Traditionally, the game of rugby football was born in 1823, when William Webb Ellis, a pupil at Rugby School, ‘with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time first took the ball in his arms and ran with it thus originating the distinctive feature of the rugby game.’ The first record of the game outside the school was at Cambridge University in 1839 and the first rugby club, Guy’s Hospital, was founded four years later. The oldest club in the Midlands is Burton, which started life in 1870.
Moseley Football Club was founded in October 1873 as an offspring of the Havelock Cricket Club. The origin of the cricket club’s name is unclear but may have been one of the many Victorian institutions, societies and clubs that were named after prominent people, in this case Major-General Henry Havelock who was prominent during the Indian uprising of 1857. Another club that was named after a general is Gordon League rugby club, in Gloucester, which honours the name of Gordon of Khartoum.
The Havelock Cricket Club, whose ground was in Trafalgar Road, Moseley was definitely in existence by about 1870 but may have been founded some years earlier. Because the local newspapers did not report cricket during the 1860s the exact date of the club’s formation cannot be confirmed but if it was indeed named after General Havelock it may have been formed as early as 1860. By 1873 it was one of the strongest cricket clubs in the Birmingham area.
The rugby side was started by some of the younger cricketers who wished to play a winter sport as well as the summer game. Why these pioneers chose the rugby game is not known, perhaps one of them was an Old Rugbeian or perhaps the game seemed more attractive than the association code as there was at that time only one club in the Birmingham district playing soccer.
Those original playing members that have been identified including captain, S.H. Deakin, were all aged around 19 when the club was formed. Deakin served as captain for the club’s first four seasons and was later club president for three years. Amos Roe, the first president, was a successful businessman and philanthropist in his forties and was probably invited to accept the presidency as he was a well-known local figure.
Both Roe and Deakin had definitely been connected with the cricket club but it is not certain how many of the other footballers had been. Roe and Deakin together with Denston Gibson, who succeeded Deakin as captain and players such as T.A. Bent and W.J. Chatwin helped to establish the club on firm foundations. The first year’s membership amounted to 20, just enough to form a team as rugby was a 20-a-side game in those days.
During that first season, 1873/74, a few games were played under the name of Havelock the earliest known match being an away defeat at King Edward's School on 15th November 1873. A pitch in St. Paul’s Road was taken over for home games and this field is usually referred to as St. Paul’s Road, Camp Hill; however, it is actually in Balsall Heath.
Interestingly, Moseley’s great rivals, Coventry came into being in similar circumstances when, in 1874, a group of cricketers from the Stoke Cricket Club decided to try their hand at football.
In 1874/75 the football section of the Havelock club took the field in red and black jerseys under the name of Moseley as the team has every season since then. Home games were still played in Balsall Heath though exactly where is not known it may have been at a field on the corner of Highgate and Moseley roads or the club may have remained at St. Paul’s Road.
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