Henry Norris in 1920: still an MP

Last updated: April 2008



League of Nations.  Government of Ireland Act led to collapse of British control over Ireland, fighting and strikes and a Bloody Sunday in Dublin in November with deaths at a football match; partition of Ireland.  Foundation of the Communist Party of Great Britain.  First night bus service in London.  Miners’ strike October-November.  The unknown soldier buried in Westminster Abbey.  Born: Clive Dunn, Patrick Troughton.  P D James, Christopher Robin Milne, Richard Adams.  Roy Jenkins.


It’s possible that over Christmas 1919 and New Year 1920 Henry Norris and his family were abroad.  Later in the 1920s he did start spending Christmas in the south of France.  1919-20 may be too early for that, though, and I don’t actually have any evidence that he was abroad.


At some date before May of 1920 the directors of Arsenal FC decided that they would no longer take part in the London Professional Charity Fund matches.  They had been in dispute with the organisers, the London FA, for some while: Arsenal wanted the money earned by these matches to be spent locally, while the London FA continued to insist that they take charge of all the proceeds. 


On Mon 12 January 1920 at its quarterly meeting at the Guildhall, William Hall was elected a freeman (member) of the Feltmakers’ Company; so was Henry Norris’ freemasons acquaintance in Hammersmith, Henry Foreman though he never seems to have been a member in anything more than name.  Although they were both nominated by Major Hawkins, Henry Norris almost certainly recommended them for membership.


On Tue 18 January 1920 bankruptcy proceedings in the case of Leeds City FC were announced in the Times.  See my file on 1919 for how and why Leeds City had gone bankrupt [ROGER I NEED A LINK TO SL19 HERE].


On Sat 17 January 1920 William Hall was with the Arsenal party for Manchester City 4 Arsenal 1.  After the match he and manager Leslie Knighton stayed in Manchester and went to a dinner in Knighton’s honour, given by staff and supporters’ groups at Manchester City.  Henry Norris didn’t go to the match or the dinner.


On Sat 24 January 1920 Henry Norris did see Arsenal 0 Aston Villa 1 in the company of another satisfyingly large crowd: 55000 and many more locked outside.  Charles Crisp, William Hall and Hall’s brother-in-law George Davis were also at the match; this seems to have been Davis’ last match-day appearance as a director of the club.


On Wed 28 January 1920 Arsenal’s directors spent a bit more money on pre-match training than they were accustomed to, sending the squad to Weston-super-Mare in preparation for the weekend’s FA Cup tie.  But on Sat 31 January 1920 the players didn’t take their goal-scoring chances and the match ended Bristol City 1 Arsenal 0.  Henry Norris didn’t go to Bristol for the game. 


As far as I can discover, the Allen and Norris partnership built no more new houses after 1916.  However, Kinnaird Park Estate Company continued to build in commuter-land Bromley.  On Tue 3 February 1920 Bromley UDC considered the first planning application submitted by Kinnaird Park Estate Company since 1915.  It passed a plan for 16 houses in Bird-in-Hand Lane, Bickley.


Parliament resumed its sittings on Tue 10 February 1920.  By the end of Wed 11 February 1920 back-bench MP’s (of whom Henry Norris was one, of course) had to notify the House of Commons bureaucracy if they wanted to take part in the  ballot for the right to present a private member’s bill.  On Thur 12 February 1920 the ballot took place.  Henry Norris got drawn 22nd on the list, so he was allotted one private member’s bill that session.  All those on the list had to present the Speaker of the House of Commons with a copy of the bill they wanted to put forward, by noon on Fri 13 February 1920.  The list of all the private members’ bills was then read out at the beginning of that day’s sitting.  Norris’ bill was the Ready Money Football Betting Bill. 


This was the FA’s bill; they were putting legislation before Parliament on behalf of the football associations of all the UK.  Its scope was very limited: it sought to prevent the distribution of circulars advertising football betting schemes.  It wasn’t the first time they’d tried to stop betting syndicates using football, but for one reason or another none of the other bills had become law.

At some stage, maybe as late as after the ballot had taken place, the FA had asked Norris to be responsible for overseeing the latest bill’s passage through to becoming law.  As well as Norris, eight other MPs gave it their support including Norris’ Fulham acquaintances Cyril Cobb (MP for Fulham West) and Henry Foreman (MP for Hammersmith) neither of whom were at all interested in football; also on the list was a new acquaintance, presumably from football chat at the House of Commons, William Perring, Conservative and Unionist MP for Paddington North.  An MP with a well-known interest in football whom Norris did NOT get as a supporter for his bill was Sir Samuel Hill-Wood.


By Mon 23 February 1920 Arthur Bourke, writing as Norseman in the Islington Daily Gazette, after the FA cup exit and a series of poor league performances, was worried that Arsenal’s directors were throwing away the opportunities offered them by Highbury for large, regular crowds.  His article presented evidence that you couldn’t succeed in Football League Division One without a good forward line; he thought Arsenal’s failings in attack were so obvious that the club’s directors couldn’t  be unaware of them.  On Sat 28 February 1920 Arsenal did field what the Times described as “a few bold experiments” for Manchester Utd 0 Arsenal 1 including playing defender Bradshaw as a centre-forward and putting a completely untried pairing on the left wing.


During March 1920 Henry Norris’ acquaintance J J Edwards was elected Worshipful Master of the Feltmakers’ Lodge number 3839, to serve for one year.  Edwards later became a director of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited.  I haven’t been able to find out the date of the ceremony; or whether Norris attended it.


On Tue 2 March 1920 Henry Norris was active at question time in the House of Commons on behalf of football.  Firstly he asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for some figures on how much entertainment tax football clubs paid.  Then he asked the Government for financial help to cover the costs of collecting the tax.  Naturally, the Chancellor said that the Government would do no such thing.  I can’t suppose Norris was so naïve as to suppose the Government would start paying money to collect a tax which previously had been paid by any other institution, so I guess Norris was trying to make a point about the costs to football clubs of administering the tax.


After 3.16pm on Fri 5 March 1920 Henry Norris moved the second reading of the Ready Money Football Betting Bill; and took part in the subsequent debate. 


Some between 5 March and August 1920 according to Henry Norris’ evidence to the FA Commission investigating Arsenal FC in 1927, he was approached at the House of Commons by a man he didn’t know, who told Norris that he was the representative of a betting firm or firms. The man offered Norris a bribe on their behalf, to make sure the Ready Money Football Betting Bill didn’t become law.  When Norris refused the bribe, the man supposedly threatened to get him de-selected in his constituency of Fulham East.  I have to say that there’s a lot that’s odd about this story; and the only account of it is Norris’ own of several years later, though no doubt he did tell some footballing acquaintances at the time.  In June 1920 the authoritative football newspaper Athletic News did confirm that the betting firms were organising a campaign against the FA’s bill.


Wed 10 March 1920 was a big day at Kent Lodge number 15, the freemasons’ lodge in which Henry Norris was most active.  That evening three of the sons of William Gilbert Allen (of Allen and Norris) were initiated into the lodge: William Gilbert junior, Frederick and Sydney Bernard.  Though I haven’t got a list of who attended the meeting I’m sure Henry Norris would have made an effort to be there on an occasion so important to his business partner.


By Sat 13 March 1920 Arsenal’s form was rather better than in mid-season: Arsenal 3 Sheffield United 0, with yet another new team formation, drew praise from the normally gently critical Arthur Bourke/Norseman for Arsenal’s policy of sticking with their own young players rather than buying-in talent.  If you see my file on 1919 you’ll read there that this policy was dictated by the club’s finances rather than any belief in youth [ROGER PLEASE A LINK TO SL19 HERE].


On Mon 15 March 1920 England 1 Wales 2 was played at Highbury, Wales’ first victory over England since 1882 after England had taken the lead on 7 minutes through Charles Buchan.


On the evening of Mon 22 March 1920 Henry Norris went back to the Fulham Town Hall for a meeting against the Railways Bill currently before Parliament, which was intending to pay for wage increases by putting up commuter fares including on those routes between Fulham and the City.  All local political persuasions were united in opposing the idea: Norris and the Labour mayor of Fulham Mr Gentry sat on the platform together that evening.  Local vicar and chairman of the Fulham Board of Guardians, the Rev Propert, put forward an alternative to increased fares; however a lot of people in the audience were against it as it would mean redundancies at the railway companies.  In his speech Norris described higher wages as a fact of post-war life.


By Fri 26 March 1920 Henry Norris and his family had moved out of London.  Since before World War 1 the Norrises had been living at Queensberry House, a large Regency house in Richmond, but when the lease was due to run out they had decided not to renew it. They’d moved to a house at Bray (under the M4 at Maidenhead) and it was probably now that Norris took a flat in central London which he could use when he was at the House of Commons during the week; I know of this flat’s existence but I don’t know for sure where it was.


On the evening of Mon 29 March 1920 there was a meeting of Fulham’s War Memorial Fund Committee.  Henry Norris was the committee’s chairman but he didn’t attend this meeting.  Instead he sent a letter apologising for his absence but saying that he thought the whole project should be abandoned in the face of public apathy.  He said that insufficient money had been raised to fulfil the original plan.  The meeting did go ahead; those committee members who did attend it heard a proposal to use all the money that had been raised to finance the Fulham District Nursing Association, which Edith Norris was very closely associated with and which had (in the original plan) been going to take some but not all of the proceeds.


Playing with a settled first team, on Easter Mon, 5 April 1920 Arsenal pulled off the surprise win of the Easter holiday, beating the Football League Division One leaders: Arsenal 1 West Bromwich Albion 0.  At one stage a fire in a neighbouring chimney resulted in the whole ground being enveloped in thick smoke.  There’s no mention of Henry Norris having gone to any of the Easter holiday games; Parliament wasn’t sitting, of course, and he may have been on holiday.


On Thur 22 April 1920 Henry Norris was present when Prince Albert visited the International Building Trades Exhibition at Olympia.  Norris attended the lunch given in the prince’s honour and took part in a discussion about whether raising money for housing schemes through the issuing of housing bonds (like the war bonds) could be successful (he thought not and I think events proved him right).


Sat 24 April 1920 Henry Norris might have gone to the FA Cup final at Stamford Bridge: Aston Villa 1 Huddersfield Town 0.  Or he might have been at Highbury for Arsenal 0 Preston North End 0, a dreary game in which, the Times reporter thought, the ball had gone out of play “just over 100 times”; the ball had certainly spent more time in the air than on the ground, despite good weather and pitch conditions for ‘ball-at-feet’ play.  35000 saw this game.


In the early evening of Wed 28 April 1920 the freemasons’ United Grand Lodge of England held its annual festival at the Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden.  Henry Norris was there, as a Past Assistant Grand Sword Bearer.


Sat 1 May 1920 was the last day of season 1919/20 at Highbury: Arsenal 3 Bradford Park Avenue 0 with a crowd of 30000 though I haven’t found definite evidence that Henry Norris was one of them.  Despite being in Football League Division One by election rather than results, Arsenal survived; indeed, they weren’t ever in any real danger.  They ended where they’d spent most of the season - just below the middle - but both Manchester Utd and Everton finished lower still; West Bromwich Albion won the championship.  Spurs and coming team Huddersfield Town were promoted from Football League Division Two.  Assessing the season, Arthur Bourke/Norseman in the Islington Daily Gazette felt that the club’s management hadn’t used its players to best advantage; his wording gave the impression that it wasn’t Knighton who picked the teams, in which case the fault was Henry Norris’, amongst others.  Bourke also criticised the state of the pitch at Highbury - at this period it seems to have had the worst drainage in Football League Division One.


In the evening of Tue 4 May Henry and Edith Norris went to the Clarendon Restaurant in Hammersmith, to attend the annual dinner of Lillie Ward Conservative and Unionist Association.


On the afternoon of Sat 8 May 1920 the final of London Challenge Cup was played at Highbury: Chelsea 1 Crystal Palace 0.  I don’t know whether Henry Norris thought it right to attend this, as his team was not involved.


On the evening of Tue 18 May 1920 Henry and Edith Norris went to St Augustine’s Hall, Lillie Road, to attend a concert to raise money for Fulham’s ex-servicemen.  It had been organised by Mrs Propert, the wife of Rev Propert who was a local vicar and chairman of Fulham Board of Guardians, of which Edith was an elected member.


On the evening of Fri 28 May 1920 Henry Norris was at the Fulham Town Hall to attend the official launch in the borough of the London Housing Bonds campaign.  If you look back to 22 April 1920 you’ll see that he had deep misgivings about whether this method of raising money for housing would be successful; but he still thought attending this meeting the proper thing to do, as the local MP.


On 31 May 1920 the Football League and the Football Association held their AGMs - something they usually did on the same day, for the convenience of those attending both.  In the morning the Football League’s AGM took place at the Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden and an important vote was taken, with members agreeing to do what they had refused the previous year: take over the top division in the Southern League.  As of season 1920/21 the Southern League Division One would be incorporated into the Football League as FL Division Three South; with a FL Division Three North following when enough clubs had been assembled.  READER: AS OF NOW I SHALL CALL FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION ONE/TWO etc Division One/Two as there is only one league that matters from now on.  Following this enlargement of the Football League , in the evening the FA held its AGM at the Holborn Restaurant on the corner opposite Holborn tube station.  A motion was passed thanking Henry Norris for his efforts in Parliament with the Ready Money Football Betting Bill.  Norris made a speech warning the football community to be vigilant and stating that bookmakers had been “very active” in trying to prevent it from becomingg Law; though he didn’t mention the attempt to bribe and then threaten him - perhaps it hadn’t happened yet - he only referred to a postcard campaign that was being directed at Mps.


On the evening of Fri 4 June 1920 Henry Norris chaired a meeting of the Property Owners’ Protection Association, at Fulham Town Hall.  He made a speech in which referred to his wealth - virtually the only time he ever mentioned it in public.  He said that his sole income during the past year had been rents from property he owned, and rented out, in Fulham; this was property built by the Allen and Norris partnership, and rented out on leases; it will have been the main source of income of his partner, William Gilbert Allen, as well.


On the morning of Fri 11 June 1920 Henry Norris was in the House of Commons to steer the Ready Money Football Betting Bill through its third reading, after its Committee stage.  During his speech moving the third reading, he showed the House of Commons one of the coupons which were its subject - it seems that many MP’s didn’t know how these betting schemes worked.  The vote to give the bill its third reading was taken at 12.31gmt.  On Mon 14 June 1920 Henry Norrs was praised and congratulated by the Athletic News (the most authoritative sports paper of this period) for his handling of the bill, as if his work was done.  The bill had passed its third reading and gone to the House of Lords - but there it was held up so much that it only just became law before it was timed out.


On Tue 15 June 1920 Henry Norris took part in House of Commons question time, asking a question about how rebuilding was going in Louth, Lincolnshire, after flash floods during the winter.


On the morning of Fri 2 July 1920 Lord Downham died; he’d been ill since February 1920.  The news was made public on Sat 3 July but it’s likely Henry Norris was told before that: as William Hayes Fisher, Lord Downham was an old acquaintance - at Fulham FC and as Conservative MP for Fulham.  His funeral took place on Tue 6 July 1920 at St Peter’s Eaton Square and then at Brookwood Cemetery, south of London.  Henry and Edith Norris attended it, along with such political grandees as Bonar Law (leader of the Conservative Party), Earl Curzon of Kedleston (the ex-viceroy of India) and a representative of the Duke of Connaught.


On the evening of Thur 22 July 1920 the Feltmakers’ Company held its second annual dinner; I haven’t seen a guest-list but Henry Norris was a member of the Company and entitled to attend it; he may even have helped organise it.


2 August 1920 was the date the Ready Money Football Betting Bill became law; though it was in fact given the royal assent some days later.


By Mon 16 August 1920 with season 1920/21 imminent, Athletic News reported that several London clubs were vying for the signature of noted winger Dr James Paterson.  Paterson had played as a professional for Glasgow Rangers; a qualified doctor, he was now about to move to London to join his brother in general practice in Dalston, Hackney.  He was looking to register with the English Football Association as an amateur although he told Athletic News’ reporter that he thought his duties as a GP would curtail his football-playing.  He’d already issued a statement denying he was about to sign for Arsenal; Athletic News thought Spurs were the most likely to get his signature.


On Mon 16 August 1920 a quick piece of House of Commons business added a word into the Ready Money Football Betting Bill; no vote was taken on this late amendment.  Later that day the bill was in a list of bills read in the House of Commons that had just been given the royal assent.


On Thur 19 August 1920 Henry Norris was in Parliament when the Ready Money Football Betting Bill was given its third reading in the House of Lords, after an amendment was passed on how the courts should deal with second and third offences.  In 1927, Henry Norris recalled how this piece of business began at 3.30pm with Parliament due to rise for the summer recess at 4pm: all bills that hadn’t become law by this time were lost.  To me - I don’t understand about Parliamentary procedure - the goings-on about the bill in August seem highly irregular!  The Act was in force by the beginning of season 1920/21, and looking through the local papers in different parts of London, I have noticed several prosecutions being brought under it.





Copyright Sally Davis March 2008