[ROGER THIS IS THE SECOND FILE IN YEAR 1923 FOLLOWING STRAIGHT ON FROM SL23]
Last updated: April 2008
On Wed 1 August 1923 pre-season training began, at Arsenal FC (and probably all other football clubs).
On the evening Sat 4 August 1923 the Arsenal FC directors did something unprecedented: they gave a dinner, at the Hotel Cecil in central London, for the players. The occasion was the (supposed) retirement from playing of Jock Rutherford (see my file Henry Norris: Players Who Came Back to Haunt Him). Naturally, all the directors of the club were present; on their behalf, Henry Norris presented Rutherford with a silver tea and coffee set. He also made a speech. Immediately after the dinner, in the Islington Daily Gazette’s football writer Arthur Bourke/Norseman, who had been amongst many journalists who attended it, described the occasion as “a happy reunion” but later in the year he mentioned a dinner (and this is the only one that fits the bill) at which Henry Norris had caused great offence to pressmen who were amongst the guests, by strongly criticising what they wrote. It was not a happy occasion at all and it’s clear to me from 1927 that Norris made some enemies that night.
On Mon 6 August 1923 Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited issued its annual report, which showed that the club had made a profit of over £5000 in the last financial year. The debt to Humphreys Limited was paid off at last: it had hung over the club’s finances for ten years (for how it was incurred see my files on 1913 and Why Highbury?)[ROGER I NEED LINKS TO 1913 AND SLWHYN5 HERE]. The club still has loans of £8510 - probably all of this is owed to Henry Norris and William Hall; and ‘sundry creditors’ are owed £4344 - I should imagine the bank is one. Sir Samuel Hill-Wood, is shown as a director for the first time, with 40 shares; and this is the last annual report in which Charles Crisp is shown as a director of the company. And after being employed by the club for several years as assistant secretary, Henry Norris’ brother John Edward Norris had become a shareholder: he’d bought one share!
On Wed 8August1923 Leslie Knighton did what was probably his best bit of business for Arsenal: he signed James Brain from Ton Pentre. Brain could play as a centre forward or as an inside-forward. He was a good goal scorer: his best effort was 34 in season 1925/26: not bad. He stayed at Arsenal until May 1931 so he took some part in the club’s first championship win.
Brain played his first game for Arsenal on the afternoon of Sat 11 August 1923, a practice match which Henry Norris definitely attended - in his column in the Islington Daily Gazette Arthur Bourke/Norseman mentioned seeing him there. The pitch “looked splendid” Bourke thought; but he had ten years’ experience now of Highbury’s never-ending struggles with the site’s drainage, so he added “but this is August”.
On the afternoon of Sat 18 August 1923 Henry Norris was also present at Highbury for the second pre-seson practice match; I think this is the first time for eight years that I have definite evidence of Henry Norris at two Arsenal games in succession.
On Mon 20 August 1923 the Athletic News did its annual preview of the football season, including full lists of all the Division One squads. Midget Moffatt was included in Arsenal’s; at 5'3" he was by a good two inches the shortest in the squad. Commenting on the squad, Athletic News’ writer on London football, Achates, thought it was between him and the more-established (and taller) Clarke to take the outside-left berth just vacated by Rutherford. But Moffatt never got his chance; see my files Henry Norris and his Employees, Except for the Most Famous One; and Henry Norris and Football: the Wider Issues for why he didn’t. [ROGER I’LL NEED TWO LINKS HERE BUT NEITHER FILE IS WRITTEN YET.]
Henry Norris had permitted two transfers in to Arsenal FC; although he did not like one of them one little bit (I mean Moffatt) but in its pre-season preview, the Times described the summer as notable for its lack of transfer action - champions Liverpool FC would have exactly the same squad this season as last. The Times thought Arsenal’s chances of doing well were better than at any time since they had returned to Division One in 1919.
During season 1923/24 the Football League Management Committee did undertake the investigation into the transfer system that the AGM had voted in favour of (see above May 1923) at Henry Norris’ urging. The exercise included asking all the members for their comments on the system’s current working - so Norris would have had a chance to expound his own position in great detail. At some point during season 1923/24, probably before the end of 1923 (I have not got a good date for its publication) the Management Committee issued their decisions on the subject - that they would not change the current transfer system nor attempt to fix a transfer fee going above which would be breaking the rules: a heavy defeat for Henry Norris’ position.
On Sat 25 August 1923 Arsenal’s first eleven for season 1923/24's first game was more or less the same playaers who’d finished season 1922/23 so strongly: Robson; Mackie, Kennedy; Milne, Butler, Graham, John, Baker; Woods, Turnbull, Blythe, Young and Toner. No Moffatt; but no Brain either. Henry Norris was at Highbury to seem them completely out-played in Arsenal 1 Newcastle United 4, Arthur Bourke/Norseman in Islington Daily Gazette describing Arsenal’s front line as “disjointed and unworkable”. Bourke was used to seeing Arsenal, “just
about the best destructive side playing football” but, he said, more than just the destruction of the opposition’s moves was needed to win a game. It was in this column, on Mon 27 August 1923
that Arthur Bourke let the cat out of the bag - when before he had been carefully diplomatic - about the amount of resentment there had been amongst journalists at Norris’ speech at the dinner for Jock Rutherford (see August above).
Probably the afternoon of Thur 30 August 1923, certainly before 1 September a London Combination match between Millwall Reserves and Arsenal Reserves resulted in several longish-term injuries. Going into Sat 1 September 1923, then, Arsenal already had an injury crisis. Newcastle United 1 Arsenal 0 was a bad-tempered game, with the referee lecturing a group of players from both sides, towards the end of the match. So when by Tue 4 September 1923 Jock Rutherford re-joined Arsenal FC, as a player, he was badly needed. After only a few months at Stoke City as manager he had resigned after the board of directors had refused to buy a player he had recommended. He began his second spell at Arsenal on the afternoon of Thur 6 September 1923 in the reserves when they lost at home to Brighton and Hove Albion Reserves.
On Sat 1 September 1923 Henry Norris may have been distracted by worries about the safety of some of his relations. On that day there was a severe earthquake in Japan. About 30000 people died, two islands disappeared and the centre of Yokohama was razed to the ground. All communications were cut for several days, so it may have been a while before Norris could check whether his sister Lilian Gillbard and her family had survived. Norris’ grand-children have told me that the Gillbards did lose their business in an earthquake. However, the Gillbards lived in Kobe and the grand-children are fairly sure this earthquake is not the one in question. Certainly the newspaper accounts of it say specifically that Kobe was not badly damaged; it was at the centre of a bad earthquake in 1927 and that’s more likely to be when the Gillbards lost their livelihood.
On Sat 8 September 1923 Henry Norris chaired the AGM of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited.
After another loss on Sat 8 September 1923 Rutherford made his first second-spell appearance in the Arsenal first team for Arsenal 4 West Ham 1; Graham was also back after injury. Arsenal took the lead after 10 minutes and thereafter were able to play a more settled game.
Henry Norris was not at Highbury for Sat 15 September 1923's match Arsenal 1 West Bromwich Albion 0. See my file Why Highbury? - this was the match that John McKenna, President of the Football League, came on to after calling in at Homerton to officially open Clapton Orient’s new grandstand. [ROGER I NEED A LINK HERE TO SLWHYN5].
It may be that this season Henry Norris was the director with responsibility for the Reserve team: a job he’d already done when a director at Fulham FC. On the afternoon of Thur 20 September 1923 he was at Highbury for the London Combination game Arsenal Reserves 2 Reading Reserves 2, about the only game I can be certain that Midget Moffat played for Arsenal; at outside-right. When it came on to rain, Norris gave instructions to the ground staff to let people standing in the wet go under the cover in the grandstand; even though they hadn’t paid to.
By Sat 22 September 1923 Arsenal had recovered some form after their awful start: Birmingham City 1 Arsenal 2 left them sixth from bottom. Their style hadn’t improved though: Sat 29 September 1923 produced Arsenal 0 Birmingham City 0, described by the Times as “poor and aimless”, played in front of FA Secretary Fred Wall and his guests from the Spanish FA.
On the afternoon of Sat 29 September 1923 Irish FL 2 English FL 6 was played in Belfast. William Hall, John McKenna and Charles Sutcliffe had all been amongst the FL Management Committee members travelling with the English FL squad. So I suggest that it was on the trip back from Belfast after the match that Hall was told (I don’t know who by but it was probably the chairman of Blackpool FC, also a member of the FL Management Committee) that there was likely to be a Football League investigation into the transfer of player H A White from Brentford FC to Arsenal FC in July 1919. See my file on 1919 for the full weird details of the deal; and Henry Norris: Players Who Came Back to Haunt Him; and March 1923 for White’s sale - to Blackpool FC - and what Norris did then. This trip to Belfast may have been the first time William Hall had heard about Norris’ loan to White. [ROGER I NEED A LINK TO SL19 AND ONE TO A FILE WHICH ISN’T WRITTEN YET]. No exact date for this but presumably as soon as he got back from his trip of the weekend of 29-30 September 1923 William Hall got in touch with Henry Norris and warned him. Norris replied that he didn’t think that he had done anything wrong in the 1919 deal with White, and therefore was not afraid of any enquiry into the matter by the football authorities.
On the evening of Thur 4 October 1923 Henry Norris and William Hall went to the Guildhall to attend the main meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company’s year. Hall was elected to a vacancy on its court of assistants - which Norris was already a member of, the inner sanctum of the Company where the decisions were made. Hall was nominated for the vacancy by long-serving member J J Edwards, later a director of Arsenal FC, and seconded by Norris. See my file Henry Norris as a Freemason and in the Feltmakers’ Company for further details on Edwards. [ROGER I NEED A LINK TO THE FREEMASONS’ FILE WHICH HASN’T BEEN WRITTEN YET].
At 8.45pm on Fri 12 October 1923 the Arsenal squad, Harry John Peters and Leslie Knighton from the club’s management, and the Arsenal directors were at the Alhambra, in Charing Cross Road. They had been invited by the management of the Alhambra to a special showing of a movie by the Regent Film Company which contained footage of Arsenal playing a match. I wonder which one?
The following day, Sat 13 October 1923 Highbury saw a game the Times described as “tame”. Arsenal 1 Manchester City 2 with City playing an offside trap +counter-attack game. On Sat 20 October 1923 Arsenal tried the same tactics and won 1-2 at Bolton Wanderers. Wanderers’ crowd got fed up with endless whistles for offside and the referee had to stop the game at one stage to warn some of them, who were chucking cinders at Arsenal’s goal-keeper in front of them.
Probably on Mon 22 October 1923 though I don’t have confirmation of the date and I don’t know where it was held: the Football League held an enquiry into Arsenal FC’s signing of H A White in 1919. Essentially this was an investigation into the loan deal agreed between Henry Norris and H A White; and Norris would thus have to have been at the enquiry to give evidence. There were two results to the enquiry. Firstly, Norris was censured by the Football League for breaking the rules on inducements to players; he was ordered to pay back to White the money he’d confiscated from White’s part of the transfer fee when he was sold to Blackpool FC (see March 1923 above and see my file on 1919 for the original deal; also Henry Norris: Players Who Came Back to Haunt Him for more on the reasons and repercussions). [ROGER I NEED LINKS HERE TO SL19 AND A FILE THAT ISN’T WRITTEN YET]. William Hall had learned about Norris’ loan to White in September 1923 at the latest; the other directors of Arsenal FC might only have learned about it now. In an affidavit of 1929, Charles Crisp said that he had left Arsenal’s board of directors after a disagreement with Henry Norris; he didn’t say what the disagreement was about. The last AGM of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited at which Crisp was listed as a director was 1923; he had resigned, or decided not to seek re-election, before the AGM of 1924. I suggest that Norris’ loan to White was what the disagreement was about.
After Mon 22 October 1923, assuming that was the date of the hearing on White Henry Norris offered to resign from the board of directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited. According to an affidavit by George Peachey in 1929, the board would not accept his resignation and passed a vote of confidence in Norris as the club’s chairman. The other directors thought the offer was mis-timed, coming as it did while the club was negotiating with St John’s College to buy the freehold at Highbury; with his experience in land purchasing Norris would certainly have been leading the negotiations from Arsenal’s side.
Other institutions were not so accommodating, however. At a meeting on the evening of Tue 23 October 1923 the London FA accepted with regret Henry Norris’ resignation as its president. Morton Cadman of Spurs became president in his stead. It’s not clear whether Norris attended the meeting, which also was the occasion for a presentation to its secretary, Thomas Kirkup, marking his 25 years in the job.
After Mon 22 October 1923, assuming that was the date of the hearing on White reporters had a field-day with Henry Norris and his 1919 loan deal. Athletic News, on Mon 29 October 1923, covered the case in detail though not with as much hostility as elsewhere in the press, where Norris seems to have been reaping the whirlwind he had sowed in August 1923 (see above) with his remarks at the farewell dinner for Jock Rutherford. On that day, Mon 29 October 1923 kindly and generous Arthur Bourke/Norseman, in the Islington Daily Gazette felt the need to defend Norris from the attacks aimed at him elsewhere, describing him as “this gallant gentleman and sportsman” though he was too honest not to agree that Norris had laid himself open to the current hostility by saying “unkind things of the Press”.
Henry Norris doesn’t seem to have been at the next few Arsenal matches though it may not have been because he was avoiding the football press (see November below). Arthur Bourke/Norseman thought it was a pity he missed Sat 3 November 1923 when in Arsenal 2 Middlesbrough 1 the first 30 minutes had been one of the best displays he’d seen by an Arsenal team. They played with (yet another) re-jigged forward line including Townrow, promoted from the reserves; Middlesbrough on the other hand played three new players, all recently bought at a total fee of £8000.
After the breakdown of his relationship with the Conservative Party in Fulham (see my file on 1922 especially) [ROGER I NEED A LINK TO SL22] Henry Norris avoided going to functions in the borough. On the evening of Mon 5 November 1923 he made an exception, to attend the retirement do for long-serving rates collector of the borough, Peter Lawson whom he described in his speech as “a very old friend”. It took place at the Lygon Almshouses, Fulham Palace Road: Lawson was one of the almshouses’ trustees and Norris had only recently resigned as one. Early in the day there had been a ceremony for Lawson at the Fulham Town Hall organised by the council’s other employees; but Norris had not gone to it.
The general election of November 1922 had not solved anything and by November 1923 another general election was in the offing. In the run-up to the general election of November 1923 Henry Norris’ wife Edith was approached to stand as a candidate in Fulham East - by the Liberal Party. She declined and the Party then chose a Mr R C Hawkin.
By Mon 26 November 1923 Arsenal were investigating the possiblity of buying player Andrew Wilson; despite the transfer fee being asked, which was of £5-6000 - that is, five or six times the top fee that Norris had been arguing for at the Football League’s AGM in 1922 (see my file on 1922 for his failure then) [ROGER I NEED A LINK TO 1922]. Arthur Bourke/Norseman thought the fee ridiculously high and it seems that Henry Norris agreed with him; for no deal for Wilson was done by Arsenal.
On Thur 27 November 1923 Henry Norris wrote to R C Hawkin, Liberal Party candidate for Fulham East. It’s not clear to me whether he wrote it off his own bat or in response to an enquiry from Fulham’s Liberals about his views. In the letter Norris said he disagreed with a recent statement by the outgoing Prime Minister (Conservative) that tariffs on imports would help reduce the UK’s high levels of unemployment. Norris was taking an essentially Liberal Party position on the question of taxes on imports, rather than a Conservative Party one, and Hawkin asked if Norris would allow the letter to be published. Norris agreed to this and the letter was published in the Times on Wed 28 November 1923.
Either on Wed 28 November 1923 or Thur 29 November 1923 a letter was sent by Fulham East Conservative Party to Henry Norris in response to his letter to R C Hawkin, as it appeared in the Times. The letter was signed by the local party chairman Edward Reed Armfield on behalf of its Election Committee.
On the evening of Thur 29 November 1923 Henry Norris’ letter on import taxes was discussed at a Liberal Party campaign meeting where it was described (according to the Fulham Chronicle) as “an incentive to...Free Traders throughout the country”. The meeting’s chairman told the audience that he’d had received “in black and white” from Henry Norris an assurance that Norris had “refused to fight for his own party” (the Conservatives). I take it that this had been a verbal assurance as no such assertion appeared in the letter, as published in the Times. CHECK???
On Fri 30 November 1923 Henry Norris’ letter was quoted at length in the Fulham Chronicle as a “bomb-shell for East Fulham Conservatives”. The Chronicle accused Norris of pursuing a private agenda designed to damage the Conservatives in his former constituency. The Chronicle also printed almost but not quite all of the letter that had been sent to Norris, signed by Edward Reed Armfield. I think the Chronicle had taken legal advice about what they could get away with if they published the letter signed by Armfield. Most of the letter as originally written but in quotation marks appeared as part of the newspaper’s general election campaign coverage; but some words were taken out and printed elsewhere on the same page but without saying to whom they referred. The words described the person to whom the letter had originally been sent as “a disgruntled and embittered man” actuated by “personal malice”.
Between Fri 30 November 1923 and Fri 7 December 1923 the Liberal Party in Fulham East had a hand-out printed as part of its general election campaign which quoted Henry Norris’ letter to R C Hawkin as leading Free Trade Conservatives toward the Liberal Party.
On Mon 3 December 1923 lawyers acting for Henry Norris obtained a writ for libel and an injunction against any further repeats of it. The writ and the injunction were against Edward Reed Armfield; the Fulham Chronicle was not named in the action as far as I can tell. For further examination of the case see my file Henry Norris and Politics: Free-Trading Tories and Two Libel Cases. [ROGER I’LL NEED A LINK HERE TO THIS FILE WHEN I’VE WRITTEN IT].
Polling day in the general election was Thur 6 December 1923. The Fulham Chronicle later described Henry Norris’ letter to R C Hawkin, and the furore it had caused, as the outstanding feature of an otherwise rather subdued campaign in Fulham East. The sitting MP, the Conservative Mr Kenyon Vaughan Morgan, was re-elected.
Before Fri 7 December 1923; probably not very long before Henry Norris had an operation. I don’t know the nature of his illness or where the operation took place. On Fri 7 December 1923 he was still in a nursing home making “excellent progress” (according to Arthur Bourke/Norseman) towards recovery.
Henry Norris was probably unable to go to Upton Park on Mon 10 December 1923 for the final of the London FA Challenge Cup; which was a pity because Arsenal won something - not something they did very often during Norris’ time: Arsenal 3 holders Charlton Athletic 1.
He wasn’t at Highbury on Sat 15 December 1923 either though all the other Arsenal directors were, with Fred Wall and three members of the FA International Selection Committee. Norris was probably lucky to miss Arsenal 1 Huddersfield Town either 3 or 4 (the Times and the Islington Daily Gazette don’t agree). The match only lasted 45 minutes as a contest; then Arsenal were torn apart, failing totally to control what the Times described as Huddersfield’s “clever” forwards; Huddersfield on their way to their first championship, and managed by Herbert Chapman. It got worse on Sat 22 December 1923 and there’s no dispute about this score: Huddersfield Town 6 Arsenal 1 with Huddersfield’s C Wilson getting his second hat-trick in the two matches, showing Arsenal hadn’t learned from last week’s debacle. Arsenal’s sole reply had come in the last few minutes after Huddersfield had eased up. Arthur Bourke/ Norseman’s report on this match in Islington Daily Gazette showed him beginning to get very worried at how Arsenal’s defence - usually the team’s best aspect - had been pole-axed twice in successive matches.
On Thur 27 December 1923 Arthur Bourke/Norseman, but not Henry Norris, went to Arsenal 0 Notts County 0 on a “slithering and moist” pitch; where he saw a “strange re-arrangement” of Arsenal’s first team after its recent maulings but all the old familiar “weak forward play” in a match showing “precious little” of football’s finer points.
Probably on Sat 29 December 1923 the match-day programme at Highbury noted that the Football League Management Committee had already decided that they would not put transfer fees on the agenda for the Football League’s AGM. The match that afternoon, Sat 29 December 1923 was Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0; the Times seeing it as a game between two sides likely to be facing relegation if their injury crises weren’t eased. At least this far, the end of 1923 player Moffatt had made no first-team appearances for Arsenal (see May 1923 above for his signing by Knighton and Henry Norris’ prejudice against him).
A glum end, then, to 1923 for Henry Norris.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE SOURCES OF ALL THIS INFORMATION, SEND ME AN EMAIL AND I’LL SEND YOU THE SOURCES FILE.
Copyright Sally Davis March 2008