John Ripsher

"Jottings" - spotted by volunteers as they visit the cemeteries (Index). 


John Ripsher"This man founded one of the biggest football clubs in the country and yet until now there hasn't been so much as a a headstone to mark his grave." - Paul Verril. 

Tottenham Hotspur owes its foundation to a group of lads from Tottenham who, in August 1882, decided to form a football club. They named it "Hotspur" after the historical figure Sir Henry Percy, known as Harry Hotspur for his valour and vigour in battle.

In their first season the new club played friendlies; in the second season, prey to bullying from older lads and without firm leadership, they asked John Ripsher, known to many of them as the Bible Class teacher from the nearby All Hallows Church, for his help. He was elected president and treasurer, found them an HQ and changing rooms, and supported them with equipment. They won their first match of the new season by nine goals to nil. So successful were they that by the end of the season they were able to produce a reserve as well as a first team of players.

John Ripsher was to encourage them as president for eleven years, and then as patron. In 1895 the club turned professional, and by 1898 they were a limited company. The club was renowned for its good spirit and its fair play and sportsmanship, attributed to his leadership.

But while Tottenham Hotspur prospered, John Ripsher's fortunes declined. Moving to Dover to live with his sister and her husband William, proprietor of the Diamond Hotel, Heathfield Avenue, John Ripsher ended his days in the Union Workhouse. Blind, suffering from severe heart problems and ill health, he died on 24th September 1907, aged 67, and was buried in a pauper's grave at St Mary's cemetery, Dover. There he lay forgotten.

Exactly a century after his death, the Tottenham Tribute Trust raised a headstone on his grave, rediscovered by Peter Lupson.  His book, "Thank God for Football", distributed by SPCK, reveals how twelve of our big clubs owe their origins to Christianity.

  group at cemetery

Councillor Bob Markham, Mayor of Dover, welcomed everyone to the ceremony

"It was a very moving occasion", said Peter Lupson.

"It's a fascinating story, both poetic and sad", said Paul Barber, Executive Director of Tottenham Hotspur.

Bob Markham

Peter Lupson

P Barber

"John Ripsher faced problems familiar today; he was trying to get youngsters off the streets and give them a sense of purpose ....We in Dover are proud to adopt John Ripsher. We will make sure he is never forgotten again."

He related the story of John Ripsher's life, and recalled how the lads had been twice dismissed from premises for high-spirited behaviour. But John Ripsher "stood by those boys, who had continually let him down. If had not, there would be no club today."   

"There is huge respect for what John did in those early years - not just founding the club but keeping it going ....We are delighted that the man who is known as our real father and founder has been found, and we can honour him."


The service was conducted by the Rev Colin Johnson, from SS Peter and Paul, Charlton. He wore a blue stole in honour of John Ripsher and the club he founded.

C  Johnson

"We thank God for John Ripsher, and his faith and vision."


P Ripsher

S Ripsher

P Verril

A Porter

Amongst the other guests of honour were (left to right) Paul Ripsher and his father Steve, who thanked everyone on behalf of the family, Paul Verrill, town councillor and organiser, and Andy Porter, of the Tottenham Tribute Trust
reporter media crowd photographer
The event attracted enormous interest, and was reported by local and national media



"I was immensely proud that my research led at long last to this humble man getting the credit and recognition that he deserved." - Peter Lupson

"Looking at this proud new headstone gives us all a feeling that John Ripsher is back among us." - Paul Barber

I hope that the placing of this stone will remind us that without a past we have no future." - Bob Markham


The headstone reads: "In memory of John Ripsher, First President of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, 1883-1894, died Dover 24 September 1907, aged 67. Audere est Facere"

Post Script

Tottenham Hotspur is known for being the club which played the first black professional outfield football player, who  later became the first black combat officer in the British army. His father was a descendent of slaves from Barbados, his mother a Dovorian. His name was Walter Tull. 

two super people, Stephen and Graham

Welcomed at the ceremony were descendants of Walter Tull's family. Here are Stephen Coombes (first cousin once removed) and Graham Humphrey (great-great nephew) ..... meeting for the very first time. 

all pictures by Simon John Chambers

Copyright 2008 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved