Arsenal, football and life 100 years ago. All the things you didn’t know.

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Season 1910/11

George Morrell

Ten things you may not know about life in England in the 1909/1910 season.

1: While there was no radio or TV, there were however gramophones playing 78rpm records.  It was a new development, but spreading fast among the middle classes.  Many houses in London had mains supply of water and that was spreading fast.  Motor cars were seen on the roads, but they had brought with them one big problem, known as the “Dust problem.”  So big was the “Dust Problem” that it got a special mention in the budget of Lloyd George.

2: Women’s football was a major sport, having been established in 1895.  Crowds were huge compared with today (the largest was 53,00 for a game in 1920) and the sport continued to rival men’s football, until the FA banned women from playing on football league grounds in 1921 – a ban that was unforgivably not lifted until 1971 – the year Arsenal won their first double.  A third of degrees awarded by the University of London were to women in 1910, although women didn’t have the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

3: The prime form of entertainment for working class men and women was the Monkey Parade, in which everyone took to the streets.  It happened almost every night of the year – there being no entertainment indoors.  The streets were the entertainment – with every sixth house or so being a “public house”.  The West End of London however was a no-go area for most women, as any woman seen there was assumed to be a prostitute.

4: The Home Secretary was Winston Churchill – at the start of his political career.  He had worked as a journalist in the Boer War, and returned to England to take up politics.  But by 1910 he was in the Liberal Party and was considered by most Conservatives (then commonly called Unionists, as they were in favour of the union of Great Britain and Ireland)  to be a traitor to his class and his country.  Churchill in fact plays a significant part in “Making the Arsenal” – the forthcoming novel about Woolwich Arsenal in 1910.

5: Men’s Football was the most popular game in England.  The prime attraction were the two divisions of the Football League (Woolwich Arsenal were in Division I), two divisions of the Southern League, the FA Cup, and the Amateur Cup.  Match fixing was commonplace.

6: London was in a very real sense the capital of the world, with around half of the world’s trade flowing through the port of London.  However with no social justice system (no unemployment funds, no pensions) there was a huge underclass known as the Vortex.  Once a person had fallen into the Vortex of unemployment it was thought to be impossible to escape.

7:  1910 was the end of Edwardian era.  The King was popularly known as Edward the Caresser, and it was said that courtiers had strict orders never to leave him alone with any woman of any class.   It was an era of liberation and experiment, wherein many of the attitudes were more consistent with those of Britain in the 1960s than of the Victorian era, which this period followed.   It was also the year of two general elections, both of which were tied between the Liberals and the Unionists.

8:  In 1910 the earth moved through the tail of Haleys Comet.  The comet could be seen through the daylight hours, and many predicted the end of the world.

9:  Throughout the year there was almost constant striking in the mines – which were privately owned.  The unrest culminated in a huge wave of strikes across South Wales in the latter part of the year.

10: This was the era of the Suffragettes.  The women’s movement was split in two – one constitutional, one acting outside the law.  The newspapers were against the Suffragettes until Black Friday, when a demonstration outside Parliament was attacked by the mob, while the police at best stood by, (or according to some reports joined in the attack on women).  There were deaths and injuries among the unarmed women, and overnight public perception of the women changed.

Making the Arsenal will be published in a few weeks time, and will be available from our on line shop.  More details soon.  Meanwhile there is a daily account of current footballing events from an Arsenal point of view on 

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

2 Replies to “Arsenal, football and life 100 years ago. All the things you didn’t know.”

  1. These facts just shows how lucky we are to live in this era. We complain about everything but in fact we have a live that is uncomparable to the live of the common people in those days.

    If I was born 100 years earlier I would have been dead by now, possible, and never would have heard of Arsenal at all.

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