Henry Norris as an Employer

Last updated: November 2008


From aged 13, when he left school, until age 32, Henry Norris was an employee.Then, in one bound, he crossed the desk and for the rest of his life was an employer, on a wide and reasonably grand scale.In this file Iím going attempt to look at what kind of an employer Henry Norris was.Iím handicapped by a lack of information on Norrisí employees: his household records donít exist any longer; nor do the employee records of Allen and Norris; and as far as I know, nor do the records that far back of either [Woolwich] Arsenal FC or Fulham FC.I shall start with the area of employment that is notoriously the least documented on both a national and a personal scale:


The Servants


Itís not been easy for me to find evidence for Henry Norris as an employer of servants.Most of the evidence I have comes from late in his life.On the days of the 1881 and 1891 censuses he was still living at home in a household with no servants.In 1901 he was a widower living with his sister and again he had no servants.However, he married for the second time shortly afterwards, had three children and continued to make money and entered into public life.On the first Sunday in April 1911 he completed the 1911 census.It was term-time and Norrisí two elder daughters were at their boarding school, so the family consisted of Henry, Edith his wife, their youngest daughter Nanette and his unmarried sister Ada Patience.Henry Norris employed four servants, all single women.Annie Louise Slade, aged 34, was a cook but she probably also did a share of supervising the other three servants: Alice Saunders aged 21 the parlourmaid; Mary Younger aged 19 the housemaid; and Mabel Anderson aged 21, a nurse who will have had daily charge of Nanette.I actually think this is rather a modest household for the mayor of a London borough and his busy wife.Perhaps Ada Patience undertook part of the housekeeping role with the cook doing the daily shop to a menu agreed beforehand.Henry Norris probably employed a chauffeur by this stage but he was living in accommodation elsewhere.


The latest source for Norris as an employer of servants is his Will, dated 1933.In it, he leaves one yearís salary to all the servants he had at his death who had been working for him for at least five years.The wording of the clause gives me the impression that there were still several servants in the Norrisí household at any one time, at least in Henry Norrisí later years.In addition Norris left sums of money to Rose Miller , an ex-housemaid (perhaps a particularly long-serving one) and Daniel Rider, the chauffeur who was paid by Arsenal FC from 1921 to 1923; a sum of money to Alexander Kefford, his current chauffeur; and an annuity to James Keene, his former gardener, now retired.Henry Norrisí grand-children tell me that Alexander Kefford continued as the family chauffeur after Norrisí death, employed by Edith.They also speak of a woman they all remember from their childhoods, who began in Henry Norrisí employment as a housemaid and ended her career as Edithís cook and mainstay of the household during World War II.Although people in general didnít change jobs then as much as they do now, the Will and these stories do suggest that the Norrises were a couple whom servants were happy to continue working for.The Will shows Henry Norris as an employer who valued some at least of his household staff, even after they were no longer working for him.I suggest that he thought of them as Ďfamilyí, an attitude that dominated his relationships with employees further from home.


Below is some speculation as to what servants Henry Norris might have employed at different stages in his life:


A servant is the one type of employee that Henry Norris might have had while he was still a clerk in a solicitorís office.If he had employed a servant, it would have been the type that was for most people their first experience of such employment: a young girl, possibly fresh from the workhouse, or arriving new to London from a rural area.She would live in her employerís house (so he had to have a big enough house to give her somewhere to sleep) and do the cleaning and some washing, while his wife if he had one concentrated on the shopping and cooking and childcare.Itís a pity that Henry Norrisí first marriage began and ended between two censuses: Iíve not been able to find out whether Mr and Mrs Norris employed any servants.In 1891 he was still a bachelor, living with his mother; in 1901 he was a childless widower, living with his unmarried sister. There was no servant living in the household on either occasion.


It would not surprise me to find that Henry Norris had employed a servant during his first marriage; partly because having a servant was part of the territory of a middle-class marriage and a badge of the coupleís middle-class status, and partly because (so his grand-children tell me) Henry Norrisí first wife died of a wasting disease, most likely TB.In addition, thereís the evidence of Hill Crest Thurleigh Road to take into account: the house built for Henry Norris in 1897.Itís big.Itís a house whose owner can afford servants and intends to employ them.Mary Jane Norris was probably showing signs of illness by the time they moved into it.As her health deteriorated, she would not have been able to do the shopping and cooking, let alone the cleaning and washing, even if she had been doing them before, which I think is unlikely.She will also have needed nursing.Ada Norris went to live with Henry and Mary Jane to help with the household tasks during this crisis but a nurse, at least during Mary Janeís last few months, may have been another type of person employed by Henry Norris.This, though, is speculation in my part, making assumptions based on what happened in other households but without any real evidence in Norrisí case.


Although he was a widower on 1 April, the day of the 1901 Census, Henry Norris married again three months later.Iím sure that some servants were part of the household he set up with second wife Edith, right from the start.The number of servants employed by Henry and Edith will have gone up the following year when they had their first child; and probably as and when they decided that they wanted to employ more - an Edwardian household tended to employ as many servants as the bread-winner could afford.


Of course, I canít get at the 1911 Census data yet.Roll on the day!By this time Henry Norris was a successful property developer living in swanky Roehampton, mayor of a London borough, director of two football clubs and a married man with three children.I will expect to find him employing several (not just one) servants, all of them one step-up at least from the basic general servant whose duties Iíve outlined above.In addition to giving me some clue as to what servants the Norrises thought were most necessary to them, given the large number of social engagements they had, the number of servants living in the household in 1911 might give me precious indications about Henry Norrisí income at that time, about which I have NIL information.Again going on what servants other households that might be in the same income bracket employed, Iíd expect the Norrises to have one housemaid, maybe two; or a nursery maid instead of the second housemaid; a cook; and a chauffeur.But not a butler or a valet or a ladyís maid: they came very expensive and were for the very rich only.If the Norrises have any of those three I shall be very impressed! - they will be richer even than I think!


If they kept a carriage and some horses, the Norrises might have employed a groom and a coach-driver as well, who would normally have slept over the stable.By 1911 though, it was just about possible for Henry Norris to have a car instead of a carriage; he certainly had one by the time of his tour of north London (in 1912) looking for a suitable new site for Woolwich Arsenalís football ground.When Daniel Ryder was employed by Henry Norris as his chauffeur, in the early 1920s, he had two cars to look after: Henryís Rolls-Royce (his grand-son tells me he had a new one each year) and a smaller car which his daughters drove.Ryder lived in rooms above the garage.As Henry Norris didnít drive, Ryder drove him everywhere, including all the way through France to the Riviera at least once a year in the early 1920s, when the Norris family went to stay at their house in Villefranche: getting petrol and breakages mended in French, I presume!


Possibly in 1911 and certainly between 1913 and 1925, when they lived in houses with extensive gardens, the Norrises employed at least one gardener.


Henry Norrisí Will indicates that he continued to employ servants in his home up to the time of his death; and his grand-childrenís reminiscences show that he left Edith well enough off for her to continue to employ some of them at least until World War II.Thus the Norrises had servants throughout a period of economic downturn, and through a period in which those who could still afford servants had to compete for personnel with other kinds of employment which gave women (most domestic servants were women) a wider choice of work than they had ever had before.Thatís quite an impressive record, I think, both financially and on a personal level between employer and employee.


Allen and Norris


Henry Norrisí great leap across the desk came - of course - when he became a partner in William Gilbert Allenís building firm; and as Allenís firm had already been in business for several years, Norris Ďinheritedí a lot of employees that he hadnít chosen, including (I imagine, although his grand-daughter isnít sure when he joined the firm) Allenís own brother-in-law, Francis Plummer .Norris seems to have trod with all the caution that was necessary in the circumstances because neither his grand-children nor Allenís grand-son have any tales to tell of great bust-ups and employees walking out at this point.Although he probably saw them all on pay-day itís likely that Norris didnít have all that much to do with the on-site labourers: they were Allen and Plummerís department and they did the hiring and firing as well as the supervision, I am sure.In due course, William Gilbertís youngest brother Harry probably joined the firm as a carpenter; I would suppose that the decision to hire him was taken by William Gilbert Allen and Francis Plummer.Iíve argued in my history of the Allen and Norris partnership that Henry Norrisí role, in 1896 and beyond, was to take charge of the office, both in terms of function and in terms of personnel.Maybe his first task as partner was to hire some office staff - that will have been a first for him! - and even if it was not - even if Allen had some clerks already - Henry Norris was in charge and probably oversaw the process of hiring and firing clerks thereafter.However he continued the policy of employing relations of Allen and Plummer, at least I think he did (without any of Allen and Norrisí papers I can only guess); see below.


Because no personnel records of Allen and Norris survive, I donít know how many men (it was almost certainly all men and no women, at least until World War I) were employed by Allen and Norris at any one time, and what kinds of work they did: though building work is building work is building work, so those employees at least were putting up scaffolding, doing plumbing and carpentry, laying floors, plastering walls and putting tiles on the roof and the walls much as they do now.By 1911, at least, there must have been an awful lot of them - the labour costs of the whole Crabtree Lane Estate were estimated at £50000-100000 though those figures will include the wages of the office staff too.Thinking about what other kinds of work employees of Allen and Norrisí will have done in 1911, the main office will have had to have a hierarchy of clerks dealing with the wages and their National Insurance payments; and preparing letters for signature by one of the partners; as well as issues like health and safety, coverage for accidents, sick pay, holidays, leave of absence and all the other administrative details of employing people.There will have been a group of employees doing the partnershipís accounts; credit and debit; paying the bills and pursuing money owed.And in addition, since this was a property company, some employees will have been collecting and recording rents and ground rents due to the partnership.Francis Plummerís grand-daughter tells me that some people, including women (her aunt did it sometimes), were employed to go house-to-house actually receiving the payments of rent and ground rent, cash in hand.I suppose some clerks might have done the wages due to and taxes payable by William Gilbert Allen and Henry Norris themselves - very confidential work.And some employees, at least after 1911, were involved in some of the preparation of planning and drainage applications which up until then had largely been done in William Clinch Pooleís office.All the documents that Iíve seen as having been issued by Allen and Norris up to World War I have been completed by hand; itís only later documents that are typed.The typing goes with the post-war period when the scale of Allen and Norrisí work was much reduced - there was no actual building work going on - and the partnership concentrated on building maintenance, rent collection and buying and selling property in a more modern way.The number of labourers the partnership employed, in particular, must have declined considerably.But I see the pre-war office that Henry Norris was in charge of as an ant-hill of activity, with clerks writing furiously in ledgers or preparing letters and other documents for Norrisí signature, all by hand; Norris - especially after he entered local politics - presiding over the hive of activity in between rushing off to go to site meetings, business meetings, political meetings, Council meetings, meetings with William Gilbert Allen at which the future course of the partnership would be decided; and occasionally home to his family.


The Allen and Norris partnership must have employed dozens - maybe hundreds - of people.I donít know what they were paid; I donít know how long (on average) they worked for the firm before they left or retired; and I know hardly any of their names.I know two things about them as a group that shed light Henry Norrisí attitude towards workers rights.During a political speech after World War I Henry Norris got into an argument with a member of the audience in which he told his heckler that the Allen and Norris partnership had always allowed its employees to be members of a trade union.I find it quite hard to envisage Henry Norris negotiating wage levels with his trade union representatives; perhaps William Gilbert Allen performed that task. As far as I know, the Allen and Norris partnership was never involved in any labour dispute and never had their work schedule disrupted by a strike or a go-slow, even during the period 1911-13 which was one of considerable trade union activity in Britain.Perhaps they were good employers, paying well (or well enough) and not laying people off unless they had to, in an industry where sudden lay-offs have always been such a fact of working life.Still, I do find it surprising that Henry Norris was prepared to allow trade unions on his patch; at least within the Allen and Norris partnership he was not quite the autocrat he has been portrayed.


Norris was also a supporter of the trade union formed by a group of professional footballers before World War I, at least until they affiliated themselves with a trade union grouping.Then he changed his tune, as the players claimed the right to strike; Arsenal FC couldnít afford a playersí strike.And he was not alone in regarding a downing of tools by the players as something too horrible to contemplate: the Football Association didnít like it either and refused to recognise the PFU until theyíd given up the right to strike.The union was attempting to make it possible for players to negotiate wages as a group.I havenít studied the early history of the PFA but I get the impression that at least during Henry Norrisí time in football, they made very little headway in this.Norris continued to negotiate with each player individually.Divide and conquer.


When World War I was declared in August 1914 and Lord Kitchener asked the nation for 100,000 young men by September, both William Gilbert Allen and Henry Norris agreed that although the firm was still heavily involved in building the Crabtree Lane Estate (which was behind schedule due to a planning dispute) they would not stand in the way of any employee who wanted to leave the firm with very little notice to fight for their country.This patriotic attitude was not as common as you would suppose: at Sunderland FC (for example) player Charles Buchan wanted to volunteer in August 1914 but the clubís directors made it very clear to him that if he did, they would sue him for breach of contract; so he didnít.


I know the names of one or two men who worked for the Allen and Norris partnership because they became involved in one of the other enterprises organised by William Gilbert Allen and Henry Norris.Iíve argued elsewhere that in 1903, the Allen and Norris partnership took over Fulham FC; well, William Gilbert Allen and Henry Norris were able to persuade some of their employees to buy shares; the more senior employees, that is - the ones more likely to have spare money to invest in such a dodgy deal as a football club.When the first list of shareholders in Fulham Football and Athletic Company Limited was published in 1903, Arthur Foulds had bought 20 shares, and Francis Plummer 10.†† Ten shares was not enough to make you eligible to act as a director of the company, and thereís no evidence that Francis Plummer ever bought any more than his ten; he never took an active role in running the club.But Arthur Foulds, one of Allen and Norrisí senior carpenters, was a director of the club from 1903 until the AGM of 1913, when he stood down; and by 1906 heíd bought 200 shares, doing his bit to fund the rebuilding of Craven Cottage in 1905.

Fulham Amateur Boxing Club, founded in 1910, could be described as an Allen and Norris-based venture, though it could also be described as a Plummer-and-relations idea.†† Francis Plummer was involved again, but the driving force behind the whole idea was Percy Arthur Jones, an ex-bantam weight champion and well-respected boxing referee.Jones acted as the clubís honorary secretary and was a relation of Francis Plummerís (although Plummerís grand-daughter isnít quite sure how he fits into the family tree).Jones was a qualified electrician and worked for Allen and Norris until he volunteered to join the navy in 1917 - becoming one of the employees allowed by William Gilbert Allen and Henry Norris to leave the firm without hindrance to fight in the war.Henry Norris took an interest in the boxing club, especially in its first few years, attending its annual dinners (an important fund-raising event); though I get the impression he wasnít keen on boxing and in any case the club tended to have its competitions on evenings when he was tied up with Council meetings.Francis Plummer, William Gilbert Allen, Arthur Foulds and Harry John Peters of Allen and Norris also went to the dinners at least up until the outbreak of World War 1.


Itís much more difficult to discover the names of Allen and Norris employees who didnít take a prominent role in life in Fulham.However, as a result of scanning all the way down the houses in Settrington Road, on Allen and Norrisí Morrisonís Farm Estate, I can suggest (but not say categorically) that on the day of the 1901 Census, some at least of the residents worked for Allen and Norris: there were a suspiciously large number of carpenters and plumbers living in the road, especially in the high numbers, just round the corner from Allen and Norrisí offices and joinery workshop!And also a larger than I would have expected number of residents claiming to have been born in Cornwall - where William Gilbert Allen and Francis Plummerís wives came from.On the basis of the census and other information Iím fairly confident that Settrington Road residents Harry Allen, carpenter and joiner and Arthur Diplock, commercial clerk, were Allen and Norris employees in 1901.Harry Allen was William Gilbert Allenís youngest brother; and Arthur Diplock had married Francis Plummerís sister Emily.


Which brings me to another point Iíd like to make about William Gilbert Allen and Henry Norris as employers: they liked their employees to live in the houses they had helped build.It kept good workers in the neighbourhood; and it made the firm look good if its employees were happy to live in its products.Of course, I havenít got any evidence about the finances of this.Perhaps the employees were offered a good rent, lower than the commercial value; or help with finding a mortgage.†† If they were offered a deal, it was a good one; either that or the partnership was able to inspire great loyalty on the part of these employees at least: the Allen and Norris employees I know about moved several times from one Allen and Norris property to another.In 1897 Francis Plummer was living in one of the Allen and Norris houses in Clancarty Road; by 1901 he had moved round the corner to a rather larger house, 2 Settrington Road; he described himself to the 1901 census-taker as a builderís foreman, so by this time he had already moved up in the world from his beginnings as a carpenter and joiner.†† By 1909 Plummer and his family had moved across Fulham to 34 Finlay Street, where they stayed until the 1930s when Francis retired.In 1901, and still in 1903, Arthur Foulds was living at 3 Clancarty Road.That house might have been rented but at some time after 1911 Foulds moved to 105 Wimbledon Park Road on Allen and Norrisí Southfields estate, which was all for sale not for rent, as far as I know.Percy Jones lived at Allen and Norrisí 143 Harbord Street in 1912 before moving to 37 Rosedew Road on the Crabtree Lane estate by 1917.And Harry John Peters bought 155 Wimbledon Park Road, presumably while he was still working for Allen and Norris as an accounts clerk; though he later left the partnership to work for another of Henry Norrisí companies, Arsenal FC - see below for the tale that hangs thereby.


At first, it was only William Gilbert Allenís family that got jobs with Allen and Norris.However, by the time of Henry Norrisí death in 1934, there were a member of his family employed by the firm, as a clerk in the office: Percival Harris, son of Edith Norrisí sister Mary Featherstone Harris.And Francis Plummerís grand-daughter tells me that his daughter Winifred was also employed by the firm as a rent collector, though this was as and when needed, she wasnít a permanent member of the staff.However, as Iíve pointed out in my history of the Allen and Norris partnership, only one of the two partnersí children ever worked for the firm - William Gilbert Allenís estate agent son Frederick.So the employment of family members by the Allen and Norris partnership gradually declined in the 1930s.


Of course, itís as an employer of people in football that Henry Norris is best and most infamously known.Iíll deal with that next.





Copyright Sally Davis November 2008