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The Origins of Everton FC’s nickname ‘The Toffees’

The Blues, The Toffees, Evertonians – Everton FC fans have collected a variety of nicknames over the years. From the club’s founding as St Domingo’s FC, right up to the modern inclination to label them the Blues, the monikers they’ve played under since 1878 are as wide-ranging as they are famous.

But where does the traditional nickname of ‘The Toffees’ come from? Rumours abound about the origins of the sweet-toothed name but the principal tale behind Everton FC fans are known as ‘Toffeemen’ might surprise you. We’ve delved into the rich history of the club to find out why the Blues are so closely related to sugar, spice and all things nice…

The Two Toffee Shops

Not surprisingly, the origin of the nickname ‘the Toffees’ is linked to Everton FC’s association with local toffee shops. The area of Everton has seen a number of toffee shops grace its streets since as far back as the 1700s, but the two most famous are those linked to the football club: Ye Anciente Everton Toffee House and Mother Noblett’s Toffee Shop.

Both located at key locations in the club’s long history, the toffee shops served fans of EFC with sweet treats and match-day delights while watching the Blues play.

Despite their shared fan base, however, the two shops were in competition. And it’s thanks to that rivalry that the most popular Blues nickname was coined: the imaginative marketing strategies dreamed up by the shops helped cement the name ‘the Toffees’ into the footballing zeitgeist and ensure that Everton fans would forever more be known by their quirky epithet.

Ye Ancient Everton Toffee House

Located just a stone’s throw away from the Queen’s Head Hotel in Village Street, where St Domingo’s Football Club was renamed Everton Football Club in November 1879, Ye Ancient Everton Toffee House was a sweet shop run by Old Ma Bushell. Famous for her Everton Toffees, in the early years of the club, Old Ma Bushell became a must-visit stop-off for hungry fans making their way to watch the Everton matches firstly at Stanley Park, then Priory Road and even as they made their way to Anfield (which was Everton’s ground before it became Liverpool FC’s).

Mother Noblett’s Toffee Shop

Meanwhile, another Toffee Shop (owned by Mother Noblett) opened near Goodison Park and gained increasing popularity after Everton moved from Anfield in 1892 to the now famous blues’ stadium. Hoping to snatch custom from her rival Old Ma Bushell, Mother Noblett invented Everton Mints.

everton toffees
Nobletts continued to serve Liverpool up until the 20th century. This photos shows a Nobletts Store on London Road in 1956. Source: LIVERPOOL HISTORY BACK IN THE DAY Facebook page

Toffees or Mints?

Despite the similarities in origin, the two sweets sold by the rival toffee shops were remarkably different. Mother Noblett’s Everton Mints had a toffee centre, with a hard sugar shell that was striped black and white. The colours were apparently meant to reflect an old strip worn by Everton FC, making the mints popular amongst fans.

In contrast, Old Ma Bushell’s Everton Toffees were traditional English toffees, made from boiling raw sugar with water before adding butter and essence of lemon. Some old recipes suggest that ginger was also added to create an unusual flavor to the sweets, while in A Treatise on the Art of Boiling Sugar (1865), Henry Weatherley argues that the “old process of making it”, adding butter with the sugar, “spoils the flavour” but remained traditional.

Old Ma Bushell isn’t credited with inventing Everton Toffee’s – that accolade lies with Molly Bushell. The famous lady invented the sweet back in the 1760s from a house on Everton Brow.

everton toffees
The supposed ‘original’ toffee shop in Everton, owned by Molly Bushell. Source: LIVERPOOL HISTORY BACK IN THE DAY facebook page.

The Tradition of the Everton Toffee Lady

In the race to earn business from busy match days, the two toffee shops were forced to think up imaginative marketing ideas to advertise their famous sweet treats. And Old Ma Bushell (of Everton Toffees fame) struck gold.

The introduction of the Everton Mints by Mother Noblett saw a quick decline in popularity of Old Ma Bushell’s toffees – Old ma Bushell realised she had to act fast to regain custom.

everton toffees
An old photo of an Everton Toffee Lady. Source: LIVERPOOL HISTORY BACK IN THE DAY Facebook page

Aware that her devoted customers were stuck inside the Goodison grounds for most of the match days, Old Ma Bushell gained permission from the Club owners to distribute her Toffees to the crowds inside the grounds.

Enlisting the help of her beautiful grand-daughter Jemima Bushell , Old Ma Bushell ensured that Everton fans could enjoy the toffees pre-game by making the girl dress in her best finery (including a large bonnet) and offer waiting fans individually wrapped Everton Toffees from a basket, giving them a taste for the delicious treats.

And from this masterclass in interactive marketing, a tradition was born. The Everton Toffee Lady is still a visible sight at home games today, with a lucky teenage girl chosen from the Everton Supporter’s Club every game to perform the famous role.

And this time-honored, ceremonial event cemented the Evertonians as ‘Toffees’ or ‘Toffeemen’ in the footballing world. Just imagine if Mother Noblett had been more successful – we might have been cheering with other ‘Mints’ or ‘Minties’!

Just an Old Wives’ Tale?

Despite the riveting story above, some people have suggested that the tale of the Toffee Shops is a fabricated tale and that the famous Blues nickname comes from an even older name, ‘The Taffies’ which commemorates the club’s connections in history to Liverpool’s nearby neighbourhood country, Wales.

Whether true, or not, this fascinating tale of Toffee Shop rivalry adds to Everton FC’s rich and varied history – something we at The Dixie Dean Hotel can’t get enough of.

In 1925, Everton FC signed the legendary Dixie Dean who went on to score an incredible 60 leagues goals, helping the club win their third League title in 1929, another one in 1932 and even the FA Cup in 1933. The top goal-scoring of all time at the club, with 349 goals in 299 appearances, Dixie has gone down as one of Liverpool’s most treasured icons and a Blues footballing legend.

In celebration of the majestic Blues player, and the incredible history behind Everton FC, the luxurious Dixie Dean Hotel will celebrate all things Toffee with opulent rooms, luxurious amenities and a premium bar and restaurant and events space. Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy exclusive memorabilia from Dixie’s life both on and off the pitch, kindly donated by the Dean family.

If you’d like to stay up to date with the progress of the hotel (set to open April 2019), follow our Facebook and Twitter pages so you can stay in the loop.  Have you heard about our plans for the UK’s first Football Quarter? Read our blog on the latest images of our vision for Liverpool’s Victoria Street here.