HERBERT CHAPMAN (1878 - 1934)

"Arsenal's status as one of the world's top football clubs is very largely the legacy of one man, Herbert Chapman. He it was who, as manager, transformed the club from First Division strugglers into the most famous club in English soccer..."         Stephen Studd

Herbert Chapman's career is briefly summarised below. A more definitive and detailed account can be found on an Arsenal website that also contains an excellent appraisal of his legacy as a manger and innovator

Clubs as a player: Kiverton Park, Ashton North End, Stalybridge Rovers, Rochdale, Grimsby Town, Sheppey United, Worksop, Northampton Town, Sheffield United, Notts County, Tottenham Hotspur (which proves he may have been a great manager but was definitely a moderate player). Both he and his younger brother Harry were inside forwards.

His first club as a professional player was Northampton Town. He played for this club against Sheffield United in a F.A.Cup tie in January 1902 and at the end of the season he moved to Sheffield United. His wages were £3.00 a week during the playing season and £2.00 in the close season. An injury to Alf Common gave Herbert the chance of making his debut for the Blades on 1st September 1902 in the first game of the 1902 - 1903 season. The opponents were his brothers team Sheffield Wednesday and sadly the Blades lost 3 - 2 . He went to make a total of 21 league appearances for the Blades in that season and scored two goals. It was his only season with United before he moved on to Notts County   

Clubs as a manager: Northampton Town (1907-12), Leeds City (1912-19), Huddersfield Town (1921-25) - Huddersfield were champions in 1923-4 and 1924-5 and won the F A Cup in 1922. Joined Arsenal in 1925 and the Club won their first major honours under him : the F A Cup in 1930. The following season, 1930-31, we were League Champions for the first time. In 1931-32 Arsenal were runners up in both League and Cup. Three League championships followed in 1932-3, 1933-4 and 1934-5 but Chapman only lived to see the first of these completed. Also won Charity Shield 1930, 1931 and 1933.

Matches with Arsenal played 403, won 201, drew 97, lost 105, goals for 864, goals against 598.

The interesting point as far as I'm concerned was the fact that Herbert Chapman was born on 19th January 1878 in Kiveton Park a village on the outskirts of Sheffield that had until recently a strong mining and industrial heritage. The 1881 Census gives the following information

Dwelling 17 Kiveton Park Census Place Wales, York, England

FHLF 1341788 PRO Reference RG11 Piece/Folio 3308/132 Page Number 38

SURNAME FORENAME Age Rel Occupation Place of Birth
CHAPMAN John 40 Head Coalminer Wingfield Derbyshire
CHAPMAN Emma 36 Wife Coalminer's wife Ripley Derbyshire
CHAPMAN Thos. 16 Son Coalminer Ripley Derbyshire
CHAPMAN Martha 13 Daughter Scholar Ripley Derbyshire
CHAPMAN John 10 Son Scholar Kiveton Yorkshire
CHAPMAN Matt. 5 Son Scholar Kiveton Yorkshire
CHAPMAN Herbert 3 Son   Kiveton Yorkshire
CHAPMAN Harry 1 Son   Kiveton Yorkshire

The inference from the data is that the family must have moved from Derbyshire from where both Herbert's parents came from to Kiveton Park at sometime around 1870 which is roughly the same time as the coal measures in the area were being developed. His father, John, was unsurprisingly a coalminer, who with his wife, Emma Haynes, had five other sons and one daughter. Herbert went to the local elementary school and with his brothers became an enthusiastic footballer when it was all the rage at the time. On leaving school he was apprenticed at the local colliery and began a course in mining engineering at Sheffield Technical College. The Sheffield area at the time was a perfect environment for football and Hebert played for several local clubs while he was in his teens. In 1897 he signed for Stalybridge Rovers in the Lancashire league and began a very mobile period in his life in which it was not clear whether he was looking for work or looking for football. While still an amateur—at work by day and, allegedly, studying at night—he played for Rochdale, Grimsby Town, Swindon Town, Sheppey United, and Worksop Town, all by 1900. Nevertheless Herbert was still lived in the district - the 1901 Census reveals that he was employed as a weighbridge clerk at the colliery.    

The 1911 Census has the following information on Herbert

Name Herbert Chapman
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Condition Married Gender Male
Age 33 Estimated Year of Birth 1878
Occupation Secretary Football Club
Employed Yes Working at Home No
Industry Football Club
Place of Birth Kiveton Park Yorkshire
Enumerator Information
Address 54 Birchfield Road Northampton Parish Kingsthorpe Town Northampton
Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms 6 Inhabited Yes
Reference RG14PN8435 RG78PN434 RD163 SD2 ED13 SN265 Administrative County Northamptonshire Registration District Northampton Registration Sub District All Saints Enumeration District 13

The Obituary for Herbert appeared in The Times on Monday January 8th 1934

The Observer dated 7th January 1934 also printed a fulsome tribute to Herbert

A day later the Manchester Guardian gave another appreciation of Herbert's influence on the game of football

It was his commitment to football which led to his death when a cold turned to pneumonia and he died suddenly at his home, 6 Haslemere Avenue, Hendon, Middlesex, on 6th January 1934, after watching Arsenal reserves at Guildford. He was buried four days later at St Mary's, Hendon. His wife survived him. The s funeral was held at Hendon Parish Church on Wednesday, 10th January. According to a report in The Times the following day, the Arsenal players formed a guard of honour as the casket was brought into the church. The Rev N.R.Boyd who led the service said of Herbert "The position which Herbert Chapman built up as a manager in the football world was unique. Like any strong man, he had his opponents; like any successful man, his detractors but his honest devotion to duty and obvious ability made him respected by everyone "

His younger brother by two years HARRY CHAPMAN (1879 - 1916) also played football for Sheffield Wednesday. The official SWFC archive lists Harry Chapman who played 298 games for the club between 1901 and 1911. The full details are 

Born: 1879, Kiveton Park, Yorkshire
Died: 29th April 1916
Height: 5ft 8in
Weight: 11st 7lb
First Game: 16th February 1901 Home against Blackburn Rovers 1-1 scored on his debut  
Final Game: 28th January 1911 Away at Notts County Lost 2 - 0
Career Span: 9 years 347 days
Career Performance: Played 298 Won 144 Drawn 57 Lost 97
League 269 appearances 91 goals FA CUP 29 appearances 8 goals Total 298 appearances 99 goals which averages a goal every three games, an impressive feat.

Harry, who came to Sheffield Wednesday in 1901 from Worksop, was an inside forward and widely recognised as the greatest uncapped inside forward of the period. It was just unfortunate that his career peaked at the same time as Steve Bloomer's did at Derby County. If it hadn't, there is little doubt that Harry would have been a regular England international. Nevertheless he won two League Championship medals in 1902-03 and 1903-04 as well as a F. A. Cup winners medal in 1907 with Sheffield Wednesday. He scored over 100 goals in over three hundred games for the Wednesday - a tremendous record 

He has been described as "a small but solidly built and extremely clever inside forward" . "tough and resilient" was another phrase to describe his attitude to the game. Keith Farnsworth in his "Sheffield Football - A History (Volume 1)"  recalls that Harry had a persistent problem with a knee. He would sit down during a match and push his cartilage back into place. And as with many skilful and imaginative players, he was always on the receiving end of "robust challenges"   

It is therefore not surprising that during his time at Hillsborough, Harry was definitely one of the fans favourites. After scoring the winning goal in the 1907 F. A. Cup quarter final against Liverpool he was carried off the pitch shoulder-high by the club's supporters. He left Sheffield Wednesday in 1911 to join Hull City and had a spell as manager there. Percy Young in his book "Football in Sheffield" mentions that Chapman, whilst still remaining an imaginative player, was slowing down and as a consequence of this, was losing his effectiveness.

The 1901 Census still has Harry Chapman aged 21 living locally and earning his living as a Coalminer hewer.

The other noticeable detail is that HARRY died at the relatively young age of 36 in 1916. A writer informed me that HARRY lived in Hampshire for the last few years of his life suffering with the debilitating effects of  tuberculosis. He spent the last few weeks of his life at Herbert's home in the Oakwood district of Leeds. Harry was buried in Wales cemetery just outside Kiveton Park. Unfortunately there was mining subsidence many years ago and many graves disappeared under the ground including that of Harry's.

Herbert outlived his brother by nearly 18 years before dying of pneumonia on  January 6th 1934.


An Arsenal site

Sheffield Wednesday FC Archive

1881 UK Census

Keith Farnsworth Sheffield Football - A History (Volume 1)

Football in Sheffield - Percy Young

The Times - Monday January 8th 1934 The Times - Thursday January 11th 1934

The Observer dated January 7th 1934

The Manchester Guardian dated January 8th 1934

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This page was last updated on 10/04/13 08:59

If you want to know more about HERBERT CHAPMAN and his family, I can wholeheartedly recommend the following book

Herbert Chapman: The First Great Manager

by Simon Page

  • Paperback: 240 pages

  • Publisher: Heroes Publishing (18 Oct 2006)

  • ISBN-10: 0954388453

  • ISBN-13: 978-0954388454

Book Review on Amazon

This book should be a delight for anyone with an interest in the history of football.
Herbert Chapman was, as the title of the book suggests, the game's first great manager - the man who made it possible for the likes of Matt Busby, Jock Stein, Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson to become who they became.
He transformed Arsenal from strugglers into one of the major forces in the game, which many would say isn't anything to be pleased about, but trust me Gooners, if it were not for Herbert Chapman, Thierry Henry wouldn't be poncing around the Emirates Stadium pitch today.
So what of the book? It is a fitting tribute to the man, telling the tale of his years in the game as both a player and manager, examining his enormous legacy as one of football's great innovators and also delving into his life outside the sport, as a member of a remarkable family which went in one generation from bare-knuckle fighting illiteracy to producing household names in the world of sport and politics. But it's not just a hagiography - it also doesn't shy away from discussing Mr Chapman's links to bungs, which were probably even more prevalent in his time than they are now.
The book is well written and clearly very very well researched and deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone with an interest in how football came to be the massive worldwide phenomenon it is today.