Who changed the club’s name to “Arsenal”? (And who invented “The Gunners”?)

By Tony Attwood

Ask the majority of supporters of Arsenal who know a little bit about our history, and they will tell you that one of the many reforms that Herbert Chapman made at the club was the changing of the name of “The Arsenal” to “Arsenal”.  He did it, according to legend, in order to have Arsenal’s result at the top of the list of games, when the club played at home.

Sadly, it is not true.

In terms of the popular name for the club, used by fans and journalists alike, the phrase “The Arsenal” has been widely used from the earliest days of the club, even though that was not the official name.  It just happened.  Everyone called us, “The Arsenal”.

In fact the club we support has had four, or maybe five official names:

  • Royal Arsenal
  • Woolwich Arsenal
  • The Arsenal
  • Arsenal

Now I must admit at this point that I have not checked yet again with Andy and Mark over the veracity of what I am going to say here, but they will beyond doubt, sort me out if I have got this wrong, yet again.  But here’s what I think…

The possible first name of the club, before Royal Arsenal, might be Dial Square Cricket Club, Dial Square, or even no name at all.  Whatever that name was, it lasted only for one game.  By the second match we  were Royal Arsenal, and continued that way until the club became a limited company in 1893.

The stories behind our name are in two articles on this site.

Royal, Woolwich, The Arsenal, Arsenal – when, what, where, who?


The proof: Herbert Chapman did not change the name of Arsenal

And just in case you wondered why I return to these stories today, that is because of the entry in the Anniversaries section of this site:

3 April 1914: The word ‘Woolwich’ was officially dropped from the team name. We became ‘Arsenal’

There is one other snippet that we have researched in the issue of names – that of the nickname “The Gunners”.  Mark has provided us with an article on that at Who invented the nickname The Gunners

See – we’ve covered everything!

However beware!  There are hundreds of pub quizzes out there that ask for the original  name of Arsenal FC, and the answer that they all seem to want is Dial Square FC.  Since arguing with the ref is never a good idea, if pub quizzes are your thing, you are probably still best to answer as before – even if it is not true.

The books…

Other sites from the same team…


The main series on this web site

Arsenal manager by manager.

Arsenal’s anniversaries. 


2 Replies to “Who changed the club’s name to “Arsenal”? (And who invented “The Gunners”?)”

  1. It would appear that the really early fans (like my late Father during WW1)tended to refer to our Club as The Arsenal.

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