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Ebenezer Cobb Morley in Brentford

Reverend Ebenezer Morley left his Holborn Street Chapel in Hull in May of 1853 following a farewell tea meeting attended by 120 of his friends and members of his congregation. Quite why he accepted the role of minister at Albany Chapel in Brentford in 1853, when the town was considered to be a byword for immorality among both sexes, we may never know. What we do know, though, is that he spread his net as far afield as Bedfont to preach the gospel.

He brought with him his wife Hannah Maria and four surviving children, Ebenezer Cobb Morley their son age 21 and daughters, Hannah Mary age 19, Elizabeth Lucy age 15 and Selina Anne age 12. At one time, if not always, they lived in the Butts but we do not know the precise address. If we can establish whether the house is still standing there may be a case to have Brentford’s first Heritage Blue Plaque placed there.

The son, Ebenezer Cobb Morley had become an articled clerk in Hull and was admitted to the Law Society by 1854 so was registered as a London solicitor whilst in Brentford. The girls, apart from Hannah perhaps, would have gone to a local higher education school - maybe.

We know nothing of their activities in Brentford but in 1858 father and mother with the three girls went to live in West Brompton, London where the father was the Minister at a new chapel in Gunter Grove. This was built for him by J. Figg of Brentford.

In the meantime Ebenezer Cobb Morley took up residence in the White Hart Inn in Barnes. It was here that he immersed himself in rowing activities becoming secretary of the Barnes and Mortlake Regatta and in 1862 established Barnes Football Club. In 1863 he set in motion a series of 6 meetings which led to the formation of the Football Association, became the first secretary and the rest is history.

It is difficult to believe that a young man of the time who went to neither public school nor university should attain such high proficiency in rowing and football without having participated elsewhere. So what facilities were available to him in Brentford at the time or perhaps nearby in Kingston or Richmond or Kew?

I am trying to piece together a profile of his activities whilst in Brentford and will be delighted to receive any information which anyone might be able to shed some light on. Please contact me by email:

David J King, researcher

Footnotes

The site has no photo of the Albany Chapel yet - if you happen to have an image please get in touch. A brief history has been compiled from various sources, British History Online providing an outline, newspaper articles and trade directories filling in gaps. These highlight the difficulties faced by non-conformists in acquiring a building and minister and then in maintaining a congregation. There were many different groups in Ealing and Brentford: British History Online lists Society Of Friends, Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Brethren, Salvation Army, Mormons, Christian Spiritualists, Other Denominations and Unspecified Missions.

The Albany Chapel served Independents: those who advocated local congregational control of religious and church matters, without any wider geographical hierarchy, either ecclesiastical or political. Independents reached particular prominence between 1642 and 1660, in the period of the English Civil War and of the Commonwealth and Protectorate (wikipedia). The earliest record of Independents in Brentford is in 1829 when they built a chapel by subscription in 1829. This was principally through the means of a lady then resident in the neighbourhood (Faulkner, writing in 1845). The chapel was a short distance north of the High Street and is marked in the 1839 tithe map.

The next piece shows the uncertainty in the entitlement of the minister to vote. The London Courier and Evening Gazette 17 September 1835 reported under a heading MIDDLESEX REGISTRATION:

PARISH OF EALING
(Before Mr Coventry)
The Rev Mr Alpe's claim was objected to by the overseers. The claim was made for a freehold, as Dissenting Minister for life in the Albany Chapel. The first objection was, that the appointment did not give a qualification; and the second objection was, that the chapel was held on lease by trustees, and that the land on which the chapel was built was copyhold, and could not, therefore, give a freehold right. Mr Coventry was of opinion that the objections were invalid, and the claim was admitted.
Mr William Howes claimed as trustee of Albany Chapel, but on going into the case, it appeared he was not trustee in possession, and his claim was expunged.
The Rev E Muscutt, a minister of Albany Chapel, claimed as having a life interest in the chapel of the value of £50- Claim allowed.

A year later the Reverend Edward Muscatt (spelling varied) was challenged again. It was noted that 'he was appointed to his office by the congregation after the usual trial; and according to the uniform usage among that class of Dissenters'. He was not removeable so long as he continued to give satisfaction to the congregation. His stipend comprised pew rents and donations by the congregation. The property consisted of the chapel, held under a lease for 99 years, and a copyhold house, of the value £30 per annum. On this occasion he was not successful in his claim: the 1841 census finds him in St Neots Cambridgeshire, a Congregational Minister.

Back in Brentford The Evangelical Magazine And Missionary Chronicle, Volume 18 reported financial difficulties early in 1840, but hopes were pinned on the new pastor:
ALBANY CHAPEL BRENTFORD On the first Sabbath in the new year the Rev William C Yonge late pastor of the church at Strand on the Green commenced his labours … having been unanimously invited to take charge of the church and congregation in consequence of the resignation of the late pastor the Rev J Hopwood … great efforts have been made … to liquidate the debt remaining on the chapel. Out of £500 which the managers hope to realise by the end of March next in order to clear off the entire debt, £250 has been raised chiefly by the church and congregation … and it is hoped that they will be supported … by very many of the Redeemer's friends who have not yet been favoured with an opportunity of contributing of their abundance to encourage the poor people of Brentford. The Rev WC Yonge has engaged a Christian Instruction Agent at a moiety of the expense the greater part of which will in all probability come out of his own small salary.

Faulkner writes that the congregation of Boston Park Chapel worshipped at the Albany Chapel until the end of 1840, but then were offered the possession of the Butt's Chapel and removed there, with the result that the Albany Chapel was'resigned to the trustees and remained closed for about two years'. Brentford Past puts a slightly different spin on it, suggesting that in 1841 Boston Road Chapel, formerly Brentford Free Church, faced with dwindling attendances, invited the congregation of the Albany Chapel to share their facilities but as the best seats had already been taken (pews were rented out at the time) many declined and joined the Park Baptist Chapel instead. (The site has a nineteenth century drawing of the Park Chapel showing its leafy setting on Boston Road.) British History Online writes that it was the Independents, with no settled pastor, who moved to Boston Road chapel in 1840, citing Faulkner.

In the 1841 census the new minister referred to above, Rev. William C Yonge, was living with his wife, two teenage children and a female servant at Albany Passage, near to Albany Chapel, his occupation 'Minister of the Gospel'.

Albany Chapel was again used for worship in 1842. The Sunday School Teachers' Magazine And Journal Of Education. Vol. 1, January 1844, reported under a heading 'West London Auxliliary Sunday School Union' that a new school had opened at Albany Chapel, Brentford and that it had also received a grant of books. The following year Faulkner noted 'There is a Sunday School held in the Chapel. The present number of Boys and Girls is ninety. The pulpit is at present supplied by occasional ministers.'

The chapel was interdenominational in 1851, when the pastor of Boston Road chapel reported a morning attendance of 40. The name of the minister is not recorded in the piece but may have been William C Yonge: the census shows he was living in The Butts, occupation ' Minister of the Gospel, Independent', his new home a possible indicator of his success. His neighbours were Charles Harcourt, an attorney and solicitor, and William Lonsdale, chaplain to the Brentford Union. Yonge moved to Henley on Thames by the time of the 1861 census and died there in 1870. In Brentford the Reverend Ebenezer Morley arrived in 1853 from Hull to serve as the chapel's minister. See above for more details. The next item suggests the chapel was being used for other purposes by the 1860s:

The Windsor and Eton Express 19 October 1861 reported a public meeting was held in the Albany Chapel, Old Brentford, for the purpose of forming 'an industrious and provident co-operative society. The Rev Mr Stokes, minister of Albany Chapel, who occupied the chair, said, the movement, he believed, would inculcate habits of self-respect and self-reliance. Others named in the piece: Mr Osborn, who gave a description of the Rochdale co-operative; Mr Acrell, Mr Wager who proposed and seconded the motion to set up a co-operative in Brentford; Mons Bouquet of Ealing, Mr Peters of Hanwell & Mr Stapleton of Ealing were all in favour; and Mr Cummington & Mr Major.

The Chapel was threatened with closure in 1862 but was again registered by Independents in 1864 and the London Evening Standard of 11 May 1864 reported that the Albany Chapel had been registered for the solemnisation of marriages.

In 1866 the Reverend John Flavell Glass was minister of the Albany Road Chapel (Post Office Directory). He was described as a Dissenting Minister of Mercury House, Brentford in 1870, when he proved the will of Anna Sophia Gower in 1870 (London Gazette). The 1874 Post Office directory incudes Albany Independent Chapel in its list of places of worship (but no minister is named).

Albany Chapel and Park chapels amalgamated in 1875 and the 1878 directory lists the Albany Congregational Chapel., as in 1874 no minister was named. It closed in 1879 but the building was used for interdenominational worship in 1882; a directory for the same year records it as Albany Hall, open 11am to 6pm.

The building is shown as 'Works' on the OS map published in 1961 from a survey of 1960. The area is now (2016) Waterman's Court: three-storey flats built in the 1980s.

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Page published March 2016