Ebenezer Cobb Morley 

portrait of Ebenezer Cobb MorleyEbenezer Cobb Morley was born in Hull in 1831 to Ebenezer Morley (1802-1862) – a minister – and Hannah Maria Cobb (1800-1880) at 10 Garden Square, Princess Street, Kingston upon Hull. The oldest child of 4, Cobb Morley was baptized at his father’s Holborn Street Chapel on 11 September 1831. His grandfather, John Morley, was also a minister who preached at Hope Street Chapel for forty nine and a half years from 1801 until 1850.

We know little about his early life in Hull except that, despite not being educated at a public school, he became articled to a solicitor and qualified in law in 1854. He went on to practice as a solicitor, and had chambers at 3 King’s Bench Walk, Temple, London. 

It is clear that the family relocated to the London area in the 1850s as we find his mother, father, sisters, a cousin and their servant living in Chelsea on the 1861 census. However, it would appear that Ebenezer Cobb Morley still retained interests in Hull as late as 1876 as records within the Hull History Centre archives reveal that he surrendered land in Linneus Street for a consideration of £950 to a George Wilde Windass on the 6th November 1876, Ebeneezer himself signing the Court Roll to secure the deal. His address at this time is given as 13 Palmerston Buildings, Old Broad Street in the City of London.

Cobb Morley’s passion for football led him to believe that the game should have rules and he wrote to Bell’s Life suggesting this. This led to the meeting of representatives of a dozen London and suburban clubs at the Freemason’s Tavern in London on the 26 October 1863 at which the Football Association of England was formed. He drafted the first laws of the FA at his home in Barnes, Surrey, was elected as the first Honorary Secretary from 1863-1866 and became the second president of the FA from 1867-1874. He even scored the first goal in the representative match, London v Sheffield on the 31 March 1866.

Alongside his footballing career, Ebenezer Cobb Morley was the founder and secretary of Barnes and Mortlake Regatta and was an oarsman in London Rowing Club’s eight for the Grand Challenge Cup, Henley, in 1864.  He was a keen huntsman and had his own pack of 12 beagles, and he built a gym for footballers and rowers in Barnes.

In later life, Ebenezer Cobb Morley represented Barnes on Surrey County Council from 1903-1919, and was a Justice of the Peace and Conservator of Barnes Common.

Ebenezer Cobb Morley married Frances Bidgood in Pancras on 14 October 1869, but as neither he nor any of his siblings had children, his direct lineage ended with his death at the age of 93 on 20 November 1924 in Richmond, Surrey.

“As a matter of fact, the Barnes Club has never had bare justice done to it for the splendid work it did for the Football Association in its early days. The earliest code of rules was formulated by Mr. E.C. Morley, the first honorary secretary, a gentleman learned in the law, who subsequently secured well-deserved promotion to the presidency of the Football Association, and is still – the gods be praised! – going strong, a fitting illustration of the benefits of the physical cult.”

Charles William Alcock (1906), ‘The Principal Amateur Clubs of the Past’ in The Book of Football: A Complete History and Record of the Association and Rugby Games, London: The Amalgamated Press, pp. 255-257.

With thanks to Dr. Jane Clayton