1917 - a grim year for most; but Henry Norris gets knighted.

Last updated: February 2008


Gaza.  Cambrai.  Arras.   Ypres again: Passchendaele.  Rationing of bread, meat and sugar but it was only voluntary.  Two revolutions in Russia.  The US entered World War 1.  Prokofiev’s First Symphony, the Classical.  Eddie Cantor’s first recordings.  J R R Tolkien began what was published as The Silmarillion.  Births: Anthony Burgess.  The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (who’s only just died in 2008).  John Lee Hooker.  Vera Lynn.  Ella Fitzgerald, Jo Stafford, Lena Horne, Buddy Rich, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie - what an amazing year for jazz!


A general comment on football: if you’ve read the files on 1915 and 1916, you’ll know that football in London was being played under the auspices of the London Combination; and that Henry Norris was too busy to go to matches - he probably saw no more than a handful between May 1915 and November 1918.  So I haven’t included lists of fixtures in this account of 1917.  That’s not to say he didn’t know what was going on, of course!  But other things were more important: as I say, 1917 was a grim year for most.  But some people did very well out of World War 1 - probably far better than they would have fared if it hadn’t happened.  On Fri 12 January 1917 the Fulham Chronicle reported that a gang-culture had developed amongst those young men in Fulham who were (for whatever reason) exempt from military service.  As a reporter in the Fulham Chronicle wrote, with a lot of them earning very good money in the munitions factories, the members of the Boston Boys gang could afford to dress - like Americans!


First news of the death of Rasputin was in the London papers on Wed 3 January 1917 and the Times, at least, was aware from the first that he had been murdered.  Further details of what had happened emerged over the next few days, but didn’t set the death in a wider context.


On the evening of Tue 16 January 1917 the London Borough of Fulham’s Works and Highways standing committe had its regular meeting.  Henry Norris was not a member, but what the committee discussed that day became a big issue in Fulham later in the year: in the face of growing shortages, the committee discussed the use of vacant land in the borough for growing food.


Fulham’s young men might be doing well out of munitions work, but it was extremely dangerous.  At 6.50pm Fri 19 January 1917 there was an explosion at the Silvertown TNT-making factory, on the north bank of the Thames, opposite Woolwich.  73 people were killed, mostly outright by the explosion; more than 400 were injured, mostly by flying pieces of red-hot metal, and another 400 were made homeless as three streets of houses were reduced to rubble.  The blast was heard as far away as Sandringham (Norfolk) and Southampton.  If Norris was at home in Richmond his doors and windows would have rattled and he would have heard a dull thud.  If he was in Piccadilly he would have heard the blast and shattering windows, and perhaps have gone out to see St Paul’s and the ships’ masts as black outlines against the flames.


At 2.30pm on Tue 23 January 1917 Henry Norris attended the fortnightly meeting of the full LCC at its HQ in Spring Gardens on the south bank.  As a member of the LCC’s Public Health standing committee he would also have been expected to attend its meetings as well; but I’m not sure when in the week they were held.


During January 1917 all local authorities were once more working for the war effort, setting up the mechanisms by which individuals could invest in the new War Loan government stock by buying it via weekly payments at an office in the Fulham Town Hall.  By Fri 26 January 1917 the London Borough of Fulham had invested £10,000 in the War Loan stock on behalf of the residents of Fulham.  In the evening of Mon 29 January 1917 there was a meeting at the Fulham Town Hall to tell the public how the War Loan stocks worked.  I couldn’t find a list of the people who were present, but I would expect Henry Norris to have been at there and made a speech urging local people to buy War Loan stock as a good investment and their duty as citizens.

At the beginning of February 1917 the Government launched a campaign aimed at men and women who were above the age of conscription, to volunteer (as civilians) to take over the jobs of young men being called up.  A first public meeting took place probably on Tue 6 February 1917 but I don’t know if Henry Norris attended it.


During the night of Fri 2 to Sat 3 February 1917 a temperature of 23ºF was recorded in South Kensington, beginning a week-end of particularly severe frosts in London.  During the afternoon of Sun 4 February 1917 the frost eased, but it began to snow.


On Sat 3 February 1917 the new government Food Controller, Lord Devonport, issued a set of guidelines for weights per person per week of flour products, meat and sugar - rationing.  BUT the guidelines were only voluntary.


At 2.30pm Tue 6 February 1917 Henry Norris attended an LCC meeting at Spring Gardens.


On Fri 9 February 1917 the Fulham Chronicle published a letter from Henry Norris, as mayor, following up the recent meeting by urging them to invest in the War Loan stock and describing how they could do so.  Norris said that the £10000 stock already bought by the Council would be

held in name of mayor and Town Clerk; anyone choosing to invest in the War Loan stock would buy their stock from this £10000-worth.  Also in this issue, the Chronicle - critical in recent months (see my file on 1916) of the way the Council was being run - made a pitch to central government for a public acknowledgement of Henry Norris’ contribution to the war effort.


By the afternoon of Sat 10 February 1917 the weather had not let up.  The London Combination game Arsenal 3 Fulham 2 was played on a pitch covered with snow.  I don’t think that Henry Norris was able to get away to watch the match.  The Islington Daily Gazette reported that after 14 days of bitter cold there was a shortage of coal, which was hitting the poor very badly.


When Henry Norris chaired  regular meeting of the London Borough of Fulham on the evening of Wed 14 February 1917 the administration of the War Loan stock investment scheme had grown so large - like bureaucracy does! - that it had filled the main council chamber; so the councillors met in a cramped room upstairs.  Fri 16 February 1917 was the closing date for applications for War Loan stock.


At the match on Sat 17 February 1917, Arsenal 3 Chelsea 0, a collection was made for the soldiers of the Footballers’ Battalion, now fighting in France.  Arsenal were on a good run: 11 played, 7 wins, 3 draws, only 1 loss.  Arthur Roston Bourke, writing as Norseman in the Islington Daily Gazette, said how sad it was that the Arsenal directors couldn’t appreciate the team’s good form to the full as they could hardly ever get to the matches.  Two directors did get to this game: William Hall and his brother-in-law George Davis.  Bourke also saw the FA Secretary Fred Wall, and noted football journalists J J Bentley and J A H Catton at the game, with old Arsenal hand, George Allison, like Catton a journalist with Hulton Newspapers.  But Henry Norris wasn’t there. 


At 2.30pm Tue 20 February 1917 Henry Norris attended the regular meeting of the full LCC at Spring Gardens.  So he wasn’t able to be at the Lord Roberts’ Memorial Workshops, in Fulham Road, that day, Tue 20 February 1917 to welcome the Duke of Connaught and Princess Christian when they paid them a visit.


In the evening of Wed 21 February 1917 Henry Norris chaired the meeting of the London Borough of Fulham, after yet another burden had been laid on local authorities by circulars issued by the Local Government Board and the Director-General of National Service: yet again they were to form committees to encourage young men to volunteer for the armed forces.  The councillors also discussed the use of vacant land for growing food, but they don’t seem to have taken any action as a result.


During the afternoon of Thur 22 February 1917, as mayor of Fulham, Henry Norris attended a meeting to hand over an ambulance paid for by the Fulham Territorial Force to the London Ambulance Column.


At the meeting of the London Borough of Fulham on the evening of Wed 28 February 1917 Henry Norris, as mayor, allowed in a deputation of local people wanting more urgent action to bring vacant land in Fulham into use for food-growing.  The bishop of London had offered some of the land surrounding his official residence at Fulham Palace for this purpose and the deputation was urging the councillors to take up his offer.  But after a debate in which Norris played a prominent role, the councillors decided to refuse the bishop’s offer, and tell him that he had to organise the use of the land himself rather than expect them to do it.  With the Council administration so stretched already, perhaps Norris was right to say that it couldn’t take on this extra task; but on Fri 2 March 1917 the Fulham Chronicle’s editorial lampooned him mercilessly for his comments during the debate on the matter, wondering if he’d been converted by the Labour Party.


The severe weather continued.  On Sat 3 March 1917 there was snow on the pitch at Highbury for Spurs v Portsmouth.


At 2.30pm Tue 6 March 1917 Henry Norris attended the regular meeting of the full LCC.


On the evening of Wed 7 March 1917 Henry Norris chaired the meeting of the London Borough of Fulham at which the next financial year’s estimates were agreed.


On Fri 9 March 1917 the Fulham Chronicle criticised Henry Norris personally for the mess the London Borough of Fulham was making of the question of how (or if) to use land in Fulham for growing food.  The article was in the context of a U-turn by the Government, meaning that potato prices would go up (again) next month.  There was such a shortage of potatoes already that queues formed outside any greengrocers rumoured to have them for sale; and farmers were being accused of pocketing the profits while foods considered staples got too expensive for ordinary people to afford.  By Fri 25 May 1917 you had to pay 3d for one pound of potatoes; before the war you could get three pounds for 2d.


It was food, in the end, that brought down the Romanovs. Although what exactly had happened wasn’t clear until Wed 21 March 1917, over the weekend of Sat 10 to Sun 11 March 1917 a month of demonstrations in Petrograd over the scarcity of bread, and the lowering of the bread ration, ended with a revolution in favour of the Duma (the Russian parliament), against Tsar Nicholas II’s attempts to hang on to absolute power.  He abdicated on Fri 16 March 1917 and within the month was under house arrest with the Tsarina being treated as an enemy alien (she was German by birth).


At 2.30pmTue 20 March 1917 Henry Norris attended the first LCC meeting of its year, when expenditure for the financial year was agreed and the standing committees were chosen.  Norris was chosen to serve on the Education Standing Committtee for the next 12 months.  This doesn’t seem to have had much to do with his past experience as a school governor in Fulham, although no doubt that was welcome in committee members; it was more that the LCC’s education programme was its biggest commitment in financial and other terms, and so all LCC councillors served some time on the education standing committee.  Education Committee meetings were held on Wednesday afternoons so Norris’ Wednesdays got busier than ever. 


By the end of the winter of 1916-17, the consequences of the war, the cold, the food shortages and the whole damn thing were becoming acute: at the meeting on the evening of Wed 21 March 1917 of the London Borough of Fulham the councillors discussed the measles epidemic that had been raging in the borough since November, filling those hospital beds not being taken by wounded soldiers.


On Fri 23 March 1917 there was more criticism of the councillors of the London Borough of Fulham in the Fulham Chronicle, this time of their behaviour in the Driscoll Estate rent dispute, which the Chronicle described as “shabby”.


At 2.30 on Wed 28 March 1917 Henry Norris attended his first meeting as a member of the LCC Education Standing Committee.  Perhaps because of his construction industry experience, he was elected to its Accommodation and Attendance sub-committee.  From 28 Mar 1917 to March 1918 this sub-committee would have met fortnightly; I don’t know when in the week this happened and I couldn’t find out how many meetings Norris was able to attend.


During the afternoon of Thur 29 March 1917 Henry Norris, as mayor, chaired the AGM of Fulham’s Dispensary for the Prevention of Consumption (TB), held in its office at 114 New Kings Road.  In his speech he made a joke about recent criticism of him in the press; not something he did very often, making jokes.


In the evening of Mon 2 April 1917 Henry Norris was elected a member of one of the City of London livery companies - the Feltmakers’ Company.  He was proposed for membership by a very distinguished member of the estate agents’ fraternity, Sir Louis Newton, a previous and future Lord Mayor of London.  Thereafter he was eligible to attend its meetings, which were held at the Guildhall on the first Monday of January, April, July and October; and he soon started making his way up its hierarchy towards serving as its Master for one year.  There he met John James Edwards, a very active member, a solicitor based in the West End.  Edwards became the last man that Norris recruited to the board of directors at Arsenal Football and Athletic Company.

(For more information on Norris’ ‘secret societies’ activities see my file: Henry Norris as a Freemason and in the Feltmakers’ Guild.) [ROGER THIS FILE HASN’T BEEN WRITTEN YET].


At 2.30pm on Tue 3 April 1917 Henry Norris attended the LCC meeting at Spring Gardens; this one went on longer than most, being declared finished at 6.34pm.  On the following afternoon, Wed 4 April 1917, however, he wasn’t at the regular meeting of the LCC Education Standing Committee.


Easter in 1917 was over the weekend Fri 6 to Mon 9 April 1917 but with all his commitments, and the terrible weather continuing, I doubt if Henry Norris took a break.  He doesn’t seem to have gone to see Arsenal 3 Spurs 2 on the Monday, 9 April 1917; it was played in a snowstorm but 12000 people were there - a huge crowd by wartime standards.  By Sat 14 April 1917 when the other north London derby was played - Clapton Orient 1 Arsenal 3 - the weather had got a bit better - strong winds and pouring rain had replaced the freeze.


On Fri 20 April 1917 the Fulham Chronicle kept up its criticism of the way the London Borough of Fulham was managing local affairs, by blaming Henry Norris specifically for the decision to refuse the Bishop of London’s offer of land for food at his official residence.  However, this particular criticism rang rather hollow as the debate about the Fulham Palace gardens had been overtaken by events: the War Office had requisitioned part of the land under debate, intending to build a military hospital on it.

By Sat 21 April 1917 West Ham had already won the London Combination championship.  Arsenal 2 West Ham 1 was therefore a good result.  Wartime football had not changed Arsenal’s way of playing: West Ham did the pretty football, Arsenal were more effective.  William Hall and George Allison both managed to get to the match, but Henry Norris didn’t.


It is very curious, how much the Freemasons seemed from their records to have kept going through the war more or less as usual.  In the evening of Wed 25 April 1917 the annual festival of the United Grand Lodge was held, and Captain Henry Norris was appointed to an official position within it: he became Assistant Grand Sword Bearer, a post held for one year, at the end of which you became Past AGSB, a rank you kept for life. 


By Fri 27 April 1917 the Fulham Chronicle’s almost weekly criticism of the London Borough of Fulham was getting shrill and personal.  It accused Henry Norris, again specifically, of deliberately refusing to be more pro-active about the Bishop of London’s offer of his gardens.  The Chronicle accused Norris of distrusting and disliking the residents of Fulham, and of being part of a Conservative Party plot to prevent civil war breaking out in Britain once the fighting in Europe was over. 


On Sat 28 April 1917 Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 0 was the last game of season 1916/17; the crowd was 5000, mostly soldiers on leave.  It was the only game that I know definitely that Norris saw any part of that season, and the report in the Islington Gazette reads as if he wasn’t there for the kick-off.  However, when the match had finished, in the evening of Sat 28 April 1917 Norris and William Hall took the Arsenal players out to dinner, at the Holborn Restaurant, the popular football socialising venue opposite where Holborn tube station is now.


In the afternoon of Mon 30 April 1917 the LCC Education Committee held a meeting extra to its normal schedule, to discuss the financial estimates for the next year.  Henry Norris wasn’t able to attend it.  At 2.30pm on Tue 1 May 1917 he was at the regular meeting of the full LCC.


At 6pm on Wed 2 May 1917 Henry Norris was at the Freemasons’ Hall, in Covent Garden, for a meeting of the Supreme Grand Chapter, at which he was appointed Past Deputy Grand Sword Bearer.


The long, cold winter meant that as late as Fri 4 May 1917 there were still shortages of coal; prices were very high.  On Fri 11 May 1917 the Fulham Chronicle mentioned how desperate the shortage of housing was getting in Fulham: with no new building going on, and repairs not being carried out for lack of workmen.


In the afternoon of Wed 9 May 1917 the LCC Education Committee held its regular meeting but Henry Norris didn’t attend it.


On the afternoon of Tue 15 May 1917 Henry Norris wasn’t able to attend the usual meeting of the LCC.  However, in the evening, Tue 15 May 1917 he went with Edith to a concert at Fulham Town Hall in aid of the local Women’s Service Bureau and the Scottish hospital units now based in London.


At 2.30pm on Tue 22 May 1917 Henry Norris attended the regular meeting of the full LCC.  But again, he missed the regular meeting of the LCC Education Committee on the afternoon of Wed 23 May 1917.






Copyright Sally Davis February 2008