He was born Edwin John Foley in Fisherton Anger, Wiltshire, c.1859, the second child and eldest son of furniture manufacturer Arthur Foley of the Fisherton Cabinet Works, Salisbury, and his wife Jane. He was at least partly educated in London, where he lived with his uncle and aunt, Peter and Rhoda Marie Brown.
He worked as a designer for his father from at least the early 1880s, but by 1891 was living in Charlotte Street, Marylebone, with his wife Louisa Maud (nee Hayford), whom he married in 1882. They had three children, Conrad Hayford (b. 1885), Hubert Edwin (b. 1887) and Alan Victor (b. 1888).