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Footballer Kenny Davenport

Thanks to one of our readers, we've discovered the first goal scorer of the Football League in the Deceased Online database

We were very excited to be contacted recently about James Kenyon Davenport, known as "Kenny", who lies buried at Heaton Cemetery in Gilnow Road, Bolton.

Davenport was born on 23 March 1862 in Bolton. After playing for his local club, Gilnow Rangers, he moved to Bolton Wanderers in 1883. He remained there for nine seasons, during which time professional football was legalised in 1885. In order to professionalize the game further, the Football League was inaugurated with five fixtures on 8 September 1888.

The League differed from today's Premiership with only twelve teams, but some of today's top teams, Aston Villa, Everton, Stoke and West Bromwich Albion, were all present. The others were Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Notts County, Preston North End and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It was while playing for Bolton in one the five inaugural games on 8 September 1888 that, at 3.47pm, 26 year old Kenny Davenport scored his historic goal before a crowd of 3,000. Despite soon scoring a second goal, Davenport could not prevent Bolton from going on to lose the match to Derby County by three goals to six.

James Kenyon Davenport (picture: BBC Sport online)
  On 14 March 1885, Kenny played his first match for England, who drew one-all against Wales. In his next international match, on 15 March 1890, he scored two of the winning nine goals against Ireland.

Victorian professional footballers could only dream of earning the kinds of sums their counterparts receive today. Despite his unique achievements and two caps for England, by 1891, Davenport was supplementing his weekend football playing by working as a brewer's labourer. In 1901 he was living at 16 Partridge Street in Bolton and was employed as a beer seller.

Kenny Davenport died seven years later at the relatively young age of 46 and is buried in a family plot in Heaton Cemetery with his wife, Emma, daughter, Amy Aspden, son-in-law, James Edwin Stallard, daughter-in-law, Ellen, and two grandchildren.

Entry for James Kenyon Davenport, Beerseller, in the burial register of Heaton Cemetery
On his burial record, England's first Football League goal-scorer is described simply as "Beerseller". It is possible that he died completely unaware of the mark he had made on footballing history.

Bolton Wanderers currently lie in 18th place in the Championship league a few places behind big local rivals Wigan and Blackburn. Looks like they could do with Davenport's scoring prowess!

1901 Census Class: RG13; Piece: 3629; Folio: 17; Page: 30
The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Monday, September 10, 1888; pg. 6; Issue 10614. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part 

We are very grateful to all our readers who notify us of interesting findings in the Deceased Online database. If you have come across anyone who you think deserves to be highlighted, do let us know - either in the comments box below, or via or Facebook or Twitter pages.

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