The John Hulley Memorial Fund

New Website for John Hulley - British Olympic Founder

I have published a new website at which tells the up-to-date story of the results of the John Hulley Memorial Fund. In the section entitled Rededication of Hulley's grave is shown a full account of the ceremony held on Sunday 14 June 2009 at the Smithdown Road cemetery in Liverpool by the Revd. Graham Murphy BA  Dip.Post.Theol. Minister of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth Park, Liverpool, the chapel where John Hulley was married.  Revd. Murphy ended his address with the following:

"Hulley looked to improve physical health in the vicinity of where people in the age of industry ordinarily lived and worked.  Until now, Hulley has suffered from obscurity following his early death. Let the restoration of his grave be an end to that. It is with great pleasure that I declare this restoration to be the granting to John Hulley of a place in history, which he undoubtedly deserves."

The site also gives a detailed account of John Hulley's life and work in the cause of Olympism, initially in Liverpool and latterly in England. It contains many press and magazine extracts concerning his ambition for the establishment of gymnasia for the well-being of his fellow-citizens and the importance of physical education for the masses. John Hulley gave several public speeches and wrote to national and local newspapers about his views of physical education, all of which are reproduced. Press reports of his on-off-on marriage to Miss Georgiana Bolton are also listed, and his nationally-reported exposure ( with colleague Robert Cummins) of the American Illusionists and stage fraudsters the Davenport Brothers is covered in depth.


The purpose of this web site is to raise funds for the repair and restoration of John Hulley's recently re-discovered grave in Liverpool, and to increase awareness of his part in the founding of the British Olympic movement. If you wish to contribute to the Memorial Fund, please make a donation.

John Hulley, born and bred in Liverpool, was the forgotten man of British Olympic History. By organising Olympic Festivals at his Gymnasium in Liverpool in 1862, 1863, 1864 and 1865 he was the instigator of the Olympic movement in England. At this Gymnasium on 6 November 1865 the National Olympian Association (NOA) was founded and together with Dr William Brookes of the Wenlock Olympian Society (founded 1850) and Ernst George Ravenstein, Honorary Director of the German Gymnastic Society in London, Hulley masterminded the 1st National Olympian Games in London in 1866. Hulley died in 1875 aged 43 and the re-discovery of his grave in Liverpool has revived the interest in him as one of Liverpool' s finest and forward-looking men.

In his 2001 article for the International Society of Olympic Historians, Don Anthony wrote about 'The Mystery of John Hulley'. He described Hulley's brief career as one of the leaders of the British Olympic movement in the mid-19th century and suggested that 'it might be that the skeleton knowledge regarding John Hulley can be fleshed out, and that a grand exhibition concerning his work can be part of the activities surrounding the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.'

These Games came and went without the exhibition but in 2006 a display covering British Olympic History was staged at the German Gymnasium in London and is still there. This features William Penny Brooke, Ernst Ravenstein and John Hulley but the mystery of the latter had not been solved until the discovery in April 2008 of John Hulley's grave in Smithdown Road cemetery, Toxteth Park, Liverpool.

Location of Grave

John Hulley's grave is in Section G , grave number 493 as shown on the following plan.

Grave plan


The condition of the grave can be seen in the above two photographs. The headstone bearing the inscription has been removed from the rest of the grave and placed alongside it. This was done deliberately by the cemetery authorities following a fatality involving a child playing in a graveyard when a loose headstone collapsed. All local authorities were instructed to examine all cemeteries and where a headstone was in a dangerous condition it had to be made safe.

The main part of the grave is in need of cleaning and the headstone has to be re-lettered and re-fixed to it.

The original inscription reads as follows:

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano

Loving and Grateful Remembrance of
Born 19th February 1832
Died 6th January 1875

The Latin inscription at the top of the headstone translates as "A healthy mind in a healthy body".

Recent developments

The Liverpool Daily Post has featured the story of John Hulley and his Memorial Fund in a two-page centre spread of the 8 August 2008 edition, the day that the Beijing Olympics started. There are two links to the on-line edition of the newspaper, shown below.

How we lit the Olympic flame

Fund to restore Hulley's grave