Filbert Street

Links With The Past: Fosse At Highbury & Filbert Street's Turnstiles

Club Historian John Hutchinson continues his new Links With The Past series with a look back to two items in Leicester City's history concerning iconic former stadia.
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Leicester Fosse, which became Leicester City in 1919, in fact played the first-ever fixture at Arsenal's Highbury ground, while John also explains the significance of Filbert Street's old turnstiles...

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Arsenal memorabilia
Arsenal memorabilia

In September 1913, Leicester Fosse was the first team to visit Arsenal’s new Highbury ground in Islington and their forward Tommy Benfield was the first player to score a goal at the famous old ground.

One hundred years later, to commemorate the anniversary of Arsenal’s move from their Plumstead home, south of the river, to Highbury (also then known as Gillespie Road), the Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick presented Leicester City with this framed memento, which contains a replica of the programme and the teamsheet from that first game.

The inscription states that it is “A gift from Arsenal Football Club to Leicester City Football Club. Celebrating 100 years of Arsenal in Islington. Woolwich Arsenal v Leicester Fosse 6 September 1913. First match at Highbury.” 

This 1913 programme, in the foreground on the left, has been opened to show a full page cartoon entitled ‘On the High Road to Recovery’, celebrating the move to Highbury.

The other pages in the programme contain articles written by the directors, 'The Gunner’s Mate', the Arsenal captain, Percy Sands, the 'Ancient Mariner' and by the manager, George Morrell.

The only pictures are formal portraits of directors, of Sands and of the manager. The special commemorative programme, meanwhile, was donated to the Club by Steve Douglas, a descendant of George Douglas, one of the Fosse players.

George was present at a First Division game between Arsenal and Leicester City in December 1963, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the first game.

Featured in the programme was another of the 1913 Fosse players, Horace Burton, who was also a guest of honour at the 1963 game.

The programme also contains a photograph of the Leicester Fosse team lining up on the Highbury pitch before that famous first match.

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Filbert Street turnstile
Filbert Street turnstile

For many years, this turnstile from Leicester City's former home ground was one of three located at the Burnmoor Street end of the Filbert Street Stand.

When these turnstiles became available in 2002 at the auction of Filbert Street memorabilia, prior to the demolition of the old ground, life-long fan Tim Edson was keen to purchase one of them.

He was successful, paying £42 for this historic piece of Filbert Street. He managed to avoid the £250 charge to drill the turnstile out of its concrete base by coming to an arrangement with a turnstile dealer.

Five years ago, Tim beautifully restored the turnstile. First of all, he got it working again, as it had seized up. Then, with help from his brother-in-law, he sandblasted it and hand primed it, before top coating it in authentic blue.

Finally, he polished up the brass plate, which covered the housing which contained a tamper-resistant counter.  This was designed to tally receipts against admissions, thereby reducing fraud by gatemen.

During Tim’s restoration, a pre-decimal 1960 sixpenny piece fell out of the mechanism, indicating that on at least one occasion, the receipts did not tally with admissions!

The counter beneath this plate on Tim’s turnstile records 298,008 admissions. The manufacturer’s name on the brass plate was ‘Bailey, Albion Works’.

W.H.Bailey, along with a firm called Ellisons, were responsible for the great majority of turnstiles installed at football, cricket and rugby grounds, racecourses, swimming pools, amusement parks and piers, from the late 19th to the late 20th centuries. W.H. Bailey’s name is also on the turnstile’s foot pedal. This enabled the turnstile operator to control movement through the turnstile, in a safe 'rush preventive' manner.

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