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Arsenal News
Arsenal News
May 2022

Woolwich Arsenal vs London – the results


By Tony Attwood

Woolwich Arsenal are often called London’s first professional team.  Technically at the start they were Kent’s first pro-team, but people linked Woolwich Arsenal with London and they were the first professional team in the south.

But after joining the Football League for the 1893/4 season, other teams decided to try and get in on the act, noticeably…

  • Chelsea elected to division II 1905/6
  • Clapton Orient elected to division II 1905/6
  • Fulham elected to division II 1907/8
  • Tottenham Hotspur elected to division II 1908/9

And that is how it remained until after the first world war when West Ham joined the second division for the 1919/20 season.

London clubs did not flourish in the Football League, which remained dominated by northern sides both numerically and in terms of success.  The four teams noted above were the representatives of London, Kent and Middlesex during the lifetime of Woolwich Arsenal.

Here’s what happened during the period

1905/6 – Woolwich Arsenal Division I (no other local teams in the division.  Chelsea and Clapton Orient played the first London derby in the Football League.)

1906/7 – Woolwich Arsenal Division I, Chelsea second in Division II, promoted

1907/8 – Chelsea 13th, Woolwich Arsenal 14th in Division I.

  • Nov 9, 1907 Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1.  Attendance: 65,000  – Arsenal’s first London league derby, and in fact London’s first ever first division derby.  This is wrongly quoted in some sources as November 2.
  • Mar 7, 1908. Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0. Attendance: 30,000 – the first London league derby at Plumstead

1908/9 – Arsenal 6th, Chelsea 11th, Tottenham promoted from Division II

  • Nov 26 1908. Chelsea1 Arsenal 2.  Attendance 50,000
  • April 3 1909.  Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0.  Attendance 30,000

1909/10 –  Tottenham 15th, Arsenal 18th, Chelsea 19th (relegated)

  • Sep 25 1909.  Arsenal 3 Chelsea 2.  Attendance 15,000
  • Dec 4 1909.  Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0.  Attendance 18,000 – first League derby with Tottenham
  • Mar 28 1910.  Chelsea 0 Arsenal 1.   Attendance 40,000
  • Apr 16 1910.  Tottenham 1 Arsenal 1.  Attendance 39,800

1910/11 – Arsenal 10th, Tottenham 15th

  • Dec 3 1910.  Tottenham 3 Arsenal 1.  Attendance 16,000
  • Apr 8 1911.  Arsenal 2 Tottenham 0.  Attendance 24,583

1911/12 – Arsenal 10th, Tottenham 12th, Chelsea 2nd in Division II (promoted)

  • Dec 25 1911.  Tottenham 5 Arsenal 0. Attendance 47,100
  • Dec 26 1911.  Arsenal 3 Tottenham 1.  Attendance 22,000.

1912/13 – Tottenham 1th, Chelsea 18th, Arsenal 20th (relegated)

  • Oct 12 1912.  Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1.  Attendance 20,000
  • Dec 14 1912.  Arsenal 0 Tottenham 3.  Attendance 13,000 – first home League defeat to Tottenham
  • Feb 15 1913.  Chelsea 1 Arsenal 1.  Attendance 15,000
  • Apr 19 1913.  Tottenham 1 Arsenal 1.  Attendance 20,000

1913/14 – (the first at Highbury)  Arsenal 3rd in Division II, Orient 6th, Fulham 11th

  • Nov 8 1913.  Fulham 6 Arsenal 1.  Attendance 35,000
  • Dec 13 1913.  Clapton Orient 1 Arsenal 0.  Attendance 27,000
  • Mar 14 1914.  Arsenal 2 Fulham 0.  Attendance 30,000 – first London derby at Highbury
  • Apr 18 1914.  Arsenal 2 Clapton Orient 2.  Attendance 35,000*

1914/15 – Arsenal 5th, Orient 9th, Fulham 12th

  • Sep 12 1914.  Arsenal 3 Fulham 0.  Attendance 10,000
  • Oct 10 1914.  Arsenal 2 Clapton Orient 1.  Attendance 30,000
  • Jan 16 1915.  Fulham 0 Arsenal 1.  Attendance 10,000
  • Feb 13 1915.  Clapton 1 Arsenal 0.  Attendance 4,000

*Our thinking now is that this was the first game played as The Arsenal, and that Woolwich Arsenal had concluded its affairs the game before – although in many regards this is a technicality – it was the same club and the same team.  Certainly the 1914/15 season was played as The Arsenal.

It is quite clear from the attendances that these games were considered the original local derbies for the south east, and the crowds were much higher than for other games.  For the first two seasons of the games against Chelsea Woolwich Arsenal were getting crowds of around 10,000 to 15,000 for most games.

Crowds were poor in the final season as this season was played almost totally after the declaration of war against Germany.

Overall I make the record between the foundation of the club and the end of football because of hostilities as Woolwich Arsenal won 10, lost 8 and drew 6 against the other teams in the area.

These figures of course ignore FA cup matches where Arsenal did have a number of games against other teams from the area including Croydon Common, Millwall, West Ham, Fulham, Brentford, Luton, Watford…

I’ll deal with these games in another piece.

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5 comments to Woolwich Arsenal vs London – the results

  • Ricky


    I was wondering if i could get in contact with the person who wrote this article. My family tree is leading me up to Herbert Smith who was a trainer at Woolwich Arsenal 1907-1910 i was wondering if i could find out any more information

  • It was me – I have dropped you an email

    Tony Attwood

  • Phil

    Just wondering if a ‘Herbert Smith’ who married into my wife’s line is the same person. He married in Nottingham 1898 and (they) moved to Plumstead shortly after. He was employed as a fitter at the ‘Maxim Gun Factory’ and appears to have had some connection to the 1906-07 Pr. Div. London League Winners (W. Arsenal F.C.).

  • It is certainly possible Phil, but I don’t have any further information on him. Sorry

  • Phil

    Thanks for your reply Tony – sorry, but I have only just seen it.
    Just out of interest, I have a gold medal/medallion with the initials HS on the front and the following inscribed on the back:

    (the hallmark date below is 1906-7)


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