Why Arsenal should celebrate March 4th as HIGHBURY DAY

By Tony Attwood

The Football League confirmed on 1st March 1913 that it would not stop Woolwich Arsenal moving to Highbury, by rejecting the final appeal of Tottenham against the move.

So the way was clear for Arsenal to move, and Henry Norris made his first public statement on the matter on 4th March 1913 finally confirming the location and the timing of the move.

It is perhaps a day that really ought to be commemorated each year by Arsenal, for without that decision, announced on this day 100 years ago, the club would most certainly have died.

One of the most interesting aspects of Norris’ statement, made in the Connaught Rooms, was the revelation of of the gate money that Arsenal had received for home matches this season:

  • Sunderland £246
  • Manchester City £226
  • Everton £199
  • Blackburn Rover £195
  • Notts County (on Christmas day – a day that typically brought in bigger crowds £235
  • Liverpool £234
  • Cheffield United £200
  • Oldham £227
  • Bradford City £247
  • Liverpool (cup second round) £343

Norris also made reference to the other two clubs already in North London – Clapton Orient and Tottenham – both of which he said were about four miles from Arsenal’s new ground and four mile from each other.  He also made the point that Tottenham was in Middlesex, while Arsenal was in the county of London, not forgetting in passing that Woolwich Arsenal had vote FOR Chelsea Fulham, Clapton Orient and Tottenham being admitted to the league.

Norris finally stated that Arsenal had been in the Football League for 20 years, and through this made the point that whereas at the start the footballing public stayed true to their local club, now with improvement transport Arsenal’s local support were going to other grounds, rather than Plumstead.

William Hall also made a point that is sometimes missed – that although he was a member of the Management Committee of the League, he took no part in the debate at the meeting of the Management Committee.  In fact he said there was no debate.  The Tottenham and Orient statements had been made by their clubs, and then a vote taken.

The Times made an interesting point too, saying that, “It has been the experience when professional football has been established in any quarter that a new public has been created for the game.  Chelsea is a case in point.

“It would be a thousand pities if a club like the Arsenal had to put up its shutters for lack of support, seeing that for twelve years they were the only members in town of the Football League, and most people will wish the Arsenal good luck in their pluck endeavour to keep the flag flying under the most disastrous conditions in recent years.”

Tottenham however would still not let go and continued to argue that there should be an emergency general meeting of the League to discuss the issue.  There is no doubt that they also encouraged either the setting up of, or the development of, the Highbury Defence Committee which was formed by local residents to oppose the move.  The Committee launched a petition, and did manage to persuade a majority of members on Islington Council to oppose the development.  But Islington Council itself had limited powers in the affair, and there was never any chance that they could have an effect on developments, no matter how much noise local councillors made.

But so strong were the anti-football claims that came out of the Highbury Defence Committee that football fans from across the country began to respond to the accusations, and for some time Athletic News was full of denouncements of the residents of Islington.  Whether Islington residents noticed this backlash or not is not recorded, but it certainly did nothing to raise the positive profile of the area.

There is a lot more on the debate and the move in “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.”  Details below.


The books…

Other sites from the same team…


The main series on this web site

Arsenal manager by manager.   Each manager has his own page on which all the articles about the manager are listed, including a link to our analysis of the managers and their relative success  failure with the club.

Arsenal’s anniversaries.   Each day of the year we try to add an article about that day in history.   Not every day has its story, and some days have several stories linked.  But the aim is by the end of 2013 to give every day at least one Arsenal story.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *