Football historian Peter Lupson sheds light on 1892 Liverpool and Everton rent row

12 November 2009 12:00
Peter Lupson

IT'S the most famous rent row in football history.

Except football historian Peter Lupson has now shed new light on the 1892 argument which saw Liverpool Football Club emerge from a split with Everton.

And living up to Liverpool stereotype, it was a row over a drink - or rather attitudes to the demon drink - which caused the seismic shift.

Even fans with barely a passing acquaintance of the history of this city's two soccer giants know that Everton came first, until a row over rent at their Anfield home led to the formation of Liverpool.

Lupson, author of the best-selling Across The Park and Thank God For Football, has spent months researching, studying and meticulously chronicling the background and the history of the events of 1891 and 1892.

And he delivered his findings at a packed Hornby Room in Liverpool's Central Library yesterday.

For 127 years it has been accepted that rent, pure and simple, was at the heart of the acrimonious row.

Everton were the tenants of Anfield, and John Houlding wanted to increase the rent on the stadium he owned.

Leading committee members, led by George Mahon, disagreed - and the situation escalated to the point of irretrievable breakdown.

The whole row, however, was infinitely more complex - and at the heart was alcohol and politics, always an explosive mix.

On one side was John Houlding, a Tory and a wealthy brewer - and his only ally on the board, Edwin Berry, a solicitor to the Licensed Victualler's Association.

Ranged against him were a selection of some of the most zealous moral puritans of the day.

George Mahon was the organist of St Domingo's Church and a member of the Liberal Party which, despite the name, was the party of moral purity in the austere Victorian age.

Rev Ben Chambers, loosely described as the founder of Everton, was a prominent member of the Temperance Movement and once took a pub to court in Stoke for breaking a licencing law.

Dr Clement Baxter was a committed and much loved city doctor who regularly witnessed first hand the appalling affects of drink on his patients - and a Liberal councillor to boot.

Will Cuff was a choirmaster at St Domingo's, a strong and committed Christian who once declared that: 'Football is the greatest teetotal agency in the world.'

There was William Whitford - an active temperance campaigner who went around talking about the 'iniquitous influence of brewers' at a time when Houlding still owned his club!

And William Clayton, a committee member who used to give regular temperance talks to a Formby church.

Houlding never stood a chance.

'The Temperance Movement was at its height in the 1880s,' explained Lupson. 'There is no doubt that had Houlding been a butcher or a baker, he would have had no problems.

'But he was a brewer.

'And at the time the association with drink was something that people of high moral standards were strongly opposed to.'

Source: Liverpool_Echo