans are still in their early stages. The club are still attempting to secure a funding model with Liverpool City Council which is proving very difficult.
What do you think of the proposed move and building of a new Everton FC stadium? Would you prefer to see Everton stay at Goodison? Let us know your thoughts in the comments on Facebook!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to some of the fascinating history surrounding Goodison Park. When the Dixie Dean Hotel opens, Everton Football Club history is to be showcased in our breathtaking luxurious hotel in the heart of Liverpool. The Dixie Dean Hotel will celebrate the Toffees with opulent rooms, a bar and restaurant and events space, featuring exclusive memorabilia kindly donated by the Dean family.
We can’t wait to open our amazing hotel and continue this important history in Liverpool. If you’d like to stay up to date with progress, follow our Facebook and Twitter pages. If you’d like to build on your knowledge of Everton FC, why not check out our blog page.
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