The story behind Arsenal getting their own Tube Station

It’s been over 90 years since Arsenal became the only football club in the world to have a station named after them and it’s an incredible bit of branding that hasn’t been matched.

Visionary manager Herbert Chapman convinced the Underground Group to rename Gillespie Road station to Arsenal (Highbury Hill) in a stroke of marketing genius. Initially he was met with resistance, stating that the name should reflect its location. Chapman apparently said “Whoever heard of Gillespie Road? It’s Arsenal round here!”

Arsenal Underground Station still displays it’s original name of Gillespie Road on it’s Piccadilly Line platforms

While the move from Woolwich to Islington wasn’t without controversy, the team had firmly become part of the fabric of North London by the 1930s, a decade which quickly saw them become one of the most successful clubs in England, lifting 5 league titles and 2 FA Cups in 8 years.

The importance of the railways and their impact on the early days of football is something that’s often overlooked. Many clubs prospered from having great transport links, while others severely suffered without them (Woolwich Arsenal included). A huge factor when it came to the board selecting Highbury as the clubs new home in 1913 was its proximity to Gillespie Road Underground station. It had been opened by the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (the Piccadilly tube) just 7 years earlier. The club saw it as a great way to attract large crowds and backed the right horse when it came to the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (UERL).

Bust of Herbert Chapman in the famous Marble Halls of Arsenal Stadium (Highbury)

My opening statement usually gets a few “oh, but what about X or Y club” remarks – until it’s pointed out that those examples are stations named after the same thing that the club is named after, the surrounding area. Arsenal didn’t exist as a place on the map north of the River Thames. The area became “Arsenal” because of the club and because of the forward thinking Herbert Chapman who quite literally put Arsenal on the map.

Plans for the 1930’s reconstruction of Arsenal Stadium in Highbury

Earlier this year Arsenal, Adidas and TfL released this shirt as a tribute to this fascinating story. It features the iconic Piccadilly line moquette and an Arsenal roundel.

Originally I wanted to make a video about this as there’s so much to dive into with football’s railway connections, Chapman’s visionary influence and Arsenal’s move but I’ll save those for another day.

This article has been adapted from an Instragram post by the writer. If you would like to read more like this then follow him at @Scott_RebNoise.