Henry Norris in season 1913/14: Arsenal’s first at Highbury and I shall call them Arsenal FC from this moment on; though the official change of name didn’t come until June 1914.

Last updated: November 2008


BEFORE WE START two notes for those of you who may not have looked at the previous diaries. The first is that I don’t mention below Henry Norris’ working life as one of the Allen and Norris partnership.  Nor the regular meetings he attended as mayor of Fulham - every Wednesday fortnight at 7pm at the town hall Walham Green - or as Fulham’s representative at the Metropolitan Water Board - every fortnight on Friday afternoons at the HQ building of the Metropolitan Asylums Board in the Strand.  Just assume this daily round going on in the background!  The second is that to try to keep the size of these files down, I don’t list all the football fixtures that Henry Norris may have attended.


At some stage between May and August 1913 Henry Norris and William Hall found suitable tenants for the Manor Ground in Plumstead: newly-formed club Woolwich FC seemed to have a team of mixed amateurs and professionals.  It played its fixtures in the Kent and London leagues.

At 8pm] Fri 27 June 1913 Fulham Football and Athletic Company Limited held its AGM, with Hall as chairman and Henry Norris still a director.  At the meeting a resolution was passed authorising the club to approach the Football League for permission for Hall and Norris to continue as directors, at the same time as they were directors of Arsenal FC.  However, at the meeting William Hall resigned from the board of directors, though he kept his 210 shares in the club for a few more months.  Sometime after the AGM the approach to the FL was made.  The FL gave their permission, and Henry Norris continued as a director of Fulham FC until the spring of 1919.

At 2pm on Wed 9 July 1913 the final plot of land belonging to Edward Matyear’s Crabtree Farm estate was auctioned at The Mart, in the City of London.  At an auction in June 1912 it had failed to find a buyer.  This time, it was bought; by Allen and Norris.  The land involved covered less than one acre but had a 300-foot long frontage on the River Thames; it was suitable for industrial and commercial development but not for housing.


By Fri 8 August 1913, with the Arsenal squad in training for the coming season, work was continuing to prepare the Highbury site for football but it was well behind schedule.  In Simon Inglis’ book on Archibald Leitch there’s a lively account by Alfred Kearney, Leitch’s man on the site, of what seems to have been a typical building project: delays, threats of legal action, walls in the wrong place, bureaucratic incompetence, more delays - all the usual.  In order to keep out of the workmen’s way, the squad was training at Craven Cottage and (Millwall FC’s) New Cross.  The pitch had been laid; and then relaid as it hadn’t taken well the first time.  The seats for the grandstand had been delivered on time, but couldn’t be fitted yet.  Also by Fri 8 August 1913 Charles Doland Crisp had bought shares in Arsenal FC and been appointed a director.  See earlier files on Henry Norris’ life for more details about how they met - he had known both Norris and William Hall for several years by now.  He was an ex-referee.  After some years teaching, he’d joined Norwich Union and now managed their life assurance office at Finsbury Pavement in the City of London. 

On Thur 21 August 1913 Woolwich Arsenal Football and Athletic Company’s Annual Report was issued, showing Crisp on the board of directors for the first time; William Hall’s brother-in-law George Davis continued on the board, and so did John Humble despite the club’s move away from where he lived.

On Fri 22 August 1913 Arthur Roston Bourke, who wrote on local football in  Islington Daily Gazette under the pen-name Norseman, visited the Arsenal ground to find out whether the first game would be able to go ahead.  He was able to reassure his readers that it certainly would, but he could have seen for himself how far behind the work was.  It wasn’t until Sat 30 Aug 1913 that the Arsenal squad were able to use the Highbury pitch for a practice match; and the public couldn’t be admitted to it because the ground was still a building site and too dangerous for the public.  Season tickets had only just gone on sale.  During the week before Sat 6 September 1913 Henry Norris spent a lot of time running around trying to find Archibald Leitch, I guess in order to have his head for the fact that the grandstand wasn’t nearly ready.  He didn’t find him - Leitch was lying very low! - and had to write to the papers warning that the Highbury ground wouldn’t be fully open on the first day of the season.  Building work always takes longer than you would have thought possible!  Norris knew that perfectly well, but as a builder not a client; the delays ad infinitum are not nearly so enjoyable when you’re the one paying the bills!


On Mon 1 September 1913 the writer The Candid Critic wrote his first column in the Islington Daily Gazette.  He’d been taken on specifically to cover Arsenal FC in detail.  So the local press at least was ready!

Late afternoon Wed 3 September 1913 season 1913/14 began for Arsenal with Swindon Town Reserves 2 Arsenal Reserves 3.


On the morning of Sat 6 September 1913 with Arsenal due to play their first fixture ever at Highbury, chaos still reigned: the offices and changing rooms weren’t connected to the plumbing; the pay boxes at the entrances weren’t working; the grandstand’s seats still hadn’t been fitted; the grandstand had no roof; and workmen and delivery-men were still at work.  With a grace and resignation that I don’t think he would have displayed later in his life, Henry Norris gave up worrying about it all.  Instead he took Alfred Kearney and Humphrey’s senior employee on site out to lunch at an Italian restaurant at Finsbury Park.  Despite nothing being ready, the fixture went ahead on the afternoon of Sat 6 September 1913 in Football League Division Two: Arsenal 2 Leicester Fosse 1.  A tradition that continued at least until the 1970s began that day: the marching band playing before kick-off.  They played a piece specially composed for the occasion - ‘Arsenal’, by John Pursglove; and when the teams came out, they played The Conquering Hero  (these details are from  Islington Daily Gazette; I take it the piece referred to is Handel’s Hail the Conquering Hero Comes).  The Candid Critic thought the players were very nervous but the result was the first opening-day win the club had had since 1907.  He criticised the forwards’ lack of effective combination - that remained true all season and is typical of a Henry Norris team. 


There was a crowd of 20000, mostly on the 70 tiers of standing room on the three banked-up sides.  Some benches were put out within the frame of the grandstand-to-be, just for this match.  There were weeks more of building work still to be done - in fact, the grandstand still wasn’t quite finished in March 1914  - and Henry Norris was looking very tired when the Candid Critic saw him after the game; but he looked satisfied too.  With the intention of reassuring readers still hostile to professional football in the district, Candid Critic noted that after the match the streets around Highbury had been more or less clear of crowds within 10 minutes.  On Tue 9 September 1913 Islington Daily Gazette printed the first in a series of letters by local people wondering why there had been such a fuss about football matches at Highbury in the spring.


At tea-time on Tue 9 September 1913 Henry Norris was interviewed by Islington Daily Gazette’s Candid Critic.  Work was continuing on the grandstand roof, and the reporter described the office area as a “shanty”.  But Norris announced himself proud to be building “one of the finest football grounds in the kingdom” and confirmed that the club was looking for a new name.

On Sat 13 September 1913 there was a crowd of 4000 at Highbury for Arsenal Reserves 2 Fulham Reserves 0. The first team won away.  By this date the roof was on the grandstand and at 4pm on Mon 15 September 1913 some parts of the grandstand were open to the public.  A crowd of 20000 was at this game despite it being on a Monday.  There were some complaints though of the primitive conditions prevailing while the facilities weren’t finished: you couldn’t get a cup of tea at half-time!

In the evening of Thur 25 September 1913 Henry Norris and Edith gave one of their grand dinners at the Clarendon Hotel, Hammersmith.

On the afternoon of Mon 13 October 1913 though I have no firm evidence, it’s likely Henry Norris was at Upton Park for an inter-city fixture: London 0 Birmingham 2 as he seems to have played some part in organising these in previous years.

And during the afternoon of Thur 16 October 1913 he may have been amongst the mayors of London boroughs who attended a reception at the National Gas Exhibition at Shepherd’s Bush.


On Fri 24 October 1913 player Jock Rutherford of Newcastle Utd travelled to London to discuss a move to Chelsea FC. But on Mon 27 October 1913 he signed for Arsenal FC, staying with the club more or less continually into the Chapman era (1925+) and even playing regularly through World War 1; in the early 1920s he was the only player at Arsenal FC being paid the maximum wage.  In 1927 Henry Norris admitted that a player signed by Arsenal FC in 1913 was paid £200 in addition to the regulation signing-on fee of £10, and that the £200 didn’t go through the club’s accounts.  He didn’t name the player but it’s almost certain it was Rutherford.  The payment was a breach of the FA rules but was never investigated by them.

Between November and Tue 23 December 1913 new shares went on sale in Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited - the first large number to be issued since the disastrous sale of December 1910.  A list of the buyers of these shows that people in Woolwich were still loyal to the club; but a large number were from the area north of Highbury; and nearly all the club’s employees seem to have bought some.

During November 1913 there was a scarlet fever epidemic in Fulham.

Beginning at 6.30pm on Mon 3 November 1913 the FA held a banquet at the King’s Hall of the Holborn Restaurant, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding.  I haven’t found a full guest list for this dinner, but I should imagine Henry Norris went to it.

At an evening meeting on Mon 10 November 1913 Henry Norris was elected mayor of Fulham for the fifth year in succession.  In the London Borough of Battersea John Archer became the first black man to be elected mayor of an English borough.  It’s possible, though not very likely, that Henry Norris knew him. 

On Fri 21 November 1913 the London Borough of Islington discussed a letter of complaint from a resident in Avenell Road; it seems that building work at Arsenal’s ground was not finished yet.

If he had time, on the afternoon of Mon 24 November 1913 Henry Norris may have gone to Craven Cottage to see an international trial match: Rest of England 3 South of England 1.

On the evening of Mon 24 November 1913 Henry Norris made one of his rather rare appearances at a function organised by South Fulham Constitutional Club, a Conservative Party organisation in the borough: he and Edith attended a whist drive they had organised, at King’s Hall.

On Wed 26 November 1913 there were some important share dealings at Fulham Football and Athletic Company.  William Allen bought all of William Hall’s shares in the company, and 200 of Henry Norris’s as well; becoming the single largest shareholder, with 832.

At 2.15pm on Thur 11 December 1913 if he had time, Henry Norris may have gone to Craven Cottage for a football match in aid of the Daily Mirror’s Christmas Pudding Fund for Poor Children: Harry Welchman’s XI v C H Mayo’s Champion Golfers.  He also promised a £25 donation to Islington’s annual Christmas Dinner Fund campaign; a letter from him appeared in the Islington Daily Gazette on Tue 23 December 1913.  In a separate bridge-building gesture, Arsenal’s office staff and players had a whip-round for the dinner fund.

Henry Norris didn’t see any of Arsenal or Fulham’s fixtures over Christmas 1913 and New Year 1914 as he and his family went to Switzerland for the holiday.  I don’t have the exact dates they were abroad though they may still not have been back in England on Friday 9 January 1914.  As Arsenal played their way through five matches in 10 days, the club paid for the Arsenal squad to stay at a hotel in Chingford.



First: football championship in Spain (Athletic Bilbao won it); The Perils of Pauline (with Pearl White); production of Pygmalion (G B Shaw); aircraft carrier commissioned.  Gloria Swanson’s career began.  Before the war broke out an Irish Home Rule Bill was passed in the British parliament; because of the fighting, it wasn’t implemented.  Published: Dubliners (James Joyce).  As a comment on the war: Dada.


On 4 August 1914 Germany invaded Belgium, a neutral country; as a result Britain declared war on Germany.  The war was enormously popular to start with.  Fighting began at once.  August: battle of Mons.  September: battle of the Marne.  October: first battle of Ypres.  5 November 1914 Britain declared war on the Ottoman Empire; so fighting took place in the Middle East as well as in Flanders.


During 1914 the Allen and Norris partnership finished working on the estate they had been building at Southfields in Wandsworth.  However, there was still a way to go on the Crabtree Lane estate in Fulham.  The London Borough of Fulham passed the following applications to build, made by Allen and Norris:

numbers 11 and 105 Rannoch Road

28 houses in Colwith Road

56-62 Rannoch Road.


During 1914 probably quite early in the year, Henry Norris and his family moved into Queensberry House, Friars Lane, just off Richmond Green.  This was the outward trappings of financial success with a vengeance: built in the early 19th century on part of the old Richmond Palace, it had 14 bedrooms and extensive gardens going down to the Thames.  Henry Norris had leased the property from the de Traffords (Mr de Trafford was a well-known cricketer) but when it expired he decided not to renew - by March 1920 the family had moved out.  The house was pulled down in the 1930s; there’s a block of flats on the site now.

During 1914 but try as I might, I cannot find the exact date: Henry Norris appointed Harry John Peters to a vacancy in the office of Arsenal FC - I think you could describe it as an ‘office manager’ job, reporting to the club manager but in charge of the other employees in the office.  John Peters had already worked for Norris for several years at Allen and Norris but had been very ill recently; his doctors had advised him to take an indoor job.  John Peters survived Henry Norris’ fall in 1927 and worked at Arsenal until after World War 2.

In 1914 Henry Norris served as Worshipful Master of London Mayors’ Lodge number 3560, which he’d helped to found in 1911.


At its meeting on Tue 3 February 1914 the London County Council considered a request made by the Allen and Norris partnership to delay the date by which streets on the Crabtree Lane Estate in Fulham had to be ready for use.  The firm was given a new finish date of 17 October 1914.  See below - in June they had to make a another similar request for delay at their estate in Southfields, Wandsworth.  It seems that with two big housing estates on their hands, Allen and Norris were getting behind with the work!


On Fri 6 February 1914 the Allen and Norris partnership made an official announcement, in the London Gazette, that they were about to become the owners of a five-acre plot of land in Fulham between the Crabtree Farm and the Pimlico Wheel Works - immediately north of the land they already owned and were building their Crabtree Farm Estate on.  However, I’m not convinced they ever built on it.  I’m still investigating this, but my working theory (suggested to me by Roger Wright) is that they bought the land to prevent it being turned into an industrial site, right behind their houses.   


House-building by Kinnaird Park Estate Company had always proceeded at a very moderate pace.  On Tue 24 March 1914 Bromley UDC passed the first planning application it had received from Kinnaird Park Estate Company in nearly a year: 2 houses on Page Heath Lane, Bickley.  On Tue 7 April 1914 it passed another application from KPEC: 6 houses on Amesbury Road Bickley where KPEC had been building for a year or so.

In its edition of Tue 14 April 1914 the Times reported Arsenal’s official change of name.

On the afternoon of Sat 18 April 1914 35-40000, the largest Football League Division 2 crowd of the day, saw the first north London derby between Arsenal and Clapton Orient; a fixture made more exciting by Arsenal’s need for points.  With 5 minutes to go they were leading 2-0 after a very one-sided game; but at the final whistle the score was 2-2 and bang went Arsenal’s chance of an immediate return to Division 1.  Controversy raged for several days afterwards about an Arsenal goal disallowed apparently because the whole of the ball hadn’t crossed the line.  And in the large crowd, one of the football pressmen had his pocket picked - he mentioned the incident in his match report.

Although I do not know for certain that he was there, as the club chairman Henry Norris really ought to have been at Highbury at 5.45pm Mon 20 Apr 1914 for Arsenal v Chelsea, a benefit match for Arsenal’s player Lewis.

At 5.45pm Thur 23 April 1914 Arsenal v Grimsby Town was a game in hand they had over Bradford Park Avenue.  To stand any chance of beating Bradford to the second promotion place, Arsenal really needed to win and score at least 4; but a lack of goals scored was a perpetual problem with Henry Norris’ teams, and they only won 2-0.  Despite it being a mid-week match there were still 15-17000 at Highbury for this fixture.  Henry Norris was definitely at this important match; afterwards he had a meeting with members of the Islington Trades Council to try to resolve a dispute that had arisen about printing the match programmes.

On Sat 25 April 1914 it was the last day of the football season.  Arsenal did all they could to get promoted, winning 0-1 at Glossop; but in vain - Bradford Park Avenue took the second promotion place, on goal difference.  I do not know whether Henry Norris went to Glossop with Arsenal.  He might have gone to Crystal Palace for the FA Cup Final - Burnley 1 Liverpool 0, which George V (a keen football match goer when his engagements allowed it) attended.

On Mon 27 Apr 1914 Islington Daily Gazette’s reporter on Arsenal’s matches, the Candid Critic, criticised team selections during season 1913/14; as far as I can tell these were still being made by the directors, not the manager.  Candid Critic also commented that Arsenal’s forwards had been weak in front of goal.

By Thur 30 Apr 1914 the office at Arsenal FC had issued a list of 9 players from season 1913/14 who had been signed for season 1914/15.  The club had also signed one new player, a forward: J King, from Northampton (never heard of again as far as I can see!)


On the evening of Mon 4 May 1914 the Metropolitan Mayors’ Association held a dinner at the Trocadero, Piccadilly Circus.  I couldn’t find a list of guests but most of the mayors of London boroughs attended it.

On Mon 25 May 1914, as was usual, both the Football League and the Football Association held their AGMs on the same day, in London.  It’s very likely that Henry Norris attended them, because he did some business on the side towards the purchase of player Buckley from Aston Villa; the deal had gone through by Tue 26 May 1914 for £2500, a fee rather higher than he’d wanted to pay.

At the regular meeting of the London Borough of Fulham on Wed 27 May 1914 Henry Norris was appointed to represent the Borough’s interest on the committee which ran Fulham Waste Land and Lygon Almshouses, a very old local charity which owned land on Fulham Palace Road.

(See above 3 February).  At its regular meeting on Tue 23 June 1914 the London County Council agreed a request made by the Allen and Norris partnership for an extension of the LCC’s original deadline for finishing the houses they were building at their site in Southfields, Wandsworth.  Houses in Hambledon Road, Wincanton Road and Granville Road were all behind schedule.  Allen and Norris were given a new date by which they had to be finished: 31 July 1916.  It’s likely that despite the outbreak of war, the houses were completed before that date.

During the evening of Thur 25 June 1914 Henry Norris took a very important step upwards in his political career: he and a Mr Fremantle were adopted as Conservative Party candidates to contest the two (Liberal held) consituencies in Stockport, Lancashire.  Probably because neither of the prospective candidates lived anywhere near Lancashire, the meeting was held in the large billiard room of the Mansion House, City of London.  Norris’ being selected to contest a constituency so far from London caused a lot of anxiety and offence in Fulham but in fact, ‘stuff happened’ and Norris never fought his allotted constituency in Stockport.

Despite the fact that building work in Crabtree Lane and at Southfields was running behind schedule, the regular meeting of the London Borough of Fulham on Wed 28 June 1914 passed an application from Allen and Norris to build 28 houses in Colwith Road.

On Sat 27 June 1914 the archduke Ferdinand von Hapsburg and his wife were shot dead by a Serbian nationalist in a Sarajevo side-street after their driver had taken a wrong turning.  Henry Norris may not have known about it at the time. His activities in August suggest that if even he had known about it, he didn’t pay the event the attention it deserved.  But with this murder began the rapid descent to World War 1.

On Tue 30 June 1914 the AGM of Fulham Football and Athletic Company Limited was held at Fulham Town Hall; it must have been a quiet affair because it wasn’t reported in the local press.


On the afternoon of Tue 7 July 1914 Henry and Edith Norris, with other Fulham councillors,  went to Strawberry Hill House on the Thames at Richmond to attend the annual garden party of Lord and Lady Michelham.  It seems to have been the first time they had been invited to it.

One for the future: the West London and Fulham Times mentioned that on Tue 7 July 1914 the MP for Fulham, Henry Norris’ acquaintance William Hayes Fisher, piloted through its House of Commons committee stage a Ready Money Football Betting Bill.  It seems this Bill never became law; in 1920 Henry Norris MP successfully got a Bill with the same name made law.


During the afternoon of Sat 4 July 1914 there was great excitement in Fulham when George V and Queen Mary drove through the local streets en route to a polo match at the Hurlingham Club.  However, this was a private engagement; Henry Norris may have joined the crowds that came out to see them pass by but there was no official welcome for them.

At its meeting on Tue 14 July 1914 the London County Council approved the last of a series of applications (begun in 1910) by Allen and Norris to add bay windows and porches to the fronts of the houses they were building on their estates at Southfields and Crabtree Lane.  It seems as if the LCC thought this urge for add-ons was getting out of hand, though: the Allen and Norris partnership was ordered to keep strictly to the plans that they had sent in with the latest application, for Rosedew Road Fulham, and not to make any more additions; and to notify the London Borough of Fulham, as “adjoining owners”, of the change in the houses’ appearance.

At 2.30pm Fri 24 July 1914 Henry Norris attended the last meeting of the Metropolitan Water Board before its usual summer break.


On Tue 28 July 1914 Bromley UDC passed a planning application from Kinnaird Park Estate Company, for 2 houses and one shop on Tylney Road in Bickley.







Copyright Sally Davis January 2008