The dis­cov­ery of 150-year-old doc­u­ments has shed new light on the con­nec­tion between New Ross and An­field, home of Liver­pool FC

Liver­pool’s fa­mous sta­dium has long been as­so­ci­ated with ‘An­nefield’ in New Ross. David Looby in­ves­ti­gates a new dis­cov­ery which could prove the con­nec­tion

Wexford People - - INSIDE -

NEWLY DIS­COV­ERED his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments could con­firm the widely held be­lief that the An­field home ground of top English soc­cer club Liver­pool FC was named af­ter an area called An­nefield in New Ross.

The doc­u­ments, which were found in a shed in Car­low, are more than 150 years old, and are ex­pected to shed new light on the con­nec­tions between New Ross ship­ping mag­nate Sa­muel Robert Graves and the city of Liver­pool.

Robert Graves served Mayor of Liver­pool and had his busi­ness of­fices di­rectly in front of what be­came An­field at a time when the Graves fam­ily had ac­quired An­nefield Lane and Ros­ber­con Cas­tle as their seat of power.

The doc­u­ments were handed over to for­mer Graves New Ross man­ager Peter McDon­ald fol­low­ing their dis­cov­ery, are cur­rently be­ing an­a­lysed at Water­ford In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, where they will be digi­tised.

Mr McDon­ald said they were given to him by Liam Mur­phy, who pre­vi­ously leased the Graves site for his build­ing providers busi­ness.

Mr McDon­ald said: ‘Robert Graves was a wealthy gen­tle­man and it’s easy enough to be­lieve that he gave a sport­ing club an area for a pitch.’

Mr McDon­ald said he took a per­sonal in­ter­est in the doc­u­ments – which in­clude letters from Robert – as he worked at Graves for many years.

‘ They were orig­i­nally stored in the old of­fice build­ing be­side the Block­house. They were left be­hind by the Graves di­rec­tors in cup­boards. Ev­ery­one knew about them but they were never to be touched. Liam gave me about 2,000 doc­u­ments to look af­ter. The pro­fes­sors at WIT couldn’t be­lieve their eyes when I handed them over as they are ex­tremely valu­able from a so­cial sci­ence point of view between Ire­land, Liver­pool and the Amer­i­cas as the Graves were the main ship­ping com­pany for over 100 years.’

The Graves fam­ily home in New Ross was in the town­land of An­nefield (Gort na hAb­hann – the River Field). An­nefield Lane ran just above Ros­ber­con Cas­tle.

Short­ened to An­field, it be­came the name for part of the city and to­day sur­vives most fa­mously as the name of the home of Liver­pool Foot­ball Club – An­field Sta­dium, one of the best known sports are­nas in the world. The im­mor­tal legacy the New Ross man be­queathed to Liver­pool is a source of great pride in New Ross to this day.

It seems fit­ting that one of the fans’ main an­thems is The Fields of An­field Road, sung to the tune of The Fields of Athenry.

Robert Graves was born on June 7, 1818, the son of Wil­liam Graves and his wife Sarah Elly, who hailed from a wealthy fam­ily who im­ported tim­bre and staves from Que­bec. His par­ents had both been ac­tive in the po­lit­i­cal life of New Ross, serv­ing on var­i­ous com­mit­tees. The fam­ily com­mis­sioned the build­ing of the Dun­brody ‘Famine’ ship.

Robert was the mid­dle child in a fam­ily of three sons. The fam­ily were to be at the fore­front of busi­ness life in the Bar­row­side town for over 100 years. The movers and shak­ers of the busi­ness world in their time, they had a thriv­ing Builders Providers and Sawmills at Block House Quay, New Ross, where Lidl is lo­cated to­day.

For some part of that time es­pe­cially be­fore and af­ter the Famine they were renowned as a firm of ship builders and ship­ping agents.

The Graves were pi­o­neer­ing busi­ness peo­ple and they man­u­fac­tured roof felts renowned for their dura­bil­ity.

Robert was ed­u­cated at a pri­vate school in New Ross. He mar­ried El­iz­a­beth Haughton, daugh­ter of Sa­muel Haughton of Bur­rin House, Car­low, in 1848.

Around this time he moved to Liver­pool to de­velop the fam­ily’s busi­ness in­ter­ests in the busy port city, open­ing of­fices in Oriel Street near the area which would be­come the An­field foot­ball grounds.

He took on the run­ning of the Graves ship­ping com­pany in that city and at its height it had 50 ships leav­ing Liver­pool’s docks bound for des­ti­na­tions across the globe.

Having been nar­rowly de­feated in Par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in 1857, Robert moved on and his po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tion found a per­fect home in Liver­pool which was boom­ing at the time. Liver­pool Mayor’s of­fice con­firmed that he was Lord Mayor of the city from 1860-1861, mak­ing his­tory as the first Ir­ish­man to hold the of­fice of mayor in an English city. He bought land in the city, call­ing it An­nefield Farm.

In his ca­pac­ity as mayor, it was he who put through a pro­posal to de­velop grounds on the out­skirts of the city which would be­come the home of Liver­pool Foot­ball Club. He then sanc­tioned a pro­posal to build a road­way up to the new grounds, and named it An­nefield Lane. The name was ab­bre­vi­ated over the years and the fa­mous ground of the renowned Liver­pool Foot­ball Club is now just known as An­field.

Robert held many im­por­tant po­si­tions and di­rec­tor­ships in Liver­pool. He was chair­man of Liver­pool Shipown­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion and was elected to Liver­pool City Coun­cil and was a mem­ber of Mersey Docks and Har­bour Board in 1858.

He was also a mem­ber of the Royal Com­mis­sion to in­quire into the man­age­ment of lights, buoys and bea­cons and was com­modore of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club and au­thor of Na­tional Dan­gers and A Cruise in the Baltic.

He was re­put­edly a per­sonal friend of Queen Vic­to­ria and en­ter­tained her son the Prince of Wales. He was also ac­tive in Liver­pool Cham­ber of Com­merce.

In the 1865 gen­eral elec­tion Robert was elected Lib­eral Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Liver­pool and he held the seat un­til his death in 1873, aged 54.

Queen Vic­to­ria sent a let­ter of con­do­lence to his wife on his death and the peo­ple of Liver­pool erected a mon­u­ment in his mem­ory.

The Graves fam­ily went on to de­velop their busi­ness in­ter­est in Amer­ica and around the world. Lo­cally they be­came steel fab­ri­ca­tors and builders providers for farm­ers and in­dus­trial busi­nesses, and Graves signs can still be seen in farm­yards through­out the coun­try to­day.

The fam­ily con­nec­tion to the busi­ness died out in 1917 but it con­tin­ued un­der dif­fer­ent own­ers un­til the early 1980s.

There is a long-held be­lief in New Ross that the town should be twinned with Liver­pool based on the Graves and An­field con­nec­tion and the fact that Liver­pool ships stopped in New Ross on their way to Amer­ica through­out the 1800s.

LEFT: Robert Graves, who served as Mayor of Liver­pool. ABOVE: An­field Sta­dium in Liver­pool packed with fans.

An­nefield Lane in New Ross.

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