1928 and 1929 - years dominated by Henry Norris’ case against the FA

Last updated: April 2008


After the publication of the report of the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal FC Henry Norris made very few appearances on the public stage.  So it’s difficult for me to follow him.


Unspecified date after September 1927 Henry Norris went back to basics, football wise: he became a regular at Craven Cottage, watching Fulham FC again.  He was still one of the club’s largest shareholders.



Now that Henry Norris has more or less dropped out of public sight I’m going to curtail my yearly lists of events he will have lived through.  Look on Wikipedia if you want to find out more.

First trip by the Flying Scotsman.  Representation of the People Act 1928 gave women over 21 the vote.  Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin.  Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published in Italy; it wasn’t published in England until 1960.

On the evening of Mon 9 January 1928 Henry Norris, William Hall and J J Edwards were all at the Guildhall where they attended the quarterly meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company.  Edwards was still a director of Arsenal FC.


On Mon 2 April 1928 the next quarterly meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company took place.  William Hall attended this but Henry Norris and J J Edwards didn’t.


On Wed 4 April 1928 Henry Norris’ friend Sir Edwin Evans died; he’d been ill for two weeks. Between 4 Apr 1928 and January 1929 Henry Norris’ name was put forward, probably by his business partner William Gilbert Allen, to succeed Edwin Evans as a director of the Stepney and Suburban Permanent Building Society.


During season 1927/28 Arsenal reached the FA Cup semi-finals; they ended 10th in Division One, Spurs were relegated.  Fulham were relegated from Division Two.


April 2008: I hope to get an exact date for this meeting when I next go to the British Library newspaper section:

At some time during June 1928; when the hierarchy of the FA was holding a meeting at Blackpool Henry Norris’ solicitor - Arthur Gilbert of Rodgers Gilbert and Rodgers - held a meeting with the FA’s Charles Clegg and Fred Wall.  On Norris’ behalf Gilbert was wanting the FA to make some kind of statement that Henry Norris had not taken Arsenal FC’s money for himself - something Norris felt the FA Commission of Inquiry report had implied.  At the meeting Clegg seemed amenable to Gilbert’s request; but Wall didn’t. 


After the meeting at Blackpool Henry Norris acted on a suggestion made by Clegg and prepared a letter giving details of his payments to players; he mentioned Charles Buchan by name, but no one else.


On 27 June 1928 Colonel Shipway of Grove House Chiswick died; I’m sure Henry Norris had never known him, had possibly never even heard of him!  Following his death, his family decided to sell the estate.


On Wed 4 July 1928 Henry Norris sold five of his shares in Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited to a man called Hopkins.  On Thur 4 October 1928 he sold another five shares in the company, to someone called Aspinall.


In season 1928/29 Fulham FC played in Division Three South.


On Wed 25 September 1928 the annual report of Fulham Football and Athletic Company Limited was published.  I presume Norris was taking more interest in the company now than he had had time for in recent years.


Also after the meeting at Blackpool, probably in the autumn of 1928 Arthur Gilbert continued to make efforts to get the FA to make a statement exonerate Henry Norris.  Norris’ old friend John McKenna of Liverpool FC, one of the members of the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal FC (see my file on 1927 for who the others were) [ROGER I NEED A LINK TO SL27], eventually said he was prepared to make a statement that none of the members of the FA Commission believed that Henry Norris had been feathering his own nest with Arsenal FC’s money.


On the evening of Thur 4 October 1928 the Feltmakers’ Company held its main meeting of the year at the Guildhall.  Henry Norris, William Hall and J J Edwards all attended it.  Henry Norris was elected the company’s Senior Warden: the last stage before serving as its Master for one year, making him Master-in-waiting until October 1929. 


On Mon 8 October 1928 the annual report of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited was published.  Despite his sales of small amounts of shares during the year, Henry Norris still owned 477 shares in the company.  His old friend George Peachey still owned his 106 shares too.  So they were both entitled to attend the company’s AGM when it was held, probably a week later; although I don’t know whether either of them did.


On Tue 16 October 1928 lots 4 and 5 of the Grove House estate Chiswick, were sold at auction by Hampton and Sons at their offices in St James’s Square in central London.  I believe that bot lots were bought by Kinnaird Park Estate Company, of which Henry Norris was the chairman. 


On Thur 29 November 1928 Arthur Gilbert wrote to John McKenna on Henry Norris’ behalf, asking McKenna to make good his promise to make a statement that Norris wasn’t thought to have taken money for himself from Arsenal FC.  McKenna replied with a letter that said he still held by his belief that Norris wasn’t guilty of that, but that he couldn’t speak for the other members of the FA Commission of Inquiry.


Later that year, Tue 4 December 1928 Kinnaird Park Estate Company made what seems to be its last planning application in Bromley: one house on King’s Avenue Plaistow.   Henry Norris had been KPEC’s chairman at least since 1918; my assumption is that he had been involved with the company since 1905.  For further information on KPEC see my file on Kinnaird Park Estate Company. [ROGER I WILL NEED A LINK TO THE KPEC files here when I’ve written them.]

At almost the same time, on Wed 19 December 1928 Kinnaird Park Estate Company made a first planning application for houses on the Grove Park estate in Chiswick; it was sent back by Brentford and Chiswick UDC but was passed in July 1929.


On Mon 10 December 1928 Arthur Gilbert met John McKenna and the Football League’s Charles Sutcliffe at the Euston Hotel, following the recent exchange of letters.  Out of the meeting came a suggestion that Gilbert, Norris, McKenna and Clegg all meet to see if an out-of-court settlement could be reached between Norris and the FA.  Later in the day McKenna and Sutcliffe reported back to the FA’s Charles Clegg; and Clegg consulted the rest of the men who had served on the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal FC.  The result of these consultations was a letter written on Mon 10 December 1928 by John McKenna, saying that the FA Commission of Inquiry would not agree to make the changes in its report that Henry Norris was wanting.  Arthur Gilbert received this letter on Tue 11 December 1928. 



First regular air service London to Karachi; first municipal airport.  Hitchcock’s Blackmail was the first British film to have sound.  London got its first telephone boxes.  BBC started experimental TV transmissions.  Wall Street crash precipitated the Great Depression.

On Mon 7 January 1929 Henry Norris, William Hall and J J Edwards all attended the quarterly meeting of the Feltmakers’ Company, at the Guildhall.


It was now inevitable that Henry Norris’ libel action against the FA would go to court.  During January 1929 Henry Norris and his solicitor Arthur Gilbert of Rodgers Gilbert and Rodgers were preparing their evidence for when Norris v Football Association Limited came to court on Thur 31 January 1929.  Their preparations included compiling a long document, essentially an elaboration of the Statement Henry Norris had given the FA Commission of Inquiry in July 1927.  Although much of the document has now been lost, about 50 pages of it are still held by Henry Norris’ grand-children.


On Mon 21 January 1929 an application to the court was made to delay the start of the court hearing until after 31 January so that witnesses from the north of England could be present in London when called; presumably this application was made by the FA.  The application was granted so Day 1 of Norris v Football Association Limited libel case was on Tue 5 February 1929: it was taken up by the statement of Henry Norris’ barrister, Sir Patrick Hastings explaining Norris’ case; and by Norris’ as the plaintiff in the case, giving evidence.  The case wasn’t finished on its first day, so there was Day 2 on Wed 6 February 1929 with Henry Norris still in the witness box, now being cross-examined by the FA and also asked pertinent questions by the judge.  At the end of this session, the judge decided that Norris’ case for libel failed because investigations of the FA Commission of Inquiry were privileged: that is, that the FA collecting evidence in a case of a breach of its rules was on a par with proceedings in court, in police investigations and in Parliament; information collected that way, and statements made during its collection, are exempt from the libel and defamation laws.  Readers may be aware that people - especially other MP’s - are slandered in the House of Commons and there is nothing they can do about it.  The report of the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal FC of 1927 may have said things about Henry Norris that he thought were defamatory; but Norris v FA Limited established that he had no means of redress.


To give a little more information on the case in court: Norris was cross-examined on behalf of the FA about the following incidents: the payment by Arsenal FC of the wages of Henry Norris’ chauffeur, from 1921 to either 1923 or 1924; on the signing-on money paid to Clement Voysey in 1919; on Henry Norris’ loan to White given as part of White’s transfer to Arsenal FC in 1919; and on the agreement to pay Charles Buchan money over and above his wages, reached in June 1925 - something Norris wouldn’t talk about at all in 1927 while Buchan was still a player employed by Arsenal FC.  The judge’s decision that the FA Commission of Inquiry’s report was privileged meant that no other witnesses were called in the case.


On the afternoon of Thur 7 February 1929 the 64th AGM of the Stepney and Suburban Permanent Building Society took place at its offices in 519 Commercial Road in London’s East End.  During the meeting Henry Norris was elected to the Society’s board of directors, specifically to replace Edwin Evans as one of its experts in property matters.  William Gilbert Allen was still a board member; he had been one since about 1912.   See my file on SSPBS for more information. [ROGER I SHALL NEED A LINK TO SLSSPBS WHEN I’VE WRITTEN IT.]


On Sat 9 February 1929 and presumably in the wake of the collapse of his case against the FA, Henry Norris wrote a letter resigning as a member of the Feltmakers’ Company.  However, he seems to had second thoughts on this one, because on Thur 28 February 1929 he wrote again to the Feltmakers’ Company, withdrawing his resignation.


On Mon 8 April 1929 the Feltmakers’ Company held its quarterly meeting; William Hall and J J Edwards attended it but Henry Norris didn’t.  The meeting debated two motions on the subject of Norris’ resignation and his withdrawal of it.  Those present then voted to disregard Norris’ second letter and accept his resignation.  The proposal to accept Norris’ resignation was put by J J Edwards; and there were no dissenting votes, so Edwards and Hall must both have voted for it.

Immediately after Mon 8 April 1929 the secretary of the Feltmakers’ Company wrote to tell Henry Norris of the decision reached at the quarterly meeting - which perhaps he may have been expecting, seeing he stayed away from it.  Norris did write a letter in reply; it isn’t in the Company records so I don’t know what he said in it.  But at the next meeting, on Mon 1 July, the members of the Company decided that no further action required in the matter.  Both William Hall and J J Edwards continued as members; Hall was making his way up the Company hierarchy towards a year serving as its Master when he died.


During season 1928/29 Arsenal reached the FA Cup quarter-finals; they ended 9th in Division One.  Fulham ended 5th in Division Three South.


On Wed 26 June 1929 Brentford and Chiswick UDC approved the first big plan to be submitted to them by Kinnaird Park Estate Company: 8 houses in Devonshire Gardens.  Despite being passed, KPEC submitted again, probably revised, and it was passed at the meeting on Mon 9 September 1929.


On Wed 24 July 1929 Brentford and Chiswick UDC approved a planning application from Kinnaird Park Estate Company: 1 house plus garage in Hartington Road.


On Tue 28 August 1929 Henry Norris’ mother Georgiana finally died; at the age of 88.


On Wed 23 October 1929 Brentford and Chiswick UDC approved a planning application made by Kinnaird Park Estate Company: a second set of 6 houses in Devonshire Gardens.  This too was then revised by KPEC and sent in again in 1930.


Thurs 24 October 1929 was the start of the Wall Street crash.  As far as I can tell, relatively little of Henry Norris’ fortune was invested in shares; he still got the main part of his income from property rents.  So he may have escaped relatively unscathed by the catastrophe.






Copyright Sally Davis April 2008