Henry Norris in 1916, a year in which he got a job at the War Office.

Last updated: April 2008


Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.  Conscription.  Easter uprising in Ireland.  Evacuation of Gallipoli.  Jutland.  Verdun.  The Somme.  Lord Kitchener went down with HMS Hampshire.  Lawrence of Arabia.  Holst wrote The Planets.  Original Dixieland Jazz Band hit Chicago, New York City had ragtime.  First: performance of Chu Chin Chow, at His Majesty’s Theatre 2238 performances); blood transfusion using blood which had been stored; daylight saving time.   War Cabinet.

At the beginning of 1916, probably in January George Easton had a heart attack.  Easton was a long-time acquaintance of Henry Norris, at Fulham FC football matches, at the London Borough of Fulham where they were both Conservative Party councillors, and at the Metropolitan Water Board where Norris represented Fulham and Easton the London County Council, again for the Conservative Party.

By January 1916 the regular Wednesday 7pm meetings of all the councillors of the London Borough of Fulham had been changed from one every fortnight to one every month.

On Sat 1 January 1916 Norris took the chair at the first meeting of Fulham’s local tribunal at Fulham Town Hall.  The tribunal had been set up to hear requests from the young men of the borough for exemption from Lord Derby’s Group and Canvas Scheme (see the autumn of 1915 for the nuts and bolts of this).  As conscription was now imminent, there was an added bite and urgency to its proceedings.  The tribunal sat all day so Norris wasn’t able to go to any football matches.

The following morning, Sun 2 January 1916 as mayor, Henry Norris led Fulham’s participation in the Day of National Intercession, organised by the churches to pray for victory and an end to the war.

On Wed 5 January 1916 the House of Commons heard the first reading of the Military Service Bill.  It galloped through the Parliamentary process and was given the royal assent on Fri 28 January 1916.  The bill was quite limited in scope, enforcing conscription only on young single men; but as the fighting showed no signs of ending, it was followed by other bills widening conscription to older men, and married men.  Appeals against conscription were allowed, and the local tribunals that had already been set up to cover the Group and Canvas Scheme just carried on, hearing Military Service exemption cases instead.

From 3pm to 10.30pm Sat 8 January 1916 Norris chaired the second session of Fulham’s local tribunal, at the Fulham Town Hall.  The committee heard 50 cases and again Norris couldn’t go to any football matches.


On the evening of Wed 19 January 1916 the meeting of the London Borough of Fulham - now monthly rather than fortnightly - lasted five minutes!  Partly this was because - with all its departments very short of staff - the borough was not able to carry out a lot of its statutory duties (road mending, rubbish collection etc).  But over the next two years the local papers began to voice their discontent, saying that such short meetings in a council where every single councillor was a Conservative, meant that issues that needed airing got no debate, effectively disenfranchising all Fulham’s voters.  As mayor and thus chairman of this Wednesday meeting, Henry Norris bore the brunt of the press criticism - and singling him out was justified (see my file Henry Norris and Politics). [ROGER I HAVEN’T WRITTEN THIS FILE YET]

It’s possible that Henry Norris did go to a match on Sat 29 January 1916: Arsenal 2 Fulham 0 was a charity match, takings going to the footballers’ battalion Comforts Fund (cigarettes, newspapers etc for the men in the trenches).


During February 1916, with their training now complete, 177th and 182nd artillery brigades - raised in Fulham largely through Henry Norris’ efforts, and with funding he provided - were sent to France.

At the evening of Wed 9 February 1916 meeting of the London Borough of Fulham, some new members were appointed to the local tribunal (now renamed the Military Services Act Tribunal) to help with the much larger amount of work it would have to do from now on.  Henry Norris (as mayor it was his decision) allowed into the meeting a deputation from Labour groups in Fulham who were complaining that they hadn’t been consulted when the list of new members had been drawn up.  Most of the new members were councillors - meaning, of course, that they were Conservative Party members.  Henry Norris had a rather revealing exchange with the leader of the Labour deputation, trade union activist Mr R M Gentry when Norris asked Gentry why he and his colleagues had got so worked up about the process of choosing new members as they didn’t actually object to any of the people who had been picked.  Norris didn’t seem to understand Gentry’s argument that the choice of tribunal members had to be seen to be a democratic process.  Gentry wasn’t the only man who questioned the names on the list: councillor Brooks asked why there were no women on it.  Norris told him that none had been nominated, but why hadn’t they?  With all these objections, the process of appointing the new members still hadn’t been completed by Wed 16 February 1916.  However, it did manage to sit for the first time as scheduled, on Sat 19 February 1916, still at Fulham Town Hall and still, in fact, dealing with the cases hanging over from the pre-conscription Group and Canvas scheme.  Henry Norris continued as the enlarged tribunal’s chairman.  Its sittings were open to the public.  Court reporters were allowed in so the tribunal’s cases received press coverage.  The Fulham Chronicle published the names of those men who were claiming exemption on grounds of pacifism, specifically so they could be hounded by their neighbours.  The tribunal continued to hear cases, having two or three sittings per week, until conscription ended, after World War 1 was over.


On Wed 23 February 1916 Henry Norris, as the mayor, visited a place in his borough which he had never been to (at least officially) before: he went to a party at Kelvedon Hall by the local Roman Catholic Convent.  His host was the local Roman Catholic priest, an Irishman called Rev J Crowley. On the following evening, Thur 24 February 1916 he was out again, fulfilling another social engagement at a place he didn’t normally go to: he and Edith went to the annual dinner of Lillie Ward Conservative and Unionist Association, held at the Conservative Club in Shorrold’s Road.  After being thanked by its chairman, Councillor Hovell, for sparing the time to attend, Norris made a very anti-German speech, suggesting that Britain should have no trading relations at all with Germany even when the Germans had been defeated.

On Fri 25 February 1916 a letter from Henry Norris in the Fulham Chronicle announced that Fulham was bringing in an early-closing scheme for shops in the borough.  Although Norris described the move as designed to promote the health and well-being of shop workers, the scheme was as much to do with saving electricity etc by forcing shops to shut in the evenings.

That evening, Fri 25 February 1916 the Fulham military tribunal was in session, with Norris in the chair.  The session continued on Sat 26 February 1916, for more than five hours.  Henry Norris interviewed so many people that he lost his voice and the vice-chairman, councillor Royston Evans, had to take over.  There was another session in the evening of Fri 3 March 1916 but this time Norris and Evans took it in turns to be chairman and interview the applicants for exemption, to spare both their voices.


On Thur 9 March 1916 Henry Norris was given a full-time job by the War Office - an important day for him but rather a disaster for me because he more or less disappears from public view until mid-1918 as a result of it!  He was appointed Supervisor of Military Representatives for the Number 10 District of the Eastern Command; and promoted to Captain to go with the job.  I have tried to find out what exactly the job entailed, but there are no records of it now at the Public Record Office, so I can only state the obvious, that it seems to be a next step up from the work he’d been doing in Fulham since the war had broken out, acting as a recruiting officer; I suppose  he was now supervising recruiting officers.


The new job meant that Norris had to curtail his other commitments - that’s why he disappears from view.  He saw virtually no football matches for two years. On Thur 9 March 1916 Fulham’s military tribunal was in session, but its sitting was chaired by councillor Royston Evans.  Norris also had to leave London: by Sun 12 March 1916 he had gone to Worthing, apparently for three months, in connection with his new job.  He was not able to fulfil an engagement he had made, to chair the AGM of the Hammersmith and Fulham District Nursing Association, which probably took place on Mon 13 March 1916.  Edith Norris stood in for him as chairman, something she did very often over the next two years or so.  He was able to be present at the meeting on Wed 15 March 1916 of the London Borough of Fulham, but he announced that because of his new posting, he had resigned as chairman of the military tribunal; he did not chair any more of its sittings.

The one engagement Henry Norris did fulfil during his time based at Worthing was chairing the meetings of London Borough of Fulham - which were now held once a month.  He was certainly there at the meeting of the evening Wed 22 March 1916 at which a rate for the next financial year was agreed.

As if the war was not hard enough on Fulham residents, on Tue 28 March 1916 west London was hit by a severe storm.  Two people were killed and there was a lot of damage to property in the borough.

For 2 days during April 1916 the Fulham artillery brigades, 177th and 182nd, were shelled and gassed in France.  I presume there were casualties but the papers were not allowed to report details of these.

On the afternoon of Mon 3 April 1916 Henry Norris was not able to attend the funeral of the (not much loved, but respected) vicar of Fulham the Rev Muriel; once again, Edith Norris went to it in his stead.

Again, in the evening of Wed 5 April 1916 Henry Norris missed a function he would normally have attended.  As mayor, he was chairman of the Fulham Dispensary for the Prevention of Consumption (TB).  This year he was absent from its AGM; I don’t think Edith stood in for him this time.  But he was able to be present on the evening of Wed 12 April 1916 to chair the meeting of the London Borough of Fulham.

The weekend of 21-24 April 1916 was Easter.  At noon on Easter Monday 24 April 1916 in Dublin, Sinn Fein staged what’s known in the UK as the easter uprising.  If Henry Norris had had an eagle eye he might have noticed some brief coverage of this in the papers; but in general, the British government managed to keep details of it secret, except for announcing the capture of Roger Casement, seen by the British as a traitor and later hanged as one. 

Sat 29 April 1916 was the last day of the London Combination’s first season.  As far as I know Henry Norris didn’t see either Arsenal or Fulham play that day (they were both away anyway).  He might have been able to go on Sat 6 May 1916 to Arsenal 2 Rest of London Combination 2, or Chelsea 2 Fulham 0, both matches raising funds for the war.

On Mon 15 May 1916 the Entertainments Tax came into force.  The first football season in which Henry Norris would have been bothered by this extra bureaucracy at Arsenal and Fulham was therefore season 1916/17.  It was charged on entry to football grounds, cinemas and other mass entertainment venues as a way of raising money for the war, but it was still in force, and Henry Norris was trying to get rid of it with no success, in the early 1920s (and it’s probably still in force now for all I know - it’s just too easy a way of raising revenue for any government to turn down!)

Belgian refugees had now been in London for nearly two years and sympathy for them in Fulham had worn through.  In mid-May rumours were circulating in Fulham that Belgians were being appointed to do jobs left by local men called up for military service.  During the evening of Sun 21 May 1916 there was an argument in the street, after which a crowd gathered in the North End Road/Lillie Road area throwing insults, stones and bottles and people thought to be Belgian.  The police were called and there were some arrests.


In the evening of Wed 31 May 1916 Henry Norris found time to go to the Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden to attend the Freemasons’ annual festival for the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls - their girls’ school.  This was held every year and was RMIG’s main fund-raising event; but this year, inevitably, the organisers had found themselves short of both stewards and donations - which might be why Norris attended it for the only time in his life.  William Hall was a regular at the event; and this year Stanley W Rodgers was also present.  Rodgers was one of the partners at the solicitors’ firm Rodgers Gilbert and Rodgers, who dealt with Kinnaird Park Estate Company’s legal business (see my file on Kinnaird Park Estate Company). [ROGER I HAVENT WRITTEN THE FILE ON KPEC YET].  All three men were representing Kent Lodge number 15.

On Wed 7 June 1916 the London Borough of Fulham passed a drainage application from Allen and Norris (for how this works, see my file Allen, and Norris). [ROGER LINK TO ALLEN, AND NORRIS NEEDED HERE].  It gave the partnership permission to build 275 Fulham Palace Road.  This application was - as far as I can tell from my researches - the last ever made by the partnership: Allen and Norris built no more new properties after this and, at least until the end of the fighting, the office survived on a reduced staff.  After the war the office was still needed, but now the staff concentrated on collecting rents and doing maintenance work on the properties where Allen and Norris still owned the freehold; and on more conventional estate agent activities, buying and selling properties the partnership had not built.

Mid-June 1916 was meant to be the end of the time Henry Norris would spend in Worthing in connection with his job at the War Office.  The evidence for whether the work was finished on time, or whether he had to stay on in Worthing has been destroyed.

In case you were not aware: Sat 1 July 1916 was the hideous first day of the Somme.  Half a million deaths later General Haig called off the fighting, in mid-November, with nothing of the slightest importance gained.  The annual report of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Ltd was published on Sat 1 July 1916, showing that Norris had loaned the company £7196 to date; that Humphreys Ltd were owed £18087 for their work on the grandstand at Highbury; but that despite the club’s grim financial position, it had managed to buy some property in Highbury since the last AGM, which it was now renting out.   It’s possible this property was the site on Highbury Hill where the Visitors’ Entrance was later built; or further down the hill where the entrance to West Lower used to be.


On Mon 3 July 1916 Lieutenant W H Grant of A Battery, Royal Field Artillery, called at the  offices of the Fulham Chronicle to relay news of Henry Norris’ brigades of artillery - all Fulham men - in France; although, presumably, he was restricted in the level of detail he could give.  On Wed 5 July 1916 an officer of the 177th RFA brigade called at the Fulham Town Hall to speak to Henry Norris about what was happening in France.  The officer isn’t named in the report, but I presume it’s the same Lt Grant - he was at home on sick leave, lucky man.  So it’s possible that Norris might have got an inkling of Big Things going on the Western Front.  Henry Norris relayed (some of?) what he’d been told in a speech he made on Thur 6 July 1916 when he went with Edith to a garden fête at Parson’s Green, organised by Fulham Tradesmen’s Association (which became Fulham Chamber of Commerce in the 1920s) for soldiers at present in the local military hospitals.  By Fri 1 September 1916 and despite Government censorship, the newspapers were aware of a big battle being fought on the Western Front.  By Mon 4 September 1916 it was even being called “the Battle of the Somme”.  And the Government was allowing some photographs of the action to be shown.  I’m not quite sure but this may be the famous film of soldiers going over the top which was hastily withdrawn as cinema audiences began to realise that the dead-looking men weren’t acting.


Another event Henry Norris was obliged to miss took place on the afternoon of Mon 10 July - Princess Louise came to Fulham to open a YMCA hut!  It had been built in the grounds of Fulham’s board of guardians’ infirmary (on the site of Charing Cross Hospital) now taken over by the War Office as a military hospital and the cause of much administrative strife between the War Office and the Board of Guardians, who were supposed to run it between them.  He also missed the second Fulham flower show, under the auspices of the Royal Horticultural Society, which ran from Thur 27 to Sat 29 July 1916.


On Tue 1 August 1916 yet another recruitment task was heaped on the mayors of all the London boroughs: the War Office asked each of them to raise 600 local men - men who were not eligible for conscription - to form a borough Volunteer Force.  The idea was that each borough force would be self-supporting.  Particularly with his job as a recruiting supervisor, this seems to have been a step too far for Henry Norris - I can’t find any evidence that he took part in whatever recruiting went on in Fulham to this latest military grouping.  Indeed, boroughs throughout London dragged their feet on it: in early September the Islington Volunteer Force was still 200 volunteers short, and hadn’t got enough money to pay for any uniforms.

In early August, Henry Norris’ acquaintance, councillor Easton died, several months after suffering a heart attack (see January 1916).  On the afternoon of Sat 5 August 1916 Henry and Edith Norris went to his funeral.

In early September 1916 just as season 1916/17 was beginning in the London Combination, the War Office requisitioned White Hart Lane.  I believe Spurs didn’t play there again until September 1919.  Quite why the Lane was wanted I don’t really know - no other football grounds were taken up by the armed forces in this way - unless it’s because it’s the nearest large, enclosed but open inside space to the Enfield Rifle Factory.  For the next three seasons Spurs played their home games at Highbury (for preference) or Homerton (if Arsenal were at home as well) - giving severely cash-strapped Arsenal a little more match-day income.


A little indication of how far the conditions of wartime had become a part of Londoners’ lives was printed in the Fulham Chronicle on Fri 15 September 1916: it described the time of year as the “Zeppelin season”.  This edition reported the death of Fulham’s first VC,  Dwyer, at Guillemont on Mon 4 September; the obituary paid tribute to his recruiting abilities.  Also on Fri 15 September 1916, a young man Henry Norris knew well was killed in France: Frank, the eldest son of Francis Plummer, Allen and Norris’ office manager.  His parents would have received the dreaded telegram a few days later.  There was no funeral, of course: the War Office had stopped bringing bodies back in 1915.


On the evening of Wed 20 September 1916 Henry Norris got back from wherever he was working for the War Office by now to chair the first meeting of the London Borough of Fulham after its summer break; but I don’t know why he made such an effort because it was another meeting that lasted only five minutes.


In late September 1916 Fulham Chronicle reported more tensions between local people and the Belgian refugees living in the Earl’s Court area.  In the Lillie Road area of Fulham a crowd had gathered outside a Belgian club after rumours had been spread around that there were Germans inside. And in a separate incident a group of Belgians had attacked policemen who were trying to arrest one of them for being drunk and disorderly. 


During the autumn 1916 there was a stepping-up of the level of criticism of the way the borough of Fulham was being run.  Criticism of the ruling Conservative Party - as mayor, Henry Norris was its leader in Fulham - became more common and was given more attention in the local press.

For example, on Fri 13 October 1916 the Fulham Chronicle published a letter complaining that no one had yet been appointed to the two councillor-ships at the London Borough of Fulham that were vacant.  The writer wanted them filled, preferably with Liberals who would oppose the actions of the Municipal Reform (that’s Conservative) majority on the council.


At 7pm on Wed 18 October 1916 the monthly meeting of the London Borough of Fulham lasted 10 minutes: longer than some recent ones!  Henry Norris had known in advance that it wouldn’t last  longer than a few minutes, because he’d allowed a second meeting that evening to be scheduled in advance for 7.15pm.  By Sat 21 October 1916 Norris had already agreed to serve as mayor for November 1916/1917.


On Wed 25 October 1916 the London Borough of Fulham held its last meeting of the mayoral year.  In the traditional farewell speech of the out-going mayor (although, of course, he was anything but out-going) Henry Norris took issue with a scurrilous suggestion that had, apparently, been made initially by some members of the Fulham military tribunal before getting into the local press: he vigorously denied that employees of Allen and Norris would be given exemption from military service by the military tribunal if they cared to apply for it. 


Then if he’d read the Fulham Chronicle on Fri 27 October 1916 he would have seen its editorial column describing the Council as dominated by a “narrow and excessive clique” who thought of themselves as “installed in office till the crack of doom”.  The Chronicle mentioned two subjects that councillors ought to have been at least discussing, even if there was little they could really do about the first, with so many young men called up: Fulham’s housing shortage; and the dispute over rent rises on the Driscoll Estate.  The dispute had been going on for some time, and the Chronicle accused the London Borough of Fulham of giving the tenants incorrect information when they sought advice about their rights under the Rents Act (of 1915, which restricted rent rises on properties of below a certain figure rent per year).


The London Borough of Fulham had been doing some work recently: at its regular meeting in the afternoon of Tue 31 October 1916 the London County Council confirmed the councillors’ decision to appoint Henry Norris to replace Councillor Easton as one of Fulham’s two LCC councillors.   It was an appointment rather than an election as the normal democratic processes had been suspended by Act of Parliament in 1915; Norris would continue as LCC councillor until he resigned or LCC elections were held.  He served until spring 1919.

In the evening of Thur 9 November 1916 Henry Norris was formally elected mayor of Fulham, for his eighth year in the post.  Edith and their daughters Joy and Peggy watched from the public gallery.   At the end of Norris’ installation ceremony at Fulham Town Hall, he presented the Distinguished Conduct Medal to a Fulham man serving in the Welsh Regiment.  Just to put Norris’ eighth year in context: his acquaintance from the Metropolitan Water Board, George Elliott, was elected as mayor in Islington for the eleventh time on this day, although he hadn’t served all 11 years successively; Dawnay of Wandsworth had also served more years as mayor than Norris.  Of 29 mayors in London boroughs elected on 9 November 1916, only 3 had never held the office before; and in the rest of England the majority of last year’s mayors had been re-elected.

On the evening of Mon 13 November 1916 Henry Norris chaired a meeting of the London Borough of Fulham’s Estimates standing committee (the ones that did all the work) while its chairman and vice-chairman for the coming mayoral year were elected. 


At 2.30pm on Tue 14 November 1916 Henry Norris was at County Hall, Spring Gardens, on London’s south bank, to be sworn in and attend his first meeting of the London County Council.  The LCC was organised just like the local councils were: standing committees elected for one year, reporting to the full Council.  The full LCC met every fortnight, usually on Tuesday afternoons; typically, meetings lasted an hour or two.  This one was declared finished at 4pm.  That evening, Tue 14 November 1916 Norris should have chaired the London Borough of Fulham’s Public Health Committee while its chairman and vice-chairman were being elected; but Councillor Evans did the job.  Norris must have had another appointment; I don’t know what it was.


On the evening of Wed 22 November 1916 Henry Norris, as mayor, chaired a meeting of the London Borough of Fulham at which all its standing-committee reports were adopted without any discussion at all.  After they had all gone through on the nod, Norris presented a Royal Humane Society award to a local child who’d pulled a girl out of the Thames when she was drowning.


At 2.30pm on Fri 24 November 1916 and at 2.30pm on Tue 28 November 1916 Henry Norris attended meetings of the full LCC.


During Tue 5 December 1916 the coalition government collapsed after months of dispute between PM Asquith and Chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George, both Liberals but having very different views on the conduct of the war.  Both resigned during the day and  George V asked the Conservative Party leader Bonar Law to form a government but he didn’t.  So on Wed 6 December 1916 Lloyd George was asked to form a government in cooperation with Bonar Law.  Lloyd George’s cabinet had an inner cabinet of a few men, specifically to make decisions on the war.


On Tue 12 December 1916 Henry Norris wasn’t able to attend the LCC meeting.  However, in his absence he was appointed to its Public Health Standing Committee; he served on this until the beginning of the LCC’s year, at the end of March 1917.


On the evening of Wed 20 December 1916 Henry Norris chaired a meeting of the London Borough of Fulham which actually discussed something: refuse disposal.  Even more unusually, the councillors couldn’t agree what to do about it.  So a vote had to be taken, the first since World War 1 had broken out (August 1914, 28 months before).


I haven’t been able to find out what Henry Norris did at Christmas 1916.  He doesn’t seem to have gone to any football matches.  By the evening of Thur 28 December 1916 he was back in London (if he had left it) to chair another meeting of the London Borough of Fulham.  The councillors decided to eject the press while they discussed whether to award the Town Hall staff some bonuses.  As Norris was the mayor and the meeting’s chairman, he gave the order to throw out all the reporters.  Over the next few weeks he reaped the inevitable whirlwind in the local papers.





Copyright Sally Davis February 2008