We’re approaching one of the biggest anniversaries in Arsenal’s history

Launching Islington 100

by Tony Attwood

Last season Arsenal celebrated 125 years since its first game.  So maybe that’s enough anniversaries for now.  Except that this coming season sees something much more important, by way of anniversary.

What, you may ask, could be more important than the start of the club?   Well, I would argue that the club could start any time.  If it hadn’t started in 1886, it would have started in 1887, because the mood in and around the ordnance factories of Woolwich Arsenal was such that the time was ripe for football in the area.

But the club that was formed would have died had it not been for the profound decisions taken in 1913, for that was the year that Henry Norris went out hunting for a new ground – a hunt that took him to Highbury.

And it wasn’t just that he went hunting – for he went hunting very much for a new type of ground – a ground that would revolutionise football.

In the coming year we shall be telling this story of how not only Arsenal, but football as a whole, was changed by the move from Plumstead to Islington which started in 1912, 100 years ago, and moved to a dramatic conclusion in 1913 and we’ll be celebrating the dates, through our Anniversary files.

We’ll also be revealing the plans that we have put forward to Arsenal FC for celebrations that could be held within the club.  As things stand we’ve had no reply from the club on any of these ideas – but of course that is their prerogative.  Just because we come up with an idea doesn’t mean that they have to listen.

But we are watching carefully, because in 2010 Arsenal History Society put an idea to the club, and Arsenal went away, thought about it, and then suddenly did it.  That of course was the statues proposal, put forward by the AISA Arsenal History Society at a private meeting we had with Ivan Gazidis.   At that meeting we were quite modest and asked for one statue – Herbert Chapman.  In the end the club went much further and put up three, as we know.

So, just because we have not heard anything from the club yet, does not mean nothing is going to happen.  And even if the club does nothing about 100 Years Islington (or Islington 100 as we’ve called it, rather snappily I think) we are still going to do our own thing.

Anyway, first off there is the question as to why and how the move to Highbury was different from other moves that had happened.  After all, Arsenal had moved grounds before (from the Invicta to the Manor Ground) and many other clubs had moved here, there and everywhere.  Indeed in their first 20 years Fulham moved nine or ten times, and although I haven’t researched it I suspect many other clubs were much the same.

But Arsenal were different  because they established where the Football League rules on grounds stood, and when Henry Norris chose his new ground, he did it on a totally different basis from anything that had been considered before.

If you want to know exactly what went on and why it was so dramatic you can read the story of the move from Plumstead to Highbury, and the way in which Highbury was built and established in its first two seasons in our book Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.

We also have a growing database of events day by day in the Arsenal Anniversaries with a special highlight on the dates relating to ISLINGTON 100.

And of course we’ll not only be outlining the plans we have put to Arsenal, but also looking for ways to try and get at least some of them to happen.


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