By Tony Attwood, chairman, Arsenal History Society.
I wrote in an earlier post that the Arsenal History Society, part of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association, had proposed to Arsenal a series of events to commemorate the move from Plumstead of Highbury. The move started in1912 when Henry Norris began the search for a new ground, and ended in 1913 with the opening of the new Gillespie Road ground in Islington, later to be called “Arsenal Stadium” and ultimately, “Highbury”.
Henry Norris took over the club in 1910 and prevented it falling into bankruptcy. As part of the arrangement with the existing board of directors and shareholders, he paid every single debt of the club, and promised not to move the club away from the Manor Ground in Plumstead for a year.
He also promised not to move the club at all if either the local population would turn out to support the club in large numbers or if others would come along and buy shares in the club, and thus take them off Norris’ hands. He proposed no profit in this, but rather offered them at the face value of £1.
Later, as neither of these desires came to fruition, he extended this promise to a second year, and he also then promised not to move Arsenal mid-season. In fact he kept Woolwich Arsenal at the Manor Ground for three years, and it was during that third season of 1912/13 that he made the arrangements for the move and built the new stadium.
During this period Henry Norris worked with his long term business partner William Hall, and Jack Humble, who joined the club in 1887 (if not before) and stayed with the club (with just a short break for family reasons in the years leading up to the administration in 19190) until 1927. He was the only man who connected Royal Arsenal FC, Woolwich Arsenal FC, The Arsenal FC, and Arsenal FC. I’ll be presenting a more complete review of Jack Humble in the next article.
In this, our second proposal concerning the celebration of ISLINGTON 100, we are asking the club to put up, at the Emirates Stadium, a plaque, poster or other commemoration of Henry Norris, Jack Humble and William Hall, the three men who were fundamental in the move from Plumstead to Highbury and the building of the new ground. (Actually we’d really like to have 3 more statues, but that is perhaps too much to ask).
We of course acknowledge that the club will obviously have views on exactly the best way to commemorate these three men, but one possible idea might be to have a plaque or large design built and contained within the exhibition (as outlined in our last proposal), with it then being moved to a position outside the ground.
Alternatively the commemoration could be put up outside the ground, prior to the opening of the exhibition. The plaque or other representation would then commemorate these three men and all they did for the club, and mark the 100 year celebrations.
It is no exaggeration to say that were it not for the decisions that these three men took in moving Woolwich Arsenal to Highbury, there would either be no Arsenal FC now or if it were to exist, it would exist in a very different form from that which we see today.
Thus far we have had no reply from the club to our suggestions and ideas, and although this is disappointing, the fact is that when in 2010 we proposed the notion of the Herbert Chapman statue, we heard nothing more on that, until suddenly it was in all the papers that Arsenal were putting up statues.
So we live in hope.
The full story of Arsenal’s move t0 Islington is to be found in the book Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football – and we have started to put a log of dates relating to the move in our Anniversary chart. The other articles that have already appeared in this series are…
3: Proposals for a major exhibition to celebrate 100 years of Arsenal in Islington at the Emirates Stadium.