LIFE OF SIR HENRY GEORGE NORRIS:
A trip from Southwark (where he was born) to Barnes (where he died), dedicated to DA, CL, JL and all the rest of his descendants in the hope that I’ve rounded out the one-dimensional portrait you too often get of him in football histories.
Thanks to the staff of Hammersmith and Fulham Archives, on whom I camped for about 18 months searching the council archives and the local press for Henry Norris. And especially to Ann, who remembered me when she met Henry Norris’ grand-daughter.
All the information on
Henry Norris as a freemason is published with the permission of the Library and
Thanks too to the following people who supplied information on everything from leases to job titles: Tania Bapuji, David Barber at the FA, Andy Kelly, David Lauder, Christine Lawson, Mr Mark and Mr Sharpe, Jess Trevitt, Pat Uphill; and Roger Wright my website manager and severest critic.
A caveat before we begin: this is WORK IN PROGRESS. I’m getting there, but I haven’t written all the files yet!
QUICK SUMMING-UP OF THE MAN AND HIS CAREER:
How his money was made:
Partner Allen and Norris 1896-31. Chairman Allen and Norris Limited 1931-34.
Chairman Municipal Freehold Land Company Limited ?-1934.
Chairman Municipal House Property Trust Limited ?-1934.
Chairman Kinnaird Park Estate Company Limited ?1905-1934.
Director Stepney and Suburban Permanent Building Society 1929-34; chairman 1931-34.
The important stuff and why some people recognise his name:
Fulham Football Club: director 1903-1919; chairman 1903-08.
Woolwich Arsenal Football Club: director1910-14; chairman 1912-14 then chairman Arsenal Football Club 1914-27. Banned (with others) from football management by the FA in August 1927 following an investigation into Arsenal FC’s finances.
His career in local and then national government:
Vestryman, parish of St Mary Battersea May 1896-31 Oct 1900.
MP Fulham East Jan
His military service record:
?-1896: 3rd Middlesex Artillery Volunteers
20 May 1896: 2nd Lieutenant, 2nd Tower Hamlets Rifle Volunteer Brigade
June 1915: appointed to recruiting duties, with rank of Lieutenant
March 1916: made Supervisor of Military Representative for Number 10 District of the Eastern Command; with rank of Captain
August 1917: promoted to Colonel
October 1917: made Director of National Service for the South Eastern Region.
Deputy Lieutenant of
member Kent Lodge number 15,
member Fulham Lodge number 2512, Feb 1902-Jan 1903 and Oct 1907- May
founder member Lord Mayor’s Lodge number 3560, 1911. WM 1914. Member
founder member Feltmakers’ Lodge number 3859, 1918; member to 1934.
United Grand Lodge of
Assistant Grand Sword Bearer April 1917
Past Grand Deacon (Junior) April 1926
Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of
Past Deputy Grand Sword Bearer May 1917
Past Assistant Grand Sojourner May 1926
Married 1892 Mary Jane Pearson
1901 Edith Anne Featherstone; 3 daughters.
Not bad for one lifetime.
REST OF CONTENTS
Henry Norris was not one to write a journal recording his innermost feelings; a diary, for him, was something your secretary wrote your appointments in. Hardly any of the letters he wrote survive; those that do survive have done so because they were written to be published in the papers. In addition, he died over 70 years ago and there are only one or two people now living (November 2007) who have any personal remembrance of him. So I haven’t attempted to write an ordinary biography. The bulk of what follows is an annotated list of the events in his life. He was a very busy man so there are a lot of them! In addition, I look at some aspects of his life in more detail. Especially the football. And I shall nail my colours to the mast at this point: I’m an Arsenal fan, I got hooked by the double-winning side of 1970/71 and think that Chapman and Wenger are next to godliness.
HENRY NORRIS: ANNOTATED LIST OF EVENTS IN HIS LIFE
Early life. Short career in a solicitor’s office. First marriage. False start to his political career. He and William Allen form the Allen and Norris partnership and begin to make their fortunes building houses in Fulham and Wandsworth; and possibly Bromley although that may come later. Second marriage, first child.
Allen and Norris buy out Fulham FC. Fulham FC in the Southern League. The part Henry Norris played in the formation of Chelsea FC. There’s a second start to his career in politics.
Fulham FC champions of the Southern League but desert it for Football League Division Two. Allen and Norris start building at Southfields, Wandsworth. Norris gets involved with the sports paper Football Chat - as a shareholder and a football writer; but it goes bankrupt.
Henry Norris’ weekly football column moves to West London and Fulham Times. He becomes mayor of Fulham for the first time.
Momentous year for Arsenal - William Hall gets William Allen and Henry Norris involved in the rescue of Woolwich Arsenal FC from bankruptcy. William Allen ducks out but Henry Norris stays on. He and Hall are directors of two football clubs at the same time. Momentous year for Henry Norris - his first as mayor (he stays in post for 10 successive years).
Struggling to keep
Woolwich Arsenal afloat in Plumstead and Fulham going in Craven Cottage. Henry Norris continues as mayor of
Fulham. Allen and Norris start the
development of the
Woolwich Arsenal move to Highbury but get relegated, Fulham escape relegation by a late run of form. One of Norris’ match reports gets him censured by the Football League. A highlight of Norris’ social career.
Woolwich Arsenal become Arsenal FC, and miss promotion on goal-difference. World War 1 breaks out and Norris gets busier than ever, encouraging recruitment for Lord Kitchener’s volunteer army.
The war is not over by
Christmas. Professional football stops
in May 1915 and Norris helps set up the London Combination to take its place in
The war goes on and on. Norris’ work for the War Office enters a new phase.
...and on and on... A bitterly cold winter, food shortages, rationing, increasing aggro in Fulham about the way the Council is run. And Arsenal FC is more in debt than ever. But apart from that! - Henry Norris has a good year: he’s knighted, and made a Colonel.
...and on...but this year the fighting finishes. Flu, labour disputes, armistice and a General Election. Henry Norris is libelled, and is elected an MP.
Henry Norris serves his last year as mayor and his first as an MP. In football’s brave new post-war world, Arsenal return to the Football League Division One without being promoted.
Henry Norris in Parliament: the Ready Money Football Betting Bill. Arsenal survive in Division One but are as much in debt as ever.
The collapse of Henry Norris’ relationship with the Fulham Conservative Party. Arsenal start to pay off their debts and Norris gets the club to pay for his chauffeur (a very big mistake).
The end of the Norrises’ links with Fulham; and the end of Henry Norris’ time as MP. Arsenal start skirting relegation again. A very fractious year.
Joy Norris gets married. Negotiations begin for Arsenal to buy Highbury. And Norris’ deal with White gets found out - he’s investigated by the football authorities again. And he gets libelled again. Then he has to have an operation.
A very quiet year in between two with much more going on, with Henry Norris undertaking very few public engagements.
Things liven up a bit. A great year for Arsenal: Henry Norris appoints Herbert Chapman as manager.
Henry Norris reaches the heights in the freemasons. Arsenal finish their best season since Norris and William Hall took over. Norris commits a criminal offence.
A bad year: Arsenal get to the Cup Final but they lose; Henry Norris thinks he has been libelled for the third time but it doesn’t get to court; and the mistakes of the past catch up with him - he is banned from football management.
Dominated by Henry Norris v Football Association libel case.
Henry Norris’ last years. Plus: he lives on after his death; and what happened to people he knew.
HENRY NORRIS IN MORE DEPTH
Henry Norris and the World of Journalism: his writings, Football Chat, Oscar Drew and other such nuisances
Henry Norris as a Freemason and in the Feltmakers’ Company
Henry Norris as an Employer:
Henry Norris and Politics 1890s-1922 - free trading Tories and two libel cases:
The Other Directors of [Woolwich] Arsenal 1910-27:
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE SOURCES OF ALL THIS INFORMATION, SEND ME AN EMAIL AND I’LL SEND YOU THE SOURCES FILE.
Copyright Sally Davis December 2008