October 1922: Henry Norris withdraws, Arsenal in dire straits

By Tony Attwood

October 1922 was scheduled to be a very busy month for Arsenal with not only the regular league games but also some friendlies and London FA Cup matches also.  Here is the table for the start of the month.

Pos Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
1 Liverpool 8 5 0 3 21 10 2.100 10
2 Middlesbrough 8 3 4 1 17 10 1.700 10
3 Chelsea 8 4 2 2 13 9 1.444 10
4 Newcastle United 8 4 1 3 12 7 1.714 9
5 Burnley 8 4 1 3 14 9 1.556 9
6 Tottenham Hotspur 7 4 1 2 11 8 1.375 9
7 Oldham Athletic 8 4 1 3 14 12 1.167 9
8 Sunderland 8 3 3 2 12 11 1.091 9
9 Huddersfield Town 8 3 3 2 9 10 0.900 9
10 Blackburn Rovers 8 3 2 3 14 12 1.167 8
11 West Bromwich Albion 8 3 2 3 9 9 1.000 8
12 Everton 7 4 0 3 11 12 0.917 8
13 Nottingham Forest 8 3 2 3 4 5 0.800 8
14 Birmingham City 9 3 2 4 6 8 0.750 8
15 Manchester City 8 3 2 3 9 13 0.692 8
16 Cardiff City 8 3 1 4 15 13 1.154 7
17 Sheffield United 8 2 3 3 8 9 0.889 7
18 Preston North End 8 2 3 3 11 15 0.733 7
19 Arsenal 8 3 1 4 10 18 0.556 7
20 Bolton Wanderers 8 2 2 4 11 16 0.688 6
21 Aston Villa 8 2 2 4 11 17 0.647 6
22 Stoke 9 1 2 6 9 18 0.500 4

The table had a very crunched up look – for although Arsenal were three points off the bottom they were also three points off the top. (The bottom two were relegated and it was two points for a win, one for a draw, with goal average not goal difference separating teams on the same number of points).

So they would not have been too desperate on 2 October when they continued the campaign with an away game at Sheffield United, who had started off the season little better than Arsenal although with an easier schedule.  They had won two, drawn three and lost three, resulting in seven points, exactly the same as Arsenal.

But those two victories for Sheffield Utd had been at home with a goal ratio of five scored and one against.  Arsenal meanwhile had already conceded 14 goals in four games, and so it wasn’t perhaps a huge surprise as Arsenal lost 1-2.  Boreham got the goal, making it four in four.   Townrow came in for his one game of the season replacing Young.  And as a result of this defeat Arsenal were 19th, just one point above the relegation places and with a worse goal average than the two clubs one point below them.

The following day, 3 October, a planning application from Kinnaird Park Estate Company, the property company with which Sir Henry Norris was now associated, was granted for one house.   In fact the company however was grinding to a halt: Sally Davis reports that it made no more planning applications until July 1924.

I think we should also note how in the past months Sir Henry had decided not to stand again for Parliament, nor for himself nor his wife to attend any further social events in Fulham concerning all the charities and causes they had worked for, and basically to walk away from many other voluntary activities in which the couple had been involved in for so many years.  He also, during October, wrote to Fulham Conservative Party stating that he would not be helping with them campaigning in any future elections.

But Sir Henry was engaged in football duties, as when two days later, on 5 October Sir Henry, William Hall, Charles Crisp, John Humble, Leslie Knighton, and the Arsenal players involved in the match against Tottenham, plus the directors, managers and players of Tottenham, were summoned to the FA headquarters, to give evidence to an FA Commission of Inquiry into the game played at White Hart Lane on 23 September.

The subsequent report censured Arsenal players and suspended one Tottenham player for a month.  It also, rather amusingly reminded crowds attending matches that they had to accept referees’ decisions, even when the decision was wrong.  Tottenham were particularly warned about the behaviour of their crowd at WHL, which the report stated had influenced the referee’s decision-making.  The referee seems to have got off scot-free though and as far as I can discover, he was not called to give evidence.

Away from the football, and to give a little context of the era, on Saturday 7 October the Prince of Wales was the first member of the royal family to do a radio broadcast on the station 2LO, the station about to be taken over by the BBC.  (As a private station 2LO was only allowed to broadcast for seven minutes at a time, and then had to stop while the transmission was checked to ensure that nothing untoward had been broadcast).  I have often tried to find out what 1LO was but apart from occasional assertions without any citation of sources I can’t see any details.

On the day that the Prince did his radio interview (7 October), Arsenal played their second game of the month: a home fixture against West Bromwich Albion.  Arsenal were now 20th, with the league position looking horribly like that which had haunted them for most of the previous season.  However on this day things improved as Arsenal won 3-1.  The result took them up to 16th, and they were now equal on points with Newcastle in 9th.

What particularly made this victory happen I can’t exactly say.  There was a slight shuffling of the team but no completely new players were brought in.   Voysey, now playing his tenth consecutive game, scored his first goal.  White and Boreham got the others, this giving Boreham five goals in five games.

At this point Arsenal broke off league proceedings to play a friendly against Southend, something that was becoming a bit of a habit.   Earlier games had been to help raise money for the local hospital, and I suspect this was the same, although I don’t have confirmation of this.   Arsenal put out a mix of first team regulars and reserve players and won the game 1-0.  No crowd figure is recorded.

As for Arsenal, having won their last match against West Brom at home, they might have been looking forward to the return match on 14 October, and might have been rather concerned at half time to be 0-2 down, but they were not expecting a second half from hell which is what they got.  Ultimately they lost 0-7.  It was the second time in the first division Arsenal had conceded seven – the last being on 2 October 1909 to Blackburn Rovers – again when having won the previous game.

The result meant that Arsenal were not only back to 18th in the table, they now had the worst defence in the league, having conceded 28 goals.  The second worst club in this regard, was bottom of the table Stoke, but they had let in only 21.

The game saw injuries to Voysey (although he returned after four matches out), and Young.   Norseman writing in the local paper is quoted by Sally Davis as pronouncing that, “Someone will have to suffer for this, and the sooner the better”.  I suspect he meant the manager, but he was not to get his wish – at least not for quite a while.

Only two players from that match were now kept on to play a friendly against Southampton (last season’s champions of the newly form 3rd Division South), on 16 October – Rutherford and White, and manager and players must have been wondering what lay ahead when they went into the half time break 1-0 down.  But both those regulars scored two goals in the second half as Arsenal ran out winners 5-3.  The game also saw Bob John get a match, as he edged ever closer to the start of his magnificent first team career with Arsenal.

Meanwhile, in events away from football, on 17 October the first hunger march set out from Glasgow heading for London – which had a major impact on politicians who seriously feared a civil uprising.  The following day on 18 October the BBC was formed, and on 19 October the coalition government resigned over the Chanak Crisis in relation to Turkey.

Sir Henry Norris now took the opportunity to write to the chairman of the Fulham Conservatives to confirm (yet again) that not only was he not going to stand in the next election (which they knew) but also that he suspected that the party would have difficulty finding anyone else (which also turned out to be true).

Meanwhile we must pause for a moment to mention the political crisis which was brewing, which ultimately determined the date of the next general election, and which caused the departure from Parliament of Sir Henry Norris.

Following the cessation of the 1st World War in 1918, Britain and France still held military positions in the Dardanelles and war between the allies and Turkey over the division of land between Turkey and Greece always seemed possible.  However Canada, France and Italy refused to back military action when Parliament pushed for it following a new Turkish advance, as did the most senior British military commander, and there was a clear feeling in Britain that there was no taste for war.

However the Liberal PM David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, whose Liberal party were the minority party in a coalition government, called for war.  (Churchill had left the Conservatives for the Liberals in 1904, and was to rejoin them in 1925). Ultimately when the Conservative Party MPs met and voted against continuing the coalition, the government effectively fell.  Although no election was immediately called one was widely expected, and candidate selections were speeded up.

This was of course not going to affect Sir Henry, who had made it absolutely clear he was not going to stand again, and he certainly was not going to attend any political meetings.  Instead he fulfilled a promise to go to the Finsbury Empire (just along the road from Arsenal close to Finsbury Park Underground station), to attend, with other well known local dignitaries) a performance in aid of the British Legion.

Finally on this day (19 October) as the afternoon wore on a number of Conservative members of the coalition cabinet resigned and Lloyd George was forced to go to Buckingham Palace to resign as Prime Minister, which would cause an immediate general election.  Perhaps a little amusingly (well, it amuses me) King George V was forced to break away from social events at  Sandringham (well over 100 miles from Buckingham Palace) to accept the resignation.

Thus when the king finally got there, the government fell, a general election was called and the king could get on his train and go back to Norfolk.

As for Sir Henry he had always taken his duties in the House seriously, but I suspect he was quite happy to have another duty that he had accepted with vigour before his illnesses earlier this year, now set aside.

The next day the Fulham Conservative Party made its third attempt to find a candidate to replace Sir Henry and chose Kenyon Vaughan Morgan, a man with all the social connections through birth that Sir Henry did not have.  And interestingly, we may note that in Arsenal’s constituency of Islington the same situation occurred.  The local party had demanded of the sitting MP that he provide far more money to help keep the local party afloat.  He too had refused and a new man was selected.  The action of these local parties was in fact placing the Conservatives ever more firmly in the hands of the super-wealthy who could afford to pay for the local party, its offices and the expenses of its officials.

The next Arsenal game – the game that gave the team a chance to recover from the mauling at West Brom – was away to Newcastle on 21 October.  Newcastle were 10th and Arsenal 18th but there was only one point between them showing how compacted the league table still was.  Newcastle had been defeated once at home and Arsenal had won once away, so setting aside the horrible defeat in the last game there was still some hope for the Reds.  And in fact with Milne and Roe making their first appearances of the season and Hopkins his second, Arsenal got a 1-1 draw, Hopkins getting the goal.

Next, on 23 October Arsenal had to play Tottenham at Highbury, in the first meeting between the two since the battle of WHL three weeks before, for a match in the London FA County Cup.  The team again was a mix of first team and reserve players, with Bob John getting another run out.   The match was balanced at half time 2-2, but Arsenal won with a goal in the second half.  Graham and Paterson scored penalties and Roe got the other.   The penalties suggest that once again the clubs were mixing it in the area, but there are no reports of problems either on the pitch or among the crowd of 11,000.

The formal Prorogation of Parliament (meaning it would not sit again until after the election and the next state opening of parliament) took place on 24 October and thus Sir Henry Norris was no longer an MP from this date forth.  Noting this moment, and the way in which Sir Henry had been divesting himself of all the various social responsibilities he had been picking up along the way, Sally Davis comments that at this point, “I think he probably thought of himself as all-but-retired from now on; he spent more time enjoying his wealth.”

That is very much in keeping with the feeling I get, although I would add he most certainly wanted to get Arsenal’s debts paid, so that he no longer had that millstone around his neck.  He was 58 and had worked tirelessly seven days a week since the age of 14 with just a few holidays taken along the way.  And during the war years he had seemingly worked even harder than during the years of peace.  I think he was worn down and the long illness he had suffered the previous winter had been the final straw.

On 25 October we do catch sight of Sir Henry Norris at one social event at the Royal Albert Hall where as a past assistant grand sword bearer he was present for the United Grand Lodge of England event: the investiture of the Prince of Wales as Senior Grand Warden.  But that was pretty much a one off.  He didn’t go to another masonic occasion until 1924.

There was then a report in the Fulham Chronicle on 27 October in which it was said that there were serious differences of opinion among the Conservatives in the Fulham East constituency, now that Sir Henry had moved on.  But Sir Henry really didn’t want to know.

Back with the football Bob John’s appearances thus far had obviously done enough to make Knighton feel that he had found a winner, for in the next match, on 28 October Arsenal played the return game with Newcastle with John making the first of 24 league appearances for the season in the league.  (As mentioned elsewhere he went on to play 421 league games for Arsenal, won the FA Cup and gained three league titles with the club.  By way of a signing he was Leslie Knighton’s greatest triumph).

However John’s arrival marked the end of a regular place in the first team for Tom Whittaker.  He did return to hold down his position in November, but after that he did not play regularly again, and his career was ended with a terrible injured suffered on an FA tour of Australia in the summer of 1925.

Unfortunately Bob John’s career didn’t start out in a memorable style as Arsenal lost 1-2 with Roe getting the goal.  Henderson also made his first start for Arsenal, but the contrast could not have been greater.  Henderson made just two starts on the right wing.

Back with the politics, we have often noted that in terms of his political beliefs Sir Henry was most certainly not a natural Conservative, with his views about paying pensions to injured soldiers, equal pay for women, government action to order the cutting of rail fares among the private railway companies, no maximum wage for footballers, and so forth.  As a result of his departure, it seems that some members of his constituency were now stating that they were Conservatives because of Sir Henry and his views – and from this point forth they would ally themselves with the Liberals.

Indeed it seems that the local party was itself worried that Sir Henry himself might say things that would be unhelpful for the Conservative cause – he was after all a man who could express his opinion clearly when he felt like it.  Sally Davis reports that on 30 October “Mr Vaughan Morgan, and Edward Armfield called on Norris at his home in Richmond, and asked him and Edith to give public support to Vaughan Morgan’s campaign.”

As a result, at some time after this meeting Sir Henry wrote to Vaughan Morgan, stating that he would not give public support for a Conservative candidate despite recent pressure for himself and his wife to do so.  It seems the party really were worried about his lingering influence.

And finally to return to the football, the month ended with a second round London FA County Cup match on 30 October away to Crystal Palace.  In front of a tiny crowd Palace won 1-0.

Here are the matches for the month.  In the league there was just one win, alongside three defeats and a draw.  But the crowds were holding up and it is interesting to compare the crowds at Highbury with those at other grounds when Arsenal played away.

Date Opposition H/A Res Score Crowd
02/10/1922 Sheffield United A L 1-2 15,000
07/10/1922 West Bromwich Albion H W 3-1 30,000
11/10/1922 Southend United (Friendly) A L 0-1
14/10/1922 West Bromwich Albion A L 0-7 21,730
16/10/1922 Southampton (Friendly) A W 5-3 3,982
21/10/1922 Newcastle United A D 1-1 30,000
23/10/1922 Tottenham Hotspur (LFACC) H W 3-2 11,027
28/10/1922 Newcastle United H L 1-2 35,000
30/10/1922 Crystal Palace (LFACC) A L 0-1 2,500

The League table at the end of the month looked like as below.  We may note the positions of Tottenham and Cardiff who had managed top four finishes the season before.   This rapid movement in positions from one season to the next was not that unusual and could often be found throughout the century up to the 1930s when Manchester City won the league one season and were relegated the next.

Arsenal were two points away from the bottom two places but with a worse goal average than anyone else.

Pos Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
1 Liverpool 12 8 0 4 30 15 2.000 16
2 Sunderland 12 6 4 2 22 16 1.375 16
3 Middlesbrough 12 5 5 2 21 14 1.500 15
4 Manchester City 12 6 3 3 16 16 1.000 15
5 Burnley 12 6 2 4 20 12 1.667 14
6 Chelsea 12 5 4 3 17 13 1.308 14
7 Nottingham Forest 13 5 4 4 14 13 1.077 14
8 Newcastle United 12 5 3 4 15 11 1.364 13
9 Huddersfield Town 12 5 3 4 15 13 1.154 13
10 Bolton Wanderers 13 5 3 5 18 19 0.947 13
11 West Bromwich Albion 12 5 2 5 23 16 1.438 12
12 Blackburn Rovers 12 4 4 4 19 18 1.056 12
13 Birmingham City 13 4 4 5 11 12 0.917 12
14 Aston Villa 12 5 2 5 17 21 0.810 12
15 Sheffield United 13 4 4 5 12 16 0.750 12
16 Tottenham Hotspur 11 5 1 5 16 18 0.889 11
17 Everton 11 5 0 6 17 22 0.773 10
18 Oldham Athletic 12 4 2 6 15 20 0.750 10
19 Arsenal 13 4 2 7 16 31 0.516 10
20 Cardiff City 12 4 1 7 22 22 1.000 9
21 Preston North End 12 2 4 6 14 24 0.583 8
22 Stoke 13 2 3 8 15 23 0.652 7

Henry Norris at the Arsenal – the series

Perhaps the most popular element in the Norris story is that of Arsenal’s promotion to the first division in 1919.  The most complete review of this, which puts right the numerous misunderstandings of the events of that year appears in this series, and most importantly cites contemporary articles and reports, such as the minutes of the FA meeting where the promotion was confirmed, and the reports in local papers thereafter.

The key articles are outlined below and there is a full index to the series here.

The preliminaries

The voting and the comments before and after the election

The Second Libel

The Third Allegation

The Fourth Allegation

Did Henry Norris really beg Leslie Knighton to stay and offer him the hugest bonus ever?  And if so, why were there no new players?

The Fifth Story:

The Sixth Allegation


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