Arsenal a North London club before Tottenham Hotspur?
Many of Arsenal fans find Tottenham fans claiming that Spurs were a first North London team, but were they actually a North London team before Arsenal?
London was already a city in medieval times when the Normans organised England and Wales into counties. In the south of England counties were largely existing divisions of the old Kingdom of Wessex, including Middlesex (named after the ‘Middle Saxons’ who settled there a few centuries earlier). Henry I granted control of Middlesex to London, and until the late 19th century London and Middlesex were administered together for most purposes.
‘London’ at this time was strictly speaking what we now know as the City of London, also known simply as ‘the City’, and largely taken over these days by the financial industry. In earlier times people actually lived in the City of London of course, but eventually most migrated to the growing urban sprawl outside the old City walls. As time went on ‘London’ gobbled up its surrounding villages and became bigger and bigger, though officially London was still just the old area of the City within its medieval boundary.
In 1886 coincidentally Arsenal’s founding year the Conservatives won a general election, but without enough seats for a majority. They allied themselves with the Liberal Unionists, who agreed to support the Tories in exchange for certain policies being implemented, one of which was reorganisation of local government. Accordingly, new county administrations were implemented under the Local Government Act of 1888, including the formation of a new County of London from 21 March 1889.
The County of London was made up of the City itself and a large number of districts surrounding it on both sides of the River Thames. In 1900 the old local districts and parishes and their administrative councils were reorganised into 28 Metropolitan Boroughs, including Chelsea, Fulham, Woolwich (one of the largest in area) and Islington – which of course includes Highbury. So both Arsenal’s home (south of the river) at the time of the formation of the new county and the one they moved to in 1913 were within the official new London. Tottenham remained in Middlesex, where it had been ever since its formation as a small hamlet about 1,000 years ago.
Things stayed this way from 1900 to 1965, when London’s increasing size necessitated further reorganisation. Under the London Government Act 1963 a new ‘Greater London’ was formed around the County of London, which then disappeared and became known as ‘Inner London’. At this point Tottenham became part of the new borough of Haringey, and for the first time part of London.
The county of Middlesex disappeared, mostly into Greater London, with odd bits going into other surrounding counties. So, rather appropriately Tottenham only became part of London on 1 April 1965.