Henry Norris in 1923, semi-retired but still controversial and finding the chickens beginning to come home to roost

Last updated: April 2008



Firsts: outside broadcast, at the first FA Cup Final played at Wembley: the one with the famous white horse; issue of the Radio Times.  Continued high unemployment in the UK. Edwin Hubble proves ours is not the only galaxy.  Published: Who’s Body? (Dorothy L Sayers, containing the first appearance of Lord Peter Wimsey).  First seen: Ten Commandments (Cecil B De Mille).


At some time during 1923 on behalf of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company, Henry Norris offered St John’s College £25000 to buy out the rest of Arsenal’s lease of their sports ground, plus £1868 to buy the land adjacent to it, not part of the club’s lease.  For information on the lease and how it was granted, see my files on 1912, 1913 and Why Highbury?. [ROGER I NEED A LOT OF LINKS HERE; TO SL12, SL13 AND SLWHYN5]


From January-May 1923 Arsenal FC produced some of the best form of all Henry Norris’ time in charge (1910-27); several players from the reserve team moved up to become first-team regulars.  This began on Mon 1 January 1923 with Blackburn Rovers 0 Arsenal 5.


On the evening of Mon 8 January 1923 Henry Norris was at the Guildhall for the Feltmakers’ Company’s quarterly meeting.


I think Henry Norris went to Liverpool for the FA Cup fourth round game on Sat 13 January 1923: Liverpool 0 Arsenal 0.  Arsenal’s amateur left-winger Dr Paterson missed the team’s train; so on Arsenal’s behalf someone telephoned the railway company and arranged for a later train to make an unscheduled stop at Edghill, where Paterson was picked up and taken the rest of the way to Anfield by car, arriving just before kick off.  That sounds just like Henry Norris to me!  It may even have been his car that picked Paterson up.  On Wed 17 January 1923 the replay ended Arsenal 1 Liverpool 4.  Arthur Bourke, writing in the Islington Daily Gazette as Norseman, described Arsenal as “out-generalled”; for the umpteenth time he said Arsenal’s forwards had displayed “a want of finish”.


On Sat 20 January 1923 Arsenal’s team with its crop of youngsters, beat Manchester City 1-0 despite City having most of the ball.  And on Mon 22 January 1923 in his match report in Islington Daily Gazette Arthur Bourke/Norseman reported rumours of discontent amongst the more established players who had been displaced.  On Sat 27 January 1923 Arsenal’s reserve team for the day’s London Combination game against Crystal Palace Reserves contained a number of players who before Christmas had been regulars in the first team.  That afternoon, Sat 27 January 1923 it was Manchester City 0 Arsenal 0 in Division One; Arsenal were sixth from bottom, well below Spurs and Chelsea, but it was better than being bottom and they had taken 10 out of the last 12 points.  I don’t know whether Henry Norris saw any of these matches.


On Tue 30 January 1923 the 11th Lord Kinnaird died after a long illness.  Arthur Kinnaird had been a great, fearsome player in his day - an amateur, of course - playing for Wanderers and then for the club he founded, Old Etonians.  His record of playing in nine cup finals has only just been equalled, by Ryan Giggs.  Kinnaird had gone on to be the first President of the FA.  Henry Norris would have known him in that capacity; as one of the members of the governing body of St John’s College Highbury; and probably - though I know very little about this connection - through the building company Kinnaird Park Estate Company which was developing the estate Lord Kinnaird owned at Bromley, Kent.  A memorial service for Lord Kinnaird was held on Thur 1 February 1923 at St Martin-in-the-Fields.  William Hall certainly went to it, officially representing the Football League.  I would expect Henry Norris to have attended it as well; he’s not on the guest list I found in the Times but I think the list isn’t complete.


Something Henry Norris was definitely involved in occurred on 2 March 1923: the sale of Arsenal’s player H A White to Blackpool FC.  See my file on 1919 for how he arrived; and see my file Footballers Who Came Back to Haunt Him for further on the repercussions of White.  [ROGER I NEED A LINK HERE TO 1919; AND ONE TO SLHAUNT].  As part of the transfer negotiations, Norris took back money he had loaned to White (against the FA rules) when White had agreed to sign for Arsenal in 1919.  Although this had been in the original agreement between the two men - no one else knowing anything about it -between March and October 1923 White went first to law, and then to the FA, to get the money given back to him again.  Exactly when the other directors of Arsenal FC found out about the loan isn’t clear; it might have been now, but it might have been as late as September or even October 1923 (see below). 


By Sat 17 March 1923, even if he was not going to the matches, Henry Norris must have been pleased with Arsenal’s form.  Arsenal 2 Oldham Athletic 0 on that day, Sat 17 March 1923 put them out of any danger of being relegated.


On the afternoon of Mon 19 March 1923 the international match England 6 Belgium 1 was played at Highbury; and then there was a dinner in the evening.  I haven’t found any evidence that Norris attended either event; his fellow Arsenal director Charles Crisp who had the contacts in Belgium.


On the afternoon of Wed 21 March 1923 some at least of the Arsenal directors were in Liverpool, where they entertained the Arsenal squad at the Grand National.  The names of the directors who were at Aintree weren’t given in the report I read; but Henry Norris and Samuel Hill-Wood were the only directors at that time that I know had any interest in horse-racing.


It was not likely that Henry Norris missed Arsenal 1 Blackburn Rovers 1 on Easter Mon, 2 April 1923 because it was - or should have been - a very special occasion: Jock Rutherford’s last game for the club after over ten years.  He was made team captain for the day; at the end of the match the band played Auld Lang Syne and his team-mates carried him into the dressing room on their shoulders.  He was supposed to start a career as a manager, at Stoke City; but by the end of September 1923 he had given that up and come back, playing for Arsenal for another two seasons at least.


After Sat 7 April 1923 Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 1 left Arsenal a very comfortable ninth in Division One.  On Mon 9 April 1923 Arsenal’s management was complimented by the influential Athletic News for having stood out against “reckless finance” in the matter of transfer fees.  Athletic News went on to describe the club as an object-lesson in how to build a winning team on a budget.  As Arsenal’s decision to prioritise spending on debt over spending on players was essentially made and carried out by Henry Norris and William Hall, this article by Athletic News reflected specifically on them.  Their attitude was strongly endorsed by Arthur Bourke/Norseman on Mon 16 April 1923 in the Islington Daily Gazette.  He took Preston North End (Arsenal had played them at the weekend) and their new signing, Hamilton, as a fine example of how to pay £4500 for a player and waste your money.  Athletic News wanted to see a cap put on transfer fees; in 1922 Norris had failed to get one through, at the Football League’s AGM (see my file on 1922 for the details) [ROGER I NEED A LINK TO 1922 HERE]; Athletic News was hoping he’d have another try at this year’s AGM. 


On the evening of Mon 9 April 1923 Henry Norris was at the Guildhall where he attended the quarterly meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company.


On Sat 21 April 1923 Arsenal kept up their good form in Preston North End 1 Arsenal 2.  Liverpool retained the Division One championship; Oldham Athletic were relegated. 


Sat 28 April 1923 was the immortal first Wembley FA Cup Final - I’m sure you’ve seen the famous footage of the white horse.  In fact it was a publicity disaster for the FA, with so many more people getting into the ground than there should have been.  There was an official enquiry, money had to refunded, Henry Norris’ friend Fred Wall, as the FA Secretary, was responsible for a lot of the mess.  Bolton Wanderers 2 West Ham 0 was the result when the football got started.  I don’t know where Henry Norris was on that day.  At Highbury it was Arsenal 2 Sheffield United 0 with Arsenal down to nine by the end, through injury.  In his column on Mon 30 April 1923 in the Islington Daily Gazette, Arthur Bourke/Norseman said that Arsenal’s form since Christmas had been the best in Division One: they’d got 28 points from 20 games.  Things were looking very promising for the future, he reckoned, because Arsenal’s reserves had won the London Combation with one match to do.  And Clapton Orient had managed to avoid the relegation that a few weeks ago had seemed a certainty.


During May 1923 Henry Norris cut what must have been his last link with the social life he had been part of in Fulham: he resigned from Fulham Lodge number 2512 - for the second time, actually, but this time he never went back.


Arsenal’s first team didn’t have a match on the last day of season 1922/23, Sat 5 May 1923.  They ended mid-table.  There was a match at Highbury though, in the London Combination, when its new champions, Arsenal Reserves, scored six against Brentford (I haven’t been able to find the result but 6-0 seems the most likely score).  They’d played 40, won 20, lost 13, drawn 6; goals for 80, goals against 39, 49 points; they had been runners-up in three of the last four seasons.  It seems Henry Norris was already abroad, and didn’t see the match.


In Division One, Stoke City were relegated - they were the club that Jock Rutherford was going to manage.  Notts County and West Ham were promoted; West Ham in particular had had a brilliant season even though they lost the FA Cup in the end.  Sat 5 May 1923, according to a statement to the FA made by Henry Norris in 1927, was the day the arrangement at Arsenal FC came to an end by which the wages of his own chauffeur, and William Hall’s, were paid by the club.  See my file on 1921 for how and why this arrangement was begun.  It was stopped, according to Henry Norris, when Arsenal’s manager, Leslie Knighton, found out what was going on and was very unhappy about it.  However, as I said in 1921's file, every detail of the arrangement was disputed: in 1929 another legal statement by Henry Norris said the arrangement continued until May 1924; and in 1927 William Hall denied his chauffeur was ever paid this way, and denied knowing anything at all about the arrangement.


By the time the Arsenal squad went to Sweden: just after the end of season 1922/23: Henry Norris was already at “his wonderful Riviera villa” (to quote Leslie Knighton): the house Norris had had built in Villefranche.


Just before the tour of Sweden Arsenal’s manager, Leslie Knighton, signed Harold Moffatt, known as Midget, against a dictat of Henry Norris’s banning him from employing players smaller than 5 foot 8 inches tall.


Probably Mon 7 May 1923 Knighton took a group from Arsenal FC for a tour of Scandinavia: they went to Copenhagen, Gothenberg and Christiana (Oslo).  I don’t know whether any Arsenal directors were with the party at this stage; but Henry Norris clearly wasn’t.  The new player Moffatt went on this tour, and impressed Knighton.


On Mon 14 May 1923 Athletic News reported that Henry Norris was going to use the AGM of the Football League to have another go at capping transfer fees, by proposing that the League’s Rule 10 be altered so that it stated a top limit for the transfer of one player.


Early on Fri 25 May 1923 in Gothenburg Arsenal FC’s touring group met up with a squad touring under the FA’s auspices.  At this stage, directors Charles Crisp, John Humble and George Peachey were with the Arsenal party; but Henry Norris was still not with them.


Henry Norris came back to England for Mon 28 May 1923, the Football League’s AGM, probably at its usual venue, the Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden; and put a motion about changing Rule 10 on transfer fees.  Athletic News described his speech this year as “reasoned” - in that respect it was better than his speech of 1922 on the same subject - but it didn’t make any difference, the motion was still heavily defeated.  Henry Norris’ acquaintance William Cuff of Everton FC was one of the few that voted for it; the opposition was led by Derby County on behalf of clubs for whom transfer fees were a crucial source of revenue.  This year, however, Norris’ back-up strategy was rather better than in 1922: when his first motion failed, he put a motion suggesting that the Football League undertake an investigation into the whole issue of transfer fees, and report back at the AGM of 1924.  This motion was passed; but not before an amendment put forward (by another long-time acquaintance, Charles Sutcliffe) down-graded Norris’ original description of the issue as of “grave concern” to a form of words far less urgent.


On the evening of Mon 2 July 1923 Henry Norris was at the Guildhall to attend the quarterly meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company.


On Sat 28 July 1923 Henry Norris’ eldest daughter Joy married Captain Edward Cecil Barton (known as Cecil) at St Matthias Church, Richmond with a reception afterwards at the Norris’ home, Lichfield House in Richmond.  Joy’s bridegroom was the son of Major E R and Mrs Barton of Tower House in Richmond; Major Barton owned a dental practice in Richmond and Norris’ grand-daughters have told me that Joy had known Cecil since their schooldays.  The bridesmaids included Joy’s sisters of course, two of her first cousins, Cecil’s sister, the daughters of William Gilbert Allen and William Hall and the niece of George Peachey.  As well as Joy’s own friends, and relations including Henry Norris’ mother Georgiana, the guests were from Norris’ worlds - football, Parliament, Allen and Norris, the estate agents’ circuit in south London and even some Fulham Conservatives, those who were still talking to Henry Norris after the events of 1921-22.  Cecil Barton was a career soldier, so after her honeymoon in Torquay, Joy went away with him to his regiment, which was stationed in Constantinople.






Copyright Sally Davis March 2008