Charles Wreford-Brown

Charles Wreford-Brown

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Charles Wreford-Brown was born in Bristol on 9th October 1866. He was educated at Charterhouse School and at this time public schools were pioneering the game of football. He was a talented sportsman and played football and cricket for Oxford University.

After leaving university he played cricket for he played cricket for Gloucestershire and football for the Old Carthusians.

On the 2nd March 1889 Wreford-Brown won his first international cap playing at centre-half for England against Ireland. England won 6-1.

Wreford-Brown was appointed to the council of the Football Association in 1892 as the representative of Old Carthusians. He won his second cap for England against Wales in 1894. This time he was appointed captain and played an important role in the 5-1 victory.

Wreford-Brown was also captain the following year. After a three year gap he was recalled to play for England against Scotland and helped his country to a 3-1 victory.

After retiring from playing Wreford-Brown represented Oxford University on the FA Council. He also served as a vice-president of the FA between 1941 and 1951.

Charles Wreford-Brown died on 26th November 1951.

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The football pioneer who coined ‘soccer’

Former England football captain Charles Wreford-Brown is the man credited with coining the word ‘soccer’. A centre-half for Corinthian FC – now the Corinthian-Casuals, who play at Tolworth – he lived at 1 Walpole Road, Surbiton, an imposing pile on the corner with Upper Brighton Road. Affectionately nicknamed Mr Corinthian, he was an immense character

Former England football captain Charles Wreford-Brown is the man credited with coining the word ‘soccer’.

A centre-half for Corinthian FC – now the Corinthian-Casuals, who play at Tolworth – he lived at 1 Walpole Road, Surbiton, an imposing pile on the corner with Upper Brighton Road.
Affectionately nicknamed Mr Corinthian, he was an immense character of the game, combining his love for football with an impressive first-class cricket career, playing for Gloucestershire.

Demonstrating the breadth of his talent, he even once represented Great Britain in a chess tournament!
The Corinthians were football’s first global superstars. The club is credited with popularising the game around the world and championing sportsmanship and fair play – hence the term Corinthian spirit.

Though strictly amateur, they were typically made up of the cream of the players from the top schools and universities. Wreford-Brown fitted the mould perfectly.
Born in Clifton, Bristol, in 1866, midway through Queen Victoria’s reign, he was the second of five children, attending Charterhouse School in Godalming before moving up to Oxford University. It was here that he was recruited to play for the fledgling Corinthians.

CB Fry said of Wreford-Brown that “Charles played so long and so finely for the Corinthians that one period can scarcely claim him as its product.”
Oddly, he made his debut as a goalkeeper, coincidentally against Oxford University in 1887. It was here that Wreford-Brown supposedly coined the word ‘soccer’.
Legend has it that while having breakfast one morning he was asked: “How about a game of rugger after brekker, Wreford?”
Our notable Surbitonian is said to have replied: “No thanks, I’d prefer soccer.” That disarmingly simple abbreviation of the game’s then long-form name, association football, appears to have stuck.

Wreford-Brown also had the honour of being the England captain when Corinthian FC (on two occasions) became the only club side to ever represent the England team in its entirety, in games against Wales in 1894 and 1895 at the Queen’s Club in London and in Wrexham.

Only playing as an amateur, Wreford-Brown was a solicitor by profession and a partner in the city firm Jenkins, Baker and Wreford-Brown.

By 1911, he, his first wife Helen and their two children, Guy and Peter, had moved to a house named Curford, at 1 Walpole Road, Surbiton ably attended by their four servants.
Later in life he’d remarry at the age of 70, getting spliced to Agnes Pope, a woman almost half his age.

He took pride in captaining his country, revelling in reminding the professionals in the side of his amateur status. One such pro, Derby County striker Steve Bloomer, recalled this story about their 1898 international against Scotland in Glasgow. “He wore good old-fashioned shorts which had side pockets in them. When Freddy Wheldon of Aston Villa scored England’s first goal, Wreford-Brown slipped his hand in his pocket and pressed a gold sovereign into Wheldon’s hand.

“When I then scored England’s second, he did the same. So Wheldon and I gave the money to the referee for safe keeping, and when I got another sovereign for scoring England’s third, the ref remarked: ‘If you keep this up, Steve, I shall have to go and get a handbag!’

“After finishing victorious, Wreford-Brown invited the team in to his private changing room to celebrate with some champagne.”

His final game for the club came an astonishing 40 years later, in 1927 at the age of 61. He clocked up 161 appearances for the amateurs. As an early legislator of the game, Wreford-Brown played a pivotal role in shaping football as we know it today. As a solicitor, he was first appointed to the council of the Football Association in 1892, a position he held for 59 years. He served as an FA vice president from 1941 until his death in 1951.

A first-class cricketer for Gloucestershire, Wreford-Brown lived an incredible sporting life.
A midfield general, he was at the heart of Corinthians’ most outstanding victories, touring
the world on early pioneering trips to South Africa, USA, Canada, Sweden and Denmark.
When his serious playing days ended, he represented Great Britain at the 1924 Olympics…
at chess!

Charles Wreford-Brown, born October 9 1866 in Bristol, died November 26 1951 in Bayswater

Charles Wreford-Brown, whose breakfast banter is said to have coined the word ‘soccer’ 1 Walpole Road (the house in those days was called Curford) was home to Charles Wreford-Brown, his wife, two children and four servants


A notice placed in the Western Gazette's edition of 10 March 1893 announcing the partnership of Charles and Ebenezer dissolved.

Courtesy of Olly Ewens

This photograph is from a 1952 newspaper article and was taken on the occasion of the opening of Sidney Gardens in June 1898. The group, photographed with the Mayor, Mr John Vincent, has as its background the thatched bandstand given by Mr James Bazeley Petter to mark the opening. Standing (left to right) are: - E Benson, W Summers, J Kerby Whitby, Mr Brown, William Maynard, GH Gould, Edward Samuel Ewens, Henry Jesty (mace-bearer), William W Johnson, Charles J Hook, John Bazeley Petter (donor), W Armitage (Borough Surveyor), John Howe Farley, Walter J Nosworthy, William Beale Collins, Charles Fox. Sitting - Levi Beer, CW Pittard, Sidney Watts, Mrs Vincent, John Vincent (Mayor), Joseph Chaffey Moore, William Cox.

Charles Wreford and Ebenezer's Pittard's Middle Street leather dressing warehouse and office inherited from their father, Charles. Photographed in the 1930s.

The same view, photographed in 2013.

The extension to the factory seen from Central Road. Photographed in 2013.

This photograph of the 1970's shows Ebenezer Pittard's house - the two-storey building at centre with the entrance to their factory between it and the three-storey brick building at left which replaced the house that Ebenezer's brother Charles Wreford Pittard and his family lived in.

Culturally Discombobulated

Only hours now to go until the World Cup kicks off, and I am very, VERY excited. Embarrassingly so.

And it seems that I’m not entirely alone in the USA on that score. Only a few weeks back the Champions League final was shown for the first time live on network US television and all the World Cup games will be easy enough to view. Coverage of the tournament isn’t (and possibly never will be) at the all-encompassing levels it is in Europe or South America, where God help you if you’re not a fan as you’re going to be having a miserable four weeks, but there is a palpable interest (and perhaps even more curiosity) in the World Cup over here.

So that’s good for me. It means I won’t be floundering when the conversation turns to sport. Most of the time when people start banging on about the NFL or the NHL, they might as well be speaking Esperanto for all I can understand, but when the conversation turns to actual football talk I am finally in a position to contribute something intelligent to the debate. One thing, however, that I have noticed when talking to numerous Americans about the sport is that they’re often very quick to apologise to me for using the “S” word. As if saying it in front of an Englishman is grossly offensive

“It must really annoy you when we call it that,” they’ll say with a somewhat sheepish look on their face. “It’s so dumb that we call it soccer and not football. Calling it football makes so much more sense.”

And yes, it does, I agree. Football is a much better name for the sport, it’s unfussy and functional. Soccer, by contrast, is awful, it sounds a little leaden to my ear. But please, you really have no need to apologise for using it. This isn’t to say I don’t have problems with some of your word choices or pronunciations. Calling a “courgette” a “zucchini”, or an “aubergine” an “eggplant” is plain wrong. Likewise, calling “coriander” “cilantro” and “rocket” “arugula” is just confusing. As someone who doesn’t like either “coriander” or “rocket”, I was convinced I was the butt of some cosmic joke when I first came to the US and ordered what I thought was an intriguing sounding salad of arugula and cilantro. But calling “football” “soccer”? Well, we’re really in no position to get on our high-horse on that one. “Soccer” is a silly word, yes, and it’s a very silly word that the English (and not the Americans) coined.

The word “soccer” probably originated at Oxford University at the end of the Nineteenth Century. The students at Oxford liked giving pointless slang words for things, and imaginatively their favoured method for crafting a slang word was usually just to stick an “-er” suffix to a word. So the two most popular forms of football were given slang names. Rugby football became “rugger” and association football (so named because the rules of the game were codified by the Football Association) became “soccer” (from “assoc”). Oxford graduate and England football captain Charles Wreford-Brown (or Wreforder-Browner as he was known at Oxford) has then been credited with popularising the term further in the early Twentieth Century.

So as much as some Brits might erroneously claim, Soccer is not a dumb American term.

Anyway, not long to go now and the only prescription for this World Cup fever I’ve got is New Order’s “World in Motion”.

History of football (soccer)

A sport similar to football (called soccer in the United States and elsewhere) was played 3000 years ago in Japan. Chinese text from 50 BC mentions football-type games between teams from Japan and China. A text dating from 611 AD confirms that football was played in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan.

Ancient Greeks and Romans also played a game that resembled football – although the Greeks permitted carrying of the ball. Olympic games in ancient Rome featured a 50-minute football game with twenty-seven men on a side.

The early days

How the sport spread from the East to Europe is not clear but England became the home of modern football. At first the game had a bad reputation among English royalty – possibly because of the noise the fans made – by whose insistence the government passed laws against it. King Edward (1307-1327) proclaimed, “For as much as there is a great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls, from which many evils may arise, which God forbid, we forbid on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city.”

In 1365 King Edward III banned football because of its excessive violence and for military reasons playing took time away from archery practice the game had become too popular to be curtailed.

King Henry IV and Henry VIII passed laws against the sport, and Queen Elizabeth I “had football players jailed for a week, with follow-up church penance”

Laws failed to slow the popularity of football and by 1681 it received official sanction in England.

The games were still ruff and noisy, with players hardly ever leaving the field without broken bones or even being spiked. There was no standard set for the size of teams or the field the earliest organized games, usually bitter confrontations between teams from two or three parishes, had goals as far as 5 km (3 miles) apart. It was only by 1801 that it was (somewhat) agreed that teams should have an equal number of players and that the playing area should be about 91 metres (100 yards).

Records show that Eton college drew up the first written rules of football in 1815. (The modern standardized rules are known as the Cambridge rules.)

Until the mid-1800s football rules still varied across regions. Team sizes ranged from 15 to 21. The 11-player team was standardized in 1870. The crossbar between two goal posts became mandatory in 1875. The goalkeeper was formally distinguished in the 1880s.

The first football club was formed in Sheffield, England in 1857. The Football Association was founded on 26 October 1863 by 11 clubs meeting in London. (The word association was abbreviated to assoc., which became “soccer.”)

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in the rear of the headquarters of the Union Française de Sports Athlétiques at the rue Saint Honoré 229 in Paris on 21 May 1904. The first World Cup was held in 1930 in Uruguay.

Where does the word “soccer” come from?

In the 1880s students of Oxford university abbreviated words by adding “er” to the end for instance, breakfast became “brekkers” and “rugby rules” was referred to as “rugger.” When one student, Charles Wreford Brown, was asked if he’d like to play rugger, he was the first to abbreviate “association rules” (Football Association rules) by answering, “No, soccer.” Brown later became an England international and Football Association vice-president.

“The Beautiful Game”

Football is the biggest spectator sport in the world, with angling as the world’s biggest participant sport. While Formula 1 is the sport most watched on television, the World Cup is, after the Olympics, the most watched sporting event on television globally.

Sport. Football. pic: 1895. Charles Wreford-Brown, Oxford University, Corinthians and England, who won 4 England caps 1889-1898.

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Charles Wreford-Brown - History

On 9 October 1866, Charles Wreford-Brown was born in Bristol. Although he twice captained the English national team, his lasting legacy may be the invention of the term "soccer" to refer to association football.

The Football Association formed in 1863 and quickly set about creating a set of rules for their game, which they called association football to distinguish it from the other types of football played at the time, such as rugby football. According to legend, Wreford-Brown was a student at Oxford when a group of fellow students invited him to play a game of rugby, which they nicknamed "rugger." He reportedly responded that he preferred "soccer" and the new name stuck.

Wreford-Brown's love of the sport led him to play for England and he captained the team twice (in 1894 and 1895, both against Wales). He later served the sport in a legislative capacity, representing Old Carthusians and later Oxford in the Football Association. He also chaired England's international selection committee.

The term "soccer" fell out of favor in England around the turn of the 19th century, but it continues to be used regularly around the world.


Corinthian FC had some of the greatest players, and greatest characters, pass through their ranks on either side of the turn of the 19th century.

Here are some of the best, and most memorable.

Charles Burgess Fry
Known to all as ‘CB’, Fry is undoubtedly one of the most gifted, and most colourful sportsmen England has produced. After excelling at sport at both Repton School and Wadham College, he moved on to Oxford where he captained the university at football and cricket whilst becoming president of the athletic club.

In 1892 during an inter-university sports event he set a world long-jump record which stood for 21 years. Two years later he scored on his England football debut and made an unbeaten century for Cambridge. Although he had a successful enough football career, including appearing in an FA Cup Final for Southampton, it was at cricket that Fry really excelled. He became captain of England and retired having made 94 first-class centuries.

After retiring as a player Fry tried on numerous occasions to gain election to the Houses of Parliament, wrote several books, published ‘Fry’s Magazine’ and also ran a training ship for the Royal Navy.

He was invited to take the throne of Albania after the royal family defected to Germany, was asked for advice on setting up the Hitler youth by Adolf Hitler (he recommended cricket) and was part of the Indian Delegation at the League of Nations.

Fry’s later life was indeed a mixed bag. He was said to have suffered a major breakdown and took to wearing unconventional clothes, also becoming paranoid. At the same time he was a fine journalist and more of less invented to profession of ‘sports star as journalist’

CB Fry passed away in 1956 and the obituaries were full of praise, rightly focusing on his major contributions to sport rather than a somewhat chequered later life.

GIlbert Oswald Smith
At Oxford University Smith played in three wins over Cambridge and he won his first international cap in 1893, scoring twice in the 6-1 win over Ireland.

Known as ‘the first great centre-forward’ he joined Corinthian after leaving university and scored 132 goals in 137 games. Smith scored the winner in the 1900 Charity Shield against Aston Villa, played 20 times for England netting 11 times even though he was known more as a maker than a scorer of goals.

His reputation on the pitch was matched by the high regard he was held in off it. Steve Bloomer, the greatest professional goalscorer of the period, said of Smith: “He was the finest type of amateur, one who would always shake hands with us professionals in a manner which said plainly he was pleased to meet them.”

Smith’s reputation was such that, similar to cricket great W.G. Grace he was known to all simply by his initials.
In 1901 Smith scored for England in their 2-2 draw with Scotland and promptly retired from the game.

Andrew Watson
Although he only played for Corinthian for one season, Watson’s place in football history is assured as the first black player to play at international level.

The son of a wealthy Scottish sugar planter and a British Guyanese woman, Watson attended Glasgow University and represented Glasgow and Queen’s Park before moving to London.

He captained Scotland in the 6-1 over England in London in 1881 and also played the following year when the Scots won 5-1. He made one other appearance for his country, in the 5-1 over Wales in 1881.

In 1883 Watson was the first foreign player invited to join Corinthian and he played in the 8-1 win over FA cup holders Blackburn Rovers.

Tinsley Lindley
Tinsley Lindley was from Nottingham and made his debut for Nottingham Forest at just 16, scoring a hat-trick. Whilst studying law at Cambridge he played for the university and also for Corinthian.

Lindley made his England debut in 1886 and scored in the 6-1 win over Ireland. In total he played 13 times for his country and scored 14 goals.

He played for a number of clubs during his career as he moved around the country working in the legal profession and, despite many offers, refused to turn professional. He was described as ‘the epitome of the Corinthian gentleman amateur.’ He wore brogues when playing football, claiming that football boots marred his speed.

Lindley lectured in law at Nottingham University, served as a justice of the peace and was awarded the OBE for his work during World War One.

Robert Cunliffe Gosling
Once described by FA secretary Frederick Wall as ‘The richest man who ever played football for England’ Gosling succeeded his father as a ‘country gentleman’ and owned large amounts of land in Essex and Kent.

Gosling had five younger brothers who all excelled at both football and cricket. He gained five England caps including one as captain, scoring two goals and he never appeared on the losing side for his country.

He played for Corinthian 49 times between 1889 and 1899 and died in 1922 leaving a fortune of £700,000 – around £22,000,000 in today’s money.

Arthur Tempest Blakiston Dunn
Such was the esteem Dunn was held in that following his death, aged just 42, in 1902 friends instigated the Arthur Dunn Cup which is still competed for to this day.

An FA Cup winner with Old Etonians in 1882, Dunn won four England caps and, although his Corinthian appearances were sporadic he was a key part of creating the club philosophy.

Charles Wreford-Brown
Charles Wreford-Brown started his football career as a goalkeeper but eventually moved to centre half. It was in this position that he captained England twice in the mid-1890s, on both of the occasions when the England team was made up entirely of Corinthian players. He also played county cricket for Gloucestershire.

He was present on most of the major Corinthian tours during the late 1890s and early 1900s, the time the team were the game’s leading ambassadors. He played a total of 161 games for the club.

Leading professional of the period Steve Bloomer recounted an occasion when Wreford-Brown took the field with a pocket full of gold sovereigns and and gave one of the coins to a professional every time one scored.

There is a story that credits Wreford-Brown with coming up with the phrase soccer. The abbreviation came from the word ‘association’ and was based on rugby players shortening the name of their sport to ‘rugger’.

After retiring from the playing side Wreford-Brown served as an administrator, founding the Amateur Football Alliance. He was appointed to the council of the Football Association in 1892, a position he held for 59 years, and was vice-president for the last 10 years as well as being chairman of England’s national selection committee. He passed away in 1951, aged 85.

William Nevill Cobbold
Know as the ‘Prince of Dribblers’ or simply as ‘Nuts’, Cobbold played 46 times for Corinthian, scoring 40 goals. He also played 9 times for England with six goals for his country as well as playing cricket for Kent and representing Cambridge University at tennis.

Extremely fast and one of the early advocates of team rather than individual play, Cobbold later went on to become an Army tutor and football coach.

Alexander Graham Doggart
Doggart played for Corinthian for 15 years and retired as the all-time leading scorer with 207 goals in 203 games. He scored the winner in the famous FA Cup win over Blackburn Rovers in 1924 and, like fell Darlington native Creek, played for both the England amateur and professional teams.

Having been President of Corinthian Casuals after the war, Doggart became an FA councillor in 1951 and a national team selector from 1954. In 1961 he took over as Chairman of the FA and in this role he was responsible for the appointment of Sir Alf Ramsey as England manager.

Arthur Melmoth Walters and Percy Melmoth Walters

Long before the Nevilles England had another interesting pair of full-back brothers, and both were Corinthians.

The Walters brothers, Arthur Melmoth and Percy Melmoth, were known as ‘Morning’ and ‘Afternoon’ thanks to their initials, and the pair lined up at right-back and left-back when England beat Ireland 4-0 at Whalley Range, Manchester in 1885.

’Afternoon’ went on to play 13 times for his country whilst ‘Morning’ made 9 appearances before both retired from the game on the wishes of their parents when another brother – Hugh Melmoth – died after a football-related accident. The brothers later reappeared, playing for Old Carthusians.


Han blev først udnævnt til fodboldforbundets råd til at repræsentere de gamle karthusianere i 1892, men fungerede kort efter som repræsentant for Oxford University, en stilling han havde indtil sin død omkring 59 år senere. Han blev senere formand for den internationale udvælgelseskomité for England inden for fodboldforeningen.

Han var til stede ved det første møde i Athenian League den 27. maj 1914. Han fungerede som vicepræsident for FA fra 1941 til sin død i 1951 under Sir Stanley Rous , sekretær for foreningen. De er blevet krediteret for at vejlede foreningen mod en mere uddannet stilling og fremme ungdomscoaching og træning lige før fjendtlighederne i 1939.

Han var også en ivrig skakspiller. I 1924 deltog Charles Wreford-Brown i Paris i uofficiel skakolympiade . Han deltog i det britiske skakmesterskab i 1933 , skønt han måtte falde ud af sygdom efter to runder (han havde vundet det første spil og trukket det andet).

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