The father of football’s lonely grave in an abandoned, overgrown London cemetery

The father of football’s lonely grave in an abandoned, overgrown London cemetery

An abandoned cemetery long ago swallowed by the woods, its moss-covered headstones sunken sideways and limestone angels decapitated by vandals: an unf

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An abandoned cemetery long ago swallowed by the woods, its moss-covered headstones sunken sideways and limestone angels decapitated by vandals: an unfit resting place for the father of football, you might think.

Yet in this lonely corner of Barnes Common in south-west London lies Ebenezer Cobb Morley, the sharp-chinned, bountifully-moustached Victorian solicitor who began the Football Association.

As a player and founding member of local amateur side Barnes FC, he persuaded his fellow footballers to transform a violent and anarchic sport played in wildly different ways across the country into a national game with one accepted rule book.

Through this effort he created association football, the world’s most popular sport loved by billions. Yet now he lies under a plain marble slab bearing only a name. Even most locals don’t know he’s there.

Games resembling football can be traced back into ancient history. In medieval England, it was a wild, drink-fuelled affair regularly banned by the authorities. Rules began to be introduced at public schools in the early Victorian period, but these still varied from place to place, with no national codebook.

Then everything changed on one date: October 26, 1863.

At that point the Football Association was born, splitting the game from its close cousin, rugby. All sparked by a letter from Morley in a popular sporting newspaper and a meeting in that most British of institutions – the pub. 

Ebenezer Cobb Morley, the Victorian lawyer who was instrumental in creating Association Football, is buried in an abandoned cemetery on Barnes Common, south-west London. His headstone (pictured) is on the edge of the site, which closed in 1956 and is now overgrown

Ebenezer Cobb Morley, the Victorian lawyer who was instrumental in creating Association Football, is buried in an abandoned cemetery on Barnes Common, south-west London. His headstone (pictured) is on the edge of the site, which closed in 1956 and is now overgrown

Some of the memorials have been vandalised, such as this angel figure (pictured). These photos were taken on November 9

Some of the memorials have been vandalised, such as this angel figure (pictured). These photos were taken on November 9

Ebenezer Cobb Morley, the Victorian lawyer who was instrumental in creating association football, is buried in an abandoned cemetery on Barnes Common, south-west London. His headstone (left) is on the edge of the site, which closed in 1956 and is now overgrown. Some of the memorials have been vandalised, such as this angel figure (right). Images taken on November 9

Barnes Old Cemetery was opened in 1854 to deal with a lack of burial space at nearby St Mary's in Barnes before being closed in 1956 and handed to the local council. It has now been reclaimed by the woods and the graves swamped by ivy, holly and yew

Barnes Old Cemetery was opened in 1854 to deal with a lack of burial space at nearby St Mary's in Barnes before being closed in 1956 and handed to the local council. It has now been reclaimed by the woods and the graves swamped by ivy, holly and yew

Barnes Old Cemetery was opened in 1854 to deal with a lack of burial space at nearby St Mary’s in Barnes before being closed in 1956 and handed to the local council. It has now been reclaimed by the woods and the graves swamped by ivy, holly and yew

Here we tell the incredible story of how a group of Victorian pioneers invented the beautiful game enjoyed by billions:

Ancestral echoes  

The origins of football date back as far as 206BC, when soldiers of the Chinese Han dynasty kept fit by playing cuju (kick-ball) with a leather ball and bamboo goals. It was no fun if you lost though: the captain of the losing team received a flogging.

In medieval England, so-called ‘folk football’ was usually played on Shrove Tuesday between rival villages and involved two goals several miles apart, hundreds of violent and drunken players, and a ball made from a pig’s bladder.

The resulting madness worried the authorities, and at least five kings tried to outlaw the game. This began in 1314 with Edward II, who condemned the ‘evils’ resulting from people ‘hustling over large balls’ and forbade the sport on pain of imprisonment.

The basic quality of the early sport can be summed up by the famously concise rules for the annual two-day ‘mob’ football match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire: no murder or manslaughter. It should be said that ‘unnecessary violence’, trampling on graveyards, and using a motorised vehicle to move the ball were also frowned upon.

Even those, ahem, strict regulations weren’t enough for stern-minded officials, who in 1846 rode in the 5th Dragoon Guards from Nottingham to put a stop to the meeting. The few plucky souls who still tried to go ahead were read the Riot Act and prosecuted.

But the sport continued to be played and was enthusiastically taken up by students at public schools, who oversaw their own various versions of the game combining elements of modern football and rugby.

These often varied dramatically. While Rugby in Warwickshire allowed players to pick up the ball, London’s Charterhouse and Westminster favoured dribbling – not least because they played winter football inside stone-flagged medieval cloisters where a heavy fall could break bones.

This created problems when the boys arrived at university, as they were unable to agree what version of football to play. The solution was the Cambridge Rules of 1848: the first attempt to create a universal set of regulations.

Ebenezer Cobb Morley was born in Hull on August 16, 1831, the son of Congregationalist minister Ebenezer Morley and his wife, Hannah Cobb. He moved to London in 1858 and set up Barnes Football Club in 1862. This image is undated 

Ebenezer Cobb Morley was born in Hull on August 16, 1831, the son of Congregationalist minister Ebenezer Morley and his wife, Hannah Cobb. He moved to London in 1858 and set up Barnes Football Club in 1862. This image is undated 

Ebenezer Cobb Morley was born in Hull on August 16, 1831, the son of Congregationalist minister Ebenezer Morley and his wife, Hannah Cobb. He moved to London in 1858 and set up Barnes Football Club in 1862. This image is undated 

Morley enters the picture

Ebenezer Cobb Morley was born in Hull on August 16, 1831, the son of Congregationalist minister Ebenezer Morley and his wife, Hannah Cobb. Little is known of his early life or where he was educated, although we can say he did not attend public school or university.

He qualified as a lawyer in 1854, and moved to London four years later aged 27. He began his football career around this time, playing on Barnes Common near his handsome Georgian home on the Thames riverfront.

A public-spirited young man, he sat on the local council, served as a commons conservator and provided free legal advice to the poor. In 1862, he set up Barnes Football Club with his friends, many of them fellow rowers.

Just like the public school boys, Morley became increasingly frustrated at having to begin every match against another club with a long debate about how the game would be played on that particular day.

Disputes after kick-off were settled between the two captains (nothing so vulgar as a referee for these gentlemen) but the situation was clearly unsatisfactory.

In 1863, Morley wrote to sporting newspaper Bell’s Life of London calling for an ‘association of football clubs’ to allow matches to be organised under an agreed code – citing the Marylebone Cricket Club as an example of how this had worked for another sport.

Teams were allowed to attend no matter what type of football they played, including those who followed the rules of Rugby School in Warwickshire, such as the south-east London team Blackheath FC. 

They met at the Freemasons’ Tavern in Covent Garden, central London. Not the nearby Freemasons Arms as its owners now claim – the Tavern has since closed, although the facade and parts of the 18th-century interior are preserved in the Grand Connaught Rooms.

The teams, which were mainly old boys’ clubs for various London schools are unlikely to appear in a Premier League line-up anytime soon.

Alongside Barnes and Blackheath, they were Perceval House, Blackheath Proprietary School, Kensington School, the War Office, Crusaders, Forest, Surbiton, Crystal Palace (no relation to the modern club) and the unusually titled No Names of Kilburn. The latter was perhaps a play on slang used by stockbrokers, who used ‘names’ as another term for investors – a verbal joke about the club’s financial situation? 

That first meeting saw those present agree to create the FA, but it took five further gatherings over 44 days to hammer out the final rules and broach a series of disagreements.

The War Office, now Civil Service FC, is the only one of the 11 clubs who signed up that still exist today. Charterhouse sent an observer but did not join up. 

In 1863, Morley wrote to sporting newspaper Bell's Life of London calling for an 'association of football clubs' to allow matches to be organised under an agreed code. Pictured is the interior of Barnes Old Cemetery several yards away from Morley's grave. The centrepiece is a monument to the Hedgeman family

In 1863, Morley wrote to sporting newspaper Bell's Life of London calling for an 'association of football clubs' to allow matches to be organised under an agreed code. Pictured is the interior of Barnes Old Cemetery several yards away from Morley's grave. The centrepiece is a monument to the Hedgeman family

One of at least three angel monuments at the cemetery which have been vandalised

One of at least three angel monuments at the cemetery which have been vandalised

In 1863, Morley wrote to a sporting newspaper calling for an ‘association of football clubs’ to allow matches to be organised under an agreed code. Pictured is the interior of Barnes Old Cemetery several yards away from Morley’s grave. The centrepiece is a monument to the Hedgeman family, (left) who were local benefactors. On the right is another damaged angel

The early meetings of the FA were convulsed by arguments over hacking. Blackheath Football Club (pictured in 1862) played by the Rugby School rules so wanted to keep the tactic, which consisted of tripping players  by kicking their knees. The team's captain, Francis Maule Campbell, is fourth from the left on the back row 

The early meetings of the FA were convulsed by arguments over hacking. Blackheath Football Club (pictured in 1862) played by the Rugby School rules so wanted to keep the tactic, which consisted of tripping players  by kicking their knees. The team's captain, Francis Maule Campbell, is fourth from the left on the back row 

The early meetings of the FA were convulsed by arguments over hacking. Blackheath Football Club (pictured in 1862) played by the Rugby School rules so wanted to keep the tactic, which consisted of tripping players  by kicking their knees. The team’s captain, Francis Maule Campbell, is fourth from the left on the back row 

The war over hacking

One of the most serious disputes focused on hacking – tripping an opposing player by kicking their knees. This tactic was rejected by FA president, the journalist Arthur Pember, and Morley himself, who called it unfit for ‘anyone who has arrived at the age of discretion’.

From ancient China to Victorian London: How football was born

Ancient roots: Games resembling modern football date back as far as 206BC, when soldiers of the Chinese Han dynasty kept fit by playing cuju (kick-ball) with a leather ball and bamboo goals.

‘Folk football’: In medieval England, football was usually played on Shrove Tuesday between rival communities and involved two goals several miles apart, hundreds of violent and drunken players, and a pig’s bladder ball.

The Shrovetide football match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. The match (pictured on February 5, 2008) takes place between people born north and south of Henmore Brook

The Shrovetide football match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. The match (pictured on February 5, 2008) takes place between people born north and south of Henmore Brook

The Shrovetide football match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. The match (pictured on February 5, 2008) takes place between people born north and south of Henmore Brook

Public schools: Football was enthusiastically taken up by students at public schools, who oversaw their own various versions of the game combining elements of modern football and rugby.

Cambridge rules: In 1848, footballers at Cambridge University published rules that were intended to harmonise the different public school games.

FA founded: Ebenezer Cobb Morley of Barnes FC wrote to Bell’s Life of London urging the need for an ‘association of football clubs’ under a common rulebook. The FA had its first meeting on October 26, 1863. 

The Freemasons' Tavern hosted the first meeting of the FA on October 26, 1863, and is pictured in a drawing from 1811

The Freemasons' Tavern hosted the first meeting of the FA on October 26, 1863, and is pictured in a drawing from 1811

The Freemasons’ Tavern hosted the first meeting of the FA on October 26, 1863, and is pictured in a drawing from 1811

The Tavern's facade and parts of the 18th-century interior are preserved in the Grand Connaught Rooms, which are seen here in a recent image 

The Tavern's facade and parts of the 18th-century interior are preserved in the Grand Connaught Rooms, which are seen here in a recent image 

The Tavern’s facade and parts of the 18th-century interior are preserved in the Grand Connaught Rooms, which are seen here in a recent image 

Rugby breaks off: Clubs supportive of the Rugby Football rules left the FA. The Rugby Football Union had been created in 1871, formalising the split with football.

FA v Sheffield: The Sheffield Rules had been published in 1858 for use by the newly formed Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest club. Football was already flourishing in South Yorkshire when the FA was founded. 

End of the schism: The creation of the FA Cup in 1871 made the need for a national rule book even more pressing. The Sheffield FA (formed in 1867) adopted the London rules in 1877.

Nathaniel Creswick

Nathaniel Creswick

William Prest

William Prest

Sheffield FC was founded in 1857 by Nathaniel Creswick, a solicitor, (left) and wine merchant William Prest (right) 

But it was a key part of many versions of the game played at public schools, whose old boys often spoke of it with a form of affection usually reserved for memories of boarding house antics or slipping out for an under-age pint at the pub.

Leading the preservation campaign was Blackheath’s F.M. Campbell, who passed a final amendment at the end of the fourth meeting insisting that both hacking and handling were non-negotiable parts of the FA rules.

Morley was undaunted, and on December 1, 1863, seized on the lack of Blackheath allies at the fifth FA meeting to call a vote declaring hacking illegal under the association’s rules.

This horrified the public school boys.

It was, after all, the height of muscular Christianity – a creed developed at these ancient institutions that saw the sports pitch as the ideal training ground for courage, the tolerance of pain and, above all, manliness.

We can see Campbell explicitly appealing to these concepts in his diatribes against the anti-hackers, which appear ridiculous to us today.

Outlawing hacking, he grumbled, ‘Savours far more the feelings of those who like their pipes and grog or schnapps far more than the manly game of football.’

He then went for a snooty low-blow: suggesting the Hull-born son of a Congregationalist minister could never understand the true spirit of the game because he hadn’t gone to public school.

‘Too many members of the clubs began late in life, and were too old for that spirit of the game which was so fully entered into at the public schools’, the wine merchant’s son sneered.

At this point Pember butted in, pointing out that although he also did not attend public school many of his friends had and were still ‘dead against’ hacking.

Sensing his appeal to masculinity had failed, Campbell instead shifted to that other old English chestnut: the French.

‘If you do away with [hacking] you will do away with all the courage and pluck of the game,’ he roared. ‘And I will be bound to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who will beat you with a week’s practice.’

But Campbell was outnumbered, and after his last-ditch attempt to adjourn the meeting until other similarly-minded teams could attend it was clear hacking would be expunged from the FA rules.

With that, one of the ancestral echoes of the violent hurly burly that was the medieval game disappeared.

Morley’s laws were finally signed off at the sixth FA meeting on December 8 – prompting a disgusted Blackheath to pull out of the association.

The rules, written in Morley’s own hand, are preserved today in the FA’s 1863 Minute Book. This is kept in the British Library and valued at £2.5million.

Football’s great schism: London v Sheffield

The fight was not over for Morley and his newly-formed FA though, as in the north a separate code of football was being played – the Sheffield Rules.

These had been published in 1858 for use by the newly formed Sheffield FC. The club, the world’s oldest, was founded a year earlier by Nathaniel Creswick, a solicitor, and wine merchant William Prest.

Many of the first players had gone to the local Sheffield Collegiate School, where they probably played earlier versions of football. Prest may also have heard about the Cambridge code through his brother, Edward, who attended the university when it was being formulated.

By 1863, when Morley called the first meeting of the FA, football was already flourishing in South Yorkshire, with hundreds of people taking part and playing under one accepted set of rules.

Sheffield FC had joined the FA in its inaugural year but refused to give up its own code, which included important differences such as teams with 11 players, corner kicks and a solid crossbar.

This sparked a battle for supremacy with the London rules that would last for more than a decade.

At first it looked like Sheffield FC would triumph. By 1866 a paltry three London teams were regularly using the FA regulations. In contrast the Sheffield code had more clubs, players and supporters – 600 spectators watched a match between Sheffield and Hallam FC in 1861.

Unsurprisingly, the popularity of the Sheffield code began to have an influence on the FA, which adopted its innovations such as solid crossbars in 1866 (they were made of tape), and corner kicks six years later.

But with the country still split in half, games between northern and southern teams became increasingly problematic. 

This map shows several key places relating to Morley’s life in Barnes after he moved there from Hull. These include his house, 26 The Terrace, the nearby Limes Field where the first game of association football took place, and Barnes Old Cemetery, where Morley was buried. This area has had a long association with football: next door is Barn Elms, one of several grounds used by Fulham FC before the club moved across the river to Craven Cottage in 1896

Ebenezer Cobb Morley: Sports-mad solicitor from Hull who gave free legal advice to the poor, kept a public gym at home, sat on the council… and invented football

Ebenezer Cobb Morley was born at 10 Garden Square Street in Hull on August 16, 1831, the son of Congregationalist minister Ebenezer Morley and his wife, Hannah Cobb. He was baptised at his father’s Holborn Street Chapel in Witham a month later. Neither the chapel nor the house, where he lived until aged 22, still exist.

Little is known of his early life or where he was educated, although we can say he did not attend public school or university. Morley – who had three younger sisters, Hannah, Elizabeth and Alna – next appears on the historical record in 1854 when he qualified at law and became an articled clerk to a solicitor in Hull.

He moved to Barnes, south-west London four years later and took up residence at The White Hart, then a 17th-century inn that was rebuilt in 1899. He bought 26 The Terrace – where he would remain until his death – sometime after, while his father, mother and three younger sisters lived together in Chelsea, having moved to London around the same time.

Morley's house at 26 The Terrace was recently owned by the pop singer Duffy. But the six-bedroom, £3.5-million mansion collapsed four years later during building work by a new owner to enlarge the basement for a cinema, wine cellar and gym. It is seen in this image some time before falling down 

Morley's house at 26 The Terrace was recently owned by the pop singer Duffy. But the six-bedroom, £3.5-million mansion collapsed four years later during building work by a new owner to enlarge the basement for a cinema, wine cellar and gym. It is seen in this image some time before falling down 

Morley’s house at 26 The Terrace was recently owned by the pop singer Duffy. But the six-bedroom, £3.5-million mansion collapsed four years later during building work by a new owner to enlarge the basement for a cinema, wine cellar and gym. It is seen in this image some time before falling down 

He married Frances, the daughter of a wool merchant, on October 14, 1869. They did not have any children.

Morley practised in three different chambers until 1921, and by 1883 was a senior partner at his own firm, Morley and Shirreff Solicitors, which had its headquarters at 3 King’s Bench Walk in Temple.

He dedicated much of his free time to helping working men’s clubs and providing free legal advice to the poor, according to his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Morley sat as a justice of the peace, and represented Barnes on Surrey County Council from 1903 to 1919, attending meetings on licensing for music clubs, racecourses and explosives. He was also a conservator of Barnes Common.

Former Phones4U boss David Kassler and his wife Julia, who had commissioned the work, were away at when the house collapsed (pictured) and no one was hurt. Planning permission has now been granted for a new three-floor home

Former Phones4U boss David Kassler and his wife Julia, who had commissioned the work, were away at when the house collapsed (pictured) and no one was hurt. Planning permission has now been granted for a new three-floor home

Former Phones4U boss David Kassler and his wife Julia, who had commissioned the work, were away at when the house collapsed (pictured) and no one was hurt. Planning permission has now been granted for a new three-floor home

But it was with sports that Morley really made his mark. Dubbed ‘the Grand Old Sportsman of Barnes’, he rowed, hunted with foxhounds and even kept a gym at his own home for friends to use.

Morley founded the Barnes and Mortlake Regatta in 1862, which continues today, and took part in the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley two years later.

He played football on Barnes Common, and later formed Barnes Football Club with friends and fellow rowers in 1862. It hosted home games five minutes from Morley’s house at Limes Field in Mortlake, which was built over around the turn of the 20th century.

A year later, Morley wrote to sporting newspaper Bell’s Life of London proposing an ‘association of football clubs’ to allow matches to be organised under an agreed code of rules – citing the Marylebone Cricket Club as inspiration.

An initial meeting at the Freemason’s Tavern in Covent Garden on October 26, 1863, led to the foundation of the Football Association – the first governing body for the world’s most popular sport.

Morley drafted the original 13 rules at his house in Barnes, which are preserved today in the FA’s 1863 Minute Book. This is kept in the British Library and valued at £2.5million.

Morley was the first FA secretary from 1863 to 1866 and then its second president from 1867 to 1874.

He died of pneumonia aged 93 at his house on November 20, 1924, predeceasing his wife. He was buried five days later in a clearing on the south-east edge of Barnes Old Cemetery – possibly attracted by its location on Barnes Common, which he had helped preserve.

Morley’s death came 18 months after the opening of Wembley Stadium, which was built for the opening of the British Empire Exhibition but later became the home of English football.

He died a rich man: his effects were valued at £48,994, according to probate records, which is equivalent to about £2,876,000 today after inflation.

So why didn’t the much smaller governing body, the London FA, simply fade into obscurity? Surprisingly, it was thanks to Sheffield FC itself.

The club was constantly supportive of the FA, and even offered to come down to the capital to play a team under the London rules.

This took place at 3pm on March 31, 1866, when a team gleaned from the various FA clubs played Sheffield FC at Battersea Park on the south bank of the Thames opposite Chelsea.

One of its most notable elements was the Sheffield players’ insistence on heading the ball, which ‘reduced the London players and fans to fits of laughter’, according to a journalist.

The game also had the distinction of lasting an hour and a half – an idea included in the first rules of the FA Cup in 1871.

Sheffield FC lost by the now bizarre-sounding two goals and four touchdowns to nil. Its players proposed a return leg under their own rules but the FA refused, still convinced of the need to introduce one national code.

Charles Alcock was secretary of the FA when he proposed the creation of the FA Cup, which first took place in 1871 and helped spread the prestige of the organisation. This portrait is undated 

Charles Alcock was secretary of the FA when he proposed the creation of the FA Cup, which first took place in 1871 and helped spread the prestige of the organisation. This portrait is undated 

Charles Alcock was secretary of the FA when he proposed the creation of the FA Cup, which first took place in 1871 and helped spread the prestige of the organisation. This portrait is undated 

Yet by now the organisation was in serious trouble, and a meeting on February 12 in 1867 was attended by just six people.

A downcast Morley even suggested the association be disbanded – saying it had achieved its mission of coming up with a single code for football and that any initial enthusiasm for spreading this across the country had vanished.

But he was encouraged to carry on by a supportive letter from Sheffield FC’s William Chesterman, who was by then acting not only on behalf of the club but for the newly formed Sheffield FA, an umbrella organisation of 14 clubs with 1,000 players playing under its rules.

The dream of creating a single national game was again revived and the FA quickly began to grow both in size and stature.

A major step forward in spreading the influence of the association was the creation of the FA Cup in 1871 by its 29-year-old secretary, Charles Alcock.

Out of the FA’s 50 member clubs, 15 joined the inaugural competition, which is the oldest football competition in the world. Sheffield FC – as always protective of their own code – refused to enter.

They eventually joined in the 1873-4 season, losing 2-1 in the third round to Clapham Rovers. Other clubs from outside the south quickly followed in its wake.

The success of the FA Cup as a country-wide competition helped establish the primacy of Morley’s rules, and with every game between London and Sheffield the lack of a single accepted code became increasingly ridiculous.

In 1877, Sheffield made the momentous decision to adopt the London code, ending the great schism that had bedevilled football for decades.

The decision was made easier by the FA already having adopted large swathes of the Sheffield game, such as corner kicks, changing ends at half time rather than after each goal, and the awarding of throw-ins to whatever team didn’t kick the ball out first.

Sheffield also pioneered indirect free kicks, teams consisting of just 11 players, crossbars and a ban on catching for all players apart from the goalkeeper. 

The FA also accepted its ban on catching the ball for anyone but the goalkeeper, meaning heading was firmly part of the national game. Not so funny now…

Morley's grave at Barnes Old Cemetery was completely overgrown until just a decade ago. Although the grass around the headstone is now regularly trimmed, there is nothing to show its significance to the history of football except for Morley's name, only just visible against the grey marble

Morley's grave at Barnes Old Cemetery was completely overgrown until just a decade ago. Although the grass around the headstone is now regularly trimmed, there is nothing to show its significance to the history of football except for Morley's name, only just visible against the grey marble

Morley’s grave at Barnes Old Cemetery was completely overgrown until just a decade ago. Although the grass around the headstone is now regularly trimmed, there is nothing to show its significance to the history of football except for Morley’s name, only just visible against the grey marble

Plans to convert the site (pictured) to a ‘lawn cemetery’ – which would have involved moving the gravestones to the edge and grassing over the middle – were dropped as being too costly. A specific proposal to fence off Morley's grave as part of a full restoration was also turned down after a consultation between the FA, council officials and the Friends

Plans to convert the site (pictured) to a ‘lawn cemetery’ – which would have involved moving the gravestones to the edge and grassing over the middle – were dropped as being too costly. A specific proposal to fence off Morley's grave as part of a full restoration was also turned down after a consultation between the FA, council officials and the Friends

Plans to convert the site (pictured) to a ‘lawn cemetery’ – which would have involved moving the gravestones to the edge and grassing over the middle – were dropped as being too costly. A specific proposal to fence off Morley’s grave as part of a full restoration was also turned down after a consultation between the FA, council officials and the Friends

Morley: A forgotten hero?

The man dubbed the Grand Old Sportsman of Barnes stepped away from the day-to-day running of the FA in 1874, when Crimean War veteran Francis Marindin replaced him as president.

The house where Morley wrote the original 13 rules, 26 The Terrace, bore a blue plaque in his honour, adding a small amount to the limited awareness of his incredible contribution to world sport.

The singer Duffy recently owned the property, living there until 2011. But the six-bedroom, £3.5-million mansion collapsed four years later during building work to enlarge the basement for a cinema, wine cellar and gym.

The final feature might have impressed Morley, who kept his own exercise room in the house for use by local rowers and footballers.

Former Phones4U boss David Kassler and his wife Julia, who had commissioned the work, were away at the time and no one was hurt. Planning permission has now been granted for a new three-floor house built over the existing basement.

And what of the other local landmark to Morley’s life, his grave?

Changing ends after each goal and no crossbars: The original 1863 FA rules

1. The maximum length of the ground shall be 200 yards, the maximum breadth shall be 100 yards, the length and breadth shall be marked off with flags; and the goals shall be defined by two upright posts, 8 yards apart, without any tape or bar across them

2. The winner of the toss shall have the choice of goals. The game shall be commenced by a place kick from the centre of the ground by the side losing the toss, the other side shall not approach within 10 yards of the ball until it is kicked off

3. After a goal is won the losing side shall kick off and goals shall be changed

The original rules, written in Morley’s impressive handwriting, are preserved today in the FA's 1863 Minute Book. This is kept in the British Library and valued at £2.5million

The original rules, written in Morley’s impressive handwriting, are preserved today in the FA's 1863 Minute Book. This is kept in the British Library and valued at £2.5million

The original rules, written in Morley’s impressive handwriting, are preserved today in the FA’s 1863 Minute Book. This is kept in the British Library and valued at £2.5million

4. A goal shall be won when the ball passes between the goal posts or over the space between the goal posts (at whatever height), not being thrown, knocked on, or carried

5. When the ball is in touch the first player who touches it shall throw it from the point on the boundary line where it left the ground, in a direction at right angles with the boundary line and it shall not be in play until it has touched the ground

6. When a player has kicked the ball any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponent’s goal line is out of play and may not touch the ball himself nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so until the ball has been played; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked from behind the goal line

Arthur Pember, the first FA president, who like Morley opposed hacking. Image undated 

Arthur Pember, the first FA president, who like Morley opposed hacking. Image undated 

Arthur Pember, the first FA president, who like Morley opposed hacking. Image undated 

7. In case the ball goes behind the goal line, if a player on the side to whom the goal belongs first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick from the goal line at the point opposite the place where the ball shall be touched. If a player of the opposite side first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick (but at the goal only) from a point 15 yards from the goal line opposite the place where the ball is touched. The opposing side shall stand behind their goal line until he has had his kick

8. If a player makes a fair catch he shall be entitled to a free kick, provided he claims it by making a mark with his heel at once; ad in order to take such kick he may go as far back as he pleases, and no player on the opposite side shall advance beyond his mark until he has kicked

9. No player shall carry the ball

10. Neither tripping nor hacking shall be allowed and no player shall use his hands to hold or push his adversary

11. A player shall not throw the ball or pass it to another

12. No player shall take the ball from the ground with his hands while it is in play under any pretence whatever

13. No player shall wear projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta percha* on the soles or heels of his boots.  

* A form of hard rubber applied to boots to make them heavier in a tackle. 

Barnes Old Cemetery was opened in 1854 to deal with a lack of burial space at nearby St Mary’s Church in Barnes before being closed in 1956 and handed to the local council.

Plans to convert the site to a ‘lawn cemetery’ – which would have involved moving the gravestones to the edge and grassing over the middle – were dropped as being too costly.

It has now been reclaimed by the woods: the graves swamped by ivy, holly and yew. Above, a canopy of ash and silver birch – thick and green in the summer; bare and lifeless in winter except for the flutter of the odd crow.

At least three angels with their heads lopped off show the site has been vandalised, while a discarded condom packet points to its seedy modern status as a cruising spot.

Thanks though to the Friends of Barnes Common, the Commonwealth War Graves, six from the First World War and three from the Second, are kept gleaming white, the paths are cleared and particularly unwieldy trees cut back.

Wildlife is encouraged and a weekly litter pick stops the ongoing flood of discarded beer cans.

Some way off from its centrepiece – an impressive monument to the local Hedgman family – the foundations of the old demolished chapel and lodge lurk in the undergrowth.

Among the 3,000 bodies buried there include artist Henry Pickersgill and Yussef Sirric, a Turkish servant who became a much-loved local icon and inherited a pub in neighbouring Putney from his Victorian master, now named The Arab Boy in his honour.

The remains of Victorian murder victim Julia Martha Thomas also lie somewhere in an unmarked grave. In one of the most notorious murder cases of the 19th century, the widow was slain, chopped up and boiled by her maid Kate Webster. Some of her remains were buried among the trees after being recovered from the River Thames. Her skull was only found in 2011 – during excavations of an old pub in David Attenborough’s garden down the river in Richmond.

The cemetery has also attracted some interesting local folklore: it witnessed one of the first sightings of Spring-Heeled-Jack, a bogeyman said to leap out on terrified travellers, which sparked a craze in the Victorian period.

Morley’s grave is in a small clearing near the edge of the cemetery where it blends into Putney Lower Common.

This area has had a long association with football: next door is Barn Elms, one of several grounds used by Fulham FC before the club moved across the river to Craven Cottage in 1896.

Morley’s grave was completely overgrown until just a decade ago, when an expert from the FA revealed its location and significance. Volunteers from the Friends of Barnes Common then cleared away the woodland debris.

Although the grass around the headstone is regularly trimmed, there is nothing to show its significance to the history of football except for Morley’s name, only just visible against the grey marble.

A visit to the site by FA chairman Greg Dyke in December 2013 to mark the 150th anniversary of its founding generated a blip of publicity, and there have been calls to renovate the grave site and install a plaque outlining Morley’s legacy.

But these were rejected by the FA on the grounds that the work would be hard to maintain and could be vandalised.

A specific proposal to fence off the grave as part of a full restoration was also turned down after a consultation between the FA, council officials and the Friends.

There is now a car park on the opposite side of the site with an information board briefly listing significant burials, including Morley.

The Friends, a charity run by local volunteers, told MailOnline it spends a lot of time looking after the site and countering ‘outdated’ descriptions on websites and social media that suggest it is completely unkempt.

‘The public can be reassured that far from being neglected, much thought and care goes into the ongoing management of this beautiful old cemetery,’ a spokesman said.

‘Indeed, its resultant “gothic charm” and evocative light levels that are a by-product of the ongoing thinning and conservation work, make it a popular site for local art and film students.’

The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames said it considered keeping the cemetery as a wildlife reserve that was, in its own way, ‘as respectful and thought provoking as any maintained cemetery’.

A spokesman added that families were responsible for maintaining the individual graves but they would consider a request for a plaque if this came from a surviving relative.

Morley and his wife, Frances, did not have children. None of their relatives have been traced. 

Do you have any information about Morley or his family? Contact [email protected]

The cemetery is not completely uncared for: a local conservation group cuts back particularly unwieldy trees and keeps the paths clear. The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, which owns the site, said it considered keeping the cemetery as a wildlife reserve that was, in its own way, 'as respectful and thought provoking as any maintained cemetery'

The cemetery is not completely uncared for: a local conservation group cuts back particularly unwieldy trees and keeps the paths clear. The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, which owns the site, said it considered keeping the cemetery as a wildlife reserve that was, in its own way, 'as respectful and thought provoking as any maintained cemetery'

The cemetery is not completely uncared for: a local conservation group cuts back particularly unwieldy trees and keeps the paths clear. The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, which owns the site, said it considered keeping the cemetery as a wildlife reserve that was, in its own way, ‘as respectful and thought provoking as any maintained cemetery’

There is now a car park on the opposite side of the site with an information board briefly listing significant burials, including Morley. The Friends, a charity run by local volunteers, told MailOnline it spends a lot of time looking after the site and countering 'outdated' descriptions on websites and social media that suggest it is completely unkempt

There is now a car park on the opposite side of the site with an information board briefly listing significant burials, including Morley. The Friends, a charity run by local volunteers, told MailOnline it spends a lot of time looking after the site and countering 'outdated' descriptions on websites and social media that suggest it is completely unkempt

There is now a car park on the opposite side of the site with an information board briefly listing significant burials, including Morley. The Friends, a charity run by local volunteers, told MailOnline it spends a lot of time looking after the site and countering ‘outdated’ descriptions on websites and social media that suggest it is completely unkempt

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