Symbols are important. They convey meanings far greater than just the shape or image, and when a symbol is itself made up of other symbols the complexity is multiplied. Symbols work on different levels and their impact is often about feeling rather than thought. Cynics laugh at players kissing the badge when they score, but they miss the point; the badge is the club in that moment.
When such symbols are altered the impact can be very negative. Everton found this out to their considerable cost when they altered the club crest at the end of the 2012-13 season. A rapid redesign resulted in the badge we have today; wisely it incorporated all of the elements which had been included in previous versions. It bears a close resemblance to the original design, but this is not quite as traditional as you might think. I was surprised to find that the crest we know today was created at the time of 60th anniversary of the founding of the club in 1938/39, although I was dimly aware that it hadn’t appeared on the shirt until 1978, for the 100th anniversary.
The design of the badge is attributed to Theo Kelly, Everton’s first manager in the modern sense, and first appeared on a club tie. He chose the symbols, but one element was already chosen, and that was the name.
The current and original badge designs (Everton FC)
The Name Everton
In November 1879 a group of young men met in the Queen’s Head on Village St in Everton. They were members of a football team formed the previous year from the congregation of St Domingo Methodist Chapel on
Netherfield Road Breckfield Road, the motive behind the creation of the team appears to have been to keep the chapel cricketers out of mischief during the winter months. Running the meeting was John Clarke, not the pub’s landlord as most histories maintain, but his son, John W Clarke. John was a schoolmaster and if he took the meeting notes he would have recorded that the meeting decided to change the team name to ‘Everton’.
It was a name whose earliest surviving written record was 785 years before, in a 1094 royal financial return called a pipe roll. The spelling was ‘Evretona’ and it was written on sheepskin parchment which was then tightly rolled so that it resembled a pipe. It had been mentioned by implication eight years earlier in the Domesday book entry for what is now West Derby as one of that manor’s outlying estates. The Domesday book was a unique land ownership survey carried out in 1086 on the orders of William the Conqueror so he could see what he had conquered twenty years before . The book details who owned the land, and also records who had held it in 1066 under the last but one Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor.
The area from the Mersey to the Ribble including Everton, together with all the people, were the property of a Norman Frenchman, Roger de Poitou; third son of Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury and Arundel, one of William the Conqueror’s inner circle . The family were granted huge land holdings as a reward for their support to go with their lands in Normandy, and Roger de Poitou probably built the motte and bailey castle at West Derby to help secure his vast territories in the North West.
The Domesday entry for West Derby as Derbei naming Roger (opendomesday.org)
The name Evretona that the scribe wrote on the pipe roll parchment in 1094 was probably old when he heard it and its origins probably went back hundreds of years into the Dark Ages, a term which reflects how little written evidence is available. Traditionally historians have used place names like Everton to theorise about Dark Age history, sometimes with contradictory results.
What’s In A Name?
A lot is the answer. We are fortunate in having the Domesday Book snapshot of late Anglo-Saxon England and its place names; as a consequence toponomy, the study of those place names has been done in great detail. Even road and field names have been analysed to find their original roots, and linguistic changes mapped back to the way the names might have been pronounced. But rigorous and thorough though this work usually is it still leaves much that is open to interpretation.
The principles of place name analysis are relatively simple; most names can be split into the bit at the front and the bit at the end, and the bit at the end tells you what kind of place it was and what language the people who chose the name spoke. The Anglo-Saxons left names ending in ton, ham and ing. Ton and ham mean settlement, and most probably started out as just a farmstead. Ing when it appears probably comes from ingas; which meant people of, tribe, or clan. Other Anglo-Saxon place name endings tell us something about the original environment. Names ending with hurst mean wooded hill, which has the same origin as the German word horst. Names ending in ley are likely to have started out as woodland clearings, although it later came to mean meadow. Endings with Mere suggest a lake or a marsh, while pool is a tidal pool or harbour, and ford describes the importance of river crossings when few bridges existed.
But there are a whole set of name endings which are of Scandinavian origin, especially ending with by; this is the Norse equivalent of the Anglo Saxon ton and ham. Just as with Anglo-Saxon other endings describe the landscape of the place; meols for example means sandhills, although it stated out as melr. Howe and gate are also of Norse origin, meaning hill and road respectively, and carr is the Norse equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon mere, being a marsh or wetland
The first part of most place names qualifies the second part, and derives from the people who originally lived there, or some characteristic that differentiated it from other settlements. The Anglo-Saxon ing names are often thought to derive from the personal name of the tribal chieftain. For example Warrington was thought to be the village of Waera’s people. It was suggested that these ing names were traces of early settlers, arriving as separate tribes before the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms developed and the people dropped the tribal ing element. A theory of the spread of the Anglo-Saxons was developed on the basis of this, but closer inspection of individual names didn’t always support it. It is now thought that Warrington is most likely to mean the settlement of the people who live by the weir.
Interspersed with the Saxon and Norse names are occasional survivals from the Celtic Britons and even the Romans. Names ending in chester or caster like Chester, Manchester, Ribchester or Lancaster are survivals of the Latin castra meaning fort. However the Latin comes via the Anglo-Saxon borrowing of the word; the Romans called Chester Deva Victrix and Manchester Mamcumium. Some names ending in wich are Saxon versions of the Latin vicus, meaning settlement, as in Norwich or Ipswich. Other examples of a name transferring from one language to another are the various rivers called Avon; this is from the old Welsh afon and river Avon is actually river river, although the word river is a later French borrowing. The Anglo-Saxons used the word ea, which comes to us as Mersey, which probably means boundary river, as it separated the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria. The most extreme example of this may be a piece of high ground in the Lake District called Torpenhow hill; this translates as hill, hill, hill, hill, being a combination of the Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and modern words, however serious toponomists are unconvinced.
Everton looks like a Saxon tun name, suggesting it was originally a farmstead on what is now Everton Brow. The Ever prefix is thought to come from eofor, which is what the Anglo-Saxons called a wild boar. The wild boar (sus scrofa to give it its proper Latin name) is the ancestor of the domestic pig, but the two groups diverged thousands of years ago. The Anglo-Saxon name for the domestic pig was swin, the origin of the word swine, so if the farmstead on the brow had been notable for pigs the name would probably have come down to us as Swinton.
A Wild Boar in an Austrian Nature Reserve (Valentin Panzirch – Wikipedia Wild Boar article)
The presence of wild boar suggests that the area was wooded but beyond that we can infer little more. However the wild boar was more than just a forest animal in the vicinity of the early Everton. It had symbolic significance for many of Dark Age cultures, and even further back, deep into prehistory. It is represented in Stone Age cave paintings and the Celtic tribes of Britain in particular revered the wild boar, with the animal appearing often on their characteristic war trumpet, the carnyx.
A reconstruction of a stylised boar on a Celtic Carnyx (Elliot Sadourny – Wikipedia Carnyx article)
The boar was also a symbol for at least three Roman legions, including the 20th Valeria Victrix, which was part of the Emperor Claudius’ invasion force that landed in Celtic Britain in 43 AD. It was based at Chester for over two centuries and gave the Victrix part of its name to the Roman name for the city. The Anglo-Saxons also revered the animal, it is thought because it is shy and peaceable until cornered, when it becomes ferocious and apparently impervious to fear or pain. There are many surviving artefacts from the era with stylised boars on them, including the famous Sutton Hoo helmet, found in Suffolk (the territory of the south folk) in East Anglia (the land of the east Angli). The face guard is in the form of an eagle whose wings turn into the heads of wild boar.
There are three other villages in England called Everton, in Bedfordshire, Nottinghamshire and Hampshire. The first two are thought to have the same wild boar name origin as Everton on Merseyside, however the Nottinghamshire village claims Norse foundation interestingly. By contrast the Hampshire Everton is an example of how the same name can have a completely different origin; it is thought to have started out as something like Yeovilton and gradually changed to Everton. Even the accepted origin of ‘our’ Everton has not gone unchallenged. In 1201, 105 years after the first record of Everton as Evretona it makes a second appearance in an official document early in the reign of King John. The word can be read as either Everton or Eureton as the letter ‘v’ is often interchangeable with ‘u’ in written documents. This has been interpreted in one 19th century history as something like ‘Higher settlement’, this version dismisses the wild boar interpretation as romanticised. The Saxon for higher is ‘hierra’ and the Anglian version is ‘hera’ so Hierratun or Heratun is plausible at a stretch, but the great Swedish writer on English place names, Eliert Ekwall went for Eofortun and this is accepted by most historians.
A Roman era roof tile found by the River Dee between Holt and Farndon south of Chester bearing the wild boar symbol of the 20th Legion, now in the British Museum (agtigress – Wikipedia)
Meet the Neighbours
In the Dark Ages the landscape visible from what is now Everton Brow would be dominated by wood and water. The river Mersey would be much wider than it is today and to the east it is likely that thick forest covered much of the area. The streams and rivers that drained the higher ground that stretches from Walton to Woolton are now invisible and flow in the city’s drainage system. Back then even small streams would have created a barrier to movement especially in the winter. Across the river what is now the Birkenhead Docks would have been an inlet, Wallasey and New Brighton would be an island and much of the end of the Wirral beyond would be marshland behind a line of dunes. Similarly the area to the north of the ridge would be an even larger area of marshland stretching from what is now Aintree all the way up towards Preston; the Martin Mere Wetland Reserve is a survival of a huge lake in the north of the area which is believed to have been the largest area of fresh water in Britain. Smaller depressions in the landscape are likely to have been boggy, often with the name mere associated, as in Mere Green, the original name for the area around Goodison Park. The forested areas are likely to have been dense and impenetrable unlike today’s managed woodlands, and would have created another barrier to movement. And apart from the wild boar the woods would harbour wolves and possibly even bear. The European bear died out in England around 1000AD and wolves would continue to roam in remote areas until second half of the 17th century.
That there may be more than one interpretation of a name applies to these other settlements in the area. The name Walton, two miles north of Everton could derive from Wald tun, which means forest settlement or farmstead, which would fit in with the presence of wild boar, but is thought to be Wealas tun. Wealas is the origin of the words Wales and Welsh, and is an Anglo-Saxon word that meant foreigner or stranger. Walton is a common place name and most follow this interpretation. Two other strands of evidence seem to back this up. First there is the shape of Walton churchyard; old British settlements often had circular enclosures which may have had religious significance. The early Celtic church often built on these enclosures to create continuity of worship even though the deities had changed. Walton church stands in a circular churchyard which today makes County Road deviate around it. The second strand of evidence is just across the river. Wallasey is taken to be another Anglo-Saxon name with wealas forming part of it. This time it is island of the foreigners, Wealas eg; for Wallasey was surrounded by the water that now forms the float docks, and marshland between there and the sea to the north. There is believed to be a survival from the old Welsh in the name Liscard- Llys carreg - which means the hall at the rock. It is similar to the old Cornish name Liskeard; but you won’t be surprised that there is an alternative theory about this too.
However nine miles from Wealas eg and Wealas tun is an example of how pronunciation is such a minefield in place name studies. Willaston in south Wirral would seem to be another Wealas tun. But it’s not; it could come from the same Anglo-Saxon root as the word Wirral, which comes from the Saxon wir which describes the bog myrtle plant which grew in abundance on much of the peninsula. It still does in the coastal nature reserves around Formby. But this wouldn’t be toponomy if there wasn’t an alternative: it could derive from Wiglaf’s farm; but either way the pronunciation has changed over the centuries, like stones on the seashore, place names have their edges rounded off over time.
Looking from Everton Brow close to the village towards the island of the foreigners (author’s collection)
To the immediate north of Everton is Kirkdale, originally Kirkjrdalr. Dale meant valley in both the Anglo-Saxon and Norse languages, but the use of kirk rather than church suggests that this is Norse for church valley. Similarly two and a half miles east of Everton is West Derby, another Norse name,with the by ending. The west prefix was added much later, and the origin of the Der prefix is probably the Norse dyr, which originally meant wild animal. The Anglo-Saxon word is similar, being deor, and the words would come in time to mean deer as we know it today. By the time the place was recorded in the Domesday book in 1086 (as Derbei) it was the centre for a Saxon administrative area called a hundred, which covered 43 villages and stretched from close to Preston down to Warrington and as far east as the edge of modern Greater Manchester. It may have inherited this status from a similar Norse administrative area called a wapentake. It is recorded in Domesday as being a royal hunting estate in 1066 and had a large area of forest, which probably stretched to Everton. Derbei would become the manor associated with the Earldom of Derby after the conquest, and not the county town of Derbyshire as many assume.
To the south of Everton, past the muddy pool (lifer pol) where the stream that drained the ridge flowed into the river is Toxteth, which derives from either Toki’s staith or possibly just Toki’s place This is a Norse name and the word staith means a landing jetty; it’s still used in the North East in connection with loading coal. Beyond that along the ridge is Allerton, which started as Alortūn, the farmstead with the alder trees and Woolton, Wulfa’s settlement , on the highest point of the ridge. Both are Anglo-Saxon in origin, although Garston down by the river is not a tun name but comes from the Anglo-Saxon for great stone. It may have been one of a series of names on Merseyside which started out as landmarks, maybe marking boundaries between territories. To the north Aintree, lone or lonely tree in Anglo-Saxon may be of a similar origin, although inevitably it has been claimed to be Norse.
Across the river from Everton the landscape may have looked the same and there is a similar distribution of place names, but with a higher density. Oxton and Prenton are Anglo-Saxon while Tranmere is Norse, translating as crane or heron bank. Oxton is usually given as ox farmstead, but it has also been suggested that it is ridge farmstead, yet another alternative meaning. Just visible further down the river is Brunanburh, a fort named for a Saxon called Bruna, now called Bromborough, although it may be dark fort, with the brun bit meaning dark, or brown. Anglo-Saxon names predominate in the south of the peninsula, while Norse ‘by’ names dominate the north end. Raby is thought to be border village, which has a twin across the Mersey in Roby next to Huyton, and the villages of Irby and Frankby are thought to be settlement of the Irish and settlement of the Franks, the original tribe that founded what we now know as France.
This could all be evidence for the idea of the Norse refugees from Dublin settling on Wirral. In the 8th and 9th centuries the Norse established an empire all around Scotland and the Irish Sea coasts based on islands and coastal strongholds. Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles of Scotland and the Isle of Man were Norse strongholds and Irish towns like Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Wexford and especially Dublin (which translates as Blackpool incidentally) became trading ports. The end of the Wirral and the coast of Merseyside would have been part of this, with trading links to Europe and the Middle East; Dublin in particular was a hub for Norse slave trading. When the Norse were temporarily driven from Dublin at the beginning of the 10th century some of the refugees crossed the Irish Sea, bringing Celtic Irish speakers and even Frankish traders with them if the names are to be believed. The alternative explanation for Wallasey is also part of this, with the foreigners being the Celtic Irish rather than Celtic Britons. Uniquely in England it is just possible to see the origins of a kind of democracy in the name Thingwall, from the Old Norse þing vollr which translates as meeting field. The Isle of Man parliament, the Tynwald is from the same root.
There appears to be a similar process going on across the river with the coastal settlements of Crosby, Formby and Birkdale and a mix of Norse and Anglo-Saxon places along what is now the valley of the little river Alt. Like the Wirral there was a meeting field, Thingwall in Knotty Ash close to the main settlement at West Derby. Kirkby and Croxteth are also Norse, with the latter suggesting that it was a landing place, like Toxteth. Huyton also means landing place but in Anglo-Saxon, and Roby, like its Wirral namesake is a Norse border settlement. Fazakerley is Saxon and suggests a border too, being derived from the hem or border of a garment. This suggests that travel by water was possible far into what is now dry land and would suggest that, like Wirral, Anglo-Saxons, Britons and the Norse lived close to each other.
This seems to conflict with the traditional view of the Dark Ages which was for successive waves of invaders to kill or displace the existing settlers; what seems to be happening is more complex. Unfortunately place names alone cannot fully explain what that process was, for while they create a geographical pattern they cannot create a timeline. For that evidence has to come from other sources, most notably archaeology, although recently a whole new area of study has opened up which involves the inside of your cheek. We need to dig deeper into this to try to find the origins of the wild boar village (dig into the archaeology that is, not your cheek). It involves going back possibly 500 years from 1094, But that’s a story for another day. For the next instalment on the symbolism of Everton’s badge we must jump forward 550 years, to a few weeks when the village of Everton was briefly at the centre of British history.
As I was starting to research the wild boar angle and the importance of the animal as a symbol, I was following the gripping story of the rescue of the football team trapped in the flooded cave system in Thailand. Coincidentally the team name is the Wild Boars; it’s an indication that the animal still has symbolic significance in the 21st century just as it did over a thousand years ago. So maybe it’s fitting that I’m finishing it on the day the Wild Boars watched the team named after the wild boar village at Old Trafford.
Dedication and Acknowledgments
This article is dedicated to Dr David France, Everton’s No. 1 fan; his devotion is so well known that he is often referred to as Dr Everton. His encouragement and guidance when I began to write about Everton’s history was so important to me.
Thanks go to Ken Rogers, former head of sport at the Liverpool Echo and historian of both Everton the district and Everton the club, whose wisdom and dedication to the facts have corrected some oft repeated errors. Thanks also to Billy Smith, the doyen of Everton FC researchers for encyclopaedic knowledge of the club and its origins. Mike Royden has also been of huge help with his wide ranging knowledge of pretty well everything to do with the history of Merseyside.