When Did Royal Arsenal Become Woolwich Arsenal?
There is some confusion as to when Royal Arsenal changed its name to Woolwich Arsenal. Most club histories say that the name changed when the club adopted professionalism in 1891 whereas some say that the name changed when it became a limited liability company in 1893. It doesn't help matters that the Football League still referred to the club as Royal Arsenal until about 1896.
The actual date of the name change is May 1893 when the club became a limited liability company.
The earliest documented story that states that the name
changed in 1891 is the Arsenal handbook for 1930-31. Here is the offending page:
This has been taken as gospel and never been questioned.
Here is the evidence to show the name change in 1893:
Below is a programme for the Royal Arsenal v Gainsborough Trinity game on 3 September 1892. This is an official club publication that shows a list of matches for Royal Arsenal Football Club for the 1892-93 season. If the club changed its name to Woolwich Arsenal in 1891 why would they still be calling themselves Royal Arsenal in 1892?
To show that it isn't a one-off quirk, Peter Mason's website
includes another programme from later the same season.
The Woolwich Gazette published the following article on 5 May 1893:
To complete the article, the dates that the club subsequently changed its name are:
Royal Arsenal Football Club to Woolwich Arsenal Football And Athletic Company Limited
The name was changed when the xclub became a limited liability company in May 1893. As a limited liability company, it wasn't allowed to use the word "Royal" in its name, hence the change.
Woolwich Arsenal Football And Athletic Company Limited to The Arsenal
Football And Athletic Company Limited
The club spent most of its first year at Highbury with the name Woolwich Arsenal. The name was changed around 14 April 1914.
The announcement of the change of name was reported in The Times on 14 April 1914.
The handbook at the start of the 1914-15 season shows the new name
The Arsenal Football And Athletic Company Limited to
The Arsenal Football Club Limited
This happened some time between the start of the 1914-15 season (see the handbook above) and 26 October 1914 (the programme for the Football League v The Southern League at Highbury shows the new name. My guess is that the change happened around 9 October 1914 when there was a new share issue.
The Arsenal Football Club Limited to Arsenal Football
This happened mid-season in November 1919. See Peter Mason's website for the two programmes that show the transition. Tony Attwood has debunked another piece of Arsenal history with this article on his excellent blog.
During the 1930s the club considered chaging its name to London FC. This idea was short lived as it was thought that the club may be considered arrogant. I don't have the date of when this happened but it is in the Islington Gazette.
I would like to offer my thanks to Peter Mason for providing dates from programmes.