How the torpedo factory and peace scuppered Arsenal

The reason for Arsenal moving from Plumstead to Highbury can be summed up by two factors: the river to the north meant that Arsenal’s catchment area was effectively half what it might have been, and the supporters tended mostly to work in one place: the Royal Arsenal factories.

So when there was no foreign war, and thus no need for more and more weapons, men were laid off, and men without jobs tend not to go to football matches.  Worse, in 1910 the Royal Arsenal’s torpedo factory moved to the Clyde, and in that one move Arsenal lost a huge number of its most dedicated supporters.

With the torpedo factory gone and peace declared there was by 1910 no doubt that the club had to move if it wanted to survive.

Here are the anniversaries.


15 June 1899: George Leavey was elected chair of Woolwich Arsenal.  Although his business appeared to be a modest gentleman’s outfitters in Plumstead he contrived to be a major source of revenue for the club until pulling out in 1910.

15 June 1910: Royal Arsenal factories started to lay off men due to a long-term downturn in work following the end of the Boer War – spelling catastrophe for Woolwich Arsenal FC which depended on a vibrant workforce to boost its attendance figures.

15 June 1912: Andy Ducat sold confirming the club’s policy of selling off its best players in order to try and balance the books.  The policy led directly to relegation the following season with the worst Arsenal record of all time.

15 June 1919: John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown completed the first nonstop transatlantic flight.  (They took off on 14 June).

15 June 1925: Arsenal announced that the club had bought the Highbury stadium, and some additional land around it, and that the lease of the site had ended.  Sir Henry Norris’ huge gamble in taking the ground on a full-repairing lease had paid off.

15 June 1929: England played a tour of Australia, which included Tom Whittaker and Joey Williams. Joey played 22 games for Arsenal but only two on this tour, despite travelling across the world by sea.

15 June 1935: Arsenal signed Jackie Milne for a fee reputed to have been £5000.  He played 49 league games and scored 19 goals.

15 June 1935: Ray Swallow born.  Aside from playing 13 times for Arsenal he also played 38 first class cricket matches for Derbyshire.

15 June 1974: Trevor Ross signed as a professional.  He played 58 times for Arsenal before moving on to Everton.  He later became a non-league manager before becoming an HGV driver.

15 June 1995: Bruce Rioch became Arsenal manager and simultaneously Stewart Houston resigned from his post as temporary manager.  Rioch lasted just one season and managed a European slot on the final day of the season, before being sacked.



“Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” and “Making the Arsenal” are both available in paperback, as well as on Kindle. Please see here for more details.

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.


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