A great year for Arsenal though not (in his own view) one for Henry Norris: he appoints Herbert Chapman to be Arsenal’s manager; nothing else that happens this year is nearly so important!
[ROGER THIS IS A TWO-FILE YEAR: SL25, SL25B]
Last updated: March 2008
London’s first double decker buses. John Logie Baird developed the first working TV transmitter. First formalisation of quantum theory. Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway published. Born: Gerald Durrell. Ron Goodwin. Peter Brook, Angela Lansbury, Richard Burton. George Macdonald Fraser. George Cole, Peter Sellers. Mrs Thatcher. Nat Lofthouse.
Over Christmas 1924 to New Year 1925 though I have no definite evidence for this, I think Henry Norris and his family were at their villa at Villefranche, on the French Riviera. At that period Arsenal’s recent decline in form continued.
After draw, so after December 1924 but before the FA Cup third round was played; probably shortly before an un-named West End doctor who was also a regular at Arsenal matches approached manager Leslie Knighton and offered to provide a pill to increase stamina, to be given to the Arsenal players before the FA Cup tie against West Ham. Knighton persuaded himself that it wouldn’t be against the rules; and after asking the doctor about the pill’s likely side-effects, accepted the doctor’s offer. The only account of the incident is Knighton’s; there’s no suggestion in it that Henry Norris knew anything about what happened.
During 1925 the directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited began a new policy of buying up odd shares in the company - one here, two there - as and when they came up for sale. The first of these tiny share deals took place on 1 January 1925 with William Hall buying one share from a Charles Marten. On 10 February 1925 Henry Norris bought the one share previously owned by the seed merchants Sutton and Son, and the one share owned by Sir John Belles of Old Brompton.
FA Cup third round day was Sat 10 January 1925. Shortly before kick off Arsenal’s first eleven all took one of the pep pills; and Knighton also took one. But at 2.30pm West Ham v Arsenal was called off by the referee because of thick fog. The afternoon of Mon 12 January 1925 was the day it was moved to; and for a second time, shortly before kick off pep pills were given to Arsenal’s first team. But again the fog intervened and this match too was postponed, to Wed 14 January 1925.
On Mon 12 January 1925 the Feltmakers’ Company held its regular quarterly meeting; Henry Norris didn’t attend it.
If Henry Norris was spending the worst of the winter in the south of France, he had no need to be back for Tue 13 January 1925 to be present in the High Court for the action begun in July 1924 by Kinnaird Park Estate Company (see my file on July 1924 for a few details of this) [ROGER I NEED A LINK HERE TO 1924]. The court hearing was just a formality; as a result of it the share value of KPEC was halved, from £40000 to £20000. (If you’re interested in Norris’ involvement in property development, see my file on Kinnaird Park Estate Company. [ROGER I’LL NEED A LINK HERE TO KPEC WHEN IT’S WRITTEN].
Kicking off at 2.30 on Wed 14 January 1925 the twice-delayed FA Cup tie was played at last: West Ham 0 Arsenal 0. Again, before kick off the Arsenal first team were given the pep pills handed to Knighton by the mysterious West End doctor. The pills may have helped the players last out without flagging on a pitch ankle-deep in mud.
Wed 21 January 1925 was the day of the FA Cup replay, which ended Arsenal 2 West Ham 2 after extra time, the Times describing Arsenal - not for the first time this season - as hampered by a lack of a good inside-left. Before kick off Knighton offered pep pills to the team-members again; but this time they revolted and refused to take them. Knighton noted himself that the side-effects were very difficult to deal with: hyper-activity as you’d expect, but also a raging thirst.
The tie was settled, again without recourse to pills, on Mon 26 January 1925 at Stamford Bridge: West Ham 1 Arsenal 0, the goal coming at 87 minutes with a crowd of 35000 getting resigned to yet more extra time. I can’t find any evidence that Henry Norris attended any of the games in this long saga.
If Henry Norris was abroad for the winter of 1924-25 he may have been back by early February because on Mon 2 February 1925 Athletic News printed an item saying that negotiations between Arsenal FC and St John’s College were at an advanced stage for the purchase of the freehold; and that Arsenal had in fact offered to buy the whole estate, not just the part of it that they had leased since 1913.
The long-drawn-out exit from the FA Cup had badly affected Arsenal and they had lost most of their matches since. On Sat 14 February 1925 they were, according to the Times “hopelessly at sea” on a pitch “practically under water” in Arsenal 0 Huddersfield Town 5. I don’t know whether Henry Norris was at Highbury to see his team eviscerated by Herbert Chapman’s champions. Commenting on the humiliation in the Islington Daily Gazette on Mon 16 February 1925 Arthur Bourke/Norseman said, sadly, that the game had laid bare “why Arsenal have not won a match this year” - they had no decent reserves to cover for injury. Clearly he knew that the purchase of the Highbury freehold was imminent: he wrote that he’d heard “rumours of big ground improvements”. But what was wanted first, Bourke was sure, was a decent team. On that day, Mon 16 February 1925 the Athletic News provided statistics on Arsenal’s collapse since Christmas: two goals scored and 12 conceded was leaving them “dropping into a serious position”.
On Tue 17 February 1925 Bromley UDC passed a planning application made by Kinnaird Park Estate Company: 1 house in Garden Road Plaistow.
On Thur 26 February 1925 Henry Norris’ friend on the south London estate agents’ circuit, Edwin Evans, stood down as President of the Property Owners’ Protection Association after 14 years. Henry Norris had also been a member of POPA, at least around 1918 (see my file on 1918 for that) [ROGER I NEED A LINK HERE TO 1918] though for some years he had not attended its meetings.
On Sat 28 February 1925 in Spurs 2 Arsenal 0 Arsenal played with a re-jigged forward line but through lack of understanding and playing time together, it didn’t work. After Arsenal’s goal-keeper was caught off his line for the first goal, the game had been all Spurs. I don’t know whether Henry Norris saw that game but he did agree to the club spending some money on a player: on Wed 4 March 1925 Arsenal bought Notts County’s D Cock, the man who had scored against them and then been sent off in the Notts County v Arsenal game earlier in the season.
It seemed, briefly, to be a good buy. Arsenal 1 Bolton Wanderers 0, on Sat 7 March 1925 was Arsenal’s first win of the year; but Norris’ bad luck with so many new signings cursed him again when Cock was injured a couple of games later.
Around 10 March 1925 Arsenal FC bought yet another cut-price centre-forward, Hughes.
On Tue 17 March 1925 Bromley UDC passed an application by Kinnaird Park Estate Company: 1 house in Park Avenue Plaistow.
If Henry Norris had been at Highbury on the afternoon of Sat 21 March 1925 he will have seen the first appearance of the great Dixie Dean against an Arsenal team. On this occasion, however, Dean didn’t shine; the result was Arsenal 3 Everton 1 with Everton (according to the Times) “most disappointing”.
On Fri 27 March 1925 a special meeting of the Property Owners’ Protection Association was held to honour Edwin Evans on his retirement as its president. I couldn’t find a full list of those who attended the meeting. The list I did find didn’t include Henry Norris’ name but he might have been there anyway but not thought of as important enough to include in newspaper coverage of the event - by this time he’d been more or less retired himself for two years and was dropping out of the public eye.
Sat 28 March 1925's Sunderland 2 Arsenal 1 (or possibly 2-0, the Times and the Islington Daily Gazette don’t agree) saw Arthur Bourke/Norseman continuing to criticise the way Arsenal FC dealt with injuries to regular first-team players: in an away game against Charles Buchan, Baker had been played out of position when his tackling skills had been desperately needed in his normal position in defence.
I do wonder whether - even if he didn’t go to Arsenal’s games very often any more - Henry Norris might have made an effort to see this: at 5pm on Mon 30 March 1925 there was an experimental match at Highbury, during which the FA tried out various alternatives to the current offside rule which, they thought, was leading to drab games and a decline in crowd figures. Amateurs of the South v Professionals of the South was in aid of the FA Benevolent Fund.
After Wed 1 April 1925's Aston Villa 4 Arsenal 0 Arthur Bourke/Norseman declared Arsenal’s first team “not good enough to earn laurels in the First Division”. He thought Sat 4 April 1925's Arsenal 1 Cardiff City 1, but Cock got injured and in any case, Arsenal’s players committed a cardinal sin of football - stopping playing thinking the ball had gone out of play, so allowing an equaliser to be scored.
Henry Norris was in England at that time. On the evening of Mon 6 April 1925 he went to the Guildhall to attend the quarterly meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company; William Hall was there as well - he went to most of the meetings - but for once their acquaintance J J Edwards was absent.
On Easter Sat, 11 April 1925 Arsenal lost to a team already doomed to relegation: Preston North End 2 Arsenal 0; then on Easter Mon, 13 April 1925 it was West Bromwich Albion 2 Arsenal 0. I don’t think Henry Norris attended either of those matches. However, he was probably (though not definitely) at the match on Tue 14 April 1925 because Arsenal 2 West Bromwich Albion 0 was the match the directors had chosen to be Baker’s benefit match. A stalwart of Arsenal for many years Baker had played in all eleven positions at one time or another, according to Arthur Bourke/Norseman, after starting his playing career as an outside-left. Bourke/Norseman mentioned that Henry Norris was back in England in his report on this match, as if Norris had only just returned; Bourke thought of Norris like a club mascot as the team tended to win when he was watching them; so it’s a pity he hadn’t been to more matches recently than I think he had. After this particular win, Bourke thought Arsenal needed two points from their last four games to be safe from relegation: not exactly comfortable, but achievable. Bourke’s report on the match on Sat 18 April 1915 - Arsenal 5 Burnley 0 - reads as if Norris was probably at Highbury for this game as well. For once, an Arsenal team’s efforts up front had matched the work of their defence.
At 6.15pm on Mon 20 April 1925 a second match experimenting with the offside laws was played at Highbury: in Arsenal v Luton Town the rule was that only two defending players should be required to keep an attacking player onside (the current number being three). It must have worked well because two players became the new rule later in the year. I don’t know whether Henry Norris was at the game, but he may have seen it because Arsenal’s new centre-forward, Hughes, had a run-out in it.
Henry Norris may have been too busy with domestic upheaval to go to any football matches just now. On Tue 21 April 1925 Hampton and Sons, Estate Agents, sold Lichfield House on Henry Norris’ behalf Richmond for £7500. The Norrises had been living there since late 1921 or 1922. I don’t know where the Norrises were living between 1925 and 1928.
In the early evening of Wed 29 April 1925 Henry Norris went to the Freemasons’ Hall to attend the annual festival of the United Grand Lodge of England, as past assistant grand sword bearer; the first such do he’d attended for over a year; he didn’t attend another meeting of the United Grand Lodge until 1926's annual festival.
Sat 2 May 1925 was the last day of what the Times thought was an “undistinguished” football season. Arsenal, Spurs and Clapton Orient all played away and didn’t muster one goal between the three of them. Bury 2 Arsenal 0 allowed Arsenal to just miss being relegated; they ended third from bottom. In perplexity, Arthur Bourke/Norseman noted how good their home record had been in season 1924/25, while their away record had been “disastrous”. Huddersfield Town retained their title.
The end of season 1924/25 at Arsenal FC was the end of an era in several ways. Firstly, between the end of season and 1 June 1925 assistant trainer Tom Ratcliff applied for the trainer’s job at Brentford FC and got it. He’d been with Arsenal for 13 years. His leaving was reported in the Athletic News on 1 June 1925; it’s not clear from that whether Ratcliff’s departure was the first or the last thing that happened that May.
On Mon 4 May 1925 an advert from Arsenal FC appeared in Athletic News requiring players for all positions. Adverts like that, during the close season, were not unusual; but I couldn’t find one from Arsenal FC during Knighton’s time as manager. Those interested in applying for the work were to contact Leslie Knighton, specifically.
Also on this day, Mon 4 May 1925 Henry Norris’ long-standing acquaintance from the Metropolitan Water Board, the London mayors circuit and the House of Commons, Sir George Elliott, died. His funeral was held in Islington on Fri 8 May 1925. Henry Norris’ brother John Edward attended it on Henry and Edith’s behalf; I’m not sure where Henry Norris was that day. Possibly he was attending a rather important board meeting; or reaching a decision on his own behalf:
On Tue 5 May 1925 Bromley UDC approved a planning application from Kinnaird Park Estate Company: 1 house in Lake Avenue Plaistow.
Between Mon 4 May 1925 and Mon 11 May 1925 probably nearer Mon 11th but sufficiently in advance of it for an advert to go into a paper published that day: Arsenal’s manager Leslie Knighton was sacked. Knighton, and later Bernard Joy agree that it was a sacking; although on
Mon 11 May 1925 the Athletic News reported it as a resignation by Knighton, after differences between him and the board of directors. Athletic News’ reporter speculated that the arguments had been about results on the pitch; see my file on 1923 for a rather different view of it from Knighton himself. [ROGER I NEED A LINK TO SL1923 HERE].
Knighton’s own account says that in addition to sacking him, Norris refused him the benefit match he’d promised him when renewing his contract at the end of season 1920/21; told him that if he tried to use the law to get the benefit match, he would lose his case; and offered him £500 instead; it’s not clear whether Knighton took it.
On page 8 of the Athletic News that day, Mon 11 May 1925 Arsenal FC advertised for a manager. Shortly afterwards the advert was answered by - amongst others - Herbert Chapman, manager of Huddersfield Town, champions of Division One for two years running.
On Tue 12 May 1925 Arthur Bourke/Norseman reported Knighton’s sacking as a “retirement”, by mutual consent; Bourke thought that his leaving would be better for all concerned, after “year after year...fighting to avoid relegation”.
Probably week-ending Sat 16-Sun 17 May 1925, definitely by Mon 18 May 1925 a squad from Huddersfield Town set out on a tour of Scandinavia; I presume Herbert Chapman went with them, but the report I found lists only those players who went.
On Sat 16 May 1925 Leslie Knighton, working out his notice, did his last day as Arsenal’s manager.
On Thur 4 June 1925 Huddersfield Town’s touring party returned from Scandinavia.
By Mon 8 June 1925 there had been some contact between Henry Norris for Arsenal FC, and Herbert Chapman, about the manager’s job.
[ROGER SL25B FOLLOWS ON IMMEDIATELY FROM HERE].
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