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The Statues are a triumph for the AISA Arsenal History Society but what do we do next?

By Tony Attwood

For something that started out as little more than an idea at the AGM of the Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association just two and a half years ago, the AISA Arsenal History Society has come an extraordinarily long way in a very short space of time.

We’ve done some interesting things along the way – such as setting up this blog, gathering hundreds of articles together in our index on the home page (still not finished by any means but now so much better than it was a few months back), and this season we have our own column in the Arsenal programme (Arsenal Uncovered).

“Making the Arsenal” was published as a celebration of the birth of the modern club in 1910, and Arsenal have welcomed that book, making it available through their shop at the ground, and on line.

And there’s more to come on the publishing front next year, with two books being published in 2012 which will be the definitive histories of Royal Arsenal and Woolwich Arsenal.

But perhaps when we look back over our short history the most important moment must be seen as the meeting that three of us from AISA had with Ivan Gazidis in August 2010 at which I was invited to present the ideas that we had evolved thus far in the AISA Arsenal History Society.

I put several ideas forwards, but right up there at the top of the list was for statues of people associated with Arsenal’s great past.  Mr Gazidis was very kind and receptive to our ideas and he said that he personally loved the notion of the statues.

That’s how it all began – and we were delighted that two of the members of the exec committee of AISA Arsenal History Society were able to be at the formal launch of the statues last Friday, to see our idea come to fruition.

So, in many ways this is our greatest achievement so far, but as the dust settles we need to think – what next?  What else can we do?

The very next thing we are doing is having our Winter Social at the House of Commons – thanks to the support given by the MP for Islington who has hired a committee room for us.   At the meeting will be Philipaa Dawson the grand-daughter of the club’s founding father Jack Humble.  Jack as you will know was an original committee member of Royal Arsenal, who took the club into professionalism, became a director, and saw off the split in the club which led to the formation of the rival Royal Ordnance Factories FC, and worked with Henry Norris to move Woolwich Arsenal to Highbury.   He was in fact with the club from 1886 to 1927 which just a short break early in the 20th century for family and work reasons – and was instrumental throughout in securing the future of Arsenal.

That’s in January 2012 – and life members of AISA will be receiving their invites soon.

But after that, what next?

  • We might think further about more art work and statues around the ground (there is after all a lot of space out there).
  • I’m always open to ideas for new series of articles on this site.
  • Is there something else we should be doing on the programme?
  • Should we be talking to Arsenal about the next anniversary celebration?

Actually, that final question has made me think – we really ought to have a file on this site that is a chronology of the club’s history, showing the key moments year by year.  I’ll see what can be done about that.  Although looking forward for the rest of this decade there are one or two interesting events to celebrate, leading up the big one in 2019 – 100 years in the first division.

Maybe we should start preparing that fairly soon.

But for now, thanks to everyone who has shown their support for the AISA Arsenal History Society, and particularly to

  • Paul Matz who had the original idea, and who now acts as the liaison between AISA and the History Society
  • Andy Kelly who is secretary of the Society, and who endlessly researches and corrects me on all the facts about Arsenal’s history (and who, I may add, has repeatedly corrected the copy in the Arsenal Uncovered series, thus ensuring I don’t make a total prat of myself in the programme)
  • Mark Andrews, who has undertaken the only academic research project into Arsenal’s early history, and uncovered the most invaluable information on the support Woolwich Arsenal had – information which is being published shortly in our book “Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football”.

Thanks to everyone.  At every match from now on the statues will remind all of us that the whole notion of the AISA Arsenal History Society was worthwhile, and that it is possible to have an impact on the club we all support.

10 comments to The Statues are a triumph for the AISA Arsenal History Society but what do we do next?

  • mike collins

    Tony
    Great stuff

    Anybody who does not believe this is a special (if sometimes downright maddening) club should look at some First Division tables of the 1930s 1950, and 1960s to see past dominent clubs who by poor business management have fallen by the wayside
    Mike C

  • Gord

    Greetings. Too many maps to look at. Are you familiar with any Norwegian Arsenal fans?

    I’ve never been to the UK, but someone I got chasing maps and data today. I thought that Arsenal just had the 2 fields before Highbury (Invicta and Manor Ground), and those seem to be well located. I seen some reports which mentioned one other field, and some which mentioned 2 other fields. In 86-87 apparently Plumstead Common was used, and in 87-88 a Woolwich Marsh field (which became named Sportsman Ground?) was used.

    In any event, a webpage from Norway was looking for this Sportsman Ground.
    http://gunners.origo.no/-/bulletin/show/45415_hvor-laa-sportsman-ground?ref=mst

    A text description of Plumstead Common is: “a common in Plumstead, (SE18) in the London Borough of Greenwich, south-east London. It is bound to the north by Old Mill Road and to the south by Plumstead Common Road. To the east lies Winn or Winn’s Common. Substantial remains of the Old Mill still stand and have been incorporated into the public house of the same name.”. Which should be near the south edge of the map on that page from Norway (and isn’t indicated with an icon of a football player). As there are 3 football player icons (and the author’s purpose was to find Sportsman Ground), I assume that the 3rd icon indicates that, which is west of Manor Ground, north of A206 and close to the river.

    There is another map associated with these pages, that has a 4th football player icon close to Woolwich Road, north and a little west of Charlton Park. I don’t know the significance of that icon.

    Some of the stuff, Google can translate to English. Some is part of images, and you’ll need to find someone who reads Norwegian to figure out (I suspect).

    I hope this was new information. If not, I guess I got some typing practice and missed out on some sleep. 🙂

  • Andy Kelly

    Gord

    Here is where Royal Arsenal / Woolwich Arsenal played:

    1886-87 – Plumstead Common (probably on the west of the common near St Margaret’s Grove)

    1887-88 – The Sportsman Ground (roughly where Woolwich Crown Court is currently located)

    1888-89 to 1889-90 – Manor Field (roughly where Belmarsh West prison is currently located)

    1890-91 to 1892-93 – Invicta Ground (in the area bordered by Mineral Street, Conway Road and Gallosson Road)

    1893-94 to 1912-13 – Manor Ground (named as Manor Field for 1893-94) – same location as Manor Field above

    Legend has it that they played a game during 1887-88 on the Manor Field against Millwall Rovers when the Sportsman Ground was flooded.

    Legend also has it that the Sportsman Ground was a pig farm but that is not true.

  • Gord

    Thanks Andy.

    That Norwegian page, has some interesting content, as he is suggesting placement and orientation of some of these older fields. The one image, is a GoogleEarth thing, with comments. The comments are in Norwegian, and they don’t translate (which is kind of what I expected).

    In terms of playing games on fields that were originally marshes. There was a lot of gravel close to the Thames from what I read of the geology. These gravel beds were at one time seabeds, so the the rock is rounded. Which is fine. These gravel beds also have a significant amount of seashells in them, and they have sharp edges.

    I live in NW Alberta Canada, and have never been to the UK. Sure, I can track down Woolwich Crown Court, but it doesn’t mean much as a string of words.

    As I said, I’ve been looking at a lot of maps. GoogleEarth has historical images of London going back to 1999, and then has an image from December 1945. It looks like they have been properly rubber-sheeted. I’ve got all of the images, and some of the maps on my computer. No guarantee on when, but would you like me to produce a “map” package on this? If so, do I need to consider points outside of the historical (oriented) boundaries of Arsenal home fields?

    Converting the images to vector would be a real PITA. Is bitmap okay? What size of images would you like?

  • Gord

    Oh, another trivia point. Dial Square. The name comes up a lot. As near as I can tell, there was a “square” (an open space, nominally rectangular) on the south banks of the Thames at this time (or earlier), which had a sun dial. It became known as Dial Square. Is this well known? Is this a reasonable explanation for the name Dial Square?

  • Looking at the old map on the Norwegian site, Manor Field / Manor Ground is the area two above Plumstead Station that has some writing in it. The bottom right-hand corner of the field has the diagonal line (bottom left to top right) running through it – this is the Southern Outfall Sewer.

    We believe the Sportsman Ground is two fields up (it has Griff of Griffin Manor Way written in it). It could be the field above that.

    On his satellite picture he has pretty much got the Invicta Ground right.

    I’ve got a map from 1894 that shows the Manor Ground and the Invicta Ground on it.

    This site: http://www.old-maps.co.uk/index.html
    has old maps from the 19th century that you can view previews of online. If you start by searching for Plumstead Common then dragging the marker up to Plumstead Marshes you should be able to see the two grounds.

    I’ve yet to see a map that actually states the location of The Sportsman Ground.

  • Dial Square was a workshop within the Royal Arsenal.

    You can see its location on this map:
    http://www.trust-thamesmead.co.uk/assets/OS_Map_1931_A.pdf

    It is on the left hand side of the map, partially coloured red.

  • Gord

    I seen that map, and didn’t know enough to recognize what was there. 🙂

    I was looking at the other 2 maps in that series, trying to find Woolrich Marsh. The Plumstead marshes are marked, and then a person see Erith marsh. (I gather Erith means gravel.) But I didn’t see anything marked as Woolrich Marsh. But knowing how water flows into river valleys, its entirely possible that a marsh can be small in size.

    The football field is to the NW, marked as Field Artillery Vehicles? It just seems easier to turn a parking lot into a football field than a factory.

    I can see the Dial Square is labelled as Bronze Foundry, and it would be reasonable to make sun dials (or other things) out of bronze.

  • Mike

    Surely it is time Jack Humble was honored by our club. The next statue must be of this man that was part of our club for nearly all his life, his service must be made known to al those that come to our home.
    Mike

  • Ila(Andy Kelly's Mate)

    Hope I can provide some update to the discussion. I had a look at what was said in the Norwegian Link, and I will just provide a quick summary.

    Some Norwegian Arsenal fans, like yourselves, are keen to find the location of Arsenal’s old Sportsman Groud. So they came over to personally look for it. Hence have provided a diary of the places they visited and how they came about knowing the places they visited.

    1. They got a map of the Plumstead Marsh Area from 1870 and feel the map was probably made 17 years before Arsenal played on a “Pig Farm”. Also used by Woolwich Union football club some years before Arsenal.
    2.On the large google map image, they point out pitches used by Royal Arsenal in their early days as well as the locations of the two changing rooms, which used to be pubs. One is a pub today, whereas the other is a religious faith centre.
    3.The Sportsman Ground, getting its name from the Sportsman Pub, due to lying near it and was prone to flooding, hence making it unplayable on many occasions. Manor Field later renamed to Manor Ground might have been rented as an outcome of regular flooding.
    4.They still have not found the ground and would probably make more trips over to locate it, but on the google map image and I might be wrong in the translation here, but I believe they feel that, what is called Broadwater Green today, might have been the old Sportsman Ground.

    They used internet links and books on Arsenal to look for the Sportsman Ground.

    Hope this helps?

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