Barnes Football Club

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Barnes F.C.
Full nameBarnes Football Club
GroundBarnes Green, Barn Elms Park

Barnes Football Club was an association football club of great importance in the development of the game in the nineteenth century.


Date of foundation[edit]

There is a significant amount of evidence indicating that Barnes Football Club was founded in 1862. This includes:

  • The absence of known reports of any matches prior to November 1862.
  • The newspaper report of the first known match, played in November 1862, mentioning that the Barnes Club had "only [...] been in existence a short time".[1]
  • The club reporting its own foundation date as 1862 to the Football Annual in every issue from 1868 (the first year the Annual was published) until 1881 (when the club stopped reporting to the Annual altogether).

In 2005, a claim of an earlier foundation date was made by BBC sports presenter John Inverdale. Inverdale, citing unspecified "club records", wrote in a Daily Telegraph article that Barnes Rugby Football Club (which Inverdale identified with Barnes Football Club) "were born" in 1839, and went on to "play[] fixtures against a whole mish-mash of teams of which no match results have been kept."[2] No other writer supported this claim, and the rugby club itself, via its website, does not claim to have been founded earlier than the 1920s.[3]

Early history[edit]

Map of locations significant to the early development of Barnes FC.

Two other sports, cricket and rowing, are important in the foundation of Barnes. A Barnes Cricket Club, playing on Barnes Green, is recorded from 1835.[4]

In rowing, the Barnes and Mortlake Regatta took place in 1853, and annually from 1857. Barnes FC founder Ebenezer Morley took part in the 1858 and subsequent regattas, and served as the regatta's treasurer in 1860 and secretary from 1862.[5][6][7]. The regatta was organized from the White Hart public house, the same address subsequently used by the football club.[8] According to an 1870 newspaper article, Barnes FC was "generally considered as an offshoot of the London Rowing Club".[9]

According to Barnes FC (and Football Association) secretary Robert Graham, the members of Barnes FC were "recruited from the rowing element and the noted army cramming establishments of Messrs. Baty and Inchbald". Graham added that "J. Johnston, the owner of Pretender, ... plac[ed] his field, opposite his residence, Castelnau House, at its disposal for matches and the club's athletic sports".[10]

Both Morley himself, and his successors as FA secretary Robert Willis and Robert Graham, were keen oarsmen.

Ebenezer Cobb Morley was the club's first Captain.[11] The first known rules of the club, dating from 1862, ban running with the ball and "holding" or "hacking" an opponent. They specify that the "place for play" should be Barnes Green, and that the "balls and other property of the club" should be kept at the White Hart public house.[12].

Barnes FC's earliest recorded result, played at Barn Elms Park against Richmond F.C. on 29th November 1862, was a 2-0 victory. A contemporary newspaper report described the club as "only having been in existence a short time", but "already numbering a large number of members, and consequently powerful".[1] The club proceeded to draw the return match played at Richmond Green in December of that year.[13] A match against Blackheath FC on the 20th of December went less happily. The Blackheath club played a rugby-style game, necessitating the adoption of compromise rules. "Very weak" play by Barnes resulted in a loss by two goals to nothing, with Morley narrowly escaping being "garrotted".[13]

Barnes FC was a founder member of the Football Association, with Morley being elected the Association's first Secretary,[14] and consequently being responsible for drafting its first set of laws that were published in December 1863. Morley subsequently served as President of the body, and "could be called the 'father' of The [Football] Association".[15] On December 19, 1863, Barnes participated in the first ever match under FA rules, against Richmond. The first three secretaries of the FA were all members of Barnes: Morley was succeeded by Robert Willis (1866-1867) and Robert Graham (1867-1870).

According to an undated list in the Football Association archives, probably dating from 1864, the colours of Barnes FC were "blue with white spots -- a cap".[16] In successive editions of the Football Annual (from that magazine's first publication in 1868 until the club stopped reporting in 1881), the colours of the club were consistently described as blue and white stripes or hoops.

Barnes forward Charles Morice represented England in the first ever international association football match between Scotland and England played at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow in 1872.[17] The club took part in the first ever FA Cup in 1871–72, and went on to compete in fourteen of the first fifteen editions of the competition, the last being in 1885–86.[18] The club's best performance came in 1878–79, when it reached the third round before losing 2-1 to Oxford University.[18][19]

Subsequent history[edit]

The club's subsequent history is more sparsely documented. There are newspaper reports of a club named "Barnes" playing in local leagues during the 1930s, 1950s, and 1960s.[20] A "History of the Football Association", published in 1953, stated:

Of the 'only and original' clubs forming The Football Association the Barnes Club alone has throughout the ages been an active and faithful member of The Football Association.[21]

In 2002, Barnes Rugby Football Club claimed on its website to be the successor of Barnes FC, stating that "Barnes rugby club is one of the oldest in the country. Our earliest recorded match was November 1862 versus Richmond, played at Barn Elms."[22]. In 2005, this claim was amplified in a Daily Telegraph article by BBC sports presenter John Inverdale. Inverdale, who stated that he was "[f]or reasons that I'm not altogether clear about, ... one of a number of vice-presidents" of Barnes RFC, wrote that "in 1839, according to the club records, Barnes RFC were born, playing fixtures against a whole mish-mash of teams of which no match results have been kept."[2]

In 2008, a much weaker version of this statement appeared on the rugby club's website, stating only that "Barnes Rugby Club is a club with a rich history and was established in Barnes in the 1920s. Although there are indeed possibilities that our earliest recorded match was in November 1862 versus Richmond and played at Barn Elms, it is from the 1920s that our true history is clear."[23] As of 2018, similar wording remains on the current version of the rugby club's website.[3]


Season Captain Secretary
1862-63 Ebenezer Morley [Unknown]
1863-64 Thomas Gregory
1864-65 Robert Willis
1867-68 Robert Willis Robert Graham
1869-70 James Powell
1871-72 P. Weston


  1. ^ a b "Barnes Club v. Richmond Club". Sporting Life: 4. 1862-12-03.
  2. ^ a b Inverdale, John (2005-11-02). "My assumptions about 'oldest' were confounded by Barnes". Daily Telegraph.
  3. ^ a b "Barnes RFC History".
  4. ^ "Single Wicket Match". Bell's Life in London: 3. 1835-06-28.
  5. ^ "Barnes and Mortlake Regatta". The Era: 15. 1858-07-11.
  6. ^ "Barnes and Mortlake Amateur Regatta, 1860". Bell's Life in London: 1. 1860-07-29.
  7. ^ Butler, Bryon (January 2009). "Morley, Ebenezer Cobb (1831–1924)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
  8. ^ "Barnes and Mortlake Regatta". Bell's Life in London: 6. 1858-06-27.
  9. ^ "London Athletics". Sporting Gazette. Text "1870-03-12 " ignored (help)
  10. ^ Graham, R. G. (1899). "The Early History of the Football Association". The Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes. London: Longmans, Green, & Co. viii: 78.
  11. ^ Butler, Bryon: The Official History of the Football Association, page X. ISBN 0-356-19145-1
  12. ^ Rules of Barnes Football Club (1862). 1862 – via Wikisource.
  13. ^ a b "Barnes v. Blackheath". Sporting Life: 3. 1862-12-24.
  14. ^ "Meeting of Captains". Bell's Life in London: 10. 1863-10-31.
  15. ^ "The History of The FA". The Football Association. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  16. ^ Reported in Brown, Tony (2011). The Football Association 1863-1883: A Source Book. Nottingham: Soccerdata. p. 22. ISBN 9781905891528.
  17. ^ 1872 Scotland v England football match
  18. ^ a b Brown, Tony (1999). The F.A. Cup Complete Results. Nottingham: Soccer Data. ISBN 1899468722.
  19. ^ Barnes at the Football Club History Database
  20. ^ e.g. "Notes of the Week". Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser (3070): 8. 1950-06-16.
  21. ^ n.a. [Geoffrey Green] (1953). History of the Football Association. London: Naldrett Press. p. 428.
  22. ^ "About BRFC".
  23. ^ "Barnes RFC - a club going places!".

Coordinates: 51°28′30.28″N 0°14′13.03″W / 51.4750778°N 0.2369528°W / 51.4750778; -0.2369528