Hotspur Towers - Star Billing
As we continue our celebration of White Hart Lane we turn our attention to some unusual visitors who have graced the hallowed pitch. The club undertook a series of games that could easily slip past us unnoticed.
Dating back to before the First World War and carrying on into the 1920’s Tottenham would turn out sides to play teams of Music Hall Artists in aid of various charities and benefits.
This top image is from the 1923 game where the team appear to be wearing 'bearskin' hats and beards.
Attempting to track these games has proved something of a challenge. Possibly because of suggestions that in some games a reserve side was fielded. When 'first teamers' were involved the match was not recorded in the records of the time as a match.
Prior to these games we know that a George Robey XI had played at WHL as early as December 1904 as a benefit game for J. Jones. Robey was one of the star performers in the 1913 game. He was better known as one of the top comedians at the time and was also a talented footballer and had had the opportunity to turn professional if he had not been so successful ‘on the boards.’
The best documented game is the one held 5th March 1914. It is featured in Phil Soar's Official history and here the programme has survived.
The 1914 game which was played in dreadful weather was in aid of the Variety Artists Benevolent Fund and the Prince of Wales Hospital which was in Tottenham (1). The line up of the Artists side will properly mean little to today’s reader. Although one of the linesmen you may recognize, Bombardier Billy Wells. For any fan of old British movies he was the chap who banged the gong at the start of thousands of films made at the Rank film studios. They also included some punch in their forward line by including a heavyweight boxer. A look at the programme will show that Fanny Walden (all 5' 2" of him) was down to spar with the boxer should the home team lose.
The ladies below are from the 1912 version of the game.
Despite the poor conditions the opportunity to see the stars of the day up close, the 30 minute match drew a crowd of 1,200. That’s according to The Complete Record (2). A newspaper report gives it at 15,000, quite a contradiction. The main picture (below) does seem to show a good crowd in the West Stand. The paper also credits the Tottenham goalie as being Tiny Joyce whilst the programme shows that the two sides exchanged goalies (to even things up a bit). The referee (in the news report) for the occasion was none other than Peter McWilliam, the Tottenham manager, although the programme had Vivian Woodward down for the role
For those who feel it important the 1914 game started with Banks scoring in the opening moments. Steel added a second and Cantrell got the third following 'a melee in the penalty box.' The ref awarded a penalty to the Artists but it was fired well over. The visitors did score just before the break and then Tottenham had a disallowed goal, one starts to wonder about the referee!
Bert Middlemass must have been upset about having his effort ruled out as you will see from the programme every goal scorer was rewarded with a kiss.
It seems the 'charity kiss was introduced in the 1913 game but were delivered in the stands after the game this left some of the paying public feeling short changed so for the 1914 game they were delivered under the crossbar. These games were reported nationwide in regional papers. One from Lincolnshire went so far as to pass the comment that whilst it was all being done in the name of charity the defenders could feel a grieved that they were unlikely to receive a reward.
As the two sides prepare for battle, the lady in the middle is Marie Lloyd, a superstar of the day. The visitors seem to have brought along plenty of support. In the front row you will see a dog, I have no idea who he is but would guess he was the Music Hall sides secret weapon.
At events like these the result is not really important which is just as well as the newspaper said it ended 3-1. Goodwin says 3-2 and Phil Soar in his Official History thinks it was 3-0. That aside it looks like a good time was had by all. Watch out for an artifact from these games appearing shortly.
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Notes – 1 – The hospital is no longer there but Tottenham did a lot of fundraising for it over the years which we will return to later in the season.
2- Bob Goodwin - The Complete Record, and usually reliable source of information.
Other articles featuring White Hart Lane include -
The Ring, The Edmonton End, The Marsh Lane End, The East Side,
Hotspur Towers 58, 33, 16 and 5.
Hotspur Towers 50 - The Cockerel, Hotspur 46 - Ground Sharing,
Talking Tottenham - At The Lane, White Hot Lane,
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