12 January: Arsenal fans at the House of Commons

By Tony Attwood

For more information on the History Society, our free video collection and what else is on the site, please see the notes at the foot of this article.

On 12 January 2012: Philippa Dawson, a direct descendant of Jack Humble (Woolwich Arsenal’s first chairman, and a director until the Hill-Wood coup of the 1920s) addressed an AISA Arsenal History Society meeting in the House of Commons.  She was the first member of the family to do so for four generations.  The meeting was also addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North.

Jack Humble was one of the men who founded Arsenal at the Dial Square Cricket Club in 1886.   He was also a player for the club, and from the early days a member of the committee that ran the club.

In 1891 he was part of the committee that proposed the historic motion that Royal Arsenal FC should become a professional club and two years later was elected the first-ever chairman of Woolwich Arsenal FC as Arsenal entered the Football League.

In 1906 after 20 years service to the club as player, administrator and director Jack retired from his position, but four years later when the club was taken over by Henry Norris, Jack was the only one of the previous directors that Henry Norris sought out and brought back to the club.

Jack took up his position immediately it was offered and in 1913 he effectively took over the running of the club while Norris travelled across London seeking a new ground for Arsenal to play at.

Jack Humble continued as a director once Arsenal had moved to Highbury.  In the first world war he served his country using his expertise gained from his years working at the Royal Arsenal factories, before returning once again as a director in 1919 with Arsenal back in the First Division.

He was also still on the board with Norris (by then Lt Col Sir Henry Norris, his titles arising from his work as the head of conscription in the War Office during the first world war, and his fund raising activities prior to that) when the historic invitation was put out for Herbert Chapman to take over as manager.  Jack continued to serve on the board until 1927, living to see Arsenal’s first triumph, in the FA Cup.

As such Jack Humble was the only man who was directly and centrally involved with Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal, The Arsenal and Arsenal FC – from the very foundation of the club to Herbert Chapman.

In her speech Philippa Dawson revealed that after Jack’s death members of the family had moved to America and had taken with them many of Jack’s mementos and papers, and indeed sometime later members of the family in the USA did get in touch with the Arsenal History Society.

The Celebration at the House of Commons was part of the activity of the AISA Arsenal History Society, which was involved in unearthing the detail about Arsenal’s past.  At the launch copies of the cover of the Society’s book, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that made history” were on show, and one of the discoveries about the club’s early days (the battle with Royal Ordinance Factories FC) was revealed.


For details of the videos sorted by club, and videos in the order we published them, plus our 21 golden great videos please see here.


Just as the videos have been put in date order so we are now doing a day-by-day series of Arsenal events, looking to find one good story a day throughout the year.   This project started on 1 December, and we are adding to it each day.   The index is here.

The Arsenal History Society is part of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association – a body which gives positive support to the club, and has regular meetings with directors and senior officials of the club to represent the views of its members to the club.  You can read more about AISA on its website.

100 Years in the First Division: the absolute complete story of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919.

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

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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