William Hall: Woolwich Arsenal director, 1910 -1915
William Hall was born in Peckham in 1858 and after years in metals became a lead manufacturer, marrying Kate in 1899. He was also involved in the Masons at a local level with Henry Norris.
It appears that it was William Hall who got Norris involved in the rescue of Woolwich Arsenal in 1910. William Hall said that he’d gone to the help of Woolwich Arsenal FC out of sentiment, not wishing the capital’s oldest Football League member to cease, if he could prevent it.
Why they really kept going with a venture that ultimately cost them so much money, and which went way beyond “sentiment” is difficult to know, but it could have been at the behest of Hall’s brother Alfred, who lived in nearby Deptford.
It is also possible that the mere name “Woolwich Arsenal” was enough. Woolwich Arsenal was the club of the military men. Such men might support their local team but they would also support the team of the working men, the team of the men who made the weapons that kept them safe.
As a director of Fulham from 1905 William Hall worked closely with Norris. Hall went to Woolwich on 18 March 1910 to attend the EGM of Woolwich Arsenal, where liquidation of the club was discussed. As he was not a shareholder, he was not allowed in, but he did establish some contact with George Leavey. He was also present at the 18 May 1910 League meeting to finalise the takeover.
He purchased 240 shares in the May 1910 shareholding, which increased to 340 by 1911. He also contributed a similar amount of funds as Norris to the club in paying off the old company’s debts.
While at the club he was present at all the Woolwich based AGMs at the Royal Mortar hotel, and it was clear from day one of the takeover that both Hall and Norris were in charge. This became even more obvious when Leavey resigned in 1912, and the pair formed a finance sub-committee.
As well as his directorships at Woolwich Arsenal and Fulham Hall was elected to the Football League Management Committee from the summer of 1912.
Both Norris and Hall attended the last game at the Manor Ground in 1913, but only Hall was invited to the Woolwich Arsenal supporters’ (Rotherhithe section) farewell evening. Hall, by all accounts a far more immediately likeable chap than Norris, declined his invite, possibly as Norris had been overtly snubbed.
However, questions were ultimately asked about the dual roles that Norris and Hall had at Arsenal and Fulham. Having roles in two clubs was not against the rules at the time, but nonetheless Hall resigned as a Fulham director in summer of 1913, selling all his shares by 1915. However his original resignation was refused by the other directors but the second was accepted.
To assure the Highbury ground for the club, financial guarantees were required from the lessees, and William Hall and Henry Norris made themselves personally liable for payment of the rent, and, because of the nature of the lease, agreed to be personally liable for paying to have the land restored to its original lay out prior to it returning to the freeholders at the end of the lease (something that, as it turns out, they were never required to do).
Hall resigned as an Arsenal director in July 1927 as a result of the fall out between Herbert Chapman and Henry Norris over an incident that saw Chapman reprimand trainer George Hardy and replace him with Tom Whittaker.
He died on 4 June 1932. His metal-working business continued after his death, until well into the 1960s.