Directors of [Woolwich] Arsenal FC: Charles Doland Crisp

Last updated: January 2009


Charles Crisp was the first man to be elected a director of Woolwich Arsenal Football and Athletic Company after the club moved to Highbury.At that time he was living in Whitehall Park in Holloway but I donít think he was asked to get involved in Arsenal because he lived locally; that didnít seem at all important to William Hall and Henry Norris when they looked for new directors!


Charles Crisp was born in Hammersmith in 1864 so he was more or less Norrisí age.His father was a self-employed piano tuner (at a time when any household with middle-class pretensions had a piano and hopefully a daughter who could play it).His parents seem to have had a belief in the importance of education.Even to Charlesí sisters benefited from it, which was very unusual in mid-Victorian England: in 1881 Cicely Crisp was working, as a teacher employed by the new London School Board, which she couldnít have done without the proper qualifications, gained at a local college.Charles went to school at St Markís College Chelsea, where Frederick Wall was also a pupil though several years older; and then to Culham College Oxford to train as a teacher.Both these institutions had been founded recently by the Church of England and I think only the sons of regular church-goers would have got into them.Crisp will have come out of them very well trained, and a firm believer in muscular Christianity which saw sport as a way of keeping youth out of the bars and brothels.Crisp played in goal as an amateur for Oxfordshire and for the amateur team London Hotspur.He was also a good middle-weight boxer at that time.He swam, played cricket, tennis and golf and ran the 100 and 200 yards for Ranelagh harriers.†† In later life he took up bowls.A good all-rounder - more so than Norris, for whom only football seems to have mattered.


Leaving Culham College, Crisp found work in a school on the Isle of Wight and rose to be headmaster.By 1891 he was running his own school in Shere, Surrey.In 1899, he made a complete change of career, accepting a job in the United States with the New York Insurance Company.However the family didnít settle in America, returning to England in 1906 when Charles took the job of manager of the Norwich Unionís Life Insurance office at 182 Finsbury Pavement House, on the northern edge of the City of London.He stayed with Norwich Union until his retirement, ending as a member of its London board of directors and being given the freedom of the City of London.


It was as a genial but firm referee and an organised, energetic administrator that Charles Crisp made his name in football, as the sport became professional, organised, and the worldís most popular sport.On returning from the USA, he quickly got involved with Middlesex Football Association, becoming its chairman and representative at the Football Association.At the FA he was elected to the disciplinary and refereeing committees and later years, to the committee that revised the rules.He was also on the list of FA referees for many years.In 1908 the Refereesí Union was founded.With Henry Norrisí acquaintance F R Viveash, Charles Crisp was one of its founder members; until about 1913 he served as its London-region organiser.Both Crisp and Viveash, with another of Norrisí football acquaintances George Wagstaffe Simmons, were on the refereeing and line-running list for the 1908 Olympic Games football competition, held in October at Shepherdís Bush Stadium.††††


I think Norris and Crisp must have known each other at least slightly before they both got involved in the buying of the sports newspaper Football Chat.Iíve written about this in my files on Norrisí journalism.Crisp was in on the buy-out right from the start, negotiating with the previous owner; and right at the end, giving evidence in January 1911 in his and Norrisí groupís case against the previous owner for misrepresentation and fraud.Crispís involvement in the Football Chat affair seems to have been the impetus behind his being elected as a member of Henry Norrisí favourite freemasonsí lodge, Kent Lodge number 15, December 1910 when Norris was doing his second year as its Worshipful Master.Crisp was a member of several freemasonsí lodges but it may have been as a matter of form, he doesnít seem to have made the effort necessary to rise to high rank in freemasonry.


In June 1911 in a rearrangement of Woolwich Arsenalís finances, a mortgage was taken out on the lives of George Leavey, Henry Norris and William Hall at the Norwich Union Assurance Company.Crisp worked for a sister company at Norwich Union but he may still have had something to do with the choice of Norwich Union for the mortgage.


In 1912 Charles Crisp helped to set up the Athenian League for amateur clubs in the London area; he became its perpetual president.It was through his interest in amateur football as well as professional that he met Arthur Bourke, teacher, president of the Islington Football League and writer on football for the Islington Daily Gazette, as Norseman.Bourke/Norseman was delighted when Crisp was asked to join the board of [Woolwich] Arsenal Football and Athletic Company shortly after Norris and Hall had leased Highbury.Crisp attended his first AGM in August 1913.Heíd bought 25 shares, the minimum number for a director to own, and he never bought any more, nor lent the club any money as a loan.Although comfortably off, Iím sure, he didnít have large sums of money to spare.


Though he was well over the age of military service, Crisp still got involved in the war effort.In October 1917 Arthur Bourke saw Crisp at the first match heíd attended since September 1914.Crisp was a Captain of the Royal Surreys at that date; a few weeks later he was made a Major, and he ended the war as a Lieutenant-Colonel.In addition to these military ranks, as a civilian working in the City he organised a system by which bugle calls would alert people German planes coming over for an air-raid.In March 1920 he was made OBE, along with many other civilians who had contributed to the war effort.At that time he was Deputy Commandant of the cadets in the London Territorial Force (predecessor of the Territorial Army).


In the early 1920s Henry Norris was spending a lot of his winters in southern Europe, so that more match-day duties fell on the Arsenalís other directors.When William Hall was taken ill in February 1922, just before the first visit to Highbury of the Duke of York, it was Crisp who stepped in to make the speech of welcome and present the royal visitor with a silver ink press decorated with an Arsenal gun.He then took the Duke on a tour of the ground and onto the pitch before kick-off.A return visit by HRH a couple of months later saw the Duke presenting the prizes a the final of the London Insurance Offices FA Cup, an event almost certainly organised by Crisp.In May 1923 (again in the absence of both Norris and Hall)Crisp was in charge of the Arsenal squadís tour of Scandinavia.He seems to have used the contacts he made on the tour to organise other events because in August of that year, he saw off an amateur group, the Middlesex Wanderers, on a similar tour.


Although he didnít go to either of the receptions the Norrises held at Fulham Town Hall (in March 1913 and October 1919) in July 1923 Charles Crisp and his wife attended the wedding of Joy Norris.Crisp was still a director at that yearís AGM of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company but in between it and the next one, he resigned from the board.In an affidavit he signed in 1929 Crisp confirmed what had long been rumoured, that he had resigned after a disagreement with Henry Norris.Crisp didnít say in so many words what the argument had been about, but he did state elsewhere in the affidavit that he had not approved of Norris and Hallís decision to reclaim some travel expenses by putting their chauffeurs on Arsenalís staff list as groundsmen.Although the chauffeurs of both Norris and Hall had been added paid with money from Arsenalís account from 1921, only Norris, Hall and John Peters in the Arsenal office knew about until 1923; I suppose Crisp resigned over it as soon as he found out.He didnít sell his shares, however, and as a shareholder he attended the AGM of the company on 9 September 1927 at which Henry Norris made a farewell speech, having been banned from football by the Football Association.However, in the past few years Crisp had been changing his allegiance to a club nearer where he had grown up (although not founded until long after he had left the area): in the late 1920s he invested in and was elected a director of Chelsea FC.As such he was probably behind the appointment of Leslie Knighton as the clubís manager in the 1930s; Knighton had managed Arsenal from 1919 to 1925.


Charles Crisp had an interest in world football that Henry Norris didnít share.Crispís involvement with the development of football in Belgium began in the early 1900s.He organised an annual tour of Belgium by a squad selected from the member-clubs of Middlesex FA, which continued until the war broke out and started up again in 1920.In July 1910 he was one of Englandís representatives at the International Federation of Football Associationsí meeting in Brussels, charged with the mission of trying to set up an international federation of referees (I donít know whether he succeeded).Crisp often invited visitors to Britain to matches at Highbury: in August 1922 Joan Gamper and his group from Barcelona FC went to see Arsenal 1 Liverpool (the reigning champions) 0.Crisp must also have been behind the match in March 1923 which ended England 6 Belgium 1.After this unfair contest (the Belgians were all amateurs, the English a mixture of amateurs and professionals) the president of the Belgian FA, and the English FAís Charles Clegg and Fred Wall were guests at a dinner which I presume Charles Crisp organised although he wasnít mentioned in the coverage of it.A few months later Crisp and two other Englishmen were made honorary members of the Belgian FA for their involvement in Belgian football over the past 20 years.In 1929 Crisp spread his net even wider: he went on tour to South America with a squad from Chelsea, visiting Argentina, Uruguay and Brasil.On his return, Crisp and Fred Wall (the FAís Secretary) exchanged letters about the organisational and administrative problems the touring group had encountered.Itís possible that this correspondence - which confirmed all the FAís prejudices against football in foreign lands - might have been one of the reasons why the FA didnít send a squad to Uruguay in 1930 for the first ever World Cup.


Crisp was also much in demand as a speaker on football: Arthur Bourke/Norseman described him as having ďno equalĒ for his talks on the interpretation of the rules.In October 1921, Joseph Shaw organised a visit by the rest of the Arsenal squad to the Whitefields Central Mission at Tottenham Court Road, where he was a dedicated member of the congregation.Shaw asked Crisp to make a speech, and Crisp had everyone rolling in the aisles with his take on the history of the round-ball game.During his talk, he pulled out from his pocket a press-cutting which he said he carried round with him ďto keep his conceit within boundsĒ.It was from his refereeing days and described him as ďa pale-faced, lantern-jawed, cadaverous individualĒ.Unlike Henry Norris, Crisp was able to take it when the jokes were on him.


During the first World War, the Crisps moved out of London to Lewes in Sussex.Crisp continued to work for Norwich Union at least until 1931, commuting to work and football meetings by train.But he began a second life with a vengeance in Sussex, being elected to Lewes town council and Sussex County Council, getting involved with all sorts of local sporting clubs, helping to found a Conservative Club in Lewes and writing a column in a local paper answering queries on football.He was mayor of Lewes 11 times and deputy mayor several times more.During World War Two he was ARP sub-controller for the Lewes area and also did the town clerkís duties.Still active even in his late 80s, he was the guest of honour at a dinner given by the Duke of Norfolk for his 90th birthday.He died in February 1953, just short of his 92nd birthday.


Charles Crisp married Alice Kemp in June 1886.She was the daughter of a ship-owner from Whitstable.Charles and Alice Crisp had two children, Ruby and Reginald.In 1916 Ruby married H J Tarquand, a man from Sussex probably known to her through her motherís family; perhaps it was to be near her that the Crisps moved.Reginald trained as an engineer at Devonport College and then joined the navy, serving first on HMS Minotaur in the China Seas.Although by September 1914 Reginaldís ship had already seen some war action, he was certainly safer as a naval officer than joining the army, and survived all the fighting.He never married.Alice Crisp died in 1935 and Ruby Tarquand took over the role of mayoress and hostess.She had two sons.††††



WILLIAM E MIDDLETON was next man in after Crisp as a director of Arsenal FC.I know very little about him, heís one of the men I canít identify on the census.From Arsenalís point of view it doesnít really matter much, because his association with the club was short and - I think - of a particular kind.


Middleton first appears as a director of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited in its annual report of 13 March 1915.He appears in it as a director, an engineer with an address of 732 Fulham Road although Iím not clear whether that was his business address or his home (or both).He also appears on a shareholdersí list to go with the annual report, as owning 100 shares; thereís no date for his purchase of them but I think it was quite recent: it must have been clear to all in football that season 1914/15 would be the last until the war ended and Arsenal FC was heavily in debt.I think Norris was going cap in hand to his friends. £100, however, was the sum of Middletonís investment in the club; he was never identified as going to Highbury to see a single football match, and itís not very likely that he went to any board meetings either as - with all the directors heavily involved in the war effort - I doubt that many were held.Middleton himself was managing a vehicle production line in 1918.By the annual report of 17 November 1919 he was no longer a director; and on 28 September 1920 he sold all his shares; in my files on George Peachey I explain that I think it was Peachey that bought them.


I donít know when or where Middleton and Henry Norris got to know each other; but Iím pretty sure it wasnít at a football match because I canít find any evidence that he had any interest in the sport.He seems to have been a boxing man, very involved with Fulham Amateur Boxing Club and itís probably through that club, which Norris was also a member of, that they got to know each other.Either that or they met through Conservative politics in Fulham: Middleton was elected to the London Borough of Fulham in 1912 as a councillor for Sandís End; Norris also represented Sandís End on Fulham Council.


However they met, they got very friendly; and - just as important - their wives became friends.Mr and Mrs Middleton attended the reception given by the Norrises at Fulham Town Hall in March 1913.And in August 1914 Henry and Edith Norris, and William Middleton and his wife and son, and George Peachey all set out, intending to motor down the Rhine Valley, only to find when they got to France that war had been declared.I write in more detail about this in the Diary section, and in the file on Peachey.However, I get the impression that the close friendship between Henry Norris and William Middleton didnít last.The Middletons didnít go to the last reception given by Henry and Edith Norris in October 1919.They didnít go to Joyís wedding in 1923.Middleton was still an active member of Fulham Amateur Boxing Club after the war; in 1922 he was its president.But the evidence Iíve found suggests that Henry Norris didnít go to anything organised by the boxing club after 1919.It might just have been a case of the two men drifting apart.On the other hand, I know from my own experience that nothing ends a friendship as quickly as one friend lending the other one money; and perhaps that happened in Norris and Middletonís case.If so, it was a sad outcome to Middletonís willingness to put money into Norrisí football club when it needed it.


GEORGE PEACHEY was the next man to become a director of Arsenal FC; he has his own files as Norrisí most loyal friend.



SIR SAMUEL HILL-WOOD joined the board of directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company in October 1922.


Henry Norris was a rich man, but Hill-Wood was in a different league altogether, having inherited a cotton fortune built up by his father in Glossop, Derbyshire.Schooled at Eton and married into the aristocracy, Hill-Wood led the life of a country landowner with estates in Suffolk and Derbyshire and a town house in Eaton Square.


There are two ways in which Norris and Hill-Wood could have met.Itís possible that they met through football.In the years immediately before World War One, Hill-Wood had poured a great deal of money into Glossop FC so the two men might have met as directors of opposing clubs though I think Glossop FC was not in Fulham or Woolwich Arsenalís league division.Itís more likely that they met in the House of Commons after Norris was elected as MP for Fulham East in 1918.Hill-Wood was a long-serving back-bench MP; and he continued to sit in Parliament after Norris left politics.Anyway, they met somehow, and I guess Norris invited Hill-Wood to get involved in a club more local to his two addresses; and Hill-Wood accepted though I think on terms (see below).


Arthur Bourke first saw Samuel Hill-Wood at a Highbury on 2 October 1922 watching Arsenal 0 Spurs 2; not a good introduction!Thereafter, he became a regular Arsenal watcher, probably seeing more games than Norris did.On 20 January 1923 Bourke saw Samuel at a match with one of his sons; he had four but this was probably the first appearance at Highbury of Denis Hill-Wood who succeeded his father at the club.Hill-Wood might have been the man who suggested that the directors take the Arsenal squad to see the Grand National in March 1923 when they were in the area for an away game at Oldham.He and Norris were the only directors who had an interest in horse-racing; though everybody likes the Grand National.


Hill-Wood was the director who got most involved in the 1920s with the annual charity cricket match between the Arsenal squad and Tufnell Park FC/CC, held in August during preparations for the football season.In August 1924, his son Wilfred captained Arsenalís team; Wilfred was good enough to play for the MCC on a tour of Australia.In August 1926 Denis Hill-Wood played cricket for Arsenalís XI against the local branch of the National Union of Journalists.


Hill-Wood attended events like the farewell dinner for Jock Rutherford in August 1923 (at which he made a speech); and the day out on the Thames in August 1924.However, he really started to come to prominence at Arsenal in the chaos of 1927 when he was often the only director named as attending some of the important matches: Arsenal 1 Sheffield United 1 on 22 January 1927, for example, the first football match to be broadcast live on radio.He was also the only director present when Prince Henry visited Highbury on 30 March 1927 to see English Army 5 French Army 2.He and William Hall were the directors called down to the dressing room during the FA Cup replay on 2 February 1927 to try to resolve the row going on between Herbert Chapman and George Hardy (Iíve written about this at length elsewhere).And he and John Humble did the press work for the club after Arsenal had lost the FA Cup Final on 23 April 1927.


Hill-Wood attended the first Ďin-personí hearing of the Football Associationís enquiry into Arsenalís finances, but his own actions were not investigated by the FA.I have wondered whether Hill-Wood wasnít scrutinised because the FA didnít want to antagonise someone with such powerful friends.However, you can also argue that it was because Samuel Hill-Woodís involvement in Arsenalís money side was minimal until Henry Norris had gone.In 1923 Arthur Bourke described Samuel Hill-Wood as president of Arsenal and although Iíve not seen that him given that title anywhere else it does describe his role quite well: William Hayes Fisher was made president of Fulham FC by Henry Norris and his co-directors around 1906 but it was just a compliment to the local MP, he was never expected to get stuck in running the club on a daily basis.Until 1927, Samuel Hill-Wood had no daily involvement either.


A list of shareholders from September 1923 indicates that Hill-Wood bought 40 shares.He did take part in the programme devised by Arsenalís board to buy up shares as and when they came on the market but only small numbers of shares were involved - two here, five there - so it wasnít exactly a large commitment of money on any directorís part.However, these small purchases were the only money he spent on Arsenal until the problems of late 1927.He was content to leave the decision-making at the club to others as well.A handwritten note on Henry Norrisí legal document of 1929 describes Hill-Wood as usually leaving board meetings long before they finished, quite happy to allow the financial sub-committee of Hall and Norris to spend or gather in money without interference.He was not the only director to do so; but he was the only director not to be sacked for it by the FA in 1927 so perhaps there is something in my feeling that Hill-Wood was spared because the FA were frightened of him.He also did not exercise any particular authority at the club: when he and Hall were called to separate Chapman and Hardy, it was Hall, as vice-chairman of the board, who made the decision to leave it to Chapman to sort it out.


When the FA suspended Henry Norris and William Hall from football management; and ordered John Humble and George Peachey to cease being directors of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company, Hill-Wood was left holding the baby and became the clubís chairman perforce.John Humble helped him prepare the annual report before resigning on 2 September 1927, and at the end of that day there were only three directors left: Hill-Wood, J J Edwards, and George Allison whoíd only been elected a few weeks before.Hill-Wood chaired his first meeting as club chairman at the resumed AGM of the company on 9 September 1927.He had been obliged to ask Chapman, as Arsenal company secretary, to write to Henry Norris demanding back the money paid to his chauffeur between 1921 and 1923, which they FA had judged to be against their rules.Itís not clear to me whether Norris ever paid it back; but he was asked to, and he came to the meeting in a difficult mood.Hill-Wood tried in the AGM to allow people to say what they thought about the FAís punishing of Henry Norris without incurring any more of the FAís wrath by seeming too obviously to agree with it.He allowed Henry Norris to make what seems to have been a speech full of hostility towards Herbert Chapman; but then felt it necessary to allow Chapman a right of reply - which Chapman didnít take up.Although the AGM was a very difficult occasion to chair, it did end peacefully.


In the next few weeks Hill-Wood had George Peachey to deal with.Peachey was challenging the FAís right to say he couldnít be a director any longer, and was insisting on attending board meetings; while the FAís orders to the club to keep him out were getting more and more strident.They ended with a threat to suspend Arsenal FC from membership of the FA - which would have led to the clubís bankruptcy within a few weeks.Fortunately for Arsenal George Peachey - having won his case and proved a point of law - resigned as a director.Hill-Wood, Allison and Edwards had issued a large number of shares and bought them all between them, however, just in case Peachey had to be voted off the board by the other shareholders as would normally happen at a limited company.They were the first new shares in Arsenal FC to be issued since the beginning of World War One.


Hill-Wood survived his first few weeks in charge with his sanity intact, and knuckled down to the job of running Arsenal.And the rest is history, as they say.



JOHN JAMES EDWARDS met Henry Norris, and then William Hall, through the Feltmakersí Company and Iíve written more about that connection in another file.He was a keen member of the Company and served as its Master in 1919-20.He was first mentioned by Islington Gazette as a director of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited in September 1926.The IG described him as a keen sportsman but I havenít found any evidence of his going to Arsenal matches before that date; though of course the IGís football reporter might have seen him before but not known who he was.Edwards had bought his 41 shares piecemeal over the last few months as part of the programme instituted by Arsenalís board of buying up shares when they became available.


Edwards was a solicitor, with a practice in 28 Sackville Street off Piccadilly and at 3 Budge Row in the City of London.When in April 1927 Henry Norris began libel proceedings over the £170 cheque for the sale in 1926 of the Arsenal reserve team bus, it was Edwards he instructed to issue writs against Dean, Bradshaw and Liddell of Fulham FC and garage-proprietor McDermott for the rumours they had recently been spreading.And although Edwards was not investigated by the FA himself in July and August 1927, he did represent Norrisí interests as the FAís enquiries continued, and attended both the Ďin personí hearings in that capacity.In the aftermath of the enquiry, he continued as director of Arsenal FC and vice-chairman of the board.He later served on the Football League management committee.


Itís been difficult to find out anything much else about Edwards as I canít identify the right man on the 1901 Census.I do know, however, that in 1925 he was elected as a member of the Common Council of the City of London - the equivalent of a councillor in a local authority - representing Cordwainer Ward.


GEORGE FREDERICK ALLISON was elected a director of Arsenal Football and Athletic Company only a few weeks before the FA ejected William Hall, Henry Norris, John Humble and George Peachey from the board.His involvement with Arsenal FC went way back, though.


George Allison was born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1883 so he was much younger than Henry Norris.He was the son of a court bailiff and joined his father working for the local courts.However, by 1901 he was working as a sports reporter for the North-Eastern Daily Gazette, having been offered the job when the paper found out who was supplying them with anonymous football match reports.He played football himself as a full-back for a local amateur team.He spent a short spell working as secretary-manager of Middlesbrough FC before taking a job with Hulton Newspapers, working in London for their Athletic News and Sporting Life titles; he used the writing name The Mate.He moved south in 1906, and as he was the only reporter in the office who was willing to make the difficult journey to Plumstead, he soon became their expert on Woolwich Arsenal FC.He became a fan.When Henry Norris and William Hall got involved with the club in 1910, they asked Allison to edit a new, improved match-day programme.Iím not sure whether he was paid for it but as The Gunnerís Mate, Allison continued to do this task well into the 1920s, only missing a couple of the war years.As an editor working for Henry Norris, Allison never had the trouble that Oscar Drew did doing the same job at Fulham FC; possibly because Norris respected the fact that Allison was a professional sports writer - Drew was an amateur.


In 1912 George Allison married Ethel Swordy, from Middlesbrough.He also took a new job, with the American newspaper empire of Randolph Hearst, though I think he was again based in London.As a journalist he was hired by the War Office as soon as World War One was declared, and spent the next three years working on government propaganda.In 1917 he decided on a more active role and joined the Royal Flying Corps.


Allison continued to work as a journalist and as Arsenalís programme editor in the 1920s.In 1927, however, he started on another career, in radio.The first ever live broadcast of a football match over the radio took place on 23 January 1927 at Highbury.On that occasion the commentator was a man from the BBC.Although nothing was said at the time about his commentary, he doesnít seem ever to have done another one and the next time a live broadcast went out, on the FA Cup tie Corinthians v Newcastle United (29 January) Allison did the commentary work.He was an immediate hit, and his new career took off rapidly.The sports writer of the Islington Gazette described Allisonís assets for the exacting task of radio commentary as an ďexcellent knowledge of the game, journalistic training and the right kind of voice...together with a racy, breezy styleĒ.By mid-March Allison was already a nationally-known figure.In April he had the difficult job of watching his own team playing in the FA Cup Final while doing the first ever live commentary on the match.Arsenal lost, but he still managed to carry out the task with style.


Although Allison had been involved with Arsenal FC for so long, it was not until 1924 that he invested in the club, and then he only bought one share!†† However, on 3 June 1927 Allison bought 25 shares from Henry Norris and became eligible for election as a director.William Hall had resigned as a director a few months before and I think Norris was looking for another man to replace Hall on the board; though no one could really replace the amount of work Hall had done for the club and as a representative of Arsenal FC on the Football League management committee.Allison was therefore Norrisí choice as a director; the last such choice Norris was able to make.He, Edwards and Hill-Wood carried on at Arsenal in September 1927 after all the other directors had to go.





Copyright Sally Davis January 2009