Last updated: February 2008

 

Probably on Thur 20 March 1913 Henry Norris and his family left London to spend an Easter break at Blundell Sands near Liverpool.This was not as much of a holiday as it sounds: over the weekend he saw at least one football match.

 

By Good Friday, 21 March 1913 it had become clear that there wasnít enough support in the Football League membership for the extraordinary general meeting Spurs and Clapton Orient wanted to call about Woolwich Arsenalís move to north London.On Easter Saturday, 22 March 1913 Woolwich Arsenal lost the first of their two Easter fixtures, 2-0 away at Manchester United.Their Easter Monday fixture, 24 March 1913, was also away: Aston Villa 4 Woolwich Arsenal 1.

 

Although I am not sure, I think Henry Norris saw the Saturday game.But on Mon 24 March 1913 he went to Anfield and saw Liverpool 1 Chelsea 2, a result which went right against the form book and - with Woolwich Arsenalís losses - made it sure beyond all doubt that Woolwich Arsenal would be relegated.On Fri 28 Mar 1913 in his regular column in West London and Fulham Times Norris railed against Fulhamís poor gates over Easter, and then made some remarks on the Liverpool/Chelsea game that stopped just short of accusing it of being fixed.

 

On Sat 29 March 1913 I think Henry Norris went to Woolwich Arsenal 2 Sheffield Wed 5 (I think itís five but the printing is smudged in my only source for this result).The gate was 5390, giving receipts of £140, and this for visitors that were known as a ďleading teamĒ.In his column in West London and Fulham Times on Fri 4 April 1913 Norris reiterated that you couldnít run a first-class football club on this kind of income.During season 1913/14, of course, he wouldnít have to.

 

By Wed 2 April 1913 Spurs and Clapton Orient had received a number of replies to their circular about Woolwich Arsenalís move to Highbury.They were having to admit that they didnít have enough support amongst other Football League members to get an EGM to discuss it.††

Between Sun 30 March and Mon 14 April 1913 a three-man commission of enquiry, set up by the Football Association, investigated whether the result of the Liverpool/Chelsea match had been a set-up.It was a response, specifically, to the accusations made by Henry Norris.

 

On Mon 31 March 1913 an article in the Athletic News noted that there had been outrage amongst football goers at some of the things that had been said about them in letters to the Islington Daily Gazette by residents of Highbury objecting to Woolwich Arsenalís leasing of St Johnís College sports ground.And on Wed 2 Apr 1913 the Gazetteís football writer, Arthur Roston Bourke/Norseman, wrote that officials at the local amateur football clubs had asked him to dissociate the clubs from the more extreme opinions theyíd read in the paper recently.

 


In the evening of 2 April 1913 another meeting of the Highbury Defence Committee took place.Representatives were chosen who would speak against Woolwich Arsenalís proposed lease at the next meeting of Islington Council.

 

On Thur 3 April 1913 Henry Norris wrote to the London Borough of Islington, defending Woolwich Arsenalís position.His letter made clear that negotiations about the lease were very advanced: the football clubís representatives had already signed it, and had negotiated £1000 of guarantees for the rent.Later evidence indicates that Norris and William Hall had made themselves personally liable if the football club didnít pay the rent.Norris asked in his letter that the club should be represented at the next council meeting. On Thur 3 Apr 1913 Norris was in Liverpool, at the Hotel St George.He, the Chelsea manager, and representatives of Liverpool FC were all explaining themselves to the FA commission of enquiry into the Liverpool/Chelsea match.

 

Iím not sure quite when this happened, but sometime before the evening of Fri 4 April 1913 Henry Norris met his acquaintance from the Metropolitan Water Board George Elliott, mayor of Islington, to discuss the question of Woolwich Arsenalís proposed move to Highbury.

 

Fri 4 April 1913 was a particularly busy day for Henry Norris.The West London and Fulham Times noted that Fulham FC, at least, were finishing season 1912/13 very strongly, but I doubt if Norris had much leisure for appreciating it.It also reported that Henry Norris had made a statement recently, strongly condemning playing football on Sundays; no doubt he had made it with an eye to Woolwich Arsenalís proposed leasing of land owned by a Church of England organisation.

 

At 2.30pm Fri 4 April 1913 he attended the regular meeting of the Metropolitan Water Board.Itís very likely that the meeting between Norris and George Elliott took place before or immediately after the MWBís meeting.

 

Fri 4 April 1913 was the day appointed by the FA for its commission of enquiry into the Liverpool/Chelsea game to make their report.It seems, though, that the report was delayed.

In the evening Fri 4 April 1913 councillors of the London Borough of Islington held their regular meeting.At 7.30pm the councillors allowed in representatives of both sides of the debate on the subject of Woolwich Arsenalís lease of St Johnís Collegeís sports ground.A representative of Highbury Defence Committee answered councillorsí questions on behalf of local objectors.Then C E Sutcliffe answered questions for Woolwich Arsenal.Sutcliffe was there as the lawyer whose presence Henry Norris had requested permission for in his recent letter to the Council; however, he was NOT Woolwich Arsenalís lawyer, although both the councillors and the Islington Daily Gazette seem to have accepted him as such.Sutcliffe was a practising solicitor; but his main function was the daily running of the Football League, as the main administrative member of its management committee.After listening to the arguments of both sides, the councillors voted, with no real debate, to do what the Council was able to prevent Woolwich Arsenal leasing St Johnís Collegeís land.If Henry Norris attended this meeting, he did not speak at it.On Sat 5 April 1913 the London Borough of Islington wrote to the Board of Education, asking them to stop the lease going through.


Later, Henry Norris wrote as if on Sat 5 April 1913 heíd been at Stamford Bridge for England 1 Scotland 0.†† He attributed Woolwich Arsenalís 1-1 draw that day at Blackburn Rovers to Roversí team being weakened by international call-ups.Fulhamís draw with Glossop kicked off at the same time as the international match; the crowd at Craven Cottage had, inevitably, been only 4000.

 

On Sun 6 April 1913 the secretary of St Johnís Collegeís governing Council wrote to the London Borough of Islington stating that the Collegeís lease of its sports ground to Woolwich Arsenal FC had already been confirmed.

At question time in the House of Commons on Mon 7 April 1913 Mr Pease MP, President of the Board of Education, was asked about the Boardís role in the granting of the lease to Woolwich Arsenal.Mr Pease replied that the Board had been asked to give formal agreement to the lease.He also confirmed what the Islington Daily Gazette had discovered: that the deed of Trust that had endowed the land to St Johnís College did not prevent the land from being leased to a football club.

 

Tue 8 April 1913, according to what C E Sutclifffe had told the London Borough of Islington on Fri 4 April, was the day the lease of the St Johnís College sports ground to Woolwich Arsenal FC was due to go through.In the morning two petitions were handed in at St Johnís College: the one assembled by the Highbury Defence Committee; and a second one, in favour of the move, organised by shop-keepers in Gillespie Road and Blackstock Road.In the evening there was a meeting at Grosvenor Mansions, Victoria Street, of the governing Council of St Johnís College, chaired as usual by the Dean of Canterbury.Henry Norris, William Hall and C E Sutcliffe attended the meeting for Woolwich Arsenal.Mr Saint, chairman of the Parliamentary sub-committee of London Borough of Islington, spoke on behalf of the local objectors.Lord Kinnaird, President of the FA and a well-known evangelical Christian activist, was also present though reports of the meeting donít say whether he supported Woolwich Arsenal or the local opposition.At the end of the meeting, members of the governing Council refused to talk to the press about what had happened.But the lease did not go through on this day.

 

On Fri 11 April 1913 representatives of both the Football League and the Football Association met to make public the results of the investigation into the Liverpool/Chelsea match.It was announced that, though Liverpoolís performance had been an insult to their fans, there was no evidence that the players had taken bribes to throw the game.Henry Norris was present at the meeting, to hear himself censured for the suggestions heíd made in his column in West London and Fulham Times: he was obliged to admit to the FA that heíd been indiscreet and should have gone to the proper authorities with any suspicions he had about the match, rather than publish them in the press.The same day the Board of Education replied to the letter sent them by London Borough of Islington, saying that, now that they had issued their official permission for a lease of St Johnís Collegeís land to Woolwich Arsenal FC, the deal could not be stopped.

 


On Sat 12 April 1913 Henry Norris saw Clapton Orient 2 Fulham 1.He missed Woolwich Arsenal 1 Derby County 2, a match which the reporter of the Woolwich Herald described as ďnauseatingĒ, with Woolwich Arsenalís fans jeering the appalling quality of their own teamís play.By this time Woolwich Arsenal were relegated in all but name - no one was even discussing them staying up, any more - though it was still possible that Chelsea could escape.

 

By Mon 14 April 1913 the Athletic News was reporting that Woolwich Arsenalís directors hadnít heard from St Johnís College since the meeting of Tues 8 April.It noted, though, that officials at the club were acting as if they would be moving shortly: they were opposing efforts to get the Manor Ground sub-leased to a football club newly-formed in Woolwich, on the grounds that Woolwich Arsenal wouldnít consider a rival professional club a suitable tenant. By Wed 16 Apr 1913 some papers were reporting that representatives of St Johnís Collegeís Council had now, finally, signed the lease.That evening, the Highbury Defence Committee held another meeting, at which they were told that there was still no definite news about the lease.

 

In the evening Thur 17 April 1913 Henry Norris and Edith attended the 75th annual dinner of the local charitable institution, Fulham Philanthropic Society.Henry Norris paid 3 guineas for a one-year subscription to the Society; Edith paid 2 guineas.

 

Fri 18 April 1913 in West London and Fulham Times Henry Norris had his first chance to comment on the outcome of the investigation into the Liverpool/Chelsea match.He was very annoyed that he had been singled out for censure when other match reports, especially in the Lancashire papers, had condemned Liverpool almost as much.He denied that heíd been indiscreet.And he disputed the press coverage of the investigation, saying that he had not withdrawn any of the comments heíd made in his article on the match.Also on Fri 18 April 1913 at its regular meeting, the London Borough of Islington discussed the reply they had had from the Board of Education.After this date, the Council did not make any further effort to stop the lease of St Johnís Collegeís sports ground to Woolwich Arsenal FC.

 

On Wed 23 April 1913 the Islington Daily Gazette reported that there was still no definite news about Woolwich Arsenalís lease.In the evening of Wed 23 April 1913 at the regular meeting of the London Borough of Fulham, Henry Norrisí re-appointment to serve as the boroughís representative at the Metropolitan Water Board went through on the nod, as these things usually did.He would serve this time until 31 May 1916.

 

Probably between Thur 24 April and Wed 30 April 1913 one of the staff at Islington Daily Gazette, who wrote a regular column as ĎMerrie Villagerí visited Henry Norris at Fulham Town Hall to discuss Woolwich Arsenalís move to Highbury and to be given a tour of the town hall - Islington hadnít built itself a town hall yet.

 


In the evening of Thur 24 Apr 1913 the other London Borough of Fulham councillors entertained Henry Norris and Edith at the Clarendon Restaurant, Hammersmith, which was run by Norrisí friend and fellow Freemason, Henry Foreman.Henry Norrisí sister Ada, architect Archibland Leitch, William Gilbert Allen and his son William junior were amongst the guests.He was not therefore present at a concert and (amateur) boxing bouts at Rotherhithe Town Hall.The evening had been organised by the fund-raising committee in Woolwich as a goodbye gesture to the Woolwich Arsenal team.Most of the team attended, and coach George Hardy; player Joseph Shaw was presented with a watch.William Hall and George Morrell had been invited to the concert but were not able to attend (I wish I knew whether or not their non-attendance was diplomatic).From the coverage of the evening in the Kentish Independent it seems that Henry Norris wasnít invited; was the evening scheduled for a date when he couldnít attend?

On Fri 25 Apr 1913 in his column in West London and Fulham Times Henry Norris finally admitted in writing that on the following day Woolwich Arsenal would play their last game at the Manor Ground in Plumstead; he confirmed that they would play at the new ground in Highbury from season 1913/14.He also admitted that the uproar that had resulted from his comments on the Liverpool/Chelsea game had affected him.What he didnít say was that this piece of writing was his last regular football column; nor was it mentioned anywhere else in the newspaper so itís not clear whether he was sacked, or resigned, or left by mutual agreement.He never wrote a regular column, on any subject, again.Oscar Drew/Merula also ceased writing for West London and Fulham Times after his end-of-season column on Friday 2 May 1913: suggesting the Liverpool/Chelsea game affair had resulted in badly burned fingers all round.

On the afternoon of Sat 26 April 1913, Woolwich Arsenal 1 Middlesbrough 1 rang down the curtain on Woolwich Arsenalís time at Plumstead; and also on their first period in the Football League Division One.Speaking to the press before kick-off, Norris told them that the lease with St Johnís College had finally been signed by the Collegeís representatives.It was player Shawís benefit match but despite his popularity and wide publicity for the occasion, the crowd was only 3000.The clubís directors had guaranteed him £250 from this benefit but they had to pay most of it themselves.Season 1912/13's statistics were: played 38; won 3 (1 at home), lost 23, drawn 12; goals for 26, goals against 74.That evening, Henry Norris attended the third annual dinner of Fulham Amateur Boxing Club.William Allen and William junior were there, with John Edward Norris and John Peters.

On Mon 28 Apr 1913 Athletic News confirmed to their readers that Woolwich Arsenal had signed a lease for the site at Highbury for 21 years.The reporter estimated that Woolwich Arsenal had made a loss of £2000 on season 1912/13, with a wages bill of £100 per week on gate receipts often less than £150 per home game.On Tue 29 Apr 1913 the Islington Daily Gazette attempted to reassure local opponents of the lease by giving some more details of the restrictions in it.No football matches would be allowed on Sundays or other Holy days; and no betting or drinking of alcohol could go on on the leased land.Woolwich Arsenal would be spending £20000 preparing the ground for professional football.The club would take possession of the leased land immediately.Neither paper mentioned that the lease made Henry Norris and William Hall personally liable for payment of the clubís rent; and for returning the leased land to its former state when the lease expired.

 

In the close season 1913 the leased land was got ready for season 1913/14: Archibald Leitchís grandstand was built by the iron-framed-building specialists Humphreys Limited.In 1929 Henry Norris said that the contract with Humphreys made him and William Hall personally liable for paying the bill; with interest and because of the intervention of World War I, their total liability eventually reached £50,000.During building work at Highbury Henry Norris travelled to Highbury ďpractically every day to superviseĒ the building work.

 


During May 1913 Fulham Lodge number 2512 held its main meeting of the year, at the Hotel Cecil in the Strand.Percy Shuter, who as Town Clerk of the London Borough of Fulham, worked for Henry Norris in Norrisí capacity as mayor, was elected to serve for the next twelve months as the lodgeís Master.I do not know the exact date of the ceremony but if he wasnít too busy Iím sure Henry Norris would have liked to attend it.

On Mon 26 May 1913 the first AGM of the Football League since Woolwich Arsenalís move was held.The representatives of Tottenham Hotspur and Clapton Orient were unsuccessful in their attempt to change the rules about club locations, and majority decisions.But they forced a debate about dual control of football clubs which was specifically aimed at Henry Norris and William Hall.The debate got so heated that Norris objected to some of the things that were being said about him and offered to resign from one of the two clubs he was a director of, at least while they were both playing in the same division; Hall did the same.

Between Mon 2 June and Mon 9 June 1913 Henry Norris and William Hall duly tendered their resignations as directors of Fulham FC.BUT the other directors refused to accept them and agreed to argue their case with the Football League.

At 2.30pm Fri 30 May 1913 Henry Norris attended the normal fortnightly meeting of the Metropolitan Water Board - the first heíd been able to get to for some months.

On Tue 3 June 1913 the mayor of Westminster gave a lunch for the peace delegates (Iím not sure who is meant by this).Several mayors of other London boroughs attended this; I have no list of names however and wouldnít include it in this Ďdiaryí except that the lunch was held at the Royal Automobile Club, of which Henry Norris was a member, at least from 1918 if not earlier.

On the morning 25 June 1913 Henry Norris may have been amongst a deputation of mayors of London boroughs meeting President Poincarť of France at the Guildhall.He may then have gone

to St Jamesís Palace as a representative of the mayors of the London boroughs to attend another official function during the presidentís State Visit to London.

 

 

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE SOURCES OF ALL THIS INFORMATION, SEND ME AN EMAIL AND IíLL SEND YOU THE SOURCES FILE.

 

 

Copyright Sally Davis September 2007

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