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The Everton Collection

By Steve Williams :  01/01/2009 :  Comments (9) :

I write as a response to the many comments posted regarding Dr David France and ?The Everton Collection?. Much of what has been written (even some of the more supportive comments) has been unbalanced or worse still, factually incorrect. Hence my desire to bring a bit of focus and balance to the subject.

At the outset let me publicly recognise the terrific work that Dr David France has done over the years bringing together his private Collection.

As a Trustee of The Everton Collection Charitable Trust, I feel it is only right to correct some of the (many) misconceptions that fans have about the Collection. For the avoidance of doubt, the Trust is a registered charity totally independent from Everton Football Club but we must not lose sight of the fact that the Club is central to being an Evertonian. Therefore the ties between the Club, its fans and the Trust must remain strong.

It is true that the Trust purchased the David France Collection from Dr and Mrs France in December 2007 for a substantial sum. Lord Grantchester, Tony Tighe and myself worked long and hard on securing the Collection leading up to, and over Christmas 2007, for the benefit of all Evertonians both now and in the future. Let me be crystal clear; acquisition by the Trust was the ONLY way that the Collection would be kept intact to preserve our wonderful history for the benefit of all Evertonians everywhere.

Everton Football Club, and in particular those much maligned men, Bill Kenwright and Keith Wyness, fully recognised this and could not have been any more supportive. In addition to providing technical and commercial assistance, they readily agreed to GIFT (ie. at no cost to the Trust) Everton's own substantial and highly valuable archive of historical material to the Trust. This was a truly magnanimous gesture and one that deserves (belated) public recognition.

Having put the two Collections together, both ceased to exist independently and instead the super-Collection now known as 'The Everton Collection' was created. Therefore continued references to either the ?David France Collection? or the ?Everton Archives? are incorrect and misleading. Indeed since December 2007, the Trustees and in particular Lord Grantchester have worked tirelessly to seek out and acquire many wonderful further additions to ?The Everton Collection?. All of these fantastic items are not owned by any individuals but are instead held on Trust for the ongoing benefit of Evertonians everywhere.

In addition, a contract was agreed with the Liverpool Records Office for the archiving and preservation of ?The Everton Collection? for posterity. I?m sure you will understand that through age and neglect some of the items were in very poor condition and without the expertise of David Stoker, Max Dunbar and their colleagues at the LRO, they were in danger of being lost forever. This work is ongoing.

We are delighted with the professionalism shown by the LRO. Furthermore contracts are being negotiated for the digitisation of all aspects of the Collection in order to make the Collection available to all Evertonians via a specially constructed website. The sheer volume of items in the Collection and the painstaking care required to preserve these items means that it is likely to be a couple of years before this process is complete. The formation of the Trust has given Evertonians the confidence that the Club?s heritage is secured and safe for current and future generations.

I fully recognise that many Evertonians are unaware of these mammoth efforts going on behind the scenes (for their benefit) and the Trust?s PR in this respect has not been good enough. I also accept that, because of the void created by the lack of information after the initial acquisitions, a breeding ground for misinformation was created. On behalf of the Trustees, may I apologise for that.

Although it is no excuse, the Trustees have worked tirelessly in a totally voluntary (unpaid) capacity to secure the processes needed to preserve ?The Everton Collection? for the great Evertonian family for years to come, perhaps to the detriment of keeping you informed. We have learned our lessons and we will strive to keep you updated better in the future.

In order to fund the development of ?The Everton Collection? in terms of:

  • Preservation,
  • Digitisation,
  • Presentation to the public in forums such as Roadshows, displays and the internet, and
  • Securing further strategic additions
the Trustees will need your help and assistance. I?m sure you will understand that maintaining such a legacy for all Evertonians for the future will cost many hundreds of thousands of pounds and your help in fundraising will be priceless. Indeed, the many donations received and the support of Heritage week in 2007 is greatly appreciated.

Be in no doubt that, whilst Dr David France started the process when acquiring his private collection, it is only the work of the Trust that has and will continue to provide Evertonians with tangible evidence of our unrivalled heritage in the years to come.

So, I urge all Evertonians to unite and get behind the Trust with the sole purpose of enabling the Trustees to deliver genuine access for all to the world-class exhibits that we currently have and to those that we shall strive to acquire in the future.

I will endeavour to post updates as the project progresses.

Reader Comments

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Michael Kenrick
1   Posted 01/01/2009 at 18:05:19

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I?d like to personally thank you, Steve for all your work, and to say thanks for taking the time to write this piece. We will always make space available at ToffeeWeb for you, the Trust and LRO to make known any and all aspects of this important work.
Brian Waring
2   Posted 01/01/2009 at 19:09:53

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Total respect to the trust, Steve, for keeping the collection togethor and for all the hard work that must have been involved.

The problem I have is with Everton Football Club, I just can?t understand why the collection was never snapped up by the club as soon as it was being put up for sale. It sticks in my throat to say it, but I bet if it would have been the redshite, they would have snapped it up ASAP, and would have built a museum to house it, at Anfield.

Maybe BK didn?t think it was important enough, at the end of the day, it was only an insight into our history.

Denis Byrne
3   Posted 01/01/2009 at 19:17:54

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Phew! Many thanks Steve for this timely and reassuring update, myself and many others were becoming increasingly anxious and the apparant stagnation of the collection website and the absence of any readily available news seemed to support this ? but we need never have worried. The Everton family owe a great debt indeed to the good Doctor and to the guardians of the Trust.

I remember a request for services from supporters to help migrate the archives to digital format, or simply ?help?, and there were many of us who offered our time. Is this still a possibility, or is LRO the sole agency undertaking all tasks related to indexing and presenting the collection? It's just that I have been weak at the knees and am now wetting myself waiting to help and possibly hold some of the treasures? ... please put me out of my misery ... but are there any timescales for when the holy things will be available to view in the flesh?

Michael Kenrick
4   Posted 01/01/2009 at 20:49:28

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Brian, there is no doubt that the negotiations for the original collection were long drawn out and arduous for all concerned. My personal view is that the Club was always going to have a MAJOR problem paying what turned out to be vast amounts of money for what are arguably the treasures of the collection in my eyes ? the Minute Books for the Everton Boardroom, an unbroken hand-written record spanning from 1886 to 1965.

These priceless documents (from a historical perspective) were THROWN OUT by someone at EFC ? tossed in a frickin dumpster! Incredibly, someone else saw their incomparable value and rescued them. More incredibly, Dr France found out about them, and even more incredibly, went on a single-minded quest to reunite them, at unbelievable expense.

The perception at the club was always going to be that Dr France was asking far too much, even though he had valuations from Christie?s and/or Sotheby?s showing that he was actually offering the club a huge break. There are always going to be those who have issues with parts of the story behind The Everton Collection, but it is probably one of those instances where you really do need to know the full story to appreciate it, and I?m not claiming that I do by any means...
Denis Byrne
5   Posted 01/01/2009 at 22:05:14

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Michael, an understandable outburst and many of us remain mystified (despite Steves acknowledgement of the recent support) by the club's lack of commitment to the collection since David France offered it to them for peanuts. Again, like you, not being party to all the facts, it appears the Trust was an afterthought created out of necessity by the apathy of EFC, and they should feel ashamed. But despite this angst, we should now look forward with great enthusiasm and joy unbridled, and while we are grateful for Steve's update, something more substantial would be most eagerly welcomed by the family.
Simon Paul
6   Posted 02/01/2009 at 00:16:51

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The one lingering thought that will stick with me about the Everton Collection was when it was offered to the club ? shortly after Wayne Rooney had been sold for £23m. Keith Wyness asked Evertonians how we thought it should be bought and paid for... I assume I wasn?t alone by suggesting some of the money from Master Rooney?s sale could be used.

However, I think it?s probably for the best that an independent entity bought the collection(s) and were responsible for its upkeep and display given the current transitional wishes of the Board and uncertainty over where the club will be in the next few years.

The fact that this collection has been kept together should be celebrated whoever did it though, and I for one can?t wait until it goes on display.
Tony I'Anson
7   Posted 02/01/2009 at 09:32:15

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I think once the digitisation of all memorabilia begins, then posting completed work on the website in various stages would encourage more donations over the proposed 2 years to complete.

Also, I would imagine that fans want to see various bits of the collection that they can remember and were present at, so by publishing an itemised schedule of when various bits of memorabilia would be on the website, and a cost to do each "bit" then this may provide more awareness and excitement about the Collection as well as donations.
Ian Buffey
8   Posted 02/01/2009 at 18:04:00

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The Trust is a superb medium for saving this legacy. The problem with memorabilia is where to store it and protect it. It is a relief that careful thought has gone into that. Thanks for the update Steve, I?m sure people will now better understand the complexities involved. The book is a treasure in itself, can?t wait to see an exhibition. We owe a debt of gratitude to all who worked on this.
Ken Finch
9   Posted 03/01/2009 at 00:21:13

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A Trust is a far more appropriate means of preserving the history of Everton FC than a Limited Company may be. If Everton FC had taken over control of the collections and then itself had been taken over without the precaution of a Trust being in place, there could have been the possibility of the whole thing being an asset of the company, which could have been sold on, accordingly thus creating the possibility of the loss of these artefacts to all True Blues and the rest of the public generally.

There is probably little doubt that the Club could have done more in the tangible sense of commiting finances more readily but I consider that the best outcome has occured from the approach taken. However, EFC, in its current form, should make it very clear that it will make a financial commitment to the Trustees to ensure that their work to preserve the collections does not become overburdensome.

To conclude, we should all recognise the work that Steve, Tony Tighe and Lord Granchester have put in to preserve these records together with the Liverpool Records Office and wish them every success for the future. Perhaps we should have an annual recognition of their efforts at one of our matches together with a collection to demonstrate our support to a tangilble aspect of our heritage.

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