November 1919: Arsenal solid but in debt, Labour advances, another goalscorer, Norris honoured.

by Tony Attwood

We have noted in the previous commentary that the Conservatives (under the name of the Municipal Reform Party) had ruled Fulham without any opposition parties being elected to the council for any single seat.  The Liberal Party had stood under the name “Progressives” and of late the Labour Party had been fighting some of the seats in the area.  Neither had got anywhere

Voting for a new council, which had been postponed since 1915 due to the war, took place on 1 November with counting taking place on 3 November.  These elections were for all the London boroughs, and were quite separate from the London County Council elections.

And this time round, after years of a one party state, Labour shook Fulham politics to its very roots, for Labour went from zero to 24 councillors in one single go.  The Municipal Reform Party (Conservatives) were cut to 15, thus not only losing seats but losing their majority and their control over the position of Mayor.  The Progressives (Liberal Party) remained with zero.

This left Sir Henry Norris (who had not stood for re-election) in the odd position of remaining mayor for a further six days until the official handover to Labour, and he used 3 November to present to the Minister of Health the proposals set out by Fulham for local authority housing in the borough, as required by Parliament.  Sally Davis reports that the Minister was not impressed.  I suspect he was going to be even less impressed with the approach of the new administration in the Borough.

On the same day there was a full round of football matches, and the scores throughout make interesting reading.  Gone is the lack of home advantage shown in the first week of the season, and instead we have results looking more akin to the sort of results we make see today: there were six home wins, two draws and just one away win.

The Arsenal drew 1-1 away with Bradford City.  The result left The Arsenal in 12th place.  Blyth missed his first game of the season and was replaced by Hardinge, making his first appearance.  Toner and Pagnam who had recently moved into the first team, kept their places thus giving a level of stability to the line up.  Here is the table after the match.

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Newcastle United 13 8 3 2 20 9 2.222 19
2 West Bromwich Albion 12 9 0 3 36 16 2.250 18
3 Burnley 13 7 3 3 22 17 1.294 17
4 Manchester United 12 5 6 1 23 14 1.643 16
5 Middlesbrough 13 6 3 4 20 22 0.909 15
6 Sheffield United 13 5 4 4 27 20 1.350 14
7 Sunderland 12 6 1 5 20 16 1.250 13
8 Chelsea 12 6 1 5 16 13 1.231 13
9 Bolton Wanderers 13 6 1 6 24 20 1.200 13
10 Bradford City 13 5 3 5 22 21 1.048 13
11 Derby County 13 4 5 4 17 18 0.944 13
12 The Arsenal 12 4 4 4 17 18 0.944 12
13 Blackburn Rovers 13 4 4 5 16 19 0.842 12

The problem was still Arsenal’s home form with only two wins out of six games.  Away they had won two, drawn three and lost just the one, making them the fifth best performing team in the league away from home.

Back with the politics, the formal handover of power took place at Fulham Town Hall on 10 November, as Sir Henry handed the insignia of office over to R M (Bob) Gentry, the trade unionist.  Sir Henry had been nominated to be an alderman, but was not elected and I suspect didn’t want to be, particularly as he would by now have known what was in store elsewhere.

Sir Henry had taken over as Mayor from Robert Harris in 1909, and held the post for ten years – by far the longest of any mayor of the borough at any time from its foundation until the post was abolished with the reform of local government in 1965 when the area became part of the London Borough of Hammersmith.  Robert Gentry was mayor until 1921.

Sally Davis suggests in her work on Henry Norris that this was the moment that his work in public life started to decline, and it was accelerated by his departure from Parliament in 1925.  It was also the part of his removal from activity in Fulham, as his firm were no longer building houses, and as we have seen he was no longer a director of Fulham FC.  He was 54.  I have found it hard to establish the average lifespan of men at this time, both because of the devastatingly high mortality of soldiers in the first world war (the average life span of a soldier in the trenches is quoted in some sources as six weeks) and because of the high infant mortality rate, and the extreme effects of the Spanish Flu virus.   But my thought is that at 54 was above the average lifespan, even for an upper middle class man like Sir Henry.  So yes, it is possible that he was slowing down.

However as I suggested above, Sir Henry would have known at this moment of the particular honour that was about to be given him, so although he may well have felt that he needed to focus his attention on Arsenal, after a war time of working in the War Office, serving the LCC, being mayor of Fulham and a director of two football clubs, he was now also to take on a further commitment as we shall see in a moment.

Meanwhile at Arsenal, he was very much the man in charge, and with Arsenal still in debt he needed to ensure that the club not only continued to get the huge crowds it had been getting, but continue also to stay in the first division.

And of course there were other events at the same time which would have occupied him as an MP, most notably the war in Ireland, and to try and resolve this, on 4 November the government produced a policy of two Home Rule parliaments in Ireland – one in Dublin and one in Belfast – with a Council of Ireland to provide a framework for possible unity.  The uprising continued.

On 8 November Arsenal had their home match against Bolton Wanderers, and kept the same team as the previous match.  Going into the half time break 0-1 down must have made the locals worry about what would happen next.  But Arsenal recovered to make it a 2-2 draw.  Arsenal were down to 13th but still with a game in hand over many of the clubs above them.

One goal came from Pagnam, his first in his third match as centre forward, and the other from Rutherford, playing outside right.  There were 30,000 in the crowd – the numbers were holding up well.

On 11 November the first Remembrance Day was held with its two minutes silence at 11am.  The remembrance has of course continued to this day, and as we saw in the series on Arsenal in the 1930s, Herbert Chapman had a particular part to play in bringing football into the commemorations.

Next up was the return away game with Bolton and the whole process was similar.  Arsenal were down at half time (1-2 this time) but came back to draw the game 2-2.  Pagnam scored again, which was encouraging, and this time Butler came in at right half to replace Graham.  Arsenal remained 13th.

Then on 17 November The Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited published its annual report, in time for its AGM.  Sally Davis gives us the financials:

  • Loan to the club from Henry Norris and William Hall: £17264 (equivalent to £838,462.25 in 2017)
  • Owing to Humphreys Ltd for building the stand: £16,918 (£821,658.04 in 2017).

It is no wonder that Sir Henry didn’t want to invest any more money in the house building partnership with debts like that, nor that he wanted any more part in local politics.  He was aiming higher in public life, and in business he had one objective now, to recover the money owing to him, and to pay off the club’s debt to Humphreys. In contemporary terms that amounted to over £1.6m at a time when the club’s only source of income was gate receipts and player sales.

On 22 November The Arsenal beat Notts County 3-1; it was their first home win since 20 September 1919, in front of 25,000. What was particularly welcome here was that Pagnam got two more, making it four goals in three games.  It seemed Arsenal had a centre forward worthy of the title.

The result itself was not a great surprise as Notts County were 17th at the time but certainly it was a welcome home win which lifted The Arsenal up to 10th in the league.  True the crowd total had slipped a little, but Notts C were one of the least attractive teams in the league, so it was understandable.

There is one other item of note here for  the programme for Arsenal versus Notts County has the club name as “The Arsenal”, for the last time.  The Arsenal won 3-1.

Now this needs a little bit of explanation here.  First, if you have heard stories about Chapman changing the name of the club by dropping “The” that is quite wrong.  But there is another complexity, for at this  time the club did not actually change its name, rather it changed the way it referred to itself.  And the reason for that does seem to be to do with the way newspapers had taken to referring to Arsenal.

In various Saturday newspapers Arsenal were being referred to in the fixture lists as The Arsenal, and thus the club’s fixture when Arsenal were playing at Highbury was being placed under “T” – that is after Sunderland, but above West Bromwich Albion.  Assuming Tottenham were promoted this season as seemed likely, The Arsenal would still be above Tottenham in the alphabet however.

Although indexers in books had long since accepted the process of ignoring the definite article when placing an item in an index (The Great War being indexed under G not T), for some reason that habit had grown of placing Arsenal in the fixture list with “The” in its name.

Technically this was correct, and there was no precedent since no other club had the word “The” at the start of its name.  What’s more, no other club had supporters who called their club “The” as the habit had always been with “The Arsenal”.

Changing the name of the club would have taken a long time (and Arsenal has never been quick to change its registered name a Companies House) but simply dropping the name on the programme could add a little leverage in its desire to be placed at the top of the fixture list of a weekend.

This was a typical Henry Norris ploy – for he was a man who could see the benefit of attending to detail as much as a man who could see the broader picture (most excellent administrators have this particular characteristic in fact).  Previously the club at been at the bottom of the fixtures when at home, as Woolwich Arsenal.  They’d move up above West Brom, so why not all the way to the top.  Not “The Arsenal” but “Arsenal” – above the one other team with a name starting with A, in the first division at that time, Aston Villa.

A similar ploy was used in 1972 when Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic changed its name to AFC Bournemouth.  However not all media outlets put them at the top of the list, preferring to count them as “Bournemouth” rather than AFC Bournemouth, probably fearing that if Bournemouth promoted themselves up the alphabet, other clubs would follow suit.

Back to 1919, on 28 November we can see why local politics no longer interested him, for Sir Henry Norris was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of the County of London – a further honour in recognition of his service to his country through the creation and paying for the Footballers Battalion, his work in the recruitment and mobilisation teams in the War Office both in Worthing and in London, his work as Chairman of the Ministry of Labour’s Advisory Committee on demobilisation and the significant amount of charitable work undertaken during the war years.

The Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, was, and indeed is, (as the post still exists), the monarch’s representative in London and is charged with upholding the dignity of the Crown. Across the Boroughs that make up the capital (but not in the City of London which has its own governance) he/she is responsible for the promotion of civic, commercial, voluntary and social activities within London and thus the position is seen as part of the fabric of London in all its manifestations.

Deputy Lieutenants then, as now, were appointed by the Lord-Lieutenant, at his discretion, to assist him in his duties. They however must live within Greater London, or within seven miles of the boundary. Their appointment does not terminate with the changing of the Lord-Lieutenant, but by statute: they retire at the age of 75.

To become a “DL” one has to be a distinguished resident who has either served the local community, or has a history of service in other fields. In particular, DLs should be people well-known in their locality for the service they have given or are giving through public life, charitable activity, voluntary service or the uniformed services. Having been chosen on the basis of service already given, a DL is expected to continue to serve the community both within and outside the framework of the Lieutenancy. To underline their willingness to serve DLs must, before their commissions are signed, give the Lord-Lieutenant a written assurance that they will “to the best of their ability, assist in the performance of any public duty which may be laid upon the Lord-Lieutenant”.

At present there are some 90 DLs in the Greater London Lieutenancy.  The Lord-Lieutenant, Vice Lord-Lieutenant and Deputy Lieutenants are all voluntary, unpaid positions and no expenses are received to cover uniforms, travel etc.

What is particularly interesting about this appointment is that it is another forceful piece of evidence that Sir Henry was not in any way tainted by any stories at the time that he had somehow engineered Arsenal’s position into the first division through underhand methods.  Rather the reverse – he had exposed football corruption and had been a tireless worker for the charities he and his wife were involved in.

Indeed we have seen that no newspapers of the day suggested that Sir Henry had in any way been corrupt.  The only people to tell him to shut up about football corruption was the Football League, and they had been proven completely wrong to do so.

In fact even the local Tottenham newspaper said nothing about Sir Henry in the election of Arsenal.  They like every other newspaper made no mention of speeches at the election meeting, as Joy and others much later suggested.  The newspaper simply said that they felt that Tottenham Hotspur deserved a place based on precedent.  (That argument was false, but as they didn’t present the evidence concerning it, merely quoting one occasion, which in fact was quite different from the 1919 situation, they could get away with it.  Most readers would not have known their football history).

But most certainly if there had been anything amiss with Sir Henry’s reputation at this time there is no way at all that he would have been offered the post of Deputy Lieutenant since the post is far too close to the monarch for anyone with any hint of impropriety to be elected.

Moving on, on 29 November Arsenal played the return match against Notts County and drew 2-2 in front of 6000.  The club stayed 10th, but the best news was that Pagnam yet against scored (Buckley getting the other goal).  That was five goals in the last four league games.  Hutchins came in to replace Bradshaw at left back as he had done twice before in the season.  The team was solid mid-table.

Here is the full league table at the end of the month.  I’m calling them “(The) Arsenal” as for part of the month the club called itself one name and then the other as we have seen.  From here on however it is Arsenal.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GAvg GD Pts
1 Newcastle United 15 9 3 3 21 11 1.909 10 21
2 Burnley 16 9 3 4 27 24 1.125 3 21
3 West Bromwich Albion 15 10 0 5 42 23 1.826 19 20
4 Manchester United 15 6 6 3 27 17 1.588 10 18
5 Sunderland 15 8 2 5 27 19 1.421 8 18
6 Manchester City 15 7 3 5 40 33 1.212 7 17
7 Chelsea 15 7 2 6 21 16 1.313 5 16
8 Bolton Wanderers 16 6 4 6 31 27 1.148 4 16
9 Sheffield United 16 6 4 6 29 26 1.115 3 16
10 (The) Arsenal 15 5 6 4 24 23 1.043 1 16
11 Bradford City 16 6 4 6 29 29 1.000 0 16
12 Middlesbrough 15 6 4 5 20 23 0.870 -3 16
13 Everton 15 6 3 6 34 31 1.097 3 15
14 Derby County 16 5 5 6 20 24 0.833 -4 15
15 Bradford Park Avenue 15 6 2 7 25 25 1.000 0 14
16 Liverpool 15 6 2 7 19 21 0.905 -2 14
17 Notts County 15 4 4 7 22 34 0.647 -12 12
18 Preston North End 15 5 2 8 23 36 0.639 -13 12
19 Blackburn Rovers 16 4 4 8 20 34 0.588 -14 12
20 Aston Villa 15 5 1 9 23 34 0.676 -11 11
21 Oldham Athletic 15 4 2 9 21 25 0.840 -4 10
22 Sheffield Wednesday 15 3 4 8 12 22 0.545 -10 10

(The) Arsenal’s results across the month.

Game Date Opposition H/A Res Score Crowd Pos
2 01/11/1919 Bradford City A D 1-1 16,000  12
13 08/11/1919 Bolton Wanderers H D 2-2 30,000  13
14 15/11/1919 Bolton Wanderers A D 2-2 20,000  13
15 22/11/1919 Notts County H W 3-1 25,000  10
16 29/11/1919 Notts County A D 2-2 6,000  10

Meanwhile along the Seven Sisters Road things were bouncing along

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Tottenham Hotspur 16 13 2 1 47 12 3.917 28
2 Birmingham City 16 10 3 3 34 15 2.267 23
3 Blackpool 17 10 3 4 35 17 2.059 23
4 Stoke 16 11 1 4 29 18 1.611 23

Tottenham had finally lost a game, 2-1 away to Bury on 8 November but on 29 November beat Lincoln 5-2 showing they were still too strong for most of the rest of the division.

For the files that deal with the election of Arsenal in 1919 in more depth than provided anywhere else, please see the top of the article at Henry Norris at the Arsenal

The Henry Norris Files Section 1 – 1910.

Section 2 – 1911

Section 3 – 1912

Section 4 – 1913

Section 5 – 1914

Section 6 – 1915

Section 7: – 1916

Section 8: 1917

Section 9: 1918 and the end of the war

Section 10: 1919, the reform of football, the promotion of The Arsenal.

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