Henry Norris in 1912 continued: into the autumn

Last updated: February 2008


After May 1912 Henry Norris and William Hall made the decision to remove Woolwich Arsenal from Woolwich.  Norris never mentioned specifically the date of this, but George Leavey’s resignation from Woolwich Arsenal at the end of season 1911/12 paved the way for it.  My own feeling is that it might even have been made before Leavey quit; and that it had definitely been made by the AGM of the Football League in June.  Once the decision had been taken Henry Norris undertook to find a new ground; he spent several months motoring around London inspecting possible sites.


Uncertain date; possibly once season 1912/13 had begun, definitely before March 1913 representatives from London County Council inspected the grandstand at the Manor Ground, and condemned it as unfit for purpose.


During the close season 1912 (May-end August) the grandstand at Craven Cottage was repainted and a new boundary fence erected.


Week-commencing Mon 5 August 1912 Woolwich Arsenal’s squad began pre-season training under coach George Hardy.  At 4pm Sat 24 August 1912 and at 6pm Wed 28 August 1912 there were pre-season practice matches. 


On Tues 27 August 1912 - only a few days before the football season began - Phil Kelso, manager of Fulham FC, went to Scotland looking for players.  On Fri 30 Aug 1912 West London and Fulham Times published its pre-season assessment of Fulham FC, written by Oscar Drew/Merula.  Quite unabashed by Henry Norris’ references to his coverage of Fulham’s matches; and no longer editing the match-day programme at the club; he criticised the club’s policy on transfers.  Henry Norris responded in his own column in the WLFT and the two of them had a running argument through the first weeks of the season.  Fulham FC’s handbook was on sale by this date; Henry Norris’ brother John Edward was its editor this season.


Mon 1 September 1912 was the first day of football season 1912/13.  Although he might not have thought so in 1927, this season was the worst Henry Norris endured in all his years involved with football.  Not to worry though!  Spurs endured the season-from-hell in 1912/13 too, at least in the autumn: public washing of dirty linen after a director resigned; shareholders revolt and vote of no confidence in the board; investigation by the FA after Notts County accused them of an illegal approach to one of their players; and the team didn’t win until November.  But they didn’t get relegated. 


In the afternoon of Mon 1 September Norris watched Woolwich Arsenal 0 Manchester Utd 0 which had a crowd of only 8724; the team only won once at home this season. 


In the evening of Tue 3 September 1912 an FA finally got round to hearing Woolwich Arsenal’s appeal over the match on Good Friday (5 April) when Northampton Town arrived late because of the coal strike.  The FA still wouldn’t pay Woolwich Arsenal the £40 compensation they wanted; but they ordered Northampton Town to give Woolwich Arsenal the away team’s portion of the gate money.


On the afternoon Wed 4 September 1912 a Fulham Reserve team that Henry Norris later described as “experimental” lost 6-1 at Reading.


On the afternoon of Sat 7 September 1912 Henry Norris watched Liverpool 3 Woolwich Arsenal 0.  Then on the afternoon of Mon 9 September 1912 he saw Birmingham City 2 Fulham 1.  On Sat 14 September 1912 he was at Grimsby Town 2 Fulham 1.  And at 4.30 Mon 16 September 1912 he may have been at Fulham 2 Huddersfield Town 0; let’s hope he was there to see a win after 3 defeats in a row with his two different teams.  At the Manor Ground though Woolwich Arsenal lost 0-3 to Aston Villa, Andy Ducat’s new team.


On Fri 20 Sep 1912 Henry Norris was annoyed to find a letter in the West London and Fulham Times which made public the dispute between the Council and residents over who should pay for preparing the road surface of Crabtree Lane for adoption as a public highway.  A look at Oscar Drew/Merula’s football column wouldn’t have improved his mood: Merula was saying that Woolwich Arsenal badly needed a centre-forward (that is, someone to replace Andy Ducat) and suggesting Fulham lend him their own new striker, Weir, who had so far shown himself to be completely useless.

In the week beginning Fri 20 September 1912 the Municipal Reform Party (that is, the Conservative Party with its local government hat on) started campaigning in Fulham ready for the elections in November.

The afternoon of Sat 21 September 1912 Henry Norris saw Woolwich Arsenal’s first win of the season - 1-3 at Sheffield Utd; the team didn’t win again for 24 matches - the longest such run in the history of the Football League to date.


At a meeting on Mon 23 September 1912 William Hall became a member of the Football League management committee, taking the vacancy caused by the death of Tom Houghton of Preston North End.  Also this day Henry Norris tried to stem the flow of rumours that Woolwich Arsenal were about to leave the Manor Ground.  He told the press that the club wouldn’t be leaving Plumstead this season; and that their leaving at all depended on circumstances - so of course the rumours continued unabated.


On Wed evening 25 September 1912 Henry Norris as mayor chaired a Council meeting which agreed a rate rise of 1d in the pound.  There doesn’t seem to have been much debate about the rise, though, because by 8pm Norris was at the Kelvedon Hall at Walham Green, Fulham to attend the AGM of the Fulham Amateur Boxing Club.  His brother John Edward was now its honorary secretary.  William Allen and local MP Hayes Fisher also attended.


By Fri 27 September 1912 the Municipal Reform party in Fulham had already chosen Henry Norris and his friend George Peachey to stand again in the Fulham elections.


In the afternoon of Mon 30 September 1912 Henry Norris went to the London Professional Charity Fund match at Stamford Bridge: it ended Chelsea 1 Woolwich Arsenal 3 but both clubs rested key players.


On Fri 4 October 1912 the West London and Fulham Times published a letter from Henry Norris in which he denied rumours being put about by the Progressive Party candidates (that’s the Liberals), that he was the paper’s owner, and had the last word on its content.  He was still writing his weekly football column, but his letter stated that he had never had any financial interest in the paper.

Sat 5 October 1912 Henry Norris saw Oldham Athletic 0 Woolwich Arsenal 0.

In the afternoon of Mon 7 October 1912 Henry Norris went to a charity match, but I’m not sure who was playing in it!  Apart from Fulham, that is.  And I don’t know the result either.  After the game a dinner, I’m not sure where, was held and Norris went to that too.


In the evening Wed 9 October 1912 Henry Norris as mayor of Fulham allowed into the regular meeting of the Council a deputation of residents from Crabtree Lane, to put their side of the dispute over the financing of preparing the Lane to be adopted as a public road: a dispute in which, as one of the partners in Allen and Norris, he was on the other side.  Norris questioned the deputation’s leader very closely on how the West London and Fulham Times had got hold of the letter they’d published on 20 September; he was very put out about it.  However, he put to the deputation a compromise solution - he’d pay their legal costs so far (out of his own pocket, apparently) if they would drop the most problematic of their demands.  The deputation was given time to think over his suggestion.


On  Fri 11 October 1912 the West London and Fulham Times reported that Henry Norris had told the Municipal Reform Party that he would not serve a fourth year as mayor.  But he did serve a fourth year and many more: it had been impossible for the Fulham councillors to find someone else willing to follow him in the job.


In the afternoon Mon 14 October 1912 there was another charity match at Craven Cottage: Fulham 1 Spurs 0 for the London Professional Charity Fund.  Henry Norris went to this, and then in the evening he spoke at Christ Church Hall in Studdridge Street for the Municipal Reform Party’s first pre-election rally, receiving “a great ovation”.


On Wed 16 October 1912 Henry Norris took charge of the London team for an intercity match: Birmingham v London. The weather was miserable, the London team scored first but then lost, and Norris wrote later that some of the players treated the fixture as a joke.  


In the evening Thur 17 October 1912 Henry Norris was at the Fulham Central Library to introduce Sir Ernest Shackleton, who gave a talk about his expedition to the South Pole.


On the afternoon of Sat 19 October 1912 Henry Norris saw Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Fulham 1, which Wolves won with the last kick of the game.


On Mon 21 October 1912 the London FA Cup second round ties took place.  Fulham fielded a weakened team for Fulham 2 Clapton Orient 0.  Clapton Orient, who’d fielded their full first team, appealed against the result.  The appeal was heard at the London FA’s headquarters between 21 October and 1 November 1912 and Fulham were found guilty of fielding a player who was not properly registered.  The tie had to be replayed.  It’s not clear from the press coverage how far Henry Norris was involved in Fulham’s decisions over this game but a similar incident in 1919 caused him to cut all his ties with the club.


In the evening Thur 24 October 1912 Henry Norris was making political speeches again, attempting to justify the recent rate rise at the Municipal Reform Party rally at St Matthew’s Parochial Hall Wandsworth Bridge Road. 

On Sat 26 October 1912 Henry Norris was in Yorkshire for a match played in fog so thick you often couldn’t see the ball.  Perhaps Woolwich Arsenal would have been better served if the match had been called off: they lost to Bradford City 3-1.


On Mon 28 Oct 1912 the almost continual rumours that Woolwich Arsenal would be leaving the Manor Ground suddenly turned very specific when the Athletic News stated that one of the directors of Woolwich Arsenal had acquired a piece of land at Harringay Park railway station in north London.  That evening, Mon 28 October 1912 Henry and Edith Norris gave a dinner at the Clarendon Restaurant in Hammersmith.  There were 120 guests including Fulham Council officials and councillors from both the Municipal Reform and Progressive parties.


Fri 1 November 1912 was voting day in the local elections in London and elsewhere.  Fulham’s local papers chose this day to publish two articles that certainly annoyed Henry Norris.  In his football column Oscar Drew/Merula declared that Fulham’ first team looked incapable of getting promoted this season; he also described the reserve team as very poor - a criticism of the club’s policy of promoting youth.  Merula criticising Fulham’s management in the West London and Fulham Times was nothing new - Norris had been complaining about it for years!  But Fulham Chronicle published the exchange of letters between Norris and the teacher Pengelly which had taken place in June, clearly intending to embarrass the Municipal Reform Party just as voters were going to the polls.  However, it didn’t make any difference to the outcome of the elections: the Municipal Reform Party took every seat in Fulham.  Norris was at the Fulham Town Hall to see the votes counted.  As he made his way to the front of the hall to acknowledge the Municipal Reform Party’s win he was accosted by a defeated Progressive who shouted abuse at him.  Norris threatened to have him thrown out of the building and the nasty little incident blew over.  Not an easy day for Henry Norris, but from this day until November 1919, his group of Tory councillors ruled Fulham with no official opposition.


Sat 2 November 1912 Woolwich Arsenal were beaten at the Manor Ground 0-4 by Manchester City.  George Allison, writing as The Mate in Athletic News, thought this match the worst of the 5 home defeats so far, because City hadn’t even played particularly well, they just had a balanced team, and some confidence.  Henry Norris seems to have agreed with Allison’s analysis.  It was after this defeat that he first admitted in his column in West London and Fulham Times that Woolwich Arsenal’s position was pretty bad.


At 2.30 Mon 4 November 1912 the London FA Cup tie in which Fulham had fielded an ineligible player was replayed: Fulham 3 Clapton Orient 0.

On Fri 8 November 1912 Oscar Drew/Merula got very pointed in his criticism of the way Fulham FC was run, railing against “persons who may be responsible for the deadly failure of Fulham, year after year”.  He didn’t name the persons, obviously, but he described them as  always bewailing Fulham’s bad luck when - in Merula’s view - luck didn’t have very much to do with Fulham’s continuing mediocrity.

On Sat 9 November 1912 Henry Norris was at Fulham 3 Preston North End 1, a match he particularly enjoyed.  He will have heard a few days later that his protégé at Fulham FC, striker Pearce, had been picked by the FA selection committee to play in an international trial match.  Woolwich Arsenal lost again but then, he must have got all-too-used to that.  However, he might have felt less resigned when he heard that Woolwich Arsenal’s supporters were scapegoating Percy Sands, the club captain, for the poor performances of the team as a whole.  This would have been particularly hard on Sands, a loyal servant of the club; he was an amateur, employed locally as a teacher, so he would have had to meet in his daily life some of those who were barracking him on the pitch. 


In the evening of Sat 9 November 1912 despite what he’d been saying a couple of months before, Henry Norris became mayor of Fulham for the fourth year.  The vote was unanimous; there were no other candidates.  After the official ceremony, he and Edith hosted a reception at Fulham Town Hall: a buffet, an orchestra and dancing until 11.15pm.

By Mon 11 November 1912 the sports pages of the London newspapers were full of agonising on why this football season was such a disaster for the London clubs, with Chelsea, Woolwich Arsenal and Spurs all in the bottom four of Football League Division One and only Clapton Orient going well in Football League Division Two.  Spurs hadn’t yet won a single game.  Much was made of the trap London clubs were in, with higher costs of living than the rest of the country but not allowed (at least legitimately) to offer more than the maximum wage to any player.  In his column in West London and Fulham Times on Fri 15 November 1912 Henry Norris was reduced to pleading with the public of Plumstead to be loyal to Woolwich Arsenal in these times of trouble. 

During week-commencing 18 November 1912 Fulham FC’s left-back James Sharp was sold to Chelsea for a rumoured £1000.  On Fri 22 November 1912 Norris felt obliged to use his column to defend the sale, saying (yet again) that he had to go because the club wasn’t getting enough income from its gate money.  But Oscar Drew/Merula, also in West London and Fulham Times described the deal as “a most significant sign of Fulham’s decadence”.  It’s not clear how influential Norris had been in the decision to take the money when offered a deal for Sharp.


Between 15 and Fri 22 November 1912 Allen and Norris’ appeal against the London County Council’s decision on the line construction work had to follow along Fulham Palace Road was heard; and the decision went in their favour.  The partnership could now begin building between 206 Fulham Palace Road and the turning into Queensmill Street, the eastern edge of the Crabtree Lane estate.


In the afternoon of Mon 18 November 1912 Henry Norris may have been at Stamford Bridge for the London FA Cup final.  Crystal Palace beat Fulham FC in it but I couldn’t find out the score.


At 7.30 Thur 21 November 1912 Henry Norris, William Allen, William Hall and Fulham manager Phil Kelso all attended the first bouts in the annual amateur boxing competition in Fulham.


Perhaps London football supporters in despair over their teams’ results were finding relief in gossip.  On Thur 21 November 1912 the West London and Fulham Times  an unnamed but “prominent” director of Fulham FC was asked for comments on a good crop of them: that Fulham FC, having let Sharp to, were going to sell two more of their players to Chelsea as Chelsea tried to avoid relegation; that Woolwich Arsenal were going to have their HQ at Craven Cottage next season.  The director denied them both - as one would - but with an interesting qualification.  He said that the gossip about Woolwich Arsenal was “very premature”, NOT that it was absolutely untrue.  So perhaps by this time, late November 1912, Henry Norris had found a new site for Woolwich Arsenal’s football ground.  According to a history of St John’s College, Highbury, it was the end of 1912 when Henry Norris (specifically him) approached their governing committee with an offer to lease part of their sports ground.  Henry Norris was the easiest director of Fulham FC for the West London and Fulham Times to corner when they were after comment of this kind, because on Thursday of each week he had to send them or call in at their office with his copy for his Friday football column. EXCEPT on Thur 28 November 1912 when for some reason he forgot to send his copy in; a Freudian slip, perhaps?


In preparing this list of events to go on the web, I’ve just noticed how many meetings Henry Norris began to miss, around December 1912.  In particular, he didn’t go to one organised by the Corporation of the City of London at the Guildhall, where he should have represented the London Borough of Fulham at a discussion of bus traffic problems.  Could it be he suddenly had something to do which he saw as more important?


Perhaps he just wanted not to think about football.  Woolwich Arsenal’s terrible run was going on...and on...  On Sat 30 November 1912 it was Woolwich Arsenal 0 Blackburn Rovers 1 and the match report in Athletic News said there was no player at Woolwich Arsenal who could be described as “even a passably good marksman”.  And in mid-December 1912 the injury crisis at the club was so bad that they’d had to loan players from Fulham FC.  On Sat 14 December 1912 in a relegation battle, Woolwich Arsenal lost at home 0-3 to Spurs, who had recently appointed their first professional manager to drag them out of their own desperate situation (it worked).  One of the players loaned from Fulham - Duncan, a forward - had added himself to the injured list; of the old Woolwich Arsenal hands, Shaw had played despite injury because there was no one else left.  Henry Norris may not have been at the match.  In the evening of Sat 14 December 1912 Henry Norris and Edith, as the mayor and mayoress, attended the annual dinner of the Fulham Municipal Officers’ Association at the Clarendon Restaurant Hammersmith.


In the evening Tue 17 December 1912 Henry Norris attended the annual dinner of Fulham and South Kensington Licensed Victuallers’ and Beer Retailers’ Protection Association, at De Keyser’s Hotel on the Victoria Embankment.  Edith did not accompany him this time; like too many such events, it was men-only. 


Then, probably on Thur 19 December 1912 Henry Norris and Edith departed with their family to spend Christmas in St Moritz.  On Tue 24 December 1912 he wrote, in St Moritz, the column which appeared in West London and Fulham Times on Fri 27 December 1912.  But he was not present for any games by either of his clubs over the Christmas and New Year period.  These included Fulham FC’s first away win of season 1912/13, at Leeds City on Sat 28 December; at the start of the game they had been third from bottom of Football League Division Two. The holiday saw Woolwich Arsenal, despite their need for goals, letting a forward be transferred out of the club - a sale which the directors (of course) had to authorise.  There was some foul weather too.  Big crowds at the Boxing Day fixtures were something football clubs often pinned their hopes on to help balance the books.  Not this disastrous season, though - by Boxing Day Thur 26 December 1912 parts of Craven Cottage were under water and Fulham’s game against Bristol City had to be postponed.  Woolwich Arsenal played four games in Christmas week; two were draws, but two were losses; 2 goals for, 5 against.


I get the impression from his writings that Henry Norris was glad to get away.



Copyright Sally Davis November 2007