A LIFE OF SIR HENRY GEORGE NORRIS: 23 July 1865 to 30 July 1934
Last updated: 13 February 2009
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 Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2. Thank you to all the librarians there and to the volunteer who spent time explaining to me how you got to be a freemason in the first place, and how you progressed up the hierarchy.
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; David Zachar; and Roger Wright.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2023
After several years of nothing much happening on the Allen and Norris front I’ve been contacted by David Zachar, with news that his lease, on a property north of Uxbridge Road, was signed off in 1904 on behalf of Allen and Norris. What a surprise! In all my research I had never seen a reference to the road having any connection with Allen and Norris. David sent further information, satellite photographs and maps of the area; and Roger Wright and I went for google-walks around the streets he particularly mentioned as looking like properties built by Allen and Norris elsewhere. An entire estate built by Allen and Norris has begun to emerge, about which I had known nothing!
Thanks are due to David for plugging what’s turning out to be a large gap in my knowledge of Henry George Norris! How embarrassing! I’m now attempting to document which streets Allen and Norris built; and when.
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.
Councillor, London Borough of Fulham 1 Nov 1906-31 Oct 1919. Mayor of Fulham 9 Nov 1909-10; 1910-11; 1911-12; 1912-13; 1913-14; 1914-15; 1915-16; 1916-17; 1917-18; 1918-31 Oct 1919.
Representative of London Borough of Fulham at Metropolitan Water Board June 1907-July 1918.
Councillor, London County Council 3 July 1916-4 Apr 1919.
MP Fulham East Jan 1919-24 Oct 1922.
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.
Knighted, birthday honours 4 June 1917 for services to Fulham and the war effort.
Deputy Lieutenant of County of London 1919.
City of London Guilds: member, Feltmakers’ Company April 1917-Feb 1929.
member Kent Lodge number 15, 10 Oct 1894-1934. WM 1902, 1909
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.
London Rank 1911
United Grand Lodge of England
Assistant Grand Sword Bearer April 1917
Past Grand Deacon (Junior) April 1926
Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of England:
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.
1910 January to May
1910 May to December
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).
1912 January to July
1912 August to December
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 Crabtree Lane estate near Craven Cottage. Henry Norris gets a national ranking in freemasonry - quite a move up their social scale. Football season 1912/13 begins, the worst Henry Norris had to endure in all his football career. The search for a new home for Woolwich Arsenal begins.
1913 January to March
1913 March to June
1913 June to August 1914
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.
1914 September to December
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.
1915 January to July
1915 August to December
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 London. As mayor of Fulham he takes the lead in recruiting local men for three artillery brigades. He gets a commission in the army. And he becomes ever more embroiled in the bureaucracy of war.
The war goes on and on. Norris’ work for the War Office enters a new phase.
1917 January to May
1917 June to December
...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.
1918 January to August
1918 September to 11th November
1918 12th November to December
...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.
1919 January to April
1919 April to December
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.
1920 January to August
1920 August to December
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).
1922 January to July
1922 July to December
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.
1923 January to July
1923 August to December
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.
1925 January to June
1925 June to December
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.
1927 January to May
1927 May to December
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.
1928 and 1929
Dominated by Henry Norris v Football Association libel case.
1929 to 1934 and beyond
Henry Norris’ last years. Plus: he lives on after his death; and what happened to people he knew.
HENRY NORRIS IN MORE DEPTH
Allen, and Norris: building Fulham and Wandsworth
Clapham; the Streets off Fulham Palace Road; Southfields; and Crabtree Lane
A List of the Properties Built by Allen and Norris
Early Woolwich Arsenal: to 1910 when Norris became involved
Footballers Who Came Back to Haunt Him; and one who didn’t
George Peachey: a Loyal Friend 1864-1914, 1914-1920, 1920-1927, 1927-1936
Henry Norris and Fulham 1903-07: in the Southern League
Henry Norris and Fulham 1908-19: in the Football League
Henry Norris and the Law: why So Many Solicitors? - Arthur Gilbert, J J Edwards, Walter Willcocks and others
Henry Norris and the World of Journalism: his writings, Football Chat, Oscar Drew and other such nuisances
World of Journalism, and more of the same.
West London and Fulham Times 1909-13
Norris's attitude to the Press
Henry Norris as a Freemason and in the Feltmakers’ Company
Kent Lodge number 15
Fulham Lodge number 2512
Other Freemasons’ Lodges
The Grand Lodge and the Grand Chapter
Henry Norris as an Employer:
Domestic and building
Football: players and managers
Henry Norris in Parliament: 1919, 1920-August 1921, October 1921-October 1922
Henry Norris and Politics 1890s-1922 - free trading Tories and two libel cases:
Henry Norris’ Politics
General Election Campaign 1918: the First Libel Case
Fulham Conservatives: Mayor to MP
Fulham Conservatives: De-selection and second Libel Case
Henry Norris at the Metropolitan Water Board: 1907-12, 1912-17
Henry Norris at the London County Council: November 1916-June 1917, July 1917-March 1919
Henry Norris and Stepney and Suburban Permanent Building Society: 1929-34
Herbert Chapman: 1925-27, The aftermath
Houses and Grandstands: Pooles (William and Frank), Archibald Leitch and Harringtons (William and Llewellyn) as architects
Kinnaird Park Estate Company Limited: building Bromley and Chiswick
Kinnaird Park Estate Company: properties built by the company – part 1, part 2
Henry Norris’s Wives: Mary Jane Pearson and Edith Anne Featherstone: 1907-18, 1918-1933, 1933-1951 and her family and friends
South London Estate Agent Circuit:
Stimson and Watts
The Other Directors of [Woolwich] Arsenal 1910-27:
Humble, Leavey, Davis
Crisp, Hill-Wood, Middleton, Edwards, Allison
William Hall: With Henry Norris at Fulham and [Woolwich] Arsenal 1858(?)-1909, 1910-1912, 1912-1919, 1919-1925, 1925-1927, 1927-1932
Woolwich Arsenal 1910: the arrival of Henry Norris and William Hall
Woolwich Arsenal 1911-13: the last of Woolwich
Why Highbury? Arsenal 1913: St John’s College and Gillespie Road tube station
1927: the Fall of Henry Norris. A tragedy in three Acts: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3
1929: Henry Norris v Football Association Limited. The Trial, the cast of characters and Fred Wall especially.
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Copyright Sally Davis