Arsenal History: Chronicled in the Light of England's Top 5 Clubs, Part I

H AndelAnalyst IIIMarch 16, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18:  The official opening Nike's 'The Arsenal: 125' exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, on August 18, 2011 in London, England. The free exhibition created to celebrate Arsenal FC's 125th anniversary is open 19-23 August from 10-6pm daily.  (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images for Nike)
Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

1. Foundation



In the beginning, football was a passion of the working class. This is true especially of Arsenal, a club that got its name from Woolwich Arsenal Armament Factory located on the south bank of the River Thames, southeast of London, England.

One day, late in 1886, workers from this factory came together to form a football club. 

In honor of their factory, they called the club Dial Square. The name referred to the sundial that sat on the entrance of the factory.


Dial Square played its first match on December 11, 1886. The opponent was Eastern Wanderers. The result was a 6-0 victory to Arsenal.

As to what exactly this Eastern Wanderers club was or why Dial Square had to ferry across to the north bank of the Thames to play its first match on Isle of Dogs, nobody really knows.

These are the dates and the early facts history has bequeathed us, if albeit shrouded in that inevitable fog of the past. The details may be missing, but this is as good an enthymeme as any. I therefore recast that as the touchstone of our beloved club.

The names that form the cornerstone of this foundation are David Danskin, Elijah Watkins, John Humble and Richard Pearce. Joined by 15 other men, they contributed money to buy their first ball in October 1886.

Fred Beardsley, a Nottingham Forest player, a club that predated Arsenal by 20 years, secured playing kits for the newly-minted club after the aforementioned match. The story is that the meeting to solve the kits problem happened in the Royal Oak pub shortly after the 6-0 victory over the Eastern Wanderers.

After securing the kits—red shirts—from Nottingham Forest, the men decided to choose a new name for the club and agreed to join part of the pub's name to the name of their workplace. Thus Royal Arsenal was born.


Contextual Sketch of the Five Clubs


Manchester United

Founded in 1878 under the name Newton Heath LYR Football Club. The name change comes 24 years later.


First Match

It was a railway company club, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway company. Their first recorded match was in November of 1880 (six years before the birth of Arsenal) against Bolton Wanderers' reserve team. They lost 6–0.



They wore green and gold on that occasion.



 Once upon a time there was no Liverpool but Everton, a club founded in 1878 (same year as the original Manchester United) and played at Anfield. It was a parish club of the St. Domingo Methodist Church.

In 1892, a dispute arose between club's committee and its president and owner of the Anfield ground, John Houlding, a Tory MP and mayor of Liverpool.  Everton relocated to Goodison Park and Houlding founded Liverpool on 15 March 1892. (Arsenal is thus six years older than Liverpool.)

The club first called itself Everton Athletic but was forced by the FA to change its name to Liverpool. 


First Match


Liverpool played their first match on 1 September 1892 against Rotherham, a club from the Midland League. Liverpool won 7-1.



Blue and white quartered shirts were used, to be change to all red in 1894 after the city of Liverpool.







Henry Augustus Mears, a businessman, decided to build a stadium "at an old athletics ground at Stamford Bridge, an open piece of land in west London...a ground he planned to massively redevelop."

Nearby neighbors, Fulham, already in existence since 1879 (seven years before Arsenal) declined to move into the new ground, so Mears decided to form his own club, and he did on 10 March 1905.


On May 29th, 1905, the Football League elected Chelsea to its second division.

Chelsea had yet to kick the ball.


First Match

Having recruited players from other teams—a number of them big names—Chelsea played its first match on 2 September 1905 against Stockport County. It lost 1-0.



At the founding of the club, Mears decided on all blue—royal blue—for his new club.



Manchester City

Manchester City is older than Arsenal by six years having been founded in 1880 as St. Mark's. They were a church club and acquired the City's name for humanitarian reasons. This is ironic since their more illustrious neighbors would call themselves the Devils (!).

Here's their history:

Anna Connell believed that the creation of male clubs would help improve the community spirit. With the help of William Beastow and Thomas Goodbehere from Brooks' Union Ironworks, she established a series of clubs. This included the creation of the St. Marks Church Cricket Team. The first recorded game took place against the Baptist Church from Macclesfield on 13th November, 1880. The youngest player was 15 year old Walter Chew. The eldest was Archibald MacDonald, a 20 year old iron moulder.

The team was a great success. The Archdeacon of Manchester told one meeting of Anna Connell's Men's Meetings: "It must be a great source of encouragement to see how the movement had been taken up, and the highest credit was due to Miss Connell for the way in which it had been carried out. No man could have done it - it required a woman's tact and skill to make it so successful."

That winter Anna Connell established the St. Marks Church football team. In 1884 the team was renamed the Gorton Association Football Club.

 The club got its current name in 1894.


First Match

Unknown, but Manchester City reports this of its own history:

1889 An explosion at the nearby Hyde Road coal mine results in the death of 23 miners – Ardwick and Newton Heath play a friendly match under floodlights in aid of the disaster fund.



Black, with a Maltese-style cross.


Tottenham Hotspur

The club was founded in 1882, four years before Arsenal. It called itself Hotspur F.C. It was founded says the Spurs website "by boys from Hotspur cricket club and from the local grammar school."


First Match

The club played its first competitive match in 1885 against St. Albans in the London Association Cup. It won 5-2.



Navy blue



To be continued, please watch for it.