Look, let me start by saying I really couldn’t care what the answer to the question is, but I think it’s important in these post-truth times to maintain some historical accuracy.
Many Spurs fans, for obvious reasons, resent Arsenal moving to North London and becoming more successful than them, and in their eyes cheating Spurs out of a place in Division 1 in 1919, on the resumption of football after World War 1. I’m not going to go into that subject here, but obviously the allegations of bribery and corruption against Arsenal and all those associated with club are completely unfounded. If anyone, Spurs fan or otherwise, wants to accuse Arsenal of any offence in 1919 then please provide some form of evidence.
However, Spurs fans have not had a lot going for them in recent decades, so the circumstances of Spurs being relegated while Arsenal were promoted in 1919, then Arsenal becoming the biggest club in the world in the 1930s, and finally the modern Spurs fan having to watch Arsenal’s numerous trophy wins has caused some negative emotions in many Spurs fans – I won’t say all; I’ve met Spurs fans who are perfectly reasonable. But without any trophies to speak of for several decades some of them like to cling to the mantra of “Well at least we were in North London first”. The problem with this argument is that it’s not true, because the boundary of London has changed.
A quick history lesson: 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’ or the ‘square mile’, 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, leaving the City mostly for business. 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 home 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.
Just to be 100% clear: Woolwich, where Arsenal was formed, was in the County of London. Islington, where Arsenal moved to, was in the County of London. Tottenham was never in the County of London.
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’. 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. The name Middlesex lives on as a postal district and the name of a county cricket club.
So Tottenham only became part of London in 1965, on the (rather appropriate) date of April 1st. What this means of course is that they’ve never won the League as a London club, and Arsenal were the first London club to do the Double! And also the second and third.
To emphasise that last paragraph, here’s the Wikipedia page for the Municipal Borough of Tottenham that features a map titled “Tottenham within Middlesex in 1961”. I’ve added this as at least one Spurs fan in the comments below seemed to think that when Tottenham became a borough in the 1890s it stopped being part of Middlesex. No such luck for him, as Tottenham could not get out of Middlesex and into the capital with Arsenal for another 70 years.And Exhibit B, Jimmy Greaves’ contract from when he signed for Spurs in 1961. As you can see it plainly states that Tottenham is in Middlesex.
After I’d written this another Spurs fan materialised to claim (see comments) that Tottenham has been part of London since 1857! Obviously he is wrong. It is true that the ‘London postal district’, which included everything within about 12 miles of St Paul’s, was instigated in 1857, but that was just for the Post Office. It included Tottenham, but also various places that were and still remain in Surrey and other counties. Nothing whatsoever to do with when any boundaries changed or new administrations were formed. Straw-clutching. If straw-clutching were an Olympic event the Totts would win every time.
For further detail please do a web search for London Government Act 1963, Middlesex, Local Government Act 1888, etc. It’s all out there.
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