Arsenal, Islington

A tube station in north Highbury, south of Finsbury Park

geograph-5258092-by-Christopher-Hilton - Gillespie Road and Arsenal tube station

Arse­nal foot­ball club is far from being a ‘hid­den’ fea­ture of Lon­don but its ear­ly geo­graph­i­cal his­to­ry is not wide­ly known. In 1913 St John’s Col­lege of Divin­i­ty leased its sports ground at High­bury to Wool­wich Arse­nal foot­ball club, which had been found­ed in 1886 as the works team of the Roy­al Arse­nal at Wool­wich. Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur and Ori­ent foot­ball clubs (the lat­ter then play­ing at Clap­ton) object­ed to the relo­ca­tion but were over­ruled.

The club’s achieve­ments were mod­est until York­shire­man Her­bert Chap­man took over as man­ag­er in 1925. A strict dis­ci­pli­nar­i­an and can­ny busi­ness­man, Chap­man guid­ed Arse­nal to FA Cup vic­to­ry in 1930 and then to three league cham­pi­onships. To hon­our the club’s suc­cess­es, Gille­spie Road sta­tion (shown in the pho­to above*) was renamed Arse­nal in 1932. High­bury sta­di­um was erect­ed dur­ing the fol­low­ing few years, to the design of Archibald Leitch, who was respon­si­ble for most of the great British sta­dia of the inter­war era.

St John’s Col­lege was demol­ished after a fire in 1946 and the insti­tu­tion sub­se­quent­ly relo­cat­ed to North­wood (now in the Lon­don Bor­ough of Hilling­don) before set­tling in Bram­cote, Not­ting­hamshire in 1969. St John’s has a web­site that makes absolute­ly no men­tion of the sec­u­lar detail that one of the world’s best-known foot­ball clubs owes its Isling­ton exis­tence to the col­lege.

Arse­nal fans leav­ing High­bury sta­di­um for the last time

Arse­nal played their last com­pet­i­tive game at High­bury on 7th May 2006, beat­ing Wigan Ath­let­ic 4–2. Since the 2006/7 sea­son, Arse­nal have played at the Emi­rates Sta­di­um in near­by Dray­ton Park.

Highbury’s art deco east and west stands have been con­vert­ed into apart­ments, while the for­mer pitch has become a com­mem­o­ra­tive area and com­mu­ni­ty gar­den, which you can see just to the right of cen­tre in the satel­lite view below.

Postal district: N5
Station: Piccadilly line (Zone 2)
Further reading: Jon Spurling, Rebels For The Cause: The Alternative History Of Arsenal Football Club, Mainstream Sport, 2004


* The picture of Gillespie Road and Arsenal tube station, on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Christopher Hilton, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.